Compromise. I hate this word. It means that someone gets to shit on me all over again, someone gets to nicely ‘steamroll’ me over into agreeing to something I don’t want to agree to, on the pretense that I would be doing them a ‘huge’ favor and that they’d be eternally grateful. Bullshit. The minute I agree to this ‘favor’ nicely asked of me against my wishes and execute said favor, it’ll all be forgotten, like it never happened, and should I come and collect on this favor (like all men do with each other), I’d be given looks of disdain. How dare I come collecting on a favor that I originally made a ‘compromise’ for?
Ladies, the new frontier of feminism is female empowerment. Feminism is not just about ensuring and guaranteeing women’s rights to birth control, family planning services, good medical services, access to education, jobs and opportunities that are available to men and of course equal pay as men for the same work. All of these are necessary to guarantee women access but teenage girls wouldn’t get pregnant by the first boy that paid any attention to them thereby thwarting their future goals and ambitions if they felt empowered. And empowerment comes from within a person. Standards of which girls and women set for themselves on what is acceptable and unacceptable to them. To decide between what is a fair compromise and emotional blackmailing. Girls today, in spite of all the advances made on our behalf are still being brought up to be ‘nice’, ‘likable’, complimentary and accomodating. It’s still how girls are being socialized as how they should behave as grown women. In short, it’s to not be a ‘bitch’ by speaking your own mind, knowing your own mind, owning your own personal truth and possibly make everyone else’s life hard in the process. Women are still socialized and taught to put the needs and feelings of others before our own, and I supposed if we get all Darwinian about it, it’s part of evolution and biology, as most girls will become mothers or some sort of caregiver when they grow up and part of being a mother and caregiver is self-sacrifice. However, I’d argue that when one becomes a mother or caregiver, the self-sacrifice will come naturally, girls don’t need to be socialized from a young age to ‘self-sacrifice’ their feelings, needs, wants and desires to prepare them for possible future motherhood.
“I think that what our society teaches young girls and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists to shrug off is that idea that likability is an essential part of the space that you occupy in the world. That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes and make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy because you have to be likable. And I say that is bullshit.” -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The ‘disease to please’ has plagued many women, including Oprah Winfrey, and the disease to please can lead girls and women down a path of emotional ruin and devastation. It’s why young girls cave into premature sexual activity and end up pregnant or emotionally scarred, it’s why women marry the wrong men even as they are walking up the aisle but didn’t want to cause upset so went ahead with the wedding, causing herself many years of misery. It’s why women keep compromising and agreeing to what they know is wrong in their gut to please their husbands and families so that they won’t rock the boat, so that everyone but they can be happy and satisfied. All this is because women, though have many rights today, are not empowered at their core. This lack of empowerment and creating boundaries for ourselves, physical and emotional boundaries have caused untold suffering to women. It’s not an accident or surprise that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men, the pressures on the modern women are incredible, we wear many hats, fulfill many roles the last thing we need is to not speak our personal truth and be asked to do things against our wishes.
To empower women is a task more subtle and involved than just legislating anti-discriminatory laws and equal pay laws, though equally important. Women need to be empowered to speak up for themselves and to not accept anything less than what they deserve and that work has to start young. The most ideal is of course in the home but it should be encouraged in schools, along with sex education about the birds and the bees, it should also include lectures about self-empowerment, not compromising oneself to please boys, to set personal boundaries.
