Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up for Yourself!

This academic year, I've learned a lot, both academically and personally. One of the most important lessons that I've learned is that it's okay to stick up for myself, be clear in my expectations and put myself first.

To put it mildly, this year has been a rollercoaster for me. I've made a lot of headway in my majors (English and Women and Gender Studies), started my first internship and stepped up into more leadership roles with the organizations of which I am a part. Throughout it all, I've had to learn how to communicate my expectations and my skills. It did not come naturally.

I don't think I'm alone when I say that I'm uncomfortable with confrontation. Maybe it's the way I was raised, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's the same way for all women and young girls who are told not to rock the boat, to be personable and to make sure everyone likes you, but I'm here to say, that's impossible! It's impossible for everyone to like me, that I won't have any drama in my life and that I'll always be in a perfect mood. However, because I was conditioned to believe that I had to act that way, I always felt guilty or uncomfortable when speaking out.

For instance, a week or so ago I was pretty upset at something my roommate did that went against our roommate agreement. Instead of talking to her about it and finding a compromise, I just sat there. I sat on my bed thinking, "Is this a good time to bring it up? Will she get angry? I don't want her to be mad at me." But because I was still frustrated, I left the room and went into the lobby. After calming down, I realized that she was in the wrong, and she probably knew that too. I went to my RA, told her what happened and, by the next day, everything was resolved. My roommate apologized, promised it wouldn't happen again and everything was back to normal. When I spoke up for myself, nothing bad happened. Instead, I was having open communication with my roommate, and everything got resolved.

Just this past week, I stood up for myself again, without any hesitation. During class one of my peers invaded my personal space. He does this a lot, and I've actually told him several times to not get so close. He just was not getting it. So when he leaned over and took a book out of my bag without asking, I immediately told him to stop and put it back. Not only was this peer getting really close to me physically, but he also felt entitled to my personal belongings. He was making me very uncomfortable. It felt SO GOOD when I called him out. He quickly put my book down and got out of my space. I felt like a total badass. And it occurred to me, why haven't I been doing this all along? Why am I scared to speak up for myself? To be assertive?

The thing is, I was wary of being assertive because I was putting other people before myself. I'm telling you though that it is perfectly okay to put your own needs, health and experiences before others. I felt so empowered when I put myself first. It's okay to be angry and to be frustrated. It's okay to be imperfect. At that moment, I was assertive and powerful; I had a voice. Women and young girls are always told to think about others, but it's time we start thinking about ourselves.