I grew up in an environment of uncertainty, fear, alcoholism and men with tempers and women affected by powerlessness and depression. Nurturing was replaced by messages from adults that said, “You’re on your own.” And I was. It would seem that the gift of that early childhood would be strength. And it is.
Tough, strong, determined, stubborn, creative, clever and compassionate are words many who have known me over the years would attribute to me. Even my high school principal would say, “When Donna believed in something, there was no changing her mind.” He would see me walking down the hall on the first day of school, shake his head and open his office door.
You see, every first day of high school I did a “sit -in” because they wouldn’t allow Black children into my rural North Carolina high school or any other schools white people attended.
I am all those adjectives, and yet in certain areas of my life, I have trouble standing up for myself. Do you have those places in your life where you know someone isn’t treating you well, showing you the respect you deserve? Perhaps you have a wonderful business helping people and don’t charge enough? When you’re hurting, or someone is behaving in ways that leave you feeling less than, is it hard to tell them how you’re feeling and what you need?
Most all of us struggle with some issues or areas of our lives where taking care of ourselves is challenging. For me, it appears in relationships with people I love. Sometimes with men in romantic relationships and it even shows its face in my relationships with those women friends who are dearest to me. You’d think they would be the safest place to show up, express my needs and even say, “Hey, you are being a real jerk!” You’d think…
Well, there are other things happening in our sweet young lives that can make standing up for ourselves, believing in ourselves, asking for what we deserve feel like we are going into a dark cave full of bats and dragons. Things that tell us we don’t deserve, can’t have, are foolish for asking, and the worst one, that we are crazy for what we think. It shuts us down like a clam left on the shore by an outgoing tide.
I want to feel safe in asking for what I need. One way that I do that is to be sure I’m hanging around with safe people. Those are people who understand what respect is, are open to hearing me, willing to meet me halfway, and most of all, who won’t leave me when I’m not perfect.
You are safe when you stand up for yourself. Scary as it is, try it and notice how you feel. Yes, there is often a backlash of emotion that says, “Did I do the right thing?” But then the peace and joy you feel comes rolling in on the next wave. Try it! Start small and with the safest person in your life. If there’s someone you know isn’t safe, start finding your way to the nearest exit, take the hand of someone who loves you and move on, one step at the time.
You Deserve to be Safe, You Sweet Thing You!
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Donna Bailey, MS
Coach, Speaker, Writer
Expert, “Dating and Relationships for “Grown-ups”