1. Speaking your opinion.
I distinctly remember being sternly told by my grandmother that it was my job to be seen and not heard, a very long time ago (which I suppose had more to do with my being eight years old, and not my being a woman, but still). And though it led to me being a relatively well-behaved child to be taken to restaurants, it made the day when I realized that, hey, screw you, my voice and opinions are worthy, all the more delectable. “No,” my heart said, “I am meant to be seen and heard, Grandmama.” (Yes, we called her Grandmama — picture Bunny MacDougal and Lucille Bluth’s lovechild.) “I have opinions, and one of them is about how your taste in throw pillows is questionable at best. Peacock feathers and zebra print? No.”
Opinions are great, and being able to state them with conviction and articulation is one of the most awesome/essential parts of being a human. And no one should convince you that yours are somehow less worthy.
2. Dressing in a way you enjoy.
Yes, it is clear that, if your job has a dress code, you’re going to be stuck working that blue polo shirt and khakis to the best of your sartorial abilities (I once tried to high-waist-and-belt-it with a work uniform, but that ice cream store was painfully unready for my avant-garde stylings and made me trudge home to change tout de suite). But there is work, and then there is the rest of life, which should be filled with all of the clothes that make you feel happy about yourself. We all know the feeling which accompanies walking around in an outfit that makes you feel every shade of not yourself, that hem-tugging discomfort that makes you want to run into the nearest boutique and get something more you. Once you are past the age of your mother forcing you into rust-colored corduroy Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls (yes, I have photographic evidence of that martyrdom), that should be a feeling you never again experience. Do you, aesthetically speaking. Do you.
3. Telling someone how you feel about them.
And this doesn’t just apply to the vomiting-butterfly-in-stomach feeling of telling someone that you like them. It’s also about telling them when they’re an asshole, or making you uncomfortable, or any other range of actions they could be imposing on you. Yes, it’s hard to actually take that leap and write that crazy-person Facebook message at two in the morning about how much you still care about them or how you feel like they’ve been ignoring you of late, but write that crazy-person Facebook message you must. Because those untold feels don’t just disappear, they fester inside of you like a thousand little droplets of emotional acid until you are a husk of your former self which is only capable of stalking the object of your agony from afar. “How dare they continue to live their life normally,” you think, “when I have done absolutely nothing to let them know how I feel.” Don’t be that person.
4. Speaking up when you’re hurt.
Your life will either be that of a TJ Maxx welcome mat that has a few defective threads and is thus on 40 percent discount, perpetually stepped on by people who don’t even realize that they are squishing you face, or it will be one where you have to bite that bullet and verbalize how uncool it is when someone insults your lifestyle choices or deliberately doesn’t invite you places. There is always a risk of losing a friend in telling them that they are doing something you can’t put up with, but then you must ask yourself — is it really a friend you’re losing, or merely a crappy acquaintance whose presence you’d become particularly accustomed to?
5. Leaving a situation that is bad for you.
We all know the intoxicating cocktail of emotions that is finally quitting a crappy, soul-sucking, demeaning job. That feeling should not be limited to the professional sphere. If you are in a bad relationship, for example, you deserve to feel the vindication, righteousness, relief, and confidence that comes with saying, “No, I am not here to be your anthropomorphic punching bag, goodbye.”
6. Reacting when a friend really needs help.
No one wants to judge. We all have our problems, and there have probably been times when a friend has looked at us and been like, “Woah, she has not left her room for the past two weeks and she’s starting to confuse things that happened in her real life with episodes of Sex and the City. Someone needs to say something.” But that doesn’t mean that we should ignore it when someone around us clearly needs help. Better to offer and be proven wrong than to let something go and wish that you had done something when you had the chance. If your closest friends aren’t the ones who can extend a hand, who can?
7. Transforming envy into something useful.
You will never not be envious. At least not for those few, fleeting, stomach-stabbing minutes of “Oh man but I wanted that and I am me and that person is not me and therefore this is unfair and unacceptable and hurtful, God. Don’t you remember that time I helped that old lady with her groceries? I earned this.”
But from that moment of immaturity, we can decide to actively light the flame of action and motivation. We can say to ourselves, “Next time, I am going to be the person basking in that glow of success and achievement, because I’m going to make sure that I earn it for myself.” And you can dip back into that well of “I want what I don’t yet have” when you need to get more fuel for the fire, instead of just marinating in it like a petty little stew of impotent feelings. It’s just feels so much better.