**Heads up: this post about people-pleasing, being defensive, and setting boundaries contains mature language, specifically, f***, a lot. I know we don’t censor our language on the WANTcast and WANT site, so you’re probably used to it, but I feel like the amount today is more than usual, so wanted to give you a heads up should you have eyes reading over your shoulder that you don’t want to see it :)**
Let me just tell you what happened in the elevator.
First, let’s set the stage. It’s hot. It’s humid. The air in NYC today feels like it’s about 96% humidity and that humidity is made up of sticky orange juice or something. All I want to do is get upstairs, turn on the AC, sit on my couch with my dog, and write this to you.
I’m also feeling fired up from a business meeting I had with myself over AM coffee, and am feeling way more focused and streamlined than I have in a while.
I walk into the elevator and there’s a man already in there who’s heading upstairs. Another man walks in.
I immediately feel a vibe from the first man — I can’t tell if it’s an “I’m starved for small talk after a pandemic” vibe or an “I’m gonna try and flirt with you” vibe, but either way, I don’t like it at all (sans a few neighbors over the years who have become extremely close friends, the second I walk into my home, I am a VERY private person. I don’t want to small talk — let alone be hit on).
“How is it out there?” the first man asks.
So hot. Like, 9 million percent humidity. I make the mistake of answering.
I can see him looking at my torso and I feel uncomfortable. The second man gets out of the elevator and I contemplate going with him. I wait too long and the door closes, me and Man #1 alone together. I realize he’s not looking at my torso — he’s looking at my WANT tote bag.
“Women Against Negative Talk,” he reads out loud.
Then he starts laughing.
“Is that a joke?”
Thank goodness I was still wearing my sunglasses, because I have zero game face and I’m pretty positive my eyes were shooting daggers.
No. It’s my business.
(If you could’ve seen his face drop. Lemme tell you, if he’d had any intention of hitting on me, his plans were definitely foiled.)
What happened next surprised me a little, though.
“What does that mean? ‘Negative talk’?” I could sense he was genuinely asking.
Negative talk like negative SELF-talk.
“What’s ‘negative self-talk’?”
Now, as someone who obsesses about our internal narrative and self-told story 24/7/365, it always blows.my.mind. when I realize not everyone knows what self-talk is. I mean, they DO know what it is — we all experience it — they just don’t know it has a name.
And so I explained it to him.
Self-talk is your internal narrative. Negative self-talk is the stuff you say disparagingly about yourself. It can be along the lines of self-doubt, fear, shame, whatever. For example, “I’m not good enough.”
He nodded a little. “Oh — I thought it meant talking negatively about others.”
Still unclear as to what the joke would’ve been…
(Side note: it’s always interesting to me when someone’s first association with “negative talk” is others-focused — gossip or bad-mouthing others — vs. self-focused.)
Anyway. I give an obligatory laugh and “Oh, that too!” which I immediately regret for its fakeness but then realize it’s just what I’m doing to help myself feel safe again, so I cut myself a break.
He goes to get out of the elevator, chuckling. “Good luck with your business!”
The door closes. Scene ends. And my face probably looked something like:
So, this is important:
His exit laugh was most likely reflexive — a laugh out of embarrassment, or trying to lighten the situation.
But it could’ve very well been because he thought it was a stupid concept, or a stupid name for a business, or that he didn’t take me seriously.
But I’m not sharing this story because his words affected me.
I’m sharing them because they DIDN’T.
Story after story exists of people who didn’t take The Greats seriously. Teachers who thought Einstein wouldn’t get anywhere. Producers who doubted Oprah could “make it” on TV. From athletics to academics, there’s a story of “Look who’s laughing now!” from superstars in every field.
A lot of times, the takeaway is: You need to not care. Don’t give a fuck what anyone has to say.
And I think this is actually really dangerous.
I, personally, don’t subscribe to a “No Fucks Given” attitude — even as a highly sensitive person and recovering people-pleaser. You’d think that it would’ve been my way out, right? My go-to catchphrase to shield me from Other People’s Opinions and make me Other People-Proof — right?
But the thing is, that never felt right to me.
Because not giving any fucks isn’t about setting a boundary.
It’s about building up walls.
Life isn’t meant to be lived on the defensive. I’m not a sports person, but I can’t think of ANY sport that’s solely about playing defense (and yes, I know I’m now mixing my metaphors). If you’re constantly shielding yourself from whatever comes your way, how can you score a goal? If you’re constantly playing defense, what happens to the people on your team who want to help you out?
As someone who doesn’t only care what other people think, but cares EXTREMELY deeply, building up walls and playing constant defense feels like a fight against my truest nature: the part of me that desires connection, collaboration, and community. I don’t want to build up such tall walls that I block out important perspectives.
And so I reject not-caring.
Instead, I get clear on what matters to me, who matters to me, and why the ones that matter to me, matter to me.
I know I will not be for everyone, and I know that everyone will not always agree with me. They might think I’m too enthusiastic, or complex, or “a joke,” like the guy in the elevator. But those are probably not the people who matter most to me, anyway.
So if you’re like me, listen up. This recovering people-pleaser, highly-sensitive introvert emotional sponge is here to tell you:
I give a fuck.
I most certainly give a fuck.
I just give selective fucks.
Because living life on the defensive is no way to live. Like Glennon Doyle says, “No woman on earth doesn’t give a fuck—no woman is that cool—she’s just hidden her fire. Likely, it’s burning her up.”