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Speaking Your Mind

Dear Loch,

I’m a big believer in saying what you mean and meaning what you say. I think semantics matter. I believe the words you choose are important and how you feel deserves to be heard. That being said, I am also a big believer in holding your tongue. Every thought in your head does not require a voice. You shouldn’t speak just to hear your opinions echoed back and your thoughts should not run people over. I touched on the concepts of speaking up for yourself in When Polite Becomes a Problem and, as always, I believe everything we do, including speaking our minds, should be done with Manners and civility, but I wanted to take a moment to emphasize how important I believe it is to be candid with your thoughts.

We have a fair number of friends and family who swallow their feelings. People who won’t acknowledge how they feel despite how obvious those feelings are to everyone around them. People who bottle their emotions and lie to themselves (and others) about what’s really going on. I’ve personally never been able to do that. That’s not to say I’m some highly evolved emotional genius who knows how things should be, but rather that I’ve always been one to wear my heart on my sleeve and my feelings on my face. Over time, I found it was just simpler to put a voice to my feelings rather than pretend otherwise. I wasn’t fooling anyone anyway.

Writing this blog, there have been times when I’ve been accused of “airing my dirty laundry”, of being “too candid”, “too honest” or voicing only MY “opinion“. I’ve had phone calls and emails from people who feel mischaracterized or uncomfortable with the truth I’ve put out in the world and I always feel terrible when this happens. I don’t believe my honesty is wrong, I’m just sorry my observation of the facts has upset anyone. As a result, I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking these situations through and, as uncomfortable as those conversations can be, I think everyone involved (myself included) comes out far better than when the issue was simply tucked away. I’m aware my thoughts and writings are my take on the world, but I try exceptionally hard to be fair and honest in my personal interactions. I do my best to avoid judgement and at the end of the day, I am most critical of myself. That being said, I believe in hitting issues straight on. I’m not one to beat around the bush. I think dirty laundry deserves to be aired. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, it just allows it to pile up and permeate your life. Taking things out and cleaning them up is the only way to stop them from festering. It might not be the most pleasant experience but it’s necessary if you want to live an unburdened life.

Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Deny. Deny. Deny. Stiff upper lip stuff doesn’t work long term. It only serves to mask problems that end up rising up when you least expect them. I don’t advocate going through life telling everyone what you feel at every moment. That would be unnecessary social suicide and as much as I believe in owning your truth, I remain a proponent of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I do, however, feel that biting our tongue to the detriment of yourself, or someone you love, is not helpful. Keeping criticism at bay is a safe bet, but observations and honest truths, even if you know them to be subjective, are essential to our personal self worth and the integrity of our relationships.

There are ways to spare people’s feelings. To find something kind to say that is true without being insincere. But only when we acknowledge the truth of our situation can things begin to change. What’s the worst that can happen by being honest with your feelings? Someone gets upset? The situation becomes awkward? That’s tolerable. You can live through that. What’s unacceptable to me is fake, insincere relationships with people who are close to you. Working though something, no matter how uncomfortable, carries with it the possibility of resolution, growth and improvement. Holding on to resentment only breeds contempt.

Speaking your mind, standing up for yourself, telling people how you feel (in an appropriate way) is an essential life skill. The world is full of people afraid to rock the boat. You can’t solve issues that way and you’ll never be truly happy if you’re not truly yourself. Stamping down your feelings will ultimately only make you feel bitter and misunderstood. That’s no way to go through life.

Having the courage to tell someone you’re upset or uncomfortable should be done just as confidently as letting someone know you appreciate and respect them. We should approach the good and bad with the same level of candor. Without honesty, we’re just acting like ourselves, not being ourselves. Every painful conversation I’ve ever had – be it with my parents, your Dad, a friend, a colleague – has ultimately ended in a positive result. Even if it makes you feel twitchy or you don’t end up with the resolution you’d hoped for – you break up, end up leaving a job or losing a friend – at least you can look in the mirror and know you did everything you could to make it right. You respected yourself and your feelings enough to let them be heard. People who bottle their emotions might seem to coast along without drama, but lack of conflict doesn’t mean you’re not conflicted and being “ok” is not the same as being happy.

Speak up for yourself. Don’t let anyone take your voice from you. Be a kind but not a weak person. What you think, what you want, what you feel, matters. Choose to be an active part of your own happiness. Ask for what you want. Stand up for what you believe in. Choose your words carefully but say what you mean. It may be socially acceptable to suppress your feelings to avoid making waves, but without waves there is no movement, and I don’t want you stuck in a life going nowhere.

Get movin’!

I love you forever.

xo mom

The Princess Problem

I had the opportunity to catch a couple Grammy performances this year. I’m not really an awards show person but I was sitting with Sean when Kacey Musgraves performed “Follow Your Arrow” and I found myself throughly charmed. She went on to win “Best Country Album” and “Best Country Song” so apparently, I wasn’t alone in that sentiment. Now, I happen to like country music and dig the super model meets early Dolly vibe she’s got going on, but in this case I was most impressed with her simple, upbeat message. Follow Your Arrow is a song about the names we call each other and the judgements we make when people don’t behave the way we want them to. The message being: You’ll never please everyone so you may as well just be yourself.

