Speaking up about my wants and needs in situations where it could inconvenience others or make me appear selfish is one of my biggest struggles. For most of my life I have been more likely to take one for the team when asked to do something that I didn’t want to. I had twisted the idea of putting others before myself to mean that my needs weren’t as important as everyone else’s.
Nine-year-old Lauren wondered why all of her little league teammates got to play different positions while she was always placed in right field but never had the guts to ask the coach. Middle school Lauren was reluctant to tell an adult when other kids gave her trouble because even then she hated appearing weak. Fourteen-year-old Lauren was too intimidated to admit to her MIHS leader that she was too exhausted to do another large task on barracks day because she had already cleaned twice as much as the standard assignment. Seventeen-year-old Lauren missed her opportunity to call out a boy who was interested in dating her for belittling her accomplishments, She continued to spend time with him much longer than she wanted to because she had partially internalized her mother’s insistence that she owed him something and that “all teenage guys are like that.” Summer between high school and college Lauren’s “best friend” called her crush on another girl, “just the devil playing tricks,” under the guise of good intentions. Lauren pretended to see the merit in it because she was too shocked to tell her that such a reaction was cruel.
I, college Lauren, however, have made it a goal to better articulate my wants and needs before the problem just gets worse and causes more hard feelings all around. It’s not easy, but as someone who will soon be a professional woman, it is something that I need to master. On the other side of the coin, early high school Lauren got flack from a kid for over a year because she politely declined to date him while the boys who she was interested in dating were much less kind about letting her down. When senior year Lauren sent an e-mail to the principal of her school voicing her disagreement with a sexist pro-abstinence speaker, it was dismissed as “over-reacting.” A classmate called out last semester Lauren for defriending him on Facebook in response to several small instances of harassment. When she fired back, “I don’t like the way you talk to me!” some of her classmates immediately jumped to his defense. When present-day Lauren calls out sexism, the responses can range from apathy to condescension. As any female-identified human knows, the pushover/bitch dichotomy can be almost impossible to navigate. But you know what? I’m trying my best.