If you were born before 1998, it’s pretty likely you’ve finished with high school (or are pretty darn close to being done with it). So, let’s behave like we’re not in high school anymore.
I’m in my late 30s. Closer to 40 than 35, and definitely my high school self would assume I was a grown-up. And that the women I associate with would be grown-ups too. And I thought that was the case too. Until recently.
Until I realised that we can still be pretty bloody mean.
And exclude each other. And do all the things we wouldn’t want our younger selves to experience.
Are you being a grown-up or you stuck back in high school? Are you still acting like you should be sporting a backpack instead of a handbag and hanging out in the quadrangle rather than the café? Are you the queen bee taking first place in front of the mirror in the senior girls’ loo or the geek hiding behind a book in the library?
And how are you treating those around you?
And how are you treating yourself?
Some people I know might read this. Some people I know might realise I’m writing about them. That’s ok because if that’s the case, I’ve said the point that is about them, politely, to them. And if they feel like it’s about them and I haven’t said something, then I probably am not writing about them… except that I am.
If this resonates with you, it does so for a reason. And the reason is that you need to action something. Do something different. For you, for the people around you, and for the girls who now represent our younger selves.
What am I talking about? There’s a bunch of stuff we do that could be kinder, more thoughtful, and generally just less bitchy. But some standout things I’ve seen and experienced lately inspired this post. Can you relate?
#1 BE INCLUSIVE
I’m pretty sure you think you’re a friendly person. And your friends probably think so to. But do people you don’t know you feel that way?
If you’re somewhere you’re comfortable and someone new turns up, do you smile, say hello, find out about them and make them welcome? Or do you assume it’s their job to figure out how to fit in… even though they took a big deep breath and a whole lot of courage to get them out the door and to wherever you encountered them?
Or a few increments (in the wrong direction) on the inclusion scale – are you excluding others? I’ve been a bit shocked lately that women (and their partners) I assumed were adults think it’s ok to make people feel unwelcome, and specifically tell them not to hang around at the places and functions they go to. Seriously.
I don’t like everyone I associate with. Some people annoy me. Some people frustrate me. Some people disappoint me. But we’re all human. And I’m pretty sure that I annoy, frustrate and disappoint some people. But I’m still polite to them – they don’t deserve to be treated poorly or excluded just because we’re not on the same wave length.
#2 ASSUME THE BEST
Have you had someone assume you were acting with bad intent and call you out on it? It sucks, doesn’t it. Especially when you weren’t, and your track record should indicate you weren’t. It reminds me of an exchange between two characters on the Netflix show Longmire (don’t judge me for watching wild west crime dramas). Paraphrasing, it went something like this…
Henry: 29 years.
Walt: What’s 29 years?
Henry: We have known each other for 28 years, during which time I have demonstrated my integrity and trustworthiness. So, it must take 29 years to earn your trust and belief that someone will do the right thing.
Next time you feel like you might have been slighted, ask yourself if it really is likely to have been meant that way. Has the person’s past behaviour done anything to suggest that they would be doing something unkind (either intentionally or unintentionally)? If it’s a no, then you are probably reading something that isn’t even there. So just let it go, move on and assume it was crossed wires. Don’t dwell on it. Truly, just let it go.
If you don’t let it go, you get to feel crappy and stew on it. And if you bring it up with them, in all likelihood they are going to be horrified that you thought that was their intent and then you both get to feel crappy. And you’ll chip away at the integrity of your relationship with them. They might think “if she assumes that I would try and be hurtful even though my past actions don’t suggest that is likely, perhaps she is intentionally hurtful, and I’ve just been letting it slide when I should have been backing away”.
#3 AVOID THE PIQUE EFFECT
Some people are mean. Some people do some mean things (but are basically good). But their bad behaviour shouldn’t impact on your ability to do things, go places and be you.
If someone’s done you wrong and it doesn’t seem like you can reconcile, don’t let that stop you doing the things you want to do. It made me really sad recently that one friend said she couldn’t go to something she really wanted to attend because there was another friend who had a problem with her also going. Ask yourself, “if I was to go, what’s the worst thing that is (realistically) going to happen?”. I suspect that even a mean person can conform to social norms and be polite for an hour or two, despite having a problem with you.
I hate conflict, but I hate feeling bad more. If someone doesn’t like me, that’s ok, but I’m not going to stop me doing the things I want to do. I’m not going to cut my nose off to spite my face. And I’m not going to stop doing stuff so someone doesn’t have to be around me.
Let’s put our big girl panties on and do the things we want to do. Be grown up, be polite and just get on with it. It’s when you stop yourself from doing things and make yourself feel sick with worry and pique that we really do the damage. To ourselves – our psyche and our health.
#4 DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE
Lastly, don’t make it about factions. I don’t want to choose. And if you make it a choice, chances are, I won’t choose you. Your drama is not my drama. I’m happy to talk about how you might handle it, but be aware that if someone else wants to talk about their perspective, I’ll talk to them too. I’ll have an opinion, but don’t expect me to pick a side. Either get it sorted and move on, or don’t involve me.
Let’s graduate from high school.
We’re grown up. I dare you to prove it – to model the behaviour we would have wanted our younger selves to have seen and followed. Whether it’s being kinder and more thoughtful or standing up for ourselves and doing the things we want to do. Let’s move on.
When she’s not busy working with small businesses to build brands that reflect their mission and values, you’ll find Anna glamping in all kinds of out the way places across regional Western Australia, kicking back and reading a book or indulging in one of her (many) crafty hobbies.
Why are we doing this thing? Because there’s enough noise in the world telling women what we ‘should’ be doing.
We should parent more consciously, but not be helicopter parents. We should take care of our bodies, but not be vain. We should make boys pay, but demand equal rights. We should dress appropriately, but also be confident in our skin, wear what we want, but not be provocative, oh and please feel comfortable in the world’s skimpiest school bathers but then wear your jeans to the formal because last year the boys looked up the girls’ skirts and so you’ll have to be the ones to modify your behaviour. Yeah. No.
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