Volume 1, Issue 13: On Speaking Up for Ourselves

Hi friends! How are we all holding up? I am currently having a cup of hot chocolate that is mostly whipped cream. Yes, it is late July. Yes, I am in the Northern Hemisphere and it is summer where I am, though it is only 62°F at the moment. But hey, the mouth wants what the mouth wants.

Today I want to talk about speaking up for yourself. Am I an expert at this? No. Do I at least do it consistently for myself? ALSO NO. Maybe you’re all great at speaking up for yourselves, expressing your needs, saying no, and I’m writing today’s newsletter just for me. But I have the feeling that at least one of you is in the same boat that I am. The boat that I am in is named HMS Sick-Of-My-Own-Bullshit.

Let me tell you what has triggered this. A couple months ago I was getting a lot of emails from a lot of white people I know asking for my specific advice on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) type things. One request was for some DEI help in my day-job realm (nonprofit sector). What I should have said was, “I’d be happy to help. Here is my consulting fee and links to my PayPal and Venmo.” Instead, I was soooooo accommodating, as usual, because I suck at advocating for myself, and then at the end of my email I said, “I’m doing this for free, but in the future, if you ask this of people from marginalized backgrounds, you should offer to pay them.” I ADVOCATED FOR IMAGINARY PEOPLE I DON’T KNOW AND NOT FOR MYSELF.

I’ve been kicking myself FOR MONTHS.

<image is of a car taking a hard turn onto a freeway exit. The sign above has an arrow pointing forward and saying “Speaking up for myself” and the arrow to the exit says, “Speaking up for other people.”>

Sidenote: Offer to pay people for their labor, especially people from marginalized backgrounds. C’mon. Don’t be that person.

Why didn’t I speak up for myself? Was it because I don’t think that my labor is worth anything? Not necessarily, though I know that can be a thing our brains try to tell us sometimes. I think it was being terrified of, what, conflict? Maybe? I’ve taken the past couple months to think about what was the worst thing that could have happened if I asked to be paid. He could have said, “I’m not willing to pay” and then I could decide if I still wanted to give consultation. If we even went to extremes and I asked to be paid and he decided that he hates me from now on, it’s someone I literally haven’t talked to or seen in YEARS. WHY DO I CARE SO MUCH ABOUT BEING LIKED SOMETIMES UGHHHHHHHHHH

<image is animated gif of Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time. She is flipping a table.>

I remember a particular time I actually did speak up for myself. I was going to an allergist and they wanted to take my weight. There was no reason I had to go through the trauma of being weighed at the fucking allergist. So I said, “No thank you, I don’t think it’s necessary” and the intake person was totally fine with it. I was SO TERRIFIED that when she took my blood pressure, she looked at my numbers and then looked at me with a look that said, “ARE YOU DYING RIGHT NOW?”

It was awkward but I did it. I spoke up for myself and it didn’t kill me.

I’m going to tell you another one of mine and my wife’s relationship rules: There is no such thing as mind-reading and because of this, we actually have to use our words and tell each other what we want and need. It’s a bit related to what I wrote about sharing feelings. I’ve had to learn to not expect my brain in her nor her brain in me. Just because when I think “take out the garbage” it means empty all the garbage bins in the apartment, clean old food out of the fridge, and take out the compost and recycling as well doesn’t mean that everyone else thinks that way. So also, I can’t get mad if other people don’t think how I do if I didn’t actually tell them what I’m thinking.

<image is actually two images. The top image is a pair of hands holding a prescription bottle that is labeled, “Hard to swallow pills” and the bottom image is three white pills in the person’s left hand while the person is pointing at the pills with their right hand. The pills are labeled with the words, “Mind-reading isn’t real, you actually have to tell people what you’re thinking.”>

We have so many opportunities to speak up for ourselves which means we have so many opportunities to practice! I definitely need the practice. I’m going to throw out a bunch of scenarios where we could practice speaking up for ourselves:

  • If you’re invited to a gathering, you can say, “I don’t feel comfortable or safe joining you” BECAUSE WE’RE IN A FUCKING PANDEMIC. People shouldn’t be gathering anyway!

  • At Trader Joe’s when they ask if you found everything you need, you can tell them “No I did not” if you didn’t! I’ve done that and you know what happens? They let me know if it’s out of stock and when to expect it, or if it’s discontinued, or maybe they have some in the back then they get it for me! It’s their job! It is what they get paid to do!

  • If we ever get to safely go to restaurants again (I said SAFELY), and the server asks if your food was good or if you need anything, you can speak up for yourself if it was not good or if you need a side of whatever. They might not care, but it’s worth a shot!

  • If you’re having sex and your partner is doing something that isn’t turning you on, you can suggest they do something different!

  • Or if you want to have sex with your partner, ask for sex! 

  • At work, if your plate is full and you’re overwhelmed, you can try to say no to additional projects.

  • If you’re at the doctor’s office and you want them to do a particular test and they don’t, you can ask them to write in your record that they refused you the test so that there is a note that says that. I hear that this will often result in you getting the test you want but I have only seen that from people online and I have not tried it myself. YET.

  • If you’re seeing a therapist and they aren’t actually helping/they’re not a good match for you, don’t stay with them for nostalgia or to not hurt their feelings. Break up with them! Find another therapist! Respect their time and respect your own time and mental health.

  • If you want your partner to do something (a chore, be proactive about childcare or date night, etc.), speak up! Use your words. They are not a mind-reader.

  • If you need help, at work, at home, ask for help. 

And I’m sure there are more things! I welcome you to give me more examples to share and to also share with me your stories about speaking up for yourself. You should be proud! It’s a hard thing to do and it takes practice.

That’s it for this week! I’ll leave you with a selfie. Nicole helped color my hair and I got a new mask!

<close-up photo of me in a parking lot. My hair is purple and I am wearing a black face mask that says, “Just wear a fucking mask” in white letters>

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