I grew up believing I was poor, though my family was middle class, but I was poor. That was the message that was imparted to me due to my parent’s divorce and my father’s spotty child support payments. My mother worked full time to provide for me but my shelter, food and necessities were provided for by my maternal grandparents and though they were amazing and kind to me, they (and other relatives) made me acutely aware of my ‘situation’, which was not like other children. Beyond the necessities, which they will make sure I was fully provided for, anything extra is not part of the equation. This meant I often wore clothes from second hand shops or castoffs from rich family friends, which were often mismatched. School trips and anything that cost extra money was out of the question. I didn’t even bother asking, I just knew. And this would have been fine if our family had been ‘poor’, it would have made perfect sense in my young mind but we weren’t poor, only I was. I felt like a charity case and this over time led to me believing that I didn’t deserve nice things and that I only deserved hand me downs from whomever that had them. There was a really wealthy family friend who once a year gave us trash bags of used clothes that was worn by her grandchildren and they no longer wanted them because it had gone out of style and their mother already restocked their closets with clothes from the new season. Though some of the clothes were really nice brand name clothes, some even still had tags on them, I felt embarrassed to be in receipt of such ‘charity’. I felt humiliated that I was wearing hand me downs of rich kids who were no better than me except for their parent’s bank accounts. I would have rather bought clothes from Target or Walmart, at least they were brand new and of my choosing. My family, though kind and generous, failed to take my feelings into consideration. As I grew older, I became bitter and angry about my ‘situation’ as I felt that I didn’t need to be made a charity case. I was embarrassed and ashamed at the position I was placed in, which I believed was unnecessary, I knew that I had to take out student loans or grants for college, there would be no college fund. Throughout my upbringing, it was made abundantly clear to me that because my parents divorced and my father failed to provide adequately for me, I deserved second best. I had to take what I could get, I would get no VIP treatment anywhere.
My feelings of shame and embarrassment led me to make a series of decisions that were detrimental to my well being and it set me back emotionally and financially for many years. I got into bad relationships that were unhealthy and looking back, I entered into them to escape my suffocating home environment, which due to imposed personal restrictions, my world and opportunities were limited. Now looking back, I realize that the worst thing to come out of my upbringing was not the bad relationships I entered into and other poor decisions I made but how I felt about myself and how that led me to limit myself and my potential. I squandered many academic opportunities in college because of my low self esteem and self-perceived mediocrity. Though the irony is that deep down I knew I was smart, smarter and more perceptive than my peers. I had a gift for math, languages and writing but I’ve never exploited them to my benefit, it was hidden beneath the thick and impenetrable layers of guilt, shame and mediocrity. After college, I accepted jobs that I knew were beneath me but because I had to earn my way in life, I accepted them instead of following my passions in entrepreneurship and writing (my interests are diverse). I accepted low paying, paper pushing jobs that didn’t provide any advancement and was made to feel I should be grateful to have them. My soul was telling me to follow my passion but personal blocks prevented me from following them. It always struck me as strange that each time I start a new job with hope and enthusiasm with lots of ambition, within two years or so, I grow bored and tired of it. I was good at almost every job I had and I worked in many different industries, but there was no passion, it was my soul’s way of telling me that I am doing the wrong thing. I was never personally empowered to follow my passion. I was encouraged to be mediocre. Get a degree, get a job – preferably with the government, do your 20 years and get a pension, stability, which was what everyone strove for in my family and I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
I am now in my mid-30s, following my passion for writing and still exploring entrepreneurship, I am getting inspiration from the Universe and inquiring my soul on what my real purpose in life is. I’ve started to empower myself, I’ve vowed to live my truth, tell my truth as I see it, unvarnished, even if hurts some feelings might get hurt or feathers ruffled. Law School 101, don’t ask a question in which you don’t already know the answer to, if you do, prepare to be surprised. I am no longer ashamed, I refused feel or be ashamed or guilty about anything and since I’ve come to that realization, my spirits have lifted, my energy has increased, my intuition and inner voice have come back full force, my occasional bouts of depression and anxiety have gone and replaced with passion, drive and self-belief that I will succeed on my own terms. Mostly, I want to set a good example to my children, especially my daughter, to not follow the herd and to always follow her passion, speak her voice, speak her truth and never yield to what others’ version of what her truth is. I don’t want my children to suffer the crippling shame, guilt and self-doubt that I experienced due to lack of empowerment. Those negative emotions have derailed the first half of my life and my children deserve better and they will get better.
Note: This is not to criticize my family and my upbringing. My family, especially my maternal grandparents were amazing to me and I learned so much from them. They stepped up and took care of me and I adored them, but like everyone, they had their limitations and they imparted to me their best wisdom based on their experiences and worldview. It wasn’t a good fit for me but it’s not their fault as it wasn’t for lack of trying.