It reminded me of a visit I recently had with an old family friend. At one point in the conversation the topic drifted to personality types and he referred to me as a princess. Technically, he was referring to his girlfriend and he said, “She’s kind of a princess…like you.” We all had a good laugh, like “Oh, I like my creature comforts…hee hee…I like $5 coffees…ha ha…I don’t want to sleep in the back of a van…ho ho ho”. It was all said in good fun but, since a fair amount of truth is spoken in jest, the conversation started me thinking. Marketing encourages little girls to look up to, and aspire to be princesses, yet the word “princess” is typically used with distain and even malice. What does it say about a culture that encourages little girls to be something then chastises them later for being so? We’ll get you the t-shirts, the costumes, the movies but if you become one, you should feel s*^#ty about yourself because it’s a terrible way to be. Why would we push a concept so hard on our children if we’re just going to use it later to insult them as adults?

We want our girls to be like this picture

We encourage girls to look up to the women in this picture.

The dictionary defines a princess as “the daughter of a monarch” and obviously that applies to very few of us. Even our most famous princess, Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge only arrived there via marriage. The urban dictionary has a long drawn out list of qualities a princess should possess like poise, humility and benevolence but I’m pretty sure my friend wasn’t thinking of those adjectives when he referred to me as one. Beyond the pet term from your Daddy or boyfriend, “princess” usually refers to someone high maintenance or demanding. Someone who requires only the best and is uncomfortable with any sort of mess or hard work.

Then we vilify them into this "type of girl" from "The Princess of Long Island"

Then turn the term into something hideous like the girls in this picture.
( “The Princess of Long Island”)

Basically, unless your five, or being given a diamond necklace at the time, being called a princess is an insult and it speaks to the double standard our society allots to men and women. Pantene recently did a commercial highlighting this fact, and no matter how you feel about gender inequality or double standards, I think we can all agree there is no urban vernacular term equivalent to Princess for men. In general, the most derogatory terms skew female. Bitch. Whore. Slut. Even words that are used to humiliate men are typically female biased – Pussy, Wuss, Sensitive. “Can I get you a tampon with that drink?” Even put downs like High Maintenance and Bossy are reserved primarily for women. “Princess” is just one more way to tell women there’s something wrong with them and, despite the fact it was said to me with love, being called one p*^# me off.

Look, there are truly unbearable people out there. People who are clueless to the plight of others. People who send back their water because it’s not Voss or the lemon isn’t myer. People who talk down to waiters and request only green M&M’s. I’m not talking about those people. There should be a special word reserved for those people. D*^ks might fit since it implies selfish, single minded behavior, but in the wake of my princess argument being gender biased, perhaps a*#hole is better since it skews gender neutral but with less than favorable implications.

Some people legitimately deserve the criticism.

I recognize that some people legitimately deserve the criticism.

The question remains, is it really “high maintenance” to send something back if it’s wrong? Is it truly “demanding” to request a seat by the window rather than one by the kitchen door? Is it really such a terrible thing to know what you want and ask for it? Why should I feel ashamed if I value myself enough to not just meekly take what’s offered? Should I feel the need to apologize for preferring to sleep in a bed or use an indoor toilet? I’m Canadian. I’ve camped a lot in my life. It was fun. I’ll probably do it again. But, given the choice, I’d rather sit in a cabana at a chic hotel. That doesn’t make me a princess. It makes me different than a camper. Throwing a fit if you don’t get what you want is a problem. Taking steps to make what you want a reality, that’s just proactive. Why can’t we see that type of behavior for the positive it is? Why must we judge with such rigorous standards and, how can we possibly get it right if everyone’s standards are different? You want to backpack around the world with one pair of pants? Knock yourself out. I’d literally lose my mind doing that but, I don’t judge you for it, so don’t judge me for aspiring to a nice house or a pair of Leboutains.

We tell women this…



Then we treat them like this…



Something is wrong with that.

When Sean and I first started dating we talked about going to Vegas. We didn’t have a lot of money so he suggested we put down the back seats of my SUV and sleep in the car. I immediately burst into tears. I thought, “Oh my God, this guy doesn’t know me at all. How could he suggest such a thing? I would rather not go on a trip than go to a place with a million hotels and sleep in my car!” I worried that even though we were very serious about each other he didn’t truly accept me for who I was and I was devastated. For him it was merely a suggestion that could be abandoned. For me, it was a sign something was glaringly wrong. Not wrong with me (who doesn’t like hotels?) or with him (there are a lot of people who aren’t hung up on creature comforts), but with us as a couple.

I-Am-ResponsibleI was reminded of that feeling when my friend made his comment which, incidentally, I don’t think his girlfriend was too crazy about either. After he left our house, I asked Sean if he thought I was, in fact, a princess? He said no, that what “princess” implies doesn’t fit who I am and, whether he was paying me lip service or not, when it really comes down to it I think we should be able to be who we are without having to apologize for the label placed on us for being that way. I don’t advocate acting like a jerk in the name of “being true to yourself”. I just think we need to stop using labels to degrade and berate each other for behavior that’s different from our own.

If you live life with respect – for yourself and others – then any other personality quirk is just that, a quirk. One more thing that makes you, you. Your preferences and traits are not BAD or GOOD, they are mearly another layer to a fuller, more realized person. If I want to be fancy, I’ll be fancy. If you want to be spartan, you be spartan. Let’s try being ourselves without apology or judgement.

And please, let’s stop calling each other names.

Except the a#@holes. They kind of deserve it.

xo Leigh