“I just hate being mean.” I say this to my friend as we walk down the streets of my little beach town. Above us, the sky is cloudy and blows a cool wind. I look off towards the ocean, the waves licking the store fiercely, then receding back to the grey-blue.
We’re talking about a situation that happened recently—a situation where I had to be ‘mean’ and create boundaries for myself, boundaries that made me feel both safe and healthy. And here I was feeling bad about this, as if I was the one who had done something wrong. As if I was the one sending harassing messages, ignoring someone’s polite requests to please stop. As if I was the one who had turned bitter and insulted the person who was merely asking for the harassment to end.
“You’re not being mean,” my friend says, “You’re being clear. You’re being truthful. You’re doing what you need to do for yourself. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
I let his words stir in my mind for a moment. I struggle with this so much. I hate to push people away—from my heart, from my work—I hate having to put up this wall between someone because it goes against every fiber in my being.
I love sharing my soul. But I have to be safe in doing so. And sometimes that means being firm, being strong, being ‘mean’ when unsafe, toxic, or uncomfortable things are happening to me.
And I shouldn’t have to apologize for that.
I don’t know if you struggle with this—this sense of guilt in taking care of yourself, this inner desire to be ‘nice’ instead of speaking your mind, this idea that you have to let people walk all over you so that you don’t cause any drama, this belief that standing up for yourself is ‘mean.’
But we’re not supposed to feel this way.
Having an opinion is not wrong. Speaking your mind (especially appropriately and respectfully) is not wrong. Telling someone to stop is not wrong. Saying ‘no,’ is not wrong. Being firm is not wrong. Having boundaries is not wrong.
And we need to remind ourselves of that.
I spent the better half of the morning feeling regretful that I blocked this harassing individual. I went live on my Instagram page talking about this situation and having empathy for others instead of being angry and bitter over social media when someone doesn’t give the answer we want right when we want it. I let this situation spin in my mind far too long, when the truth of the matter is—I shouldn’t feel bad for articulating something that was necessary to me.
I felt unsafe, and so I established a boundary. And bottom line, that boundary should be accepted without question and without me feeling guilty for having it there.
Instead of pushing back with anger, this individual could have simply respected what I was trying to say and changed his tone. He could have stopped messaging. He could have apologized and understood where I was coming from, had empathy for my feeling unsafe.
He could have respected my wishes, my boundaries, but he didn’t. And me having to block him as a result does not make me ‘mean,’ it means I’m making a healthy choice for myself, my well-being, and my career.
Taking yourself out of a toxic situation, or into a healthy one is not wrong. Establishing where you stand in regards to a certain issue or choice is not wrong. Being honest about your emotions, even if it might make someone feel ‘bad’ in the process is not wrong.
I think, sometimes, we worry so much about hurting other people’s feelings. We don’t want to see anyone insulted or pained, so we push aside our own feelings in order to make a situation ‘okay.’ Maybe we don’t want to cause a scene, start a problem, be a ‘b*tch.’ Maybe we’re scared because we don’t know if there will be repercussions for saying what we need to say.
But the truth that I’ve learned in this situation, and I’m still working on, is that having a voice, a perspective, a sense of what you need does not make you selfish, self-centered, evil, mean (insert insulting word here). It just means you’re human, and you have standards for how you want to be treated. And the world can either accept that, or get out.
Simple as that.
I don’t know how or if this situation applies to you, but I write these words because they’re on my heart and I think they’re important.
We need to stop apologizing for having boundaries, for being firm in our decisions, for having standards to how we want to be treated, loved, or viewed. Being strong does not make you a ‘b*tch,’ speaking your truth does not mean you’re selfish, and getting away from someone who is disrespecting you is not mean. It’s important.
You are entitled to your own safety and peace of mind—and if that means blocking someone for harassment, getting away from a toxic relationship, saying ‘no,’ or expressing something that might unintentionally hurt another’s feelings in the process— then so be it.
Don’t apologize for what’s healthy or necessary for you.