I’ve always worried about how I make the people around me feel.
Did she think I was being rude? Did he hear me say thank you? Did she feel like I liked her? Did I inconvenience anyone? Did my outburst make it uncomfortable for someone else? Were they offended I denied the invitation? Did they? Did they? Did they?
My daughter was recently yelled at by someone she thought was an authority figure in her life. She was so rude, he claimed. SO RUDE. Nothing but selfish. Just selfish. She wasn’t including someone else and should have played with that person more. She should have done this. She shouldn’t have done that. She made someone else feel badly. She didn’t sacrifice herself enough so that someone else would be ok. Sigh. This is not a post to defend my daughter. Last I checked, she is prone to messing up almost as much as I am. Rather, it got me thinking about how we are bringing up our girls.
More often than not, we teach our girls to be nice. Period.
We teach them to say please. Say thank you. Say it louder. Don’t offend him. Sacrifice yourself to please her. Say sorry. Ignore your own feelings to protect someone else’s. Be selfless. Don’t make a scene. Be nice.
Lose track of yourself.
As my ten year old daughter, on the brink of her preteen years, navigates her way, there are a few things I want her to know.
Be kind every single time. But it’s ok if you can’t always be nice. It’s hard to be kind sometimes, isn’t it? Sometimes people will try to make you do certain things that you don’t feel right to you so that other people feel ok. Be kind in response. Care about them and see that they are just trying to figure things out too. But listen to yourself and if you have to say no and not be the “nice girl” they want you to be, that is ok. It’s tough finding ways to be kind when you can’t be the “nice” they want you to be. Try anyways and fail. Try again and fail. Try again and succeed.
You do not have to let anyone touch you. Little girl, if you don’t want to give your mother a hug when she wants one, please do not give it to her. When someone comes to visit and throws his arms around you and you don’t want to hug him back, do not hug him back. If it offends him, it is not your responsibility to change that. Your body belongs to you, from the way you want to wear your socks, to who you accept a hug from to whether or not your mom can kiss you goodnight. It is yours. End of story.
Go ahead and make a scene. Child, I am 35 years old and still learning how to express the way I actually feel when I know it won’t be a popular display. Sometimes we express ourselves with grace, and sometimes we are a little cray cray and make others uncomfortable. It’s ok either way – we are all learning. The important part is that we know it is ok to say how we feel. Sometimes I will respond to you with a lot of frustration. I might even throw a little tantrum myself and yell. Sometimes I will listen and understand. Again, yet again, either way it is ok. We are here together, learning to accept each other and the strong ways we feel.
It’s ok to be selfish. Girl, I have always tried to be selfless. Society told me to put others first, make sure they are ok, put my needs aside so I can meet the needs of others. Over time, child, this is exhausting and if you’re anything like me, you will forget what you actually want and who are really are. Do not do this. Please don’t. Notice what you need and take care of it. Every time. Your feelings and personality traits, desires and needs are unique to you and if you can’t learn what they are and stand up for them, no one else will know either. You are important and you can take care of yourself first. It’s ok to be selfish like that.
More often than not, girls are told they need to grow up to make other people around them ok. In summary, let’s show them by example that it is ok – no, it is RIGHT and GOOD – to selfishly take care of ourselves, express our needs. It is not take responsibility for the emotions of other people.
And maybe, just maybe, we don’t always have to be the “nice” girls they want us to be.