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  • Writer's pictureClarissa Tapia

And then what?

I believe one of the hardest things for us to do, especially as women, is catch ourselves before our thoughts spiral in what I like to call the spinning wheel of doom. It begins subtly, you find out a co-worker is saying things that are hurtful toward you or someone else. Or you show up to your in-laws house and the awkwardness in the air can be cut with a knife. Or your romantic partner is behaving in ways that are affecting you and your happiness. What do you do when something like this happens? I'll tell you what most of us do, absolutely nothing. Why? Because it's easy to sweep things under the rug. Shrug off the shame. Nobody wants to create waves, you think to yourself, 'Maybe it's just me, I'm being too sensitive.' That is absolutely the wrong answer, but our deep human need and desire to be liked and accepted by others drives us to look past these kind of behaviors and stay quiet. Some of us will even try to change who we are in order to be accepted.

For example, in college, I had a boyfriend who I thought was amazing. I was head over heels for him. We laughed all the time, we had adventures, we were supportive of each other, but when push came to shove, I was not fulfilling his primal need. So he went looking for it elsewhere, while still in a relationship with me. Was this soul-crushing? Yes. Was this humiliating? God Yes. Did I blame him? Absolutely. This was around the time I had moved back in with my parents, so you can imagine the magnitude of heartache and shame I was under. It was almost unbearable. All I asked over and over and over was, 'Why am I not good enough?' Can you imagine if your son or daughter came up to you and said those words to you? I remember my mom's face when I asked her that? She was broken for me. Talk to me about heartache when you have to force yourself to look in the mirror and tell yourself that your worth it. Needless to say I was in a horrible place. During this time, I questioned whether I was pretty enough, sexy enough, adventurous enough - I was spiraling. I was afraid if I wasn't all these things, I would never be worth loving monogamously. Because of this rejection, and my need to be loved and accepted, I almost stopped being true to myself. What I should have asked myself, and what I hope all of us ask ourselves in the future is a question that Reshma Saujani poses in her book Brave Not Perfect, she asked her readers: "What exactly am I afraid will happen if this person/these people don't like me?" Once you answer, take it a step further and ask: "And then what?" Trust me, it's powerful.

Here's an example from the book:

I'm afraid my boyfriend will be annoyed if I tell him I'm pissed off

And then what are you afraid will happen?

He'll break up with me.

And then what?

I'll be alone.

And then what?

I may never meet anyone else and end up alone forever.

If that's not zero to sixty thinking, I don't know what is.

Here is another real-life mental spiral she shares:

If I call out my colleague for making sexist jokes, I'll be "that woman."

And then what?

No one will want to work with me.

And then what?

I'll lose my job.

And then what?

I'll have no money and lose my house.

Do you see how quickly we can escalate something into outrageous outcomes? Taking a step back and questioning our own thinking is necessary to shrink our fears. Could there be consequences for speaking up? Of course, but would you really want to be stuck with a partner you can't be honest with? Or belong to a work environment that makes you uncomfortable? When I went through this mortifying breakup I didn't recognize my behavior as spiraling, but it totally was. I was thinking worse case scenario - cat lady status, (I love kitties by the way, my mom has two), but at the end of the day, guess what? None of my worse fears ever came true. I survived. I moved on. And I met someone new along the way, but that's a story for another time. In the meantime, remember you are braver then you give yourself credit for, start speaking up. X

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