Someone told me today that they wished they had my nerve and the ability to just say what they were thinking. They said they are always so concerned with hurting people’s feelings or saying no to people that they end up doing things they don’t want to do or agreeing to do something only to back out last minute because they can’t find the tact or the words to say what they really mean and what they really want.
I thought it was kind of amusing that someone looks at me like I am brave for speaking my mind. I’ve determined that it’s not bravery at all, but age. When I was in my 20s, I was a pleaser. I wanted to make everybody happy even if it cost me my own happiness. When I was in my 30’s I was an acceptor (if that’s even a word). I accepted all the lame excuses and settled for way less than I deserved because I just wanted the boat to keep floating along. No rocking from me. No sirree.
And then I hit my 40s. And along with losing my ability to stay up late and recover quickly from binge drinking, I also lost my ability to give a fuck. I lost my ability to eat shit. I lost my ability to worry one tiny little bit about what other people thought of my actions especially when they only affect me. And I also lost my ability to bite my tongue when I need to defend myself.
Initially, I thought it was kind of a curse. Like my fuse was getting shorter and shorter and eventually, I would be one of those crotchety old ladies who complains that the music is too loud and yells at the kids to “get off my lawn!” while shaking my fist in the air.
But now, I realize that it is a self-preservation of sorts, a way to let people know that I have standards and expectations that need to be met and I’m perfectly fine with not tiptoeing around the subject anymore. I’m perfectly fine with not trying to spare people’s feelings at the cost of my own.
I wouldn’t quite call it empowerment because I think that all people should be equipped with that kind of self-preservation. And maybe we are. Maybe we just don’t use it enough because we are too focused on doing what is expected of us or doing the things that will hurt people the least or doing the things that are in other’s best interest over our own. But I will say that I feel more at home and more in tune with the world when I am doing things that are in my best interest. Not to be confused with doing things that are selfish. Those are two completely different topics.
I am admittedly the least selfish person in the world. I will give and give until I have nothing left to give. But nowadays, that stops at money and things. I will give freely of money and things because I do not need either for my own peace of mind.
However, I have chosen not to give so freely of my time, attention or affection without some “proof of life” of sorts. I need to know that there is something inside the other party that I deem worthy of those things. Because my time, my attention, my focus, my love, and my affection are things I treasure greatly at this point in my life. And even though I sometimes squander it on people like unboyfriend for temporary moments of comfort (followed by regret and self-loathing), I’d much rather save it for someone amazing (like Off the Record) even if it is short lived. Because those moments were completely worth my time, attention, and affection even if it didn’t work out the way I would have liked. Or I’d rather save it for moments with my kids or my friends because I value those relationships and I know they will be around forever (and that they value me).
My point is, don’t wait until you are in your forties to start standing up for yourself and to start holding others to some standard in the way that they treat you. If I would have done this in my twenties or even my thirties, I think my life would be completely different.
Hell, there may not have ever been a Ten O’Clock man poem. There definitely wouldn’t have been an unboyfriend. And someone amazing like Off the Record would have come into my life and I would have recognized it immediately and the timing wouldn’t have been off.
I would have missed out on lots of experiences I was probably supposed to have, but who is to say I wouldn’t have gained other, more valuable, experiences in their place?
I’m not tossing in any regrets. I’m just saying, girls, ladies, women… value yourself because the value you place on yourself will show very apparent to those you allow in your life. And if you don’t value yourself, it will be hard for anyone else to. And if you don’t stick up for yourself, it will be very hard to “un-become” the living doormat we have a tendency to turn ourselves into.
So love yourself. And if you can’t, give me a call and I’ll love you til you figure it out.
That’s my Tuesday two cents