When I was younger, say three years old through middle school, I never stood up for myself. As an only child, I never experienced sibling rivalry to toughen me up. When kids took toys from me or put me down, I didn't know how to react. I cried, I was known as sensitive, and then people took advantage of that. Fortunately for me, I was not the most sensitive person in my middle school class and so I wasn't always the apple of bullies' eyes. But still, I was sensitive. Think about what that word means to you. When we were younger, it had a negative connotation. Sensitivity was associated with weakness. Now, as adults, when someone is described as sensitive, it's associated with compassion. Thank goodness the tables have turned in my favor. Another thing that's changed is the fact that I've started to stand up for myself, and for others. If people don't treat me the way I want to be treated, or if they are blatantly rude to others, I may speak up about it.
Take yesterday: I was at the gym doing my weight routine, and it was a light crowd. A guy was walking around the weights section, doing machines, and letting the weights bang down extremely loudly. We all gave him looks, but he didn't care. Let me throw in a side note that I don't go to a powerhouse gym - it's a very nice facility and people are respectful to each other. Eventually an employee comes over and nicely asks the gentleman to stop banging the weights together. I was within earshot and I heard his response: "I'll try, but this is a gym you know." The employee, not wanting to be confrontational, walked away and towards me. My jaw was dropped and I said to her, "I can't believe that guy." The guy, hearing me, got up and walked over towards us and said to the employee, "What's your name? I'm Jeff. You can tell Carlos (head of personal training) I said hi." Jeff spoke to Allison (the employee) in a very sarcastic and rude tone, acting like just because he knew Carlos that he could do whatever he wanted.
I had had enough. I spoke up and I said, "Just stop banging the weights, ok?"
Jeff: (getting confrontational) I'll try, but this is a gym, and I'm just trying to work out.
Me: Yeah, this is a gym, we're ALL trying to work out.
Jeff: I was just introducing myself to Allison.
Me: Don't give me that bullshit. I know exactly what you're doing. You're going to go to Carlos and tell him that Allison was bothering you.
Jeff: Why don't you just leave?
Me: Why don't YOU just leave? We're all trying to work out too and you're making a lot of noise. Try being a little more respectful!
Jeff: You're funny.
Me: That's great.
And so went the dialogue more or less. Allison and another gym member stood between us, looking mostly at me, wide-eyed, for having the guts to speak up to that jerk. Me, 5'3'', petite, and him, 6'0'', with tattoos, and a cast on his wrist (a PURPLE cast at that, probably from a hardcore breakage of some kind.)
I was on fire. My hands were shaking and my adrenaline was pumping. You know why that guy acted so rudely? You know why people in general act so rudely to requests like that? Because we are PROUD. We all have Hubris (excessive pride). We don't like to be told that we're doing things wrong. We don't like to be told that we can't do what we want. We don't like to be told that we're bothering others. Our fight or flight response kicks in, and he chose to fight. My fight or flight response kicked in when I saw how Jeff treated Allison, and I stood by Allison's side and fought.
The end of the story? A group of us filed an "incident" report, but that's all I know. I went upstairs and finished my workout up there, and then headed to the pool and swam laps.
The moral of the story? We all need to get our pride in check. What gives me a surge of pride? I feel proud when I hold a Bikram pose longer than those around me. If someone holds a pose longer than I do, then my pride is shot down. If I finish 50th in a race of 100 people, I feel superior to those 50 that finished after me. Do you notice that I rely on measuring myself against others to feel good about myself? Or that the actions of others bring me down? Those both seem to be extremely negative ways to focus energy. Did Jeff feel better about himself because he talked down to Allison? Probably. He's the member and she's the employee, so he is automatically better than she is, in his eyes.
Although I ultimately cannot control what Jeff does to make himself feel proud, I can control what I do. I need to find more positive ways to feel proud of myself. I need to seek pride by internal sources, not external ones. Constant comparison of myself to others has proven to be mentally damaging to me. I think that the task that lies before me, of controlling my pride and building my self-esteem in a healthy way, is going to be difficult. I'm not sure of my course of action, but I've taken a big step: realizing and acknowledging that I put too much pressure on myself, and on others.
Having my slice of Humble Pie and eating it too,