Monday Notes: When Being Yourself Isn’t Easy

Be yourself. Love yourself. Create boundaries. Speak your truth. Allow others to be themselves. If you’ve been following my blog for even a few weeks, then these should sound familiar. They are mantras by which I have lived over the past five years. However, I never want anyone to read these and believe that I think they’re easy. They are not. And usually I’m reminded by how challenging they are whenever a family member arrives.

This time it’s my grandmother.

img_6084Growing up, I spent a lot of time with Grannie. She was born in 1926 and holds certain opinions. One of them is that children should be seen and not heard. And if you spoke out of turn with her, you either were slapped, or told to shut up.

Much of my childhood and early adulthood I remember wanting badly to not only be heard, but also to be understood. And, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a communicator and have a lot to say…all the time. Being around Grannie meant silence, unless I was directly spoken to. And as exaggerated as it sounds, it always felt like an assault on my spirit.

shhBecause the caveat for speaking my mind seemed to be becoming an adult, I thought surely that when “I got grown” I’d be able to use my voice with her. The answer is yes and no. It seems I can share what I believe or know is true for myself, but not at the expense of a disagreement or misunderstanding. At the age of almost 45, my insides still begin to swish around when I answer Grannie truthfully. When this happens, I remind myself that I’m an adult, whose words are important. And no matter how much I’m shaking on the inside, I take a deep breath, speak my mind, and if an argument ensues, I deal with it.

This occurred during her most recent visit. It began with a simple question: Do you want eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast?

“I want whatever you’re doing,” she answered.

“Okay,” I said. “When people visit, then I usually make breakfast.”

Just like that. The conversation shifted.

“I’m not people,” she said.

“Yes you are Grannie,” I replied. Cue shivering insides.

“I’m not people,” she repeated.

Not one for morning confrontations, I looked at her and said, “This is not a big deal. This is a yes I want breakfast or no I don’t.”

“Yes,” she said and went back to reading.

But this wasn’t over.

The conversation continued when she asked if my feelings were hurt because she didn’t attend Kesi’s graduation or my 43rd birthday event.

“Whenever people…” I began.

“There you go with the people again. I am not people. I’m special.”

She’d traded slapping and shut up for interrupting my words. At this point, I could feel myself getting angry. Instead of pushing it down as I would have in the past, I let myself be mad.

“Yes Grannie you’re special. But I treat people the same no matter what.”

“You do not treat people the same,” she said a little louder with a mouthful of eggs.

Cue shaking voice. “Grannie how are you going to tell me how I operate with others?”

Grannie paused. She seemed to be thinking about what I said. How could she really tell me how I function? She couldn’t. She doesn’t see it because she lives over a thousand miles away.

Her next words? “You might treat everybody the same, but I don’t like it.”

“Aha,” I said. “That’s what it is. You might not like it, but that doesn’t make it not true.”

“Well, you might make breakfast for everybody, but you better not make everybody your grannie,” she added.

This scenario ended with me laughing and saying, “That’s impossible. Everyone can’t be my grannie.”

I realize that I could’ve ended this conversation by simply saying, “okay” at the beginning. I understand that I could’ve stopped the discussion when it entered “I’m special” territory. But that’s not me. Years of silence have shown me that if I have something to say, then it’s okay to voice it, even if everything about the exchange is invisibly scary.

Also worth mentioning is that having unresolved issues that creep up in interactions and conversations seems to be common for everyone. But as I’ve said before on this blog, other people’s issues are not your responsibility, even if the person is your grandmother.

The only person you can ever control is you.

So, in that moment, I’m glad I controlled myself and still managed to speak my mind. Did I have more to say? Of course. Something in me still wanted to be heard. Understood. But it wasn’t going to happen that day. That’s something I realized. However, I also recognized my growth. No matter how tiny, it was significant. And this was a small success for sure because I was mostly silent for the remainder of her visit. But that’s okay too. Small victories are what have lead me towards the direction of being my true self. Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll speak up twice. Or better yet, maybe I’ll release the desire to be heard.

