Although I’m far from ever being labeled as “shy,” I still have to gather my courage before speaking up for myself. Why? I think it’s simply human nature to want to smooth things over and not make waves.
I look back on times and events that I regret in my life, and I mostly identify when I did not speak up for myself or my children. The fourth grade teacher who was consistently negative and oddly punitive towards my son. I once asked her if she had anything positive to say about my son, and she simply stared me down without saying a word. All the other parents said she was “a great teacher, if you have a girl.” (Just writing about it makes me white hot with rage!) And by the way, her main complaint about my son was that he wiggled in his seat and looked out the window.
But I’m older and wiser now, and realize that addressing the issues with the teacher was a battle I should have chosen. But at the time, I feared she would be even worse to my son if I confronted her with my concerns. I deeply regret this.
Luckily, my current life is pretty smooth, although there still seem to be times when I have to take a deep breath, gather my courage and speak my mind.
I went in for my annual work evaluation yesterday. The paperwork goes into my human resources file, and is as close to that dreaded permanent record as is likely at this phase of my life. Although I’ve been in the same hospital-based RN job for 19 years, these meetings always give me a case of the jitters. I sat down and noticed that I was being being marked as having “met” rather than “exceeded” at my job. And although “met” is considered perfectly acceptable, I felt the need to speak up.
I explained to my boss, (who is kept busy with meetings, and doesn’t ever see me in action) that I felt that I earned the “exceeded” label. That I hold myself to a very high standard, that I work to support a positive work environment and that I try to be the nurse I wish I was working with. She listened to what I said, and then changed my rating.
It made me nervous to speak up for myself, but I did it anyway.
And this morning, I sat down to read through my e-mails, and sent out three very carefully worded e-mails that I would have much preferred to procrastinate or simply delete. Emails that required me to bypass my natural inclination to shy away from sticking up for myself. But because they were in written form, none will be the wiser that my voice was shaking; but yes, it was.
I often think of the popular bumper sticker quoting grey panther Maggie Kuhn, encouraging people to “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” (I know that anything translated to a bumper sticker format immediately becomes trite, but I find inspiration in it anyway.)
How does this relate to non-consumerism?
By choosing a less traditional life, there are inevitable uncomfortable conversations. Whether it’s telling a family member that you want to tone down Christmas or simply declining expensive invitations. Or even just living a simple life that sometimes does require you to explain your decisions, even when it’s no one’s business but your own.
So please non-consumers, speak your mind. Even if your voice shakes.