Stand Up For Yourself
I sometimes sift through the trail of my life, examining the versions of myself that brought me here. I see college theses that look like they’d been written by a far left renegade (really Aud, Turkey should join the EU?) and I see scribbles in hemp journals about the social and economic plausibility of philosophical anarchy.
Immaturity made me explore the bonkers and downright unfeasible – but that’s all part of learning how to chart your own course. We all meet cul de sacs along the way – and not just on drunken journeys home from house parties in places we’ve never been before. Who hasn’t taken a few wrong turns with the wrong guy, or fucked up their hair with a style that made them look like a mental patient?
That’s life. And that’s the beauty of getting to start over. Somewhere, some celestial deity is getting paid to wipe out of all of our asinine decisions, recalibrate our GPS systems and mercifully lead us back to where we’re supposed to be.
I’d have gotten to where I wanted to be faster were it not for my analytical mind. An out and out Virgo, I like to measure, weigh up and assess. I do not damn without due diligence. On the contrary, I’m the one who gets taken advantage of while I painfully ruminate over whether or not the exploiter is in fact exploiting me or whether I should leave them off because, deep breath… they’re-only-acting-out-a-toxic-pattern-that-was-laid-down-in-their-difficult-childhood-as-a-way-to-help-them-cope-and-feel-powerful.
Looking back at old library cards, plane tickets, work visas and fuck ugly hemp jewellery (what was with the bastard hemp?) I see a girl who spent her energy fighting the case for other people’s freedom; I see someone who couldn’t handle others being excluded for being ‘different.’ Most of all, I see someone running from herself; a girl who hid behind other people’s troubles so she didn’t have to face her own. We all hide from ourselves in one way or another. Thankfully, I caught myself out.
I had to admit it to myself one cold November night, in the pissing rain, when my oldest friend walked past me and my son, barely a year-old at the time, telling me she had to run. This was after I’d made an hour’s trek to see her at the event that night; the one she had been helping others organise (which I’d also helped out with, for her). She was in a rush to do important things and to meet new friends.
Of course there’s nothing in that that would warrant distancing yourself from a friend you’ve had all your life, but that’s what I did. Why? Because what happened that night was just a symbol, one glaring insight into how I’d been letting her discount my worth for years. Any rational person can handle someone not having time to stop and chat; we all do that to one another. We’re late for a doctor’s appointment, we have to pick up the kids – we’re catching a flight. There’s a million perfectly legitimate reasons why we have to be rude to our friends sometimes. But that night, hers weren’t good enough, and the lack of explanation or attempt to make it up was symptomatic of her total lack of need to explain her dismissal of me. “Of course you can walk past me with your hand up telling me you can’t stop, but you fucking better explain why,” is what I should have said. But I was too exhausted. I had let her build that pattern. I had allowed that. People treat you the way you teach them to treat you. It really, really wasn’t her fault. And as I stood in the rain with my baby, gutted by the realisation that this relationship was never going to be any other way, I promised myself that I was going to make myself believe that I mattered more than that.
That’s what I needed to learn. The journey after that night was dramatic. Once I’d stubbornly affirmed my worth I became a fighter again, but this time for me. I decided to leave the work that wasn’t fulfilling my financial goals and take a leap into a new career. I spent over a year with one company until I felt I’d outgrown it and leaped head first into the corporate world, challenging myself to face many, many fears along the way. A few years later and I barely recognise the under confident woman standing in the rain that night.
I’ve learned to fight my own battles. I hear my mother’s voice in my ear when I even attempt to run from confrontation: “He who fights and runs away will live to fight another day.” This one also hits hard: “You’re always faced with a situation that’s the same as the one you didn’t resolve.”
I’ve had to assert my worth more than once since that night, and in far more challenging circumstances and with far more challenging people. I’ve had to challenge my “soft, sensitive” disposition to be more assertive, and sometimes that makes others feel just as uncomfortable as me.
Fighting is no way to live a content life; it’s always best to live in peace. But sometimes, because there are difficult people and difficult situations in this world, that utopian ideal is not always possible. What is possible, and also radical, is to stand firmly in your self-worth and let the other person know that you matter.
No one will ever have the power to make you feel otherwise, unless you give it to them. You’re not for walking over, that’s what floors are for.
And don’t say you’re too ‘enlightened’ to fight, like I used to. When your body is shaking from injustice or you’re deeply hurt by a rotten insult, don’t rationalise your feelings. Don’t tell yourself they didn’t really mean it, or that you’re a big girl, you’ll handle it. Honour yourself. Every time. It’s not the easiest way but it’s the only way if you’re to maintain a sense of dignity.
You can have respect for yourself and respect for the other person when you stand your ground. You never need to stoop to unfair behaviour, even when you’ve been treated unfairly. Maintaining your integrity when you’ve been hit hard is one of the best ways to ensure you can sleep easy at night. It’s also how to make sure you’re a decent role model for your children.
It’s how you live with yourself.
“Stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit; it’s when things go wrong that you must not quit.”
Anyone can be rotten; it takes a special person to stop them in their tracks, hold a mirror up to their face, and encourage them to direct their shit in that direction; not yours.
It’s totally true what they say “Life unfolds in proportion to your courage.”
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