life lesson #634: in life you get what you tolerate


This morning I thought back to some of the moments in my life when I was too afraid to stand up for myself, too afraid to hurt someone's feelings, too timid to say "This is unacceptable. Your behavior is hurting me" so I let it go and I let it stew. I carried this anger and this sense of hurt in my heart and thought about it over and over. I always ended up thinking of things I should have said but didn't. I was afraid that I wouldn't be liked if I asked for more, if I asked to be treated properly.

Maybe it's growing older but I realize now that it's OK to ask for more. It can be something as simple as not getting what you ordered but eating it because you didn't want to make a scene. Or maybe something more. Maybe a friend is perpetually late or always on their phone when you're together. Maybe you've always hated a derogatory nickname that you're family has always called you. (I know someone whose family calls her LFG pronounced ell-eff-gee as in one word. It stands for Little Fat Girl. She was a big baby. She's never told her family how much she cringes inside and how it hurts her because she doesn't want to hurt their feelings.)

Maybe at work you take on all the jobs people dump on you because you feel like if you say something that your colleagues or your boss will be angry with you or won't like you if you don't take on all the things that they don't want to do. Its easier to just do it and be pissed off inside. That way you don't seem pushy or bitchy.

Here's the thing: they dump on you, they call you nicknames you hate, they ignore you to see what's happening on their phone because you let them. You tolerate their ugly behavior and there is no incentive for them to stop.

It's OK to ask for the entree you actually ordered. It's OK to say "When you're with me, I need you to be present and not checking your phone all the time. It makes me feel like I'm not good enough." It's OK to say "You know, I am slammed with work too. I'm sorry I can't take that on today." It's OK to say "I know you say it with love, but please don't call me that nickname. It makes me feel embarrassed."

I believe people mean well. They don't intentionally want to hurt you. They just can't read your mind. They don't know that what they are doing hurts you. Fill them in. Do it with grace, with the expectation that this behavior will change. If it doesn't? Keep reinforcing it. Again and again. If their behavior still hurts you, then change your reaction. If your friend is perpetually late and it bothers you, don't make any more dates until she gets the point. If your family or friends still call you a nickname you hate or constantly bring up one of your faults or your Achilles heel, don't respond to them. They will learn that if you are going to be in their lives, then they need to up their game and treat you with the level of respect that you have asked for.

In turn, remember, you have to do the same. Is there a behavior that you are doing that hurts someone else? Do you laugh it off because it seems silly? It may seem silly to you but to the person you are hurting, it's everything.