It wasn’t long ago, I was talking to a friend about a situation at work in which a coworker had taken responsibility for work I had accomplished. I thought, “no worries, now I know better”. Although my friend highly encouraged me to stand up for my work, I didn’t want to start trouble in my department, so I decided to let it go.
I pride myself on being an understanding and caring individual. I justified why my coworker had decided to make this insinuation and I decided, they really didn’t take credit on purpose. Now I know, right about here is where you’re saying, “Wow! This girl is naive/stupid/weak”. The truth is I’m not. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone I’ve been in a discussion with about climate change.
The more I thought about the situation, the more I quietly recognized that some people will take advantage of your kindness. Then a few months later, I was walking down the street, on my way home from work, when I noticed a man ‘keeping pace with me’. First he walked past me and then he fell behind but always stayed within a few feet of me. I’m a researcher, so to tested my theory by changing my pace several times. I felt uncomfortable, to say the least.
The man, who was on a cell phone, dressed in business attire, hung up his call, smiled and said, “It’s a beautiful day for this walk!” I nodded in agreement, still feeling fraught by his presence. I calmed myself and thought, “Ok, maybe he’s just being nice”. A thought that I later realized was a product of society imposed on me, deeming me arrogant for daring to think this man was hitting on me, and so I felt the need to be humble.
So in trying to mitigate my discomfort and how I thought I was supposed to act, I tried kindly separating our walks a few times. He seemed to not get the hint. Now, in hindsight, as many of you have probably already decided what you would have done, I also know exactly what I would have done had I heard the story or not been in the situation but alas that’s not how life works. The truth of the matter is, unless you’re in a situation, you really do not know what you would do, as proven by the countless psychological research experiments, and the real life situations in which men and women struggling for their survival, having done things like eating bugs, snakes, or other sustenance (including other humans), that they swore they’d never do.
I then began to convince myself that his conversation was really harmless. Our paths would be separating soon, as his destination was just a few blocks away. He starts speaking about, what I saw as his religious views, and as our paths came to an end, he asks for a hug. At this point, I’m thinking, “Ugh, fine but harmless, then he will go away”. Then in the middle of the street as he hugs me, he tries to kiss my neck. Immediately, my thoughts fell silent, shocked and appalled and not knowing how to make sense of what just happened, my mind raced to understand why this man just did what he did. Instantly, I said, “No”, about 50 consecutive times in a row, and let go trying to push him away.
I started walking as he still walked beside me. Baffled and blinded by shock, I couldn’t stop thinking of how my kindness was just taken advantage of, so much so, that in a split second that man took two things very precious from me; my safety, and my dignity. I wrestled in my head about how it was my fault, I should have just ignored him, made some excuse or the barrage of other reasons I could have gotten out of that situation, but the truth is, I realized what that man did to me, was his character, not mine, and he had no right to take my safety that day.
He was one person. Not a label, not a stereotype, or anything else, a person. I realized, much like the one person who took credit for my work, some people will take advantage of your beautiful, kind soul, and that does not make YOU anything other than beautiful and kind.
Subsequently though, I did change something that day. Something I had been contemplating for a while, but never knew how to accept. From that moment forward, I will proceed to understand MY boundaries. That simply means, I will continue to be kind until someone makes me feel that being kind is not an option by making me feel uncomfortable. Society and its views failed me that day, and if society or any person decides I’m a bitch for not going above and beyond to make them feel comfortable, whilst they do not respect my comfort, then I channel ‘my bitch’ with pride. Because society should never label you a bitch, for standing up for yourself.
Photo credit to http://webdogpro.com/handling-your-barking-dog/