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This topic seems to come up every now and again in discussions I have with people, mainly friends and sometimes family members as well. It is so easy sometimes to notice toxic behaviors in other people, especially when it conflicts with our own wants and needs. However, there is a difference in displaying toxic traits, and taking control of your life, even if it means having to tell someone something they don't want to hear. One of the most important lessons my mom ever taught me was that, we have no control over how someone will react when we tell them something. Now, that doesn't mean we need to be rude about it, but rather we need to be direct in what we need or want to succeed. Don't settle for something just to make others happy. In this article, I'm going to attempt to shine some light on this.
Handling this in a family setting is... interesting. My personal experience with this has definitely changed who I am as a person, but it didn't happen over night. Growing up, I was taught to always be nice and caring and take care of others, you know like be considerate of others. Totally fine. What I wasn't initially taught, was to also take care of myself. I wasn't taught when and how to draw those fine lines with my interactions. As a result of this, there came times in my life when I had to harshly draw lines with family members when they would attempt to use this against me.
I grew up mostly living with my dad, and when I was 14 I decided that I wanted to give living with my mom a try. Obviously, this kind of thing can't happen immediately, and so both parties would need to have a discussion. My mom wanted me to have a say in what would happen, because ultimately I was the one who would either be moving or not. My dad wasn't fond of the idea of me just getting up and leaving after so many years, naturally as a parent he worried. Initially I felt that if I chose to leave that I would be letting my dad down and I was scared of the conflict that might emerge. I wanted to have the opportunity for change. I wanted to be able to make new friends and go to a different school, I just needed a change of pace for once. I made the decision that I wanted to move and live with my mom, so one day I called my dad and told him my decision. He was angry. Over the phone he strictly told me that I wasn't acting like the child that he had raised and so on and so forth, but there was something he said to me that chimed through my head and got me thinking. He said, "Courtney, you're being selfish." Normally, I would have taken this as it was intended and shrunk back in my seat and changed my mind. In this moment, however, I had a breakthrough in my young mind. It is okay to be selfish and admit it. Was I being selfish because I wanted to move away from my dad? He sure thought so. In my mind though, that was okay because I was taking care of myself. I was doing what I thought was best for me at the time. This turned into a very important lesson for me, sometimes even if it makes you uncomfortable, you have to be selfish in order to improve yourself. It was strange accepting this new idea, all my life I'd been taught to take care of others first, even if it means sacrificing your own happiness.
I have had people in my family guilt me into making decisions that fit their agendas, and I got to a point in my life where I wasn't going to lay down and take it anymore. I remember when I was in high school, and my Nana came to stay at our house for a night. My room was downstairs, as well as a den area with a TV that I would use on occasion. On this night, I was watching something on TV when my Nana came downstairs and told me that she was going to sleep in my room and that I could sleep on the couch in the den. I looked at her puzzled, there had never been a discussion about sleeping arrangements prior to this statement. That's what it was, a statement. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind people using my room while they stay with us at all, our couch was comfy so I didn't mind sleeping on that. What bothered me though, was that I was being told out of the blue that I was being kicked out of my personal space, and being told to sleep on the couch. I looked at her after a moment of contemplating how to approach the situation, and calmly said, "No." Her eyes widened and her mouth hung open in a moment of shock, then she became defensive. Telling me that "It's the right thing to do to allow your grandparent to sleep in your room!" She believed that she had the power to tell me where she would be sleeping that night and assuming that I had to be okay with her decision. I told her, "If you had asked me to sleep in my room tonight, I wouldn't have had an issue. We didn't have a discussion about this, you demanded. For that reason, my answer is no." After a few minutes of explaining more thoroughly to her, she finally accepted my decision and that was the end of it.
I was an extremely shy kid, I still am quite shy and awkward there is no denying it, but through the years I have blossomed. I still find situations that I know I need to take action, it's never easy, but it's necessary. Every day, every interaction, every person that we meet we teach how to treat us. It seems weird, sometimes it is, but it's true. When we allow people to walk over us, make decisions for us, and treat us like garbage and not saying or doing anything about it we are silently saying that it is okay for them to do that. If we don't tell them that it's wrong, even though we feel like we shouldn't have to, they will keep doing it because to them it's okay because you haven't said otherwise. I believe that we don't have control over how someone is going to react when we stand up to them, and the hardest part about that is usually that we don't want them to react badly. We don't want them to take it the wrong way, or feel bad because of what we said to them. Make your boundaries clear to people, and stand by them. Know that you're worth it, and it is okay to say no.
All of these experiences are personal to me, and I know that people have many experiences of their own like this. Feel free to share yours with me if you'd like! Email me: [email protected]