**To give you a heads-up, in case you’re not comfortable listening to such topics, I talk about being assaulted (obviously not in graphic detail or in fact, much detail), as well as being sexually and racially harassed in not one, but two jobs, and being stalked, harassed and assaulted at university.**
Recently I’ve heard a number of stories where the person had been mistreated in some way, often quite seriously, whether it was at work or in a personal capacity. They all stayed quiet because, well, they didn’t want to “make a scene”. Time and again, I see people making keeping-the-peace driven decisions regarding their mistreatment by others. Invariably, it leads to breaking their own hearts.
So, in this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I felt that it was time to speak out about speaking out. As a recovering people pleaser who’s silenced herself in minor and very serious circumstances out of fear of making waves, alienating, or making others, including the perpetrators, feel bad; of being seen to be “difficult” and other such things, I’m all too familiar with this struggle. We imagine that we’re going to literally or figuratively torch, for an example, an errant ex’s belongings just like Angela Bassett’s character in Waiting To Exhale (still love this film!).
Often, our idea of “making a scene” and being “difficult” is using our voice to utter, “This happened. I didn’t like it. It made me uncomfortable. It was wrong because _________”.
I felt that it was time to talk about painful and challenging experiences that resulted in me eventually speaking up for myself regardless of what the repercussions might be. I also talk about how I gradually came to appreciate myself for doing so.
Speaking up and yes, sometimes speaking out, means representing who we are. It means standing up for ourselves, advocating for us and basically having our own back.
Speaking up for one’s self is something that many people struggle with, especially us people pleasers, recovering and otherwise. Gradually, we learn, often through painful experiences, that habitual silence slowly crushes our souls.
We’re not meant to suffer.
The right thing is not always the easy thing. We often think it’s easier to be silent or to be super nice about something. But then we privately give ourselves a hard time for not having our backs.
What is also clear from the many stories I hear, never mind what I read in the media, is that the shady people of this world are often reliant on us being nice (read: not making waves by calling them on their BS and creating natural consequences).
Shady people think our kind, loving, compassionate, sometimes over-empathetic ways will extend to giving them a free pass.
When the friend I referred to in the podcast had the new boss who had screwed her over praise her for being so “nice” about things, it lit a fire in her belly. She realised that this person was mistaking her kindness for weakness. It resulted in her getting a massive payout instead of her accepting a lesser role than what she’d been in before her maternity leave.
I’ve also learned from firsthand experience and events of recent years that shady folk don’t get away with their actions. They invariably overplay their hand because they think they’re outwitting everyone. They think they’re clever, invincible, beyond the law or disapproval, and that is never the case.
Karma doesn’t work on our beat, our set timeline, but it does come around in due course.
I want to stress that I don’t think speaking out about discrimination, harassment, assault, abuse and the like are “easy”. My experiences have been quite the opposite. I also know, however, that it’s precisely because more and more people have spoken out, started to question and overturn old norms, that we’re confronting the emotional baggage of society.
At the same time, though, it’s also important for those of us who have been through these experiences to acknowledge that it hasn’t always been possible to speak up. We have very specific reasons for not having done so.
We don’t need to shame us over having kept our silence. However, we do need to acknowledge the impact of that silence or the events themselves on our well-being and self-esteem so that we can take care of ourselves.
I hope that what I share in this episode helps at least a few people feel less alone, to stop blaming themselves, to stop trying to work out what they did to “make” someone else violate their boundaries.
Links mentioned + recommended resources
- The Little Girl Who Lost Her “No” by Amy M. Starkey
- Ashley Judd in The New York Times
- Episode 96 about my social media diet
- The episode where I briefly talk about having received an out-of-the-blue apology from my mother for not believing me about the assault.
- Ask A Manager: I Ghosted My Ex and She’s About To Be My New Boss
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Ready to reclaim yourself from the cycle of people pleasing and any patterns that reinforce feelings of low self-worth? My new book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (HarperCollins/Harper Horizon), is out now.