Why, yes, I am one of those women. One who understands that:
- Sorry isn’t always enough.
- All actions have consequences. Some are smaller than others, some are more enjoyable than others, some are more immediate than others. But they are always there.
- Love means nothing without respect and honesty. Neither does friendship.
- Respect is earned not only by the way you treat others, but by the way you treat yourself.
- There is a difference between constructive criticism and insults. The former shouldn’t be apologized for and the latter shouldn’t be tolerated.
- It’s okay to stand up for ourselves.
- It’s okay to disagree. It’s okay to be angry. It’s never okay to be mean.
- When you really care about someone, you do what is best for them, even if they hate you for it. If this includes helping them see their own destructive behaviors, it may ruin the relationship. That doesn’t make staying quiet okay. It makes it selfish.
- Don’t take credit for things you didn’t do. Don’t make excuses for things you did do.
Most people agree with most of these things…in theory. They read lists like these and think, “Wow, that really describes me. That’s exactly what I think.” Because we want to see ourselves as people who value doing the right thing. But that’s not the whole truth, is it?
The truth is, we love lists like these, but as a society, we don’t really understand them. We don’t really put them into practice. Why? No, it’s not because we’re bad people. It’s because we are “crowd” people. We just want everyone to get along happily. And we hate rocking the boat. We know that living according to a list like this will cost us friends, jobs, maybe even family. People will ask you things like, “Why are you so strict?”, “Can’t you cut me some slack?”, and my personal favorite, “Why are you such a b****?!” But to me, living a life of dignity and integrity is worth the cost.
I’ll be honest. There are times when it is tempting to follow the crowd. I’ve already discussed how hard it is for me when people are judgmental and mean. And I don’t always do the best job of standing up for myself. But I know that when I do find the strength to do it, I have nothing to apologize for. That respecting myself is something to be proud of, even when it would be easier not to. That friends who don’t understand this are friends I’m better off without. If you let people treat you like less, eventually you will start to believe that you are less. When they make excuses for treating you poorly, it reveals their true character. When you accept those excuses and tolerate their behavior, it reveals how much they’ve chipped away at your character.
Having a list like this won’t make you perfect. It won’t make you nice all the time. You’ll still be human. In fact, it may even make you feel like a hypocrite. Especially if, like me, you’ve done some things in the past that you aren’t very proud of today. Regardless of how awesome the list is, I can almost guarantee that you are not going to be 100% respectful to everyone you love for the rest of your life just because you read on a list that you should be. I write lists like these and encourage people to commit to living according to their values, but that doesn’t stop me from being snippy once in a while. However, it does keep me from making that snippiness a habit. It does keep me from telling myself that it’s okay. And, most importantly, it helps me know that if I want to continue living a life that I value, I need to forgive myself. No one’s perfect.
Unfortunately, the crowd makes being imperfect a pretty convenient excuse. It makes us tell ourselves things like:
Stole that $50 off your friend’s desk at work? Well, no one’s perfect.
Beat up a guy in a bar last night? Well, no one’s perfect.
Plagiarized your term paper? Well, no one’s perfect.
It’s easy to lose your sense of dignity in a crowd that tells you that you’re fine without it. Trust me. That’s not a crowd you want to be a part of.
So forget the crowd. Let people talk. Sure, you will be labeled one of those women. There may be empty seats on both sides of you at the next PTA meeting when you refuse to condone a teacher’s inappropriate discipline approach. You may not be invited to the next girls’ night out when you call your friend out for disrespecting you. But understanding yourself and knowing what you stand for will lead to places you never thought imaginable. Places where you feel important, respected, empowered, and loved.