Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Stop Hating Yourself : Stop Apologizing

I had originally conceived of this post for a friend, but that shit is over. Nevertheless, it's something I think about. I think about it as a woman in the U.S. who has cultural expectations for behavior placed on her and I think about it as a woman who seems to have more self confidence than most of her friends. I think this can go in my "stop hating yourself" category, because I do think that the thoughts I have can definitely add up to being more confident and also just having more agency. So, here we go!

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My Guide to Stop Apologizing

It's important that you know that I have a fairly large temper. My fuse is much longer than it used to be, but once that has burnt up, I'm not very good at holding in my temper. When I lose my temper, it's not in the form of a screaming red whizzy. I'm not prone to lashing out, shouting, or breaking shit. I mean, I have been in the past, but not so now. Instead, whatever filter for being nice I had, goes out the window. I will lose my shit and totally dress down the person upon whom I'm losing my shit, saying exactly the most direct and most mean things I have ever felt or thought.

I know this is not a good course of action.

I have spent a very long time working on it and learning how to communicate effectively and how to remove my self from a situation before I lose my shit. Nevertheless, if you've known me for any length of time, you're probably going to experience me losing my temper on someone at sometime. Maybe not you, maybe just an asshole manager of a fast food joint, but maybe you.

I think this makes me different from a lot of people and most women. In the U.S., women are taught not to be angry. Anger undermines women. So my having a temper, already makes me different from you. My learning to control my temper took many long years of observing other humans, being talked down to, and even time as a child where I was determined to be behaviorally handicapped. My anger means I'm not an ok human, I deserve to be treated as if I'm dumb, and sets me apart from the rest of the population.

But the thing is, I kinda love my anger.

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The wonderful thing about having a temper is that it has given me strength. By embracing the seething volcano of emotions inside me, recognizing that they are there and aren't going away, and learning how to harness them, I'm a much stronger person than most. I have had to learn how to be far more self-aware than the average person. I've had to learn how to adjust to societal norms. I'm basically the Hulk, honestly. A brilliant, passionate mind full of ginormous anger that makes me capable of taking down buildings. It's great. It's set me up to critically assess whether or not I want to participate in a societal norm. It's given me a drive to find more genuine interpersonal relationships with people who are not judgmental. It's forced me to seek out equality. It's made me a better friend too, because I'm always ready to pick a fight, but I'm also very good at telling my friends when they really, really, really need to stand their ground.

It's also made me into a woman who never apologizes. Never.

So now, I'm going to tell you something that no one else is ever going to tell you : You don't have to apologize for anything, ever. You live in a world, that teaches you to apologize for your own existence. You live in a culture that tells you that being someone who has desires is wrong. Yes, simply having desires is wrong. And heaven forbid you actually try to get what you want or tell someone you're going after what you want or not letting someone else prevent you from getting what you want.

You live in a culture that tells you not to be a totally normal human being. Everything your male counterparts do is off limits to you. So you react by constantly apologizing. Apologizing to your boss for being self-motivated and coming up with a solution to a problem. You apologize to your employees for telling them what to do. You apologize to your parents for seeking what you want. You apologize to your friends for disagreeing with them. You apologize to your romantic partners for having desires within the relationship. You apologize to your God for everything you've ever done.

So I want to give you the tools to stop apologizing.

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I think that it's hard to break down the barriers set before us. I don't want you to read this blog post, go into work half-cocked, and just tell off everyone and not have a job. So I'm going to encourage you to continue apologizing in public until you've mastered being unapologetic at home.

Start with your interpersonal relationships. Whatever relationship it is that is closest to you is where you need to start. If you have a roommate, a best friend, a close relative, or a significant other. These are the people who shape your personal life and your intimate life. These are the people with whom you should never have to apologize. From now on, stop apologizing.

Do you have a friend who really enjoys doing some things...stuff you like to do, but it doesn't knock your socks off? So you're always going out with that friend, doing what he or she loves. And it's fine, for the most part, until you start to feel a little bored and worn out? Start by inviting that friend to do something with you that you love. See what happens. Follow it up by refusing to go out on an activity that she loves. There's no need to be a dick, just be honest and say, "Hey, I know we do that activity a lot and you love it, but it doesn't really thrill me, so I'm not going to go. However, I'd love it if you did this with me."

Do you live with someone who never seems to hold up their end of the living together agreement? Always leaves a light on and says they forget about it? Always leaves crap in public areas? Never does the damn dishes. Stand up for whatever that is. Just say, "Hey, you gotta do the dishes this week. No excuses, just do them."

It probably seems silly or that it'll bring up a fight and maybe it will. A fight is a perfect time not to apologize. If you receive pushback for whatever small scenario is appropriate in your life, now is the time to stand up. Don't back down. Without apologizing, continue to communicate. Don't let your feelings slide.

Start small, at home, with close friends and relatives. Pick one thing, anything. Bring it up. Talk about it. Ask for change, and don't apologize.

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Oftentimes, I've found that I want to apologize for something I know I shouldn't have to apologize for. Maybe there was some drama that I handled in a way my friends, family, or fiancé would've handled differently. Generally, it's because I was too hardcore and not nice enough. So I'm inclined to apologize, because I did something differently. At these times, I stop myself. Instead of apologizing, I say, "I feel like I'm supposed to apologize now because I handled that differently from you. But I'm not sorry. I like what I did. Instead, I think, I'm just feeling empathy for you because of this difficult situation."

Honestly, it is amazing how much this helps. Instead of undermining my own self and actions, contributing to the idea that something I think was totally ok was actually not, I've addressed the situation, expressed my feelings, and opened it up for communication about empathy and concern. This is a great tool for interpersonal relationships where we're so often taught to apologize for disagreements or differences in belief.

If you start to feel yourself apologizing when there is no need for it, do this instead : Say, "I want to apologize, though I'm not sorry, I think I feel this way because..." And then have a conversation about your feelings. Conversations about feelings are great. Everyone should have more of them.

You have to know that the moment you stop apologizing is the moment someone is going to call you a bitch. That's ok! Be a bitch! Let someone else's cultural indoctrination lead them to say negative things about you! This is good. This will illustrate the kinds of people you actually want in your life. This will give you more opportunities to get mad, stand up for yourself, and not apologize!

American culture teaches us that the only appropriate emotion is happiness. If you're feeling anything other than happy, you're bad. If you're feeling totally happy but you disagree with something, American culture interprets that to mean that you are angry or unhappy. These are ignorant perspectives that force us all to be something we're not. This keeps you in a box of constraints that are unfair and unhelpful. Let's break out of the box! Let's be the kind of people who embrace all emotions and recognize that desires and ambition are not bad.

Why are men allowed to want for things and we're not?

That's one fucked up double-standard. You're allowed to want things. You're allowed to have ambition. You're allowed to disagree with anything or anyone. You're allowed to ask to be treated differently. You're allowed to have emotions. You don't have to apologize for any of it.

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