As a recently-turned half-a-century young woman, I am finally starting to take the advice of all the self-realized women who have come before me, and stop giving a shit about the things that don’t matter. Let things go. Not care so much about the little things. More importantly, I have realized the importance of saying “no” and trusting my instincts in the process.
There is a great book that was given to my husband a while back, called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” by Mark Manson. I immediately picked it up and read it cover to cover. The title of this self-help book was so provocative and had me written all over it. What did this guy know that I didn’t? Was it the Holy Grail of life? I had to find out. The truth is though, I have spent most of my life of giving a f*ck about things that don’t matter, and I now realize that I need to lift that monkey off my back.
Like many women, I like to be liked. I need to be liked. I like not making waves. I like to make people happy. And all of that was making me miserable and not living my best life. I was saying “yes” to events that I didn’t want to go to, saying “no” to things I really wanted, and over-scheduling myself, trying to please everyone (and then eventually pleasing no one).
So, I decided to make some internal changes to help shift my perspectives and do some real Adulting and self-care.
As a young girl, I was taught to be “nice” and if someone was mean to me or bullying in some way, their actions were the result of something I had done. Standing up for myself wasn’t on the menu for me growing up, so it’s hardwired in me to always be “nice”. Getting those wires cut is going to take some time.
My husband and I have been raising our daughter to be strong, feel heard, and to take care of her emotional well being by loving herself. Even with our support, she does echo some of my feelings and challenges. That gives me pause and makes me think that this need to be liked, the reluctance to say “no”, is multi- generational. Does it get passed down from mother to daughter and so on, until one breaks the cycle?
My husband does not have this problem. “Do you want to go out to eat?” No. “Do you want to go that party?” No. “How ‘bout…” No. He says what he means. Being with him for almost 20 years, I have learned to be more proactive in trusting my instincts and saying “no”. But I’m not always successful.
Recently, I was invited by a friend, Jane, to a photo shoot at her house. The photographer is a friend of hers who has shot her for various events. I had seen her photos and was excited to accept the invitation. It was communicated to me that it was a ladies’ casual get-together, where the photographer would take shots as we were hanging out. That is perfect for me: low key, low stress and fun.
When I arrived, I was greeted with enthusiasm. Not only that, but I was also greeted with a staged background, that was similar to JC PENNY and photo lights. I started to tense up. The photographer explained that the shoot was going be a Glamour/Vintage set up and wanted me to put on a sexy sleeveless dress. Immediately, I started to stiffen, anxiety enveloping me. It’s been about 5 years since I have worn a sleeveless anything, especially without a spray tan. I’m a Mexican American Diane Keaton. She’s sexy, just covered.
Because the photographer was a good friend of Jane and I didn’t want to make waves, I ignored my feelings and my instincts and complied. I wanted to be easy going and agreeable, so I said “yes”, when I really wanted to say “no”.
Once she took out a fur and had me toss it into the air with the direction of “look sexy”, I was doomed. Beads of sweat were pouring down. She took a few shots and asked me to change outfits so she could move on to Jane.
I ran to the bedroom with clarity. “Get out of here, stat!” I said to myself. I exited the bedroom with a nice long sleeve shirt, approached the photographer and said, “I think you should just take photos with Jane, I don’t really feel comfortable with the way this is coming out. Glamour shots are not my strong suit.” Once those words flowed out of my mouth, I felt free. Wow, I took my power back! This is what it feels like. I love this!
Unfortunately, this feeling lasted only 10 seconds. She replied that I was “kind of insulting her” and that I was making her feel like a “bad photographer”. Boom, I was done. I relented and stayed. I felt bad. Damn. I carried on although I tried not to have too many photos taken. I ended up feeling awful because I knew I would not like the photos.
I drove home in the car wondering where it all went wrong. Why didn’t I just leave? I didn’t know this woman, but I felt I owed it to my friend Jane to stay.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. The next day the photographer posted my photos on Facebook and tagged me without my permission. I was mortified! The photos were as bad as I suspected, and now there they were, for everyone to see.
I knew what I must do. Put my “big girl pants” on and buck up. I quickly emailed her, thanking her for inviting me to take photos, but then asked her to please not tag me as I was not comfortable with the shots. She didn’t take it well and ended up deleting the photographs altogether. My first thought was “Thank GOD!” I felt bad for a moment and then thought, her feeling bad is not my responsibility. I was being honest, not hurtful, and I communicated my feelings in a thoughtful way.
Not giving a f*ck.
I’m pretty proud of myself when I do trust my instincts and say “no.” But even when I say no, for some reason, I feel guilty. Guilty for what? I’ve talked to many of my women friends who also feel bad about things they shouldn’t—for being authentic, being honest, and taking care of themselves. Why is this so hard?
This process has also been challenging with my need for being liked. Just because we’re true to ourselves doesn’t mean others will appreciate our self-loyalty and we need to be okay with that…and that being easy going and saying “yes” doesn’t guarantee a good outcome. If a situation doesn’t feel right, I have to trust myself and go with my feelings.