 

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69 thoughts on “Monday Notes: When Being Yourself Isn’t Easy

    1. Totally agree. “Don’t try to kill the other person with your words,” is so true. That’s the thing. Speaking our truths doesn’t mean just letting whatever spill out of our mouths, but rather, being discerning and then speaking from that place.

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  1. I think it can be so hard to learn to speak out truths to people who have done their best to stifle us, especially when we were children. Those lessons, that we are wrong or that we don’t have the right to contradict anyone else, can be so hard to unlearn. Good for you for summoning the courage to speak up for yourself! And it may even lead to a better relationship with our grandmother. It almost sounded as if what she’s really afraid of is that you don’t respect her anymore. But as hard as it may be for her, she has to accept that you can respect her and respect yourself at the same time. You don’t have to stifle yourself for anyone….

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    1. I’m not sure how this slipped past me! I agree. If you’re explicitly taught that your words, opinion, etc. do not matter, then it is that much harder to unlearn as an adult. I think you’re right in your assessment. Here are some other details that might contribute to her thinking that: 1) I’ve stopped traveling up north every other year for Christmas, something my family and I had done for 17 years; 2) I don’t seek out her advice at all, something I’d at least considered while growing up; and 3) I speak up more about what I believe. I hadn’t thought about the respect part of it before, so I’m glad you’d mentioned it.

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    1. I understand Erika. For me, it’s such a huge part of my being, that if I don’t speak up I know I’m not being myself or true to myself. So, I’m also learning how not to create a confrontation, even if someone else seems to want to.

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  2. So relatable! Thanks for sharing! There are those people in your lives that make you feel small and in doing that it paralyzes you with fear of speaking your mind. It could be a close family member, a boss, a best friend or a partner. It’s so important to remind yourself that “you are enough” and that your voice matters.

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  3. This post made me reflect on my own relationships with the people around me, and whether they’re helping me to be myself, or hindering me from it. I guess we define our “self” not only with every thought or feeling we have, but with every action we do. By speaking up the way you did, I think you took it upon yourself to not only “be” yourself, but to more clearly define that self as well.

    And oh, I loved this line of yours: “Having unresolved issues that creep up in interactions and conversations seems to be common for everyone.” I don’t think many people realize this, but I believe those issues are at work more often than people think or care to admit.

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    1. i agree. Being yourself is as much as what you think/believe AND what you do, at least for me it is. Thanks for the compliment. I was listening to a comedian recently (Bill Burr) and he basically said that whenever you listen to comedy, you’re bringing all of your background, etc. into the situation, and something could trigger some effd up thing that happened in your life…he went on to describe how this is not his problem lol and I kind of feel the same way. A lot of times we think we’re holding conversations with grown people, but something gets triggered and all of a sudden, we’re talking to the hurt 6 year-old.

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  4. i can’t help but wonder how your grandmother was raised. is she like that because of the way she was raised ? usually people grow up to be what they are as a direct result of their upbringing,. there are exceptions, of course, of those who make a complete 180 turn and lead a diffferent life, but that too is the result of an upbringing.
    and i’m off the topic, but this is what kept popping in my mind. that and the fact that your grandma would have had a field day if she visited my home.

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    1. I meant to answer this earlier! I’ve never heard anything in her past to demonstrate why she has this paradoxical nature. So, on the one hand she’s very supportive (for the most part) of anyone who wants to do something with his or her life, but at the same time, she just says things that I can only describe as “mean.” Recently, she got into an argument with a grown man and told him to shut up in front of important town officials, and then when he called her to express his hurt feelings, she basically blew it off. anywho, I don’t know the answer. My husband thinks that it’s just that generation. They do tend to express themselves more bluntly with less regard for others. Apologies for the long answer.

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      1. my grandmother was born around that era. she was blunt too, but when we gathered in her home, chaos broke. she was always fine with that. unless we stayed over, then she’d complain about everything and anything. what we’re doing in the bathroom, didn’t we take a shower yesterday, who ate all the bread and so on. maybe it is that generation afterall.

