I saw this post by @vedhupop on Instagram and it set off so many emotions that I had to write about it. Not just for myself, but for anyone who has been feeling the way I have.
(This image has been used with permission from the artist)
Her caption reads:
“You’re going to piss a lot of people off when you start standing up for yourself. Especially when you’ve let them walk over you for so long. They are going to hate that they can’t control you anymore.
You don’t always have to be the bigger person, the kinder person and the more understanding person.
You are allowed to be mad and lose your shit on the people who don’t respect you.
Demand for what you deserve.
I deserve to be treated well and I won’t settle for anything lesser⚫I’m letting it go.
#art #artbyvedhu #vedhupop #sketchbook”
I love being back in India. We are flawed and colorful and messy and vibrant all at once. These last three years have been a journey in readapting to Indian life and culture. But there’s one thing I refuse to adjust to. We are so often told not to ask questions, and I just don’t understand why. I just cannot understand this culture of people being told to just shut up and sit down.
- Newcomers are told to shut up and listen to the boss, unquestioningly.
- Children are told to shut up and listen to parents, unquestioningly.
- Students are told to shut up and listen to teachers, unquestioningly.
Hate to break it to you, but you as the seniors or parents or teachers don’t always know best. You don’t actually want to find the best solution or further the discussion in any way. You just want to be right. This kind of thinking is nothing more than power play.
As much as this is applicable across gender, I know for sure that this happens to women more than it happens to men. From birth we are groomed to adjust and compromise and be the bigger person and let it go and calm down and why are you getting angry it’s such a small thing. We are groomed to follow instructions unquestioningly from fathers and brothers, followed by husbands and in laws, and it ends up affecting every part of life, whether it’s teachers or bosses, or anyone who might have one day more experience or one ounce more authority than us.
It’s horrifying. We don’t have to put up with this. You know why? A genuinely nurturing mentor or teacher or boss or senior understands that they don’t lose anything by teaching a newcomer something new. A genuinely loving brother or father or husband or in law understands that they don’t lose anything by being kind to you and supporting you. I even wrote about the wonderful women who have impacted my life in this way, and I’m so glad I have them, because they’ve set the bar high enough that I am able to recognize insecurity and power play.
I’m not asking for perfection, I know life is stressful, people don’t always stay calm. I know I’ve lost my cool more than once. People argue. It’s natural. But please, please remember — there is a difference between being frustrated and taking your frustration out on someone, again and again. There’s a difference between acknowledging the failure of a team and scapegoating the easiest victim. There is a difference between loving someone genuinely and loving them only if they mold themselves into what works for you. There is a difference between someone who genuinely wants what’s best for you or the work at hand, and someone who only wants to unquestioning obedience.
To the people I’ve pissed off, people aren’t going to trust you or be willing to work with you or put up with your demands if you’re not able to clearly explain why you want something a certain way. I say this because I know I’m not asking for a unicorn. Truly nurturing relationships exist. The wonderful people I’ve learned the most from always know why something needs to get done and they’re able to clearly articulate it to everyone involved. If your team or partner or child or student knows why they’re doing something, they will be much more willing to do it. If you can’t explain why, if your requests are being questioned, please understand that there might be an even better solution that comes from genuinely trying to answer those questions. If you only want to be right, you won’t get very far.
I was told by a friend very early on that one can either be a diva or a doormat, and it’s my choice to make. I think about that every day.
To the people I’ve pissed off, I’m not saying I’m going to just rage quit every time there’s a difference of opinion. What I’m saying is that I’m going to pick my battles and know who is worth struggling with, what is worth struggling for, and draw the line when I’m being taken advantage of. You can label me or hate me or bitch about me but if I don’t take care of myself, no one will. If I don’t know my own worth, no one else will. I know for a fact that you will learn to respect me in the long run because I held my ground today. You will understand that respect is earned. You will realize that you sow what you reap. If you treat people with respect, you will get it back. If you treat people like shit, they will walk away eventually. You will understand that you can’t treat people however you want, whenever it’s convenient for you. If you feel like you’re stuck in a pattern of people constantly leaving, stop and question yourself. Maybe YOU’RE the problem.
I remember my mom telling me from when I was very young, “Never be so desperate for a person or relationship a job or an opportunity that you blindly take whatever shit someone throws at you.” She’s right. I’ve seen this first hand — as soon as someone toxic knows how to get their way, they won’t stop. I’m writing this to pass on the sense of self confidence my mother put in me.
So here’s my message to everyone who is feeling like they’re stuck in a toxic relationship:
Whether it’s work or personal, it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to quit. It’s okay to walk away from something that is draining your energy. Scroll back up to the caption under the photo and chant it to yourself. If you are being made to feel that someone else is doing you a favor, remind them that you’re perfectly capable of surviving without them. And believe me, you will survive without them.
Always remember that no one changed the world by shutting up and sitting down. Science evolved because someone questioned something. Slavery was abolished, women were allowed to vote, India overthrew colonial rule, sexual predators were called out through #MeToo, all because someone questioned status quo. The world is a better place because these people refused to be silenced, they refused to be told they were being unreasonable or too angry and because they refused to “be the bigger person”. If your intention is to better yourself, your work, a relationship, whatever it is, stand up and say what you need to say. No one else is going to do it for you.
Thank you @vedhupop for your post. You gave me the strength to hold my ground today and I will always be grateful to you. I hope your art continues to inspire. Thank you mama for teaching me that I am worthy of respect. Thank you papa for always reminding me that unquestioning obedience achieves nothing. Thank you to my bosses, mentors, directors, and friends for your kindness. Knowing you exist makes it easier to walk away when I need to. Please keep doing what you do.
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