There’s a line between being polite and being a doormat. And women tend to cross that line way too often. I know. I used to be one of the worst offenders. When I was younger I always felt like I should apologise for taking up chairs and jobs, space and oxygen that other much more qualified people should probably have.
Now I’m older and a lot more kick-arsy than I used to be, but there is still this weird residual lack of entitlement that lingers. And I see it with a lot of other women too. I reckon it’s time to cut that shit out. We are as entitled to be here (wherever ‘here’ is for you right now) as anyone else. We belong here. We treat people with kindness and compassion, and we deserve the same in return.
So I propose we stand our ground and wear our entitlement like a badge of honour.
And we do that by cutting this shit out:
We do it all the time, without even realising we’re doing it.
“Sorry, but I asked for no tomato on my salad sandwich.”
“Sorry, but I can’t work back tomorrow (after hours in my own spare time). I’ve got to pick up the kids/go roller derbying/be anywhere but here.”
(When someone walks around a corner and straight into us) “Sorry!”
Try to notice how many times you say sorry in a day and come up with ways to say something else instead. I have taken to saying “excuse me” if need to squeeze past someone or if I run into them. Other times, I’m more firm.
“I asked for no tomato; can you fix this please?”
“I have plans.”
Or, when someone runs into me and it’s not my fault: nothing. (They do get a “that’s okay” if they apologise, of course.)
2. Having those notes at the bottom of your email
There is a great movement, started by Guy Kawasaki, to keep emails to five sentences or less. Fantastic! I’m all for that. Let’s be brief and decisive, and save our detailed convos for the pub. But then we have to go and ruin it by putting a little note at the bottom of the email that says:
Q: Why is this email five sentences or less?
AAARRRGGGHHHH! Just be brief and don’t explain, otherwise you undo all your awesome decisiveness and erode your authority. It’s like you’re saying, “I’m being brief but please don’t get mad.”
If someone doesn’t like you not rabbiting on about the weather, fuck ’em. They don’t deserve an explanation.
3. Thinking you don’t know stuff or that your opinion doesn’t matter
I had a job once that I wasn’t terribly confident in. It was in corporate communications, which isn’t my area of strength. My boss left after I’d been there about four months, and my new boss, on his first day, heard me say to someone, “I’m not sure, I’m only new.”
He pulled me aside and asked me how long I’d been there. I told him four months.
He said, “You need to stop telling everyone you’re new. You know your job. You know what you’re doing. Own it, and tell them what you think.”
I hated that job, but that was great advice. So now I choose to believe my opinion counts as much as anyone’s. Because it bloody does. Duh.
4. Putting yourself down, even in jest
Getting a laugh from your mates about how fat your arse is in jeans or how hilariously inadequate you are at your job is the easiest thing in the world. But here’s the thing: it’s damaging to your self-esteem, every time you wheel it out.
Self deprecation is the laziest laugh you can go for. Challenge yourself and try to be funny in a clever way instead. You’ll feel better, and that’s a promise.
5. Putting your partner down, even in jest
Aren’t men just so bad at doing the dishes/looking after the kids/being sensitive/crochet? Ugh, men. What do we expect, they’re just men, right?
Insert massive eye roll here please.
You chose to live with him, so may I suggest you choose to pour some love into that machine?
If you really have a problem with your spouse, talk to them. If they aren’t interested in helping to alleviate your pain, that could be a problem. But badmouthing your life partner all over town is awkward for everyone, especially those that have to witness it.
Woman up and have the talk with the person who matters.
(Of course, this can apply to people in same sex parterships too, but in my experience women tend to complain about men in a whole fresh-hell kind of way.)
6. Taking the blame
If you drop a glass of milk on the floor, which of these would you say:
“I’m such a klutz!”
“Fuck these slippery motherfucking glasses. How do they get away with making shit like this?”
It’s been a constant source of bemusement for me that I was always in the first camp, but my incredibly confident husband is definitely in the second camp.
I’m all for taking responsibility for things that are my fault, but not everything is my fault. Even things that are my fault can sometimes just be the fault of the stupid dick who make a second rate piece of glassware. Why not?
7. Feeling guilty
Guilt is a feeling that gives us a chance to assess our decisions, and either change our mind, or forge ahead as planned. Once you’ve made that decision to forge ahead, that guilt can hang around like a stray cat if you feed it, making you feel worse. But here’s the thing: you don’t need to feed it.
Talking to your friends about how guilty you feel just so they can tell you you’re still a good human being is being needy and feeding your guilt. Having framed pictures of your children on your desk at work is feeding your guilt. Having your phone on while you watch your child’s ballet recital in case a client wants you is feeding the guilt. Make a decision. Own it and move on.
You might not be perfect and you might sometimes do something that upsets others. Tough. They’ll live.
8. Suppressing your anger
For thousands of years, women have been oppressed by society into hiding their emotions by being called crazy. We’ve been witches. We’ve been heathens. We’ve been whores. But here’s the thing: it’s okay to be angry and to express that anger in an emotional way. Especially if it’s directed at the person who has incited that anger. They are the ones who should bear the brunt of your anger.
Bottle that anger up and it will eat away at your insides, convincing you that you are the terrible person.
Get angry. Destroy the joint. The world could do with more of that kind of gear.
Do you do any of these on a regular basis? What difference could it make to your life if you cut that shit out?