I’ve spent most of my adult life being bullied. When I was a kid, I was taught to turn the other cheek. Just walk away. Don’t talk back. I was never once told to stand up for myself or fight back, so I’ve spent my entire life running away from confrontation. I’ve let the bully shove me in the back over and over, taunting me with words like you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not talented enough, you don’t deserve better, keep walking, big baby, don’t cry, and don’t you dare fight back. So, I took it. Every shove and every taunting word. Obviously, I deserved it.
I always used to say that I’m afraid to get angry. I would walk away when provoked, because I felt my anger was too great and I might physically hurt someone. I pushed my anger down out of fear of what might happen. Whenever it would bubble up, I would drink. And I drank a lot for a very long time. Finally, I was afraid of hurting someone with my drinking, so I quit doing that, but the anger is still there and I’ve spent several years in therapy trying to figure out what to do about it. I couldn’t possibly let it out, so like a pressure cooker, I would cry and a little anger would steam out through my tears.
You see, the bully tells me that I can’t do what I truly want to do, because I don’t have enough education or experience and even if I did, the only way anyone would let me do what I want is if I sneak into the company at the lowest level and hard work my way into doing what I want to do. I’ve tried to do things that way over and over and somehow, I never seem to luck into that job, but I do get more and more hard work.
What I want to do is graphic design or photography or produce content for websites and social media. I want to work for Patagonia, which is, in my opinion, one of the best companies in the world. Not only do they make a great line of clothing, but they donate one percent of their sales to environmental causes, like dam removal and wild space preservation. They also believe in taking care of their employees, including their families. One catalog I recently received told the story of how they set up a day care at the corporate office so that moms and dads could spend time with their little ones during the day. They hired a teacher to teach the kids in a less structured, more experiential way. That catalog made me cry, because the way they do things is so in line with who I am and so different from the way any of the companies I’ve worked for do things. I also want to make those catalogs and tell those stories that make people like me cry, but the bully says the only way I could possibly get into a company like that is through the bottom door.
I’ve been working in a call center for about six weeks now. The only bright spot I had was thinking that it may help me get into a good company like Patagonia eventually. But the bully wasn’t letting me get by that easy. He kept shoving me in the back with nonstop calls, mad customers, and impossible problems and tonight, the bully finally pushed me too hard. I had time for one more call before I left and I got the meanest, most confrontational lady on the phone. Nothing I offered would appease her. She asked for a supervisor and I was relieved because that’s the only way I was going to get off that call. But the supervisor line was eight deep and I was on hold to transfer this woman for 25 minutes. I had to stand there while other people left and still other people ignored the backed up calls and goofed around with their friends.
When I finally got to the car, I realized that I had had enough. The bully had pushed me to the ground and dared me to get up and fight and this time I did. As I drove home, I yelled at the bully. I shoved the bully. I told the bully I wasn’t going to take this shit anymore. I deserve better. I deserve to do work that I love and that fulfills me. I am not going to waste one more minute putting up with less than I deserve because I’m afraid of confrontation and afraid to stand up for myself. I told the bully to find me something better. I told the bully to find me a job that I deserve and that I wasn’t going to settle for less anymore. I showed the bully that I’m standing up for myself and I’m not afraid anymore.
The bully said, “It’s about time.”