Sunday, October 27, 2013

When Your Words Don't Matter

Last night I left the bar to go home because a guy made me feel extremely uncomfortable. After acknowledging my fear of new men, I've made an effort to clearly state what I want and don't want without being rude, but firmly enough to get my point across. The reason I panicked last night was because I discovered how powerless you can feel when your words don't seem to be enough.

To make a long story short, this guy did not seem to understand that when I said, "You're making me uncomfortable, can you please stop," and "I'm not ready," I meant it with complete sincerity. This was not me inviting him to try harder and push until I changed my mind. This was not a challenge. Even after a friend of mine explained to him that my boyfriend recently died, he still came back at me with, "I could be the guy to help you forget about him."

This is not flattering to me. This is terrifying and disrespectful.

After I realized he wasn't budging on his insistence that going out with him was best thing for me, I told him I needed to leave. I got up, walked outside, and hailed a cab home. I did what I had to do to feel safe. But on the way to my apartment I was quick to start looking for ways to blame myself for what happened. Did I come off too friendly in the beginning? Was it my fault for accepting a drink from him in the first place? Should I not be in bars at all?

Although I never felt like he was going to physically violate me, undermining the weight of someone's words is almost as debilitating. What gave him the right to insist that he knew what I needed better than I did? What I say should be a factor in my interactions with others. My words matter.  When that isn't honored, it can make a person feel insignificant. If what I said didn't register with him, maybe what I want isn't important. It made me start thinking that I was wrong.

But after a lot of reflection, I decided my question to myself shouldn't be "Was he right?" but instead, "How can I build my own confidence to insure that the opinions of others don't rattle it?" I need to shift the focus away from this man (and other men) and his actions. I will never understand why people do the things they do and I definitely won't be able to alter their actions. Just as they must decide for themselves to change, so must I.

Last night I didn't leave the bar to go home because a guy made me feel uncomfortable. I left because I allowed myself to feel uncomfortable. Yes, the choices he made in his interaction with me were questionable (in my opinion), but I gave him the power to affect me. By taking what he said to heart, I granted his words the permission to get under my skin. I allowed what he thought to mean more to me than what I thought.

Although I am by no means condoning how he treated me, I need to focus on my part in the situation. Because what I do, say, and tell myself is all I have command over. I will give myself consent to leave a bar if I have to. I will allow myself to tell any guy to back away and feel good about my decision to do so. And I will promise to remind myself that if I listen to my heart, it will never lead me astray. Because I am the master of what I do and think, and my words matter.

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