It’s 2020, take up space
I’ve felt awfully small for most of my life. I attribute it to my pre-existing, lifelong condition: being nice.
I endure a freezing hour-long drive inside public transportation, too timid to ask the driver to dial the AC down a bit (even if I’m the only passenger). I let people cut in line at the ATM or at the elevator just to avoid any confrontation. I’ll accept every pamphlet anyone hands me on the street, even if I know it’s headed to the trash—when the coast is clear. I’ll be the last one speaking in a crowded room, unable to carry a conversation with strangers, knowing I’m capable of st-st-stuttering.
At the root of being a nice girl is wanting to please people—inherent goodness, too, sure. I do plead with you, don’t apologize for your warmth, but don’t let it limit you either. Don’t simply be submissive to pacify situations. With the wrong crowd, you can easily be taken advantage of.
How do you navigate life as a young girl, without being a pushover? Let me count the ways.
Take up space.
Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi said it best in her winning speech, “And that is what we should be teaching these young girls: to take up space. Nothing is as important as taking up space in society and cementing yourself.” Young women need to be taught early on that their presence is valued. Asserting one’s self begins with taking up space vocally and physically. Give yourself permission to matter.
— Miss Universe (@MissUniverse) December 9, 2019
Learn how to develop your voice by challenging yourself to speak up. Stop shrinking yourself, tiptoeing around others to make them feel comfortable. When you feel insecure about your ideas, replace your measly “what if” with “why not?” This completely changes everything. One can uphold a position of power and authority without being dominating; by eliciting respect, not fear.
Stop apologizing incessantly when you haven’t done anything wrong in the first place. For simple things like sending out work e-mails, instead of apologizing for a mistake, why not say “Thank you for catching that error” instead? Simply restructuring your words gives you back your power.
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Learn to say no.
Saying yes to everything but compromising your sanity can easily lead to being burnt-out; this doesn’t result in effective productivity. When there’s too much on your plate, be blunt—respectfully—knowing you need rest before heading to the treacherous path of disillusionment. You’re not disappointing anyone by prioritizing your holistic well-being. After all, your worth isn’t measured by your productivity.
Allow yourself to set boundaries, without letting people limit you. Be self-aware and practice these small steps to better your relationship with yourself.
Art Alexandra Lara