Being Uncomfortable, Voicing Discomfort, and Leaving Uncomfortable Spaces

I am not good at speaking out when I am hurt by the words of others. I hate confrontation, it makes me uncomfortable. Lately, I have been thinking about the consequences of keeping quiet.

Maybe it is doing more harm than just saying how I feel? I allow other people to harm me because I don’t want to make waves, or make anyone feel bad, or start an argument. I am not protecting myself and I am not challenging misinformation when I hear it. I am allowing these people to become more comfortable in their ignorance and giving them the idea that it is okay to say the things they do.

I am not helping anyone by doing nothing.

***

Years ago a coworker and I are discussing the possibility of gay marriage. She knows my girlfriend, and she knows we have been together for many years. She has always been very nice to us and I was shocked when she revealed to me that she did not agree that lesbians and gays should be allowed to marry. She explained that she was a catholic and while she understood that there were rights my girlfriend and I would never have she could not agree that we should.

I should have told her that she was wrong and that we did deserve those rights. I should have explained to her how much it hurt me and my girlfriend to know that we wanted it for all the right reasons and that it hurt more than she could ever understand to be denied by the government. I should have told her that watching politicians compare me and my love to molesters and abusers made me cry at night. Or I should have just walked away.

Instead, I told her I understood, and that everyone was entitled to their opinion. I made her feel ok when she had not only been inappropriate, but hurtful.

**

I sat back in the office with “the guys”, a group of 4 or 5 men I worked with every day and called my friends. They were watching a video comparing a woman’s level of “crazy” to her level of attractiveness. The premise being that the better looking she was the crazier she is going to be. At the end, it states that if you are with an attractive woman and she isn’t crazy, then she is a man. Sounds like a bit of transphobia too.

I should have  told them what they were saying was sexist and harmful. I should have told them that playing that video in front of me made me feel like they weren’t being very good friends to me. I should have told them that it was invalidating and frustrating for women to never been taken seriously and for men to make jokes about it.  I should have told them this was not appropriate and not what I came to work to hear. Or I should have just walked away.

Instead, I murmured something about that not being right, and when they laughed me off I laughed along too. I let them carry on their joke because I didn’t want to be a killjoy.

***

A coworker is making a joke about there being no other black people in the room while I and a friend who has albinism are sitting right there. My friend speaks up first, her skin may be white but she is just as black as this coworker. The coworker tells her to calm down and motions to me, “It’s ok, Lisa doesn’t count either”.

I should have told her that despite my skin tone and despite what privilege may come with it, it is not ok to say I don’t count. I have been hearing that my whole life and I do not care to hear it in my place of work. I should have told her that perpetuating the idea that mixed people don’t belong anywhere. I should have told her that growing up mixed wasn’t easy, that never being one or the other, and being hated by both hurts you before you can even understand why. I should have told her what she said reminded me of all that and hurt me all over again. Or I should’ve walked away

Instead, I only replied sarcastically that I know I don’t count, I never have and never will, and then I am silent. I let her treat me the way other people had treated me my whole life because I had given up fighting.

***

I am learning to sift through my feelings about these little hurts I deal with all the time. I am learning how to articulate them in  way that other people will understand why these words hurt and when these ideas are harmful. I am learning not to let people get away with hurting me just because something is funny or because it makes them feel better.

I am learning not to feel bad for protecting myself from people who perpetuate problematic ideas just because it makes those people uncomfortable to have their words challenged.

I am my number one priority and I need to remember to treat myself that way.

***

Inspiration and title of this post comes from 10 Personal Rights That I, As a Black, Non-Binary, Queer Person, Refuse to Compromise On via Everyday Feminism

Original image by Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center International Team from Germany (ws’08 (21)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Advertisements

Published by

Lisa

Hello! My name is Lisa. I find the human condition fascinating and I often write stuff about that. I blog at zenandpi.com but you can also find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and if you like what I do, consider signing up for my newsletter. Thanks :)

13 thoughts on “Being Uncomfortable, Voicing Discomfort, and Leaving Uncomfortable Spaces”

  1. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    Lisa addresses an issue that confuses most humans – do we speak up when people attack or mock us (or others around us), and take the discomfort that accompanies standing up for ourselves, or do we just ignore them and hope they will go away?

    As Lisa says here: “I am not good at speaking out when I am hurt by the words of others. I hate confrontation, it makes me uncomfortable. Lately, I have been thinking about the consequences of keeping quiet. Maybe it is doing more harm than just saying how I feel?….
    I am not helping anyone by doing nothing.”

    I agree that we do not help ourselves or others when we passively accept abuse; if out of fear of consequences we keep quiet, no one grows. And yet it takes skill and compassion for ourselves and for others, to learn how to handle these vexing situations…after all these years, I am still polishing what eastern teachers refer to as “skillful means”….what about you?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think you are exactly right. I am always trying to be polite and not being polite makes me uncomfortable. Also, being around other women who are speaking up makes me uncomfortable too. I don’t want it to but it does, I can’t help it. I think somewhere in my mind I still think we should just keep out heads down and speak when spoken to. It’s hard work getting out all those harmful and outdated feelings :/

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Goodreads quote for today is from Erica Jong, from her book “Fear of Flying”. She did have an essay in it< I think, about "the zipless fuck" concerning anonymous sex. That was before AIDS, and nowadays, people are encouraged NOT to consider that kind of "social irresponsibility." So, lots of gay men do not go around having anonymous sex, but have settled with monogamy and same-sex marriage. Monogamy is really a lot about safe sex with a regular partner. And that is reasonable and socially responsible. Which is what so many have to learn – that individualism, as in going out and shooting people because you are angry, and suicide bombers inflicting their fear on others, the ultimate ends of ultra-individualism. We must go back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his "Social Contract" to see where humanity MUST be the whole social being that civilization demands and that "the pursuit of happiness" is not a singular affair, but entails true democracy and support for this vast society that has fragmented for many millennia, and now can only move forward by joining together. A huge project, beginning with Islamic caliphate supremacists, the current virulent threat to global society.

    Like

    1. I agree. Individualism has been a plague on the US especially. I has been good for a few but devastating for the greater masses. I hope one day people will learn that our species operates best when working together. We do best when we lift one another up and when not one of us is left behind.

      Like

  3. I feel like this is a common situation amongst the soft hearted and kind people everywhere. This is something I struggle with on a daily but as a get older and learn that everyone is just looking out for themselves you need to do the same as well. I love this entry, absolutely relatable.

    Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s