emotional wellness, speaking up, women

Lessons On Using Your Voice From The Deli Counter

I had an interesting interaction at the local deli yesterday.

There were a lot of people in the store, so I was keeping tabs on my position. When it was my turn, I stepped forward to place my order.

Shortly thereafter I heard the woman who had just completed her transaction say to the next person in line, “I thought you were next.

To which I automatically responded to her, “Busybody.

The line-up dictator left. And the woman behind me said, “Well, I guess some people just know more than the rest of us, hey?

We both gave each other a smile, and life went on.

Here’s why I’m sharing the details of this seemingly superficial deli counter interaction with you today:

I used to be really scared to speak up in real-time, choosing to relentlessly fester on unsavoury interactions instead.

Maybe you can relate: I would think about what I should or could have said, and get increasingly pissed off in the process.

It felt safer not to speak, even though not speaking caused so much internal chaos – Chaos that manifested into me being unnecessarily aggressive towards other people.

The words that came out of my mouth yesterday provided the first scenario in my life in which I’ve spoken up for myself without guilt or shame or over-the-top anger consuming me.

I didn’t feel the need to lash out- the words just came out, void of hyper-aggression.

Prior to this interaction I always felt bad about standing up for myself. I’d witnessed a lot of people affirm that it wasn’t OK to speak. Variations of the belief that it’s best not to, like “best to keep quiet” have been the norm throughout my life.

These statements affirmed the validity of the shame and guilt that kept me from using my voice in a productive way. And the aggression that festered from reliving unsavoury interactions fuelled a hyper-aggressive self-protective mode, which led to a lot of suffering. 

You never get the outcome you’re looking for when you approach an interaction with heightened aggression. But it’s hard not to, especially when it’s ingrained in our psyches that speaking out is something to be ashamed of.

We are human – we crave connection. Logic tells us we will never connect with people if they disapprove of us, and disapprove they will if we speak. How can we not turn speaking out into an aggressive tirade when we deny ourselves, through no fault of our own, the right to stand up for ourselves? That festering energy needs to go somewhere.

It’s super scary to use your voice. More often than not women get labelled overly dramatic, ridiculous, or some variation of inadequate.

Some women will even embrace the patriarchy and turn on those who are being assertive with their rights and needs as human beings.

We have women trying to shame other women in a desperate attempt for power. They are so committed to distracting themselves from their own insecurities and pain that they choose judgement because it feels safer.

I used to be one of those women. And there are days I catch glimpses of her in my behaviours and beliefs.

Compassion is the only viable response to judgement. It’s the only offering that will lead to anything positive. (Here’s an amazing example.)

It’s not easy and it’s tough to get right. For example, I’m well aware of the judgment not-so-subtly hidden in my “busybody” comment. I’m also aware that it makes me sound like I’m from the early 1900s.

In a perfect world, I’d have been more honest with the woman at the deli counter. I’d have told her I see her and know what she’s trying to do, and that I have compassion for her struggle because I live it, too

But I know that interaction, in all its imperfection, provided a huge opportunity for me.

It offered me a chance to be assertive and stand up for myself.

It offered me a chance to speak. 

Even though it was on a small-scale, it was a chance for me to communicate without taking a hyper-aggressive stance.

That’s a win for me.

Many of us don’t know how to speak. We were never taught how to or that it was OK to do so.

So we need to start practicing how to use our voices. And for me, the deli counter provided a great opportunity to do just that.

Thanks for reading. ❤️
If you liked this post, sign up for my monthly newsletter where i share stories and insights from my wellness journey.
emotional wellness, mental health

New Year, New, Bold Moves

Two days into 2018 and I’m already making some bold moves.

Bold is of course subjective. But to me, the choice I’ve made it feels courageous enough to take a moment to celebrate.

It started last month when I submitted a post about my dad and I reconciling to the Huffington Post (Check it out here.)

If you’re a follower of my blog you might be wondering why. I previously explained in this post a bunch of legit reasons why I didn’t want to share my writing on that platform anymore.

The answer: I got a great organic response from that piece (Organic = no paid promotion.) People really connected with it, it was uber cathartic to write, and I felt like it had the potential to inspire huff post readers to work on forgiving themselves and others. (Forgiveness = emotional wellness. Believe it.)

Couple that with my ego telling me I needed to work on remaining relevant as a writer and use my platform there to market myself, and I pressed submit.

I pretty much forgot about it after that, save for a few 2 am reminders via a visit from my asshole friend, Shameful Rejection (seriously dude, sod off.) Usually, I’ll get an email telling me when they publish something I write. And I get google alerts telling me when they mention my name in a social share.

But I didn’t with this one, so naturally, I avoided logging in to my blogger account to see if there were comments suggesting I change things up.

Why? Because if they want me to change things my inner rejected and traumatized child tells me it means I’ve failed. If I haven’t delivered something perfect I didn’t do a good enough job. (Yes I’m aware this is a troubling way to look at criticism, and yes I’m working on changing that belief.)

So I pushed through the fear and logged in yesterday, and found there were comments and suggestions on how to change it. Surprisingly I didn’t take their existence as a sign that my writing was shitty. I even replied and told the editor I’d work on making the suggested changes.

But I very quickly started to feel the need to be bold and stand behind what I’d written.

To paraphrase the editor’s suggestions, the piece would be better if I turned it into a “5 ways to reconcile with your parent” type thing. Basically, he wanted me to completely rewrite it. He wanted me to turn my heartfelt and emotionally cathartic post into something trendy, and use the delicate nature of my newly mended relationship with my dad as click bait. Plus, he wanted me to violate my dad’s privacy by using his image in the piece.

When I explain it like that it sounds like the dude is a total asshole. Please believe me when I say this isn’t the case at all. The blog editors at Huffington post are lovely people and I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with every single one I’ve dealt with.

The guy was just doing his job and adhering to Huffington Post’s MO, which is to pump out click-worthy content. They are looking for content that grabs the attention of the masses, and what he asked me to do is in alignment with that MO.

But that’s where I don’t fit into the equation. I don’t write to be popular. I started writing because I had to. It lights me the F*** up and helps me heal and make sense of all the shit that happens and has happened in my life.

Writing has helped me learn to like and appreciate who I am, eradicating deadly addictions in the process.

The years I spent pursuing the acceptance of others and trying to fit in demolished my self-esteem and self-worth. I sacrificed my emotional wellness by committing my life to seeking the approval of others.

Why would I revisit that life? Why would I hack up a piece of writing I’m proud of and that inspired others, for the sake of fitting in with the masses?

I realized after I told the editor I would make his suggested changes that the idea of turning a raw and honest piece of writing that I am proud of into a “5 ways to…” article makes me want to barf.

And while the Huff post editor dude was just doing his job, what he suggested just highlighted that they aren’t into my style of writing: they are only interested if it is coiffed to conform to mass consumption standards.

I’m not interested in entertaining the masses. I’m interested in inspiring others to invest in their emotional wellness. 

This leaves me to make a bold decision: Do I sacrifice my instincts to be true to my calling, or do I conform in a desperate attempt to be relevant?

I think I just answered my own question. 😉



If you liked this post join my growing list of newsletter subscribers.