I was loading the dishwasher the other day when my husband asked me a dangerous question. A loaded question. The question to end all questions.
“So, what do want to eat? Where do you want to go?”
I paused for a moment before responding, “Oh, I don’t care. We can go wherever.”
Because the truth was, I didn’t care. I like food. ALL. THE. FOOD. And most restaurants serve something which falls under that very broad umbrella. But my husband loathes my indecisiveness. He cannot stand those three words — “I don’t care” — and he just wants me to make a damn decision already.
“OK,” he sighed. “Well that kind of food do you want? Pizza? Chinese? Red Robin?”
“No pizza,” I grimaced. “Anything but pizza. But … ” I added, “We can go to a pizzeria. I mean, I’d be happy with pasta or a salad.”
“So you do care,” he laughed.
“No,” I began to argue. “I don’t. I just … ” But before long my thoughts trailed off, and I made the conscious decision to let our conversation die because it just wasn’t worth it.
I really didn’t want to argue semantics. But the truth is, he was onto something.
Because while I am (admittedly) indecisive AF, and food is food, the truth is that — in many cases — I do have opinion. I do care, and I do know what I want. I just don’t ask for it, because asking for things makes me feel vain. Asking for “me” time seems terribly selfish. Asking for “quiet time” seems silly and insignificant, and the last thing I want is to be self-serving or greedy.
I am a codependent “people pleaser” at heart.
Make no mistake: I know this isn’t a good thing, because it essentially means I don’t know how to be assertive. I don’t know how to ask for help, I don’t know how to tell others what I want.
But I do know that I am alone in this. In fact, I think many women feel — and act — this way because of how we were raised, because of societal norms, and because mommyhood, for better or worse, makes your mind shift.
Mommyhood forces you to be completely and totally selfless.
You see, we live in a culture which regularly labels women “dramatic.” We’re too “sensitive,” too “emotional,” too “vain,” and too “needy.”
We want too much. We ask for too much. We are just too much.
Everything about our personalities is deemed overbearing. And as such, we women learn at a young age that if we want to be taken seriously — if we want to be seen as strong, go-getters — we need to stand up, take what we want, and “act like a man.”
We need to swallow our feelings and reject anything that could make us appear sensitive, needy, or weak. We must remain silent and stoic.
And as a result, we say little, and ask for even less.
But this stigma isn’t an invisible one. It is ever-present and all around us — on television, in the movies, and entrenched in all forms of media. It’s engrained in the words we choose, the rhetoric we use, and the way we speak about girls — and boys. It’s there in the ways in which we speak about other women, and about ourselves.
But how can we change our position? How can we rewrite the narrative? How can we stand up, speak out, and fight back? And how can even the most indecisive among us — women just like me — figure out what it is we really want?
Well, if I’m being honest, I don’t know. I’ve said “it doesn’t matter” and “I don’t care” for so long, I don’t know any other way, and I genuinely don’t believe what I want matters. My needs pale in comparison to that of my husband or my child, but I also know that if I want my daughter to grow up differently — if I want her to have a strong voice and a fearless voice — my own cannot waiver.
I must practice the confidence I preach.
And so change must start small. Change has to start small, and it has to start with me. I must think before I speak; I must rid the passive language from my vocabulary; and I really need to define what I want.
I need to redefine my perception of what it means to ask for what I want.
I am not needy; I’m assertive.
I am not greedy; I’m ambitious.
I am not bitchy; I’m bold.
I am not too emotional; I am passionate.
And I am not demanding — I am fervent and earnest. I am a strong woman who knows what she wants.
Of course, I know this mantra won’t fix me. I know change will not happen overnight.
But I know I can change. I know I need to change, and I know strong women do not back down.
They stand firm and immovable.
They face the fight head-on — however big or small it may seem — and above all else, they make no apologies.