Because I am a borderline-hopeless-but-I’m-working-on-it people pleaser, it is extremely difficult for me to say what I mean. Although I have much less trouble speaking my mind to my peers, especially my close group of girlfriends, it is pronounced when I am in conversation with someone older than me or separated from me by some other life circumstance.
An example: yesterday, an older male family member (from my husband’s side) began talking about dieting, and even though I loathe the topic and think in general we all spend too much time talking about food, exercise, and guilt, I heard myself say I was going to start watching what I eat, too. This is, to put it bluntly, bull shit. I’m eating my dessert even if it will go straight to my hips, thank you very much.
Immediately after I said it I began to feel guilty for failing to be authentic, even when it may have been interpreted negatively. Then, because I have begun thinking more about how I think, I began to ask myself why I had joined in on the pro-changing-your-body conversation so easily.
I’m ashamed to say, but I realized that different aspects of how I engage with others are still largely determined by accepted gender norms. Were I to disagree with this assumption that we all have to lose weight before we go on vacation, or that any of us need to lose weight in general, I might be considered…wait for it….”disagreeable.” And what could be more damning for a young lady?
Brené Brown tells us that her research has determined that women feel that they must be: 1) beautiful, 2) small, 3) nice. These descriptions are loaded with connections to narcissism, control, and power. I am 5’9″, 185 lbs and I can tell you that I am far from small, conventionally beautiful, and, when I’m being honest, not always nice, especially if I think something is ridiculous (the apostle Paul could not charge me with “suffering fools gladly”).
My new goal is to say what I mean and mean what I say, even if it isn’t considered “nice” by societal standards. How can there ever be change if we are afraid to speak the truth of our beliefs and experiences? If you speak your mind, you may not gain the favor of everyone around you, but you will maintain your own favor and gain the respect of people who A) care about you for who you are and B) matter.
Go forth and kick ass,