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      2. lol yes for sure one time my daughters and I visited her over a friend’s and she complained about us using different towels after taking a shower. Might be the depression effects

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  5. I feel you, Kathy! I too, grew up in the “children should be seen and not heard” universe, with adults who had strong personalities – like your Grannie – who still often think I should defer (read: acquiesce and match my truth to theirs!) They don’t care how old I am! Throughout my adult life I’ve been navigating speaking my truth to “these people”😂 – let’s go one better and say that they are the ones who encouraged us to speak up and advocate for ourselves….just not to them!

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    1. Thanks Steph! I can say unequivocally, I have learned to control myself over the years because that’s the only person I can control lol I think lack of control is one reason there’s so much discord, but there’s a list as long as my arm to go along with that.

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  6. I really related to this Katherin. So many times I’ve regretted not speaking up and when I have, my heart has pounded exactly the way you’ve described. I’ve learned how taking that risk really paid off with my expressing myself. It has led to unexpected outcomes – new outcomes that are far better than the ones I had with avoidance.
    All compliance and avoidance does is cause resentment I’ve discovered.
    As always, a thoughtful and great post!

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    1. Thanks Judy! That’s exactly it. I don’t want to ever regret NOT having said something or leaving someone thinking I agree with what the’ve said, simply because I was silent. You’re also right about the resentment part of it; it’s a horrible feeling when you think you ought to have spoken up, even a little bit. Thank you again ❤

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  7. These days I learned to choose my battles wisely to be able to win the war 😉 And sometimes I still just ‘snap’. A well, I accepted I will always be a ‘Mimosa Pudica’, haha

    Thinking of your granny… I wonder if there is a deeper reason behind her not allowing children to speak up. Maybe, because she as a child growing up also never was heard? Considering the time she had to grow up, probably not allowed to speak up, just for being a woman? Children more easy to ‘stand up’ too? Or maybe I just looking for to much behind the phrase ‘I am special’ ?

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    1. That does not make it right, by the way, and you should speak up…especially to this special lady.

      And, after walking with my dog, I was thinking…maybe, she is just a ‘mean’ old woman. And I should accept, sometimes, people don’t know better or are just ‘mean’.

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      1. Quite honestly Patty, I’ve decided some parts of her are mean as well. There are things I haven’t shared of how she treats others, not just me. But she also has the most paradoxical personality I’ve seen. She cares and she’s a bit mean.

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      2. Well, with that I can (unfortunately) resonate too. Once I accepted that the person I care for dearly, has mean parts…or maybe more accepted, that I can’t change that part, it was ( a bit ) easier for me to be around that person. So yes, same lesson you learned 😉
        People…haha

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    2. No I don’t think you’re looking too much into it. I agree. I told my husband, if I felt like we could have a real conversation then I’d try and find out because there is definitely something behind it.

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  8. Yes, my grandmother could be a royal pain but I miss her the most and lover her the best. If I have any kind of voice, I owe it to her. She could tell a story for sure. She was a good Catholic but she held a belief in many other things that are familiar to old New Orleans,

    I know what you mean about any of this being easy. I feel that to find your truth is the hardest because there’s so much out there and easy to share it with social media. We have more choices and stuff to swim through in order to get to the crown jewels of our beliefs. But we persevere… jc

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  9. I get this, I can’t tell you how often I heard “children should be seen and not” heard growing up. And my mother, aunt, and grandmother meant it. There were all sorts of rules regarding how to behave and what would and would not embarrass them. I was always walking a fine line in public. Standing up to them and insisting I be treated like an adult, and with respect was difficult. Mom and grandma passed. I’m not sure how my aunt feels, but I know that I respect myself enough to not be silenced and cower in a corner. Good for you, to stand up for yourself while maintaining your temper and being the mature person you grew into, and not the submissive child you were scared into being.

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    1. 🤗 thanks for understanding the sentiment here JoAnn. It’s like you’re not trying to be disrespectful but at the same time, you have something to say, like you would in any conversation. Your words are very supportive.

