Sunday’s Wisdom #375: Speak Up for Yourself

“You shouldn’t agree to things you don’t wanna do. No, really, you need to think about yourself more. You need to speak up about how you’re feeling, for your own sake.”
– Marin Kitagawa, My Dress-Up Darling
Episode 1, “Someone Who Lives in the Exact Opposite World as Me”

There is probably something lost in translation from Japanese to English subtitles, but the essence of this quote is, I think, very important.

When Marin says this, she’s talking to a fellow classmate who is basically letting people use him. It’s a custom in Japanese schools, as I understand it, for the students to take turns staying after class to clean things up. Marin takes her turn and arrives to find only one other student in the classroom. Everyone else made excuses and dumped everything onto him. He says he doesn’t mind, because they called him reliable, but, deep down, I doubt anyone wouldn’t mind. He’s just used to simply taking it, and keeping what he feels close, not expressing it. So, Marin corrects him: he’s not being reliable, he’s being used. And he can’t just continue to go with other people’s flow all the time in every aspect of his life. He needs to speak up for himself, because that’s simply the healthy thing to do.

Now, I want to quickly say that I see a lot of selfishness in the world. In manifests in countless ways, large and small, many of them very hurtful to ourselves and those around us. So, I don’t want to promote unrestrained selfishness. To do that would really be no different than the classmates who selfishly dumped everything onto one of their peers. But, on the other hand, I’ve commented before on how it’s ok to be a little selfish sometimes. Indeed, to take control of one’s own life requires a certain degree of selfishness.

As always, balance is the key. And balance is impossible when everything is piled onto one side.

Don’t be too selfish, but also don’t be too selfless.

We praise selflessness, of course, as well we should. We appreciate the virtues of long-suffering patience, and an avoidance of needless, hurtful conflict. But there comes a time, always, when one must stand one’s ground for oneself. To let ourselves be carried along on any current is not only a weakness, not only hurtful to ourselves, but it can be outright dangerous.

Peer pressure can be deadly, and we need to be able to say, “No.”

When we are not comfortable with something, we need to assert ourselves. People cannot read our minds, and even if they could, they might not care. So we must say no, and mean it, and hold to it.

No, I will not take on your burdens just so you can have it easier.

No, I will not do this dangerous thing just to give you a thrill.

No, I will not simply fit in with the crowd at my own risk and expense.

No, I will not do such-and-such thing that such-and-such person says I must or I’m somehow lesser for it.

No, I will not lie down and take it, and I will not do anything that I do not want to do.

I am my own person, with my own wants and needs. I am your equal, and I will not quietly do whatever you want. I walk my own path, and I permit you to walk yours.

Some people will not react well to that. And sometimes we will find that fail at being diplomatic. But always, always, always… we must speak up for what we think and feel.

That is the way of honesty, strength, and the building of genuine, lasting bonds with each other.

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