I’ve always had a boisterous personality and have always said what was on my mind. And I admit, I have found myself in some trouble because of it. I’d always rather be honest, then constantly having to tip-toe around others to appear “nice”. So naturally, sometimes what I have to say comes out blunt. What can I say… this is me.
Luckily, my friends and family know this and like about me, but it hasn’t always been the case. Plenty of times I’ve let things spill out much worse than I’ve wanted it to sound, and that’s the last thing I want to do. I never want to hurt the ones that I love.
So I tried to be “nicer”. Didn’t tell my friends how I felt when they asked my advice. Looked the other way when I saw something that was clearly wrong. Didn’t respond back how I should have when approached in a hostile way or was clearly wronged. Basically, just didn’t stand up for myself in the ways I should have. And my confidence and mental clarity paid dearly for it.
I’ve noticed that in the past, my work life and happiness had taken the biggest blow. I was only my real, honest self with very few of my coworkers and still only shared a small fraction of my honesty. I was afraid of being the “bitch of the office”. I’m sure that you are all aware of the double standards with gender in the workplace. Women who say what they mean, unapologetically, always seem to be seen as aggressive in a negative sense, while men come across as go-getters, or that’s just “John’s personality”.
The most annoying example of my “politeness” that comes to mind is feeling compelled to physically look like I’m always in a good mood. I swear, if I could count the amount of times I’ve been told to smile in the workplace (even when I was totally fine), I’d lose count. At first I was upset, but then I’d find my facial expressions betraying my face by twisting into a smile, for the sake of avoiding an awkward interaction with coworkers I see daily. Or even just so caught off guard that I didn’t know how to respond. Then I’d walk away feeling like an idiot, and being even more angry that I unintentionally complied. I have many more examples, and in the end, I KNEW that I was not being honest and true to myself and my natural personality. I was focused on what I had to accomplish that day, not worried on how I seemed to people I walked past in the hallways.
Other times, I was new to a job and the supervisor was known to treat those below him badly, then gossip loudly about them to others later. Even making some cry! I dealt with it for a while, not wanting to “rock the boat”, until I couldn’t deal with his inappropriate behavior any longer. So spoke up about his behavior and approach towards me, and MY GOD I might as well have put a target on my own back! Suddenly everyone was whispering around me and acting differently. It was an uncomfortable time, and I truly believe I was targeted because I was one of the few (few meaning only two others… and they were immediately fired or never hired on permanently) that stood up and didn’t comply to his ridiculous demands and criticism. And when I took it even further to his boss and Human Resources, I was treated like I was the problem! Even though I had a spotless performance record and HE had a long history of interpersonal and behavioral problems with almost everyone at the office.
Even others who had been dealing with his behavior for YEARS had my back and gained their own courage to speak up. Cut to months later, he had “stepped down” as our supervisor and was now in the same positions as the rest of us. The regime had fallen. Talk about a David & Goliath moment! And I couldn’t be prouder to have sparked the movement, and even better, to have finally listened to my own intuition.
And that, was more than worth it!
In a past job, I admired one of my female coworkers, because although she was always a hard worker and people liked her, she never made that her intention or goal. When she didn’t like something, she said it and everyone knew. Some thought she had a bad attitude, but I’m convinced that it was WHAT she said that they didn’t like, especially if it was about them. Now I’m not talking gossip, but if someone spoke to her aggressively for no reason (and we had a few of them in this office), she told them what was what, right then and there. She always stood her ground and I still, to this day, feel like she’s a middle-aged version of how I am today. No one can shake me with my feet planted firmly into the ground.
I’ve been called intimidating, intense, loud, argumentative, accused of having a bad attitude, you name it. Then, I thought these were all negative qualities that I did NOT want to be known as before. And still, I may not like how they sound, but the difference is now… I DON’T CARE. And even better, it doesn’t affect how I continue to go through each day, determined and confident and as unapologetically as possible!
What’s more freeing than that?
Instead of trying to change my personality and tweaking it for everyone else’s liking, I’ve embraced my personality as a whole. And more importantly, being likable isn’t my goal anymore. But this doesn’t mean I let go of caring about how others feel and trying my best to be polite, but I still honestly state my perspectives. No longer telling myself that I shouldn’t say this or that, because of how it “may look”. Or who it may upset. Sometimes people need to hear the truth!
I’ve finally found a perfect middle ground. And I am so much happier with the feeling of not sacrificing my personal thoughts and feelings, just so I can come across as complacent. Sometimes, what you have to say isn’t always nice, but it’s imperative that it is honest and said with some empathy.
And those that know and love you will understand that.
Always being likable is BORING. Why spend so much time tailoring yourself for others, not wanting to make waves? Posturing through smiles and nervous giggles? Being the posture child for politeness and conformation is like a blank slate. Instead of embracing our differences in who we are, we want to melt into the background because it’s easier. I get it! But then we’re just like everyone else, and WHO WANTS THAT?
We need those of us who can shake things up! Those not afraid to speak their minds! Because these voices help make intentional change! Otherwise, things stay the same and people continue to comply to the nonsense around them.
I’m a cheerleader to those that speak their minds, even if someone may not like or understand the perspective. It’s more important to like yourself than for everyone else to. This is YOUR life, and sometimes others aren’t going to approve. And they’re probably going to talk about it. But if you’re making a confident choice that makes you happy, their approval isn’t necessary. Scratch that… no one’s approval is EVER necessary except your own.
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