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  10. All this over whether or not she wants breakfast? LOL. I’d be delighted that my host was so accommodating! Deep down, I think Grannie just wanted to feel special, not just one of the many people you would make breakfast for, but EXTRA special, chocolate chip pancakes kind of special. I think your final comment to her hit on that. Good job in dealing with a tough situation, KE. 🙂

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  11. I relate to this very much! The seemingly trivial conflicts that ‘should’ be avoided are the exact ones that pile up all our life. If others set their expectations of how interactions should go with them or else threaten with unpleasant ways of disagreement then that’s exactly where I want to speak my truth all the more now. Especially with people who have made a special place in my life, that I do not have a choice but be with them!

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  12. Yes! SOME PEOPLE just like to bicker LOL

    I surely do like that you’ve found your voice and use it often. I enjoy when people don’t argue for the sake of arguing or a chance to prove they’re right (and you’re wrong), but to finish their thought and not let feelings bubble up inside. Being a yes man or always agreeing is wack!

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    1. Absolutely kelley! And that’s the thing. I’m no longer interested in arguing with anyone, AND I refuse to remain silent just to make someone else comfortable.

      Thanks too for the validation 🙂 Using my voice often (in ways I see fit) have brought me immense joy ❤

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  13. ‘Release the idea to be heard’ now that would be growth. But I think you need to feel heard to no longer care about it, a bit of a catch 22. I still have a soft spot for grannie, totally based on some endearing anecdotes you’ve shared and now that vulnerability in wanting to be acknowledged as ‘special’. I get it that it is easier for others to find her endearing…like friends who mwt my parents at Ruben’s party last year said they were ‘sweet’ and ‘cute’ ugh…what do they even mean by that??

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    1. I hear you Mek…get it lol Seriously though, the same way I had to release the expectation that my dad was going to ever hear and understand me is what I think I have to do here. It’s just a work in progress, I suppose (see what I did there…I’m on a roll today). Anywho, yes she’s multifaceted, like we all are, you know? No one is all good or all bad, but I do find that interacting with one another’s character flaws can be challenging, to put it mildly.

      I hear you about your parents and others reactions. I felt the same with my dad. Once I realized they didn’t have half the history I did with him, it made it easier to see, but a lot of times I was like huh? This guy? Nope. lol

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  14. what a fabulous post. my goodness, K E, are you sure this was you & yours, not you overhearing me & mine? LOL-sob-LOL, etc.

    in my case, that person lives with me, so I’ll chime in that it’s good to know when speaking up is worse. in the beginning, I spoke up all over the place, thinking it was healthiest for me. it took far too long to learn that I merely feeding the drama-loving maw of that person while giving myself sleepless nights.

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    1. Ha! I always hate that so many people can relate. I suppose that’s what makes some of this cultural. And lol at LOL-sob-LOL! I get it.

      Eek! I cannot imagine having a person with totally different values live with me. I guess that would probably cause me to make different decisions, and a whole lotta yoga or wine lol

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  15. It’s definitely not easy. Especially when it hits a nerve. I was tempted to stop blogging after I pissed one of my sisters off. Not because it was about her (because it wasn’t) but because I never told her about some of the things that happened to me and chose to write a book and blog about it instead.

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  16. Mm … I have to think on this one … I’ve never had a conversation like this with my (maternal) granny, but I just know intuitively that a conversation like this would never happen – I had the best grandma in the world. She was around briefly up to the age of say, 4, and I saw her again at age 20, and then never again as she died. But the last time I saw her – she was just gorgeous!

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    1. That’s refreshing to hear. My grannie is like many people, neither all good, nor all negative. I’m looking forward to hearing more after you’ve thought (if you choose to).

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    1. I actually thought of you as I wrote this Ann. I know one of the first posts I read of yours had to do with you and your mom. Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. they’re hard to draw and stick to. And honestly, I didn’t even write about the huge physical boundary she violated lol I’m not ready. Thanks for reading, commenting and complimenting.

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  17. Creating boundaries and speaking my truth is something I have been working on lately in my life and discussing during counseling. It’s definitely not easy most of the time but feels good when I finally have. I’ve also had to speak my truth with a grandmother who is pretty old school like yours so I was able to relate the whole way through.

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    1. I have to agree that it does feel good once it’s accomplished. I really want to get to the point when it doesn’t quite matter at all. at the old school grandmothers…it’s tough for them too because these times are COMPLETELY different than what they’re used to.

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