Get a Backbone

Over the years, I developed the belief that it is better to apologize in order to avoid argument rather than invite conflict. Even if a problem has nothing to do with me, I’ll apologize anyways.

I do not like drama. I do not like conflict. Any shakes in my serenity and security immediately have me retreating to “fix, fix, fix” until the problem is no longer of concern. In some situations that call for debate or argument, I chose the easier, less confrontational route. I go to great lengths to convince myself that a problem is my fault when really, it’s not. And following my conversations with many other women of a similar age, I am finding this isn’t uncommon. I back off too easily. I think we back off too easily.

The age of the early twenties is an important time when students become workers and adolescents become adults (in most cases). Many of us graduate from college. We strive to leave the safety of our family homes to live on our own. We embark in more serious relationships. We assume more responsibilities such as pets, cars, phone payments, utility bills, and even mortgages. With this change, one would expect that we would be prepared with the proper education and knowledge to live responsibly. The problem is, despite the six figure values that amount to many of our four-year educations, many of us – male and female – are not equipped with the basic life skills and knowledge to get us through the first few years of independence. We’re still ignorant in many ways, and unfortunately, evident ignorance can invite others to take advantage of us.

How then do we handle the arguments and disputes that are sure to arise when people who look to take advantage of us?

The only way to go is forward with chins raised, and for me, that means finding my backbone and developing an inner strength.

I know that I need to stop apologizing. I need to stop assuming every roadblock and struggle is my fault. This does not mean I have to abandon my gentle nature or roughen out the edges of my personality. It does not mean that I need to look for confrontations straight away. It also does not mean that looking for compromise is a sign of weakness or immaturity. To get a little on the cheesy side, I’m turning to Disney on this one: “Have courage and be kind.” The sentence seems simple enough, but for many millennials – young women especially –  it is a daunting feat.

As we step into the middle years of our twenties, we need to focus on being fair to others and also to ourselves. We’re young; we’re not going to understand everything right away. We’re going to make mistakes. While it’s important for us to make as great an effort as possible to avoid silly errors, we need to be fair to ourselves and accept that they’re going to happen.

We need to value communication and transparency when it comes to assuming obligations. We cannot confuse humility for self-deprecation and we need to recognize our assets and trust our instincts rather than rely on the opinions and beliefs of those around us. Only then can we truly establish a stronger integrity and sense of self-worth, which will carry us through the difficult situations that call first for questions before apologies.

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