There’s this great quote floating around the social media sphere.
It goes something like this:
“Instead of, ‘Have a nice day,’ I think I’ll start saying, ‘Have the day you deserve.’ You know, let karma sort that sh*t out.”
I don’t know who said it, and I’ve yet to find it credited to any particular person, but I feel this sentiment deeply in my soul. As a woman, society has taught me that I need to smile, to be attractive, to be the peacekeeper, to follow the lead of others, and to always be polite. I’ve been taught that my relationship to others is what defines me—daughter, sister, employee, mother, aunt, girlfriend, wife, friend. And I should always strive to put others before myself.
I’m so incredibly over this line of thinking. Instead of putting ourselves last and defining ourselves only by our relationship to others, I think we should be practicing self-care and authenticity. And instead of falling into that good girl trap of having to lead with a smile and be polite even in the face of harassment and disrespect, I think it’s important that we have healthy boundaries and assertive communication. I think it’s important that we break away from pretending everything is okay for the sake of others and make ourselves vulnerable again.
How can we get to the point where we are deeply authentic when what we’ve been taught to value is keeping up appearances?
1. We can stop sugarcoating the truth.
We need to figure out a way to be honest with others. So often, nice girls (and guys) tell people what they want to hear. I’m not saying that we should be unkind, but we need to find our way back to honesty.
2. We need to feel what we feel and stop slapping a smile on our faces when we’re not happy.
It’s okay to express a full range of emotions. We don’t have to smile when we don’t feel like it, and we don’t owe anyone an explanation for how we feel or why.
3. We need to abandon the expression, “I’m fine.”
How are we doing, really? Are we frustrated? Angry? Sad? Wistful? Tired? “Fine” is usually the thing we say when we don’t want to deal with how we’re feeling or we don’t want to talk about it. We need to find a way to stop pretending everything is okay when it’s not.
4. We need to start being assertive.
Speak up in class or at meetings. Get involved in groups where you can make a difference. We need to find a way of asserting ourselves, even if it’s speaking up to tell someone that we don’t owe them a smile or we wish them the day they deserve.
5. We need to set firm boundaries.
There are people in my life who have a toxic presence. Their opinions might be racist or sexist or homophobic. Or maybe they just have no respect for me or my life. Whatever the reason, we need to start putting up boundaries with people who aren’t healthy for us.
6. We need to learn to invest our time in the things and people who add value to our lives.
We can remove the toxic friend from our contacts. We can stop spending time with people who drain us. We can start making time for the people who make us feel worthwhile.
7. We can let go of that desire to please everyone else.
Why is it more important for others to like us or approve of us than to get what we want and need? Why have we put priority and value on everyone else over ourselves? We need to let go of the idea that what anyone else thinks of us is our business. It doesn’t matter. When we aren’t trying to please anyone else, we can make choices that are deeply authentic rather than obligatory.
Some days, I’m not fine. And I hope other people have the days that they deserve.
Some days, I want to pull the covers over my head and not interact with people at all. We’re human, and we’re going to have days when our best doesn’t feel good enough. But aren’t those days just as important?
Being mindful and spiritual doesn’t mean that we’ll be happy all the time. We’re not in this great cosmic competition where we have to look like everything is fine when it’s not.
And learning to accept that, to accept exactly how we feel, is an important part of our growth experience as people who value authenticity.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Flickr/Lauren Treece
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Callie Rushton