“Sometimes, the best thing you can do to those that don’t understand or accept you for who you’ve become, is walk the fuck away.”
-Me – about 7 month ago
The hard truth to being yourself, really being yourself, is the fact that at some point, you have to say goodbye to those who won’t accept the real you. It’s a fact of life, especially for a life lived with a full set of boundaries, convictions, and beliefs intact. There will be those that seek to change you for their own purposes, your job is to say “no”.
And many people can’t say it. The mere utterance of the word terrifies most, with social repercussions on tap, when dealing with family, friends, and relationships.
And these days, with cancellations abounding on social media, standing up for yourself is very dangerous, especially economically, because the backlash of the mob will leave even the most seasoned, principled person gasping for their social breath.
Apologies fly after boundaries are set and enforced, showing those that tried to broach those sacred lines that it was all an act, that they can guilt and shame their way into bullying you however they want, whenever they want, and you’ll buckle like a belt.
Gone are the days of standing your ground, even if alone, for fear of retribution, humiliation, financial ruin, and castigation.
Those that do it have nothing to lose, or if they do, they’ve already lost it. That spirit needs to come back and there’s a reason it’s having a hard time right now.
But even in this time of crumbling morals and inabilities to stand up for oneself, there is something to be said about any man that can walk away from anything that doesn’t serve his interest. It’s a lost art that has been negated by the on-line experience, when words really don’t matter, actions can’t be seen unless someone’s recording, and the faceless mob either supports you temporarily or summons the torches and pitchforks for something you said years ago.
People these days are too scared to walk for fear of loss. Which means that they either don’t think what they gain from leaving is worth it, or they’re scared to leave because of what they would lose. But the people I’ve known who’ve braved the dreaded walk and do it over and over again know instinctively that they ALWAYS gain from walking away, because anything toxic in their lives is not worth keeping.
And it’s that mindset that has served me well for many years.
“I Never Said NO”
I didn’t know how to walk. For much of my life, I had been a people pleaser of the highest order. I would be shamed and guilted by those that loved me most, only because they knew they could get away with it.
My mother and I joke about this at times because when she wanted something from me, she would just give me “the look” which was a sad face with puppy dog eyes. All she had to do for years was flash that face and I would melt, giving in to any demand she had, be it homework needing to be done, chores, helping her with something, or even some trivial thing, all she had to do was the face and I was done.
It didn’t help that she’s a damn fine negotiator anyway, so I was at a disadvantage already, but she had this magical way of getting her way, and it worked whenever she employed it.
It didn’t get any better as I grew up and I would seldom stand up for anything for fear of bringing disdain from my family and friends. I lied so much to my friends if I didn’t want to hang out because I didn’t want to tell them “no I didn’t feel like it”, because I believe “no” was a bad word. This wasn’t manifested anywhere but in my own brain, so I continued to bend like a pretzel every time I was trying to make everyone happy.
So, I never said no. I would either lie, delay, come up with excuses, or just do it. My father would watch me in an uncomfortable situation and call it “dancing”, because all I would do was try to avoid the main issues to avoid the confrontations. And it seriously affected much of my social life as well, even in to my early 20’s, I had not dated much, and when I had, I was a sheepish, clumsy, people pleaser, not worried about my own needs, but the needs of my date at the time. No wonder I was terrible with women.
It continued to come increasingly give me stress in my life when I got married. I had three women that I was trying to please. My wife, my younger sister, and my mother, and most of the time, they were all in alignment, and I did what they needed me to do. I thought I was being a good husband, brother, and son by doing whatever they wanted. It was only when all three of them became diametrically opposed that I started to have major issues in my life, culminating in several angry outbursts at work and several sessions with an anger management counselors.
Tough situations at work with customers, clients, vendors, bosses, and co-workers was met with angry outbursts, punching walls, and pent up frustration, all over avoiding conflict, confrontation, and resolution. And the avoidance, the “dancing” was killing me from the inside out…
The build up was so stressful, I had to take on a full time therapist to start parsing through all of the issues I was having.
And while it helped, the one thing that my therapist told me that stuck with me was a question he asked one morning…
“Have you ever said no?”
It was a question I had never been asked.
And I didn’t have an answer, because deep down, I knew the answer. That answer was…no, I had never said no.
And a light went on, albeit 20 years too late, but it came on, and the wheels started turning, finally, mercifully, towards finally resolving my anger issues in the short term, but setting off a bomb in the long term, a bomb that needed to be set, the bomb of me finally becoming aware of my boundaries, what I wanted in my life, and what it was going to take to find myself. And it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Something Happened, Something Clicked”
On that cold ass December morning when I got asked that question, I started to really search for why the answer was what it was. And I got very surprising answers. People weren’t taking advantage of me over my life for being a people pleaser on purpose, they were doing it because I was allowing them to do it. This revelation started a domino effect for my job, my friends, my family, and my wife. I started to question everything that was in my life and why it was there….and more importantly, whether it needed to be there. Every session with my therapist continued to reinforce the fact that I had been living a lie for much of my life. A life that was supposed to be mine was being used to please others with no end in sight.
I had to really question why the hell I was doing all this because none of it was benefiting me. Which is when I made the fateful decision to file for divorce from my then wife. I wasn’t living MY life, I was living another dude’s life, and none of this was what I wanted, none of it.
The decision to divorce was the first decision I had made as ME. It was the first decision I had made as a man in control of his own life. And it was my first “NO” in my life to those that would want the opposite.
I took a ton of heat from friends and family from my decision. But there I was, standing up for myself, saying NO in the face of those who wanted different.
And my divorce was a sad event, it and the events leading up to it was the catalyst for who I have become today. Because I knew when I got divorced, on the other side was the person I truly was, and I knew that everyone in my world would come to accept my decision when they saw what it did for me.
For that one moment, because I chose to WALK away from something that wasn’t good for me, it empowered me to make more decisions for my own development. It taught me to not seek conflict, but not to be afraid of it. It showed me that the world wasn’t so bad when you stood alone for something you believed in, because you believe it’s right.
And, finally, after 40 years, “My Best Interest” became the guiding light of my life. There’s nothing selfish or wrong with pursuing your best interests because, as I’ve always said, you can’t pour from an empty cup, and pursued self interest, hobbies, convictions, purpose, and belief fills that bad boy up every damn day.
Now? I say no. A lot. And it’s not because I do it just to hear myself say it, although that was absent for the first 4 decades of my life, but it was because if it doesn’t align with what I am doing in my life, with the things that I want to accomplish, or takes away from my momentum, goals, and life choices, then it doesn’t get to be a part of it.
And that’s what Captain American says in my favorite quote. No matter what, believe what you believe, stand up for your convictions, and put what you feel is right ahead of all else. No wonder I love that damn quote so much, because it reminds me of me during my struggle to walk away from shit that doesn’t work for me.
No matter what, stand up for yourself, whether it be in politics, religion, social media, anything.
You stand for who you are, you stand for what you believe, you stand for your morals and convictions. And if they don’t like it, walk. You don’t have to tolerate anyone who won’t tolerate you.
We need a world that can grow a pair and use them to get shit done. Stop kowtowing to people just to please and avoid a conflict. You matter and your views are yours. Never forget that.