Wednesdays are my day. On the weekends my fiancé is home reminding me of the million jobs we have to get done and the remaining weekdays are for work. But Wednesdays, Wednesdays are my days. No work, no fiancé, just me (and the dog and chooks of course). Wednesdays are my day to sleep-in, rest and regenerate for the week ahead.
Today however, I was awoken by a phone call. A phone call from a number I didn’t recognise. I’m not the best at answering the phone when I know who is calling (you can read about those issues here) so I usually hand off unknown numbers to my fiancé or leave them for voicemail. This morning’s call however, was different. It was from a Brisbane number and as we are currently in the process of trying to move our lives back to Brisbane I was hopeful that this call was one I would want to take.
The content of the call aside (it was indeed something I wanted and needed to take), it raised an important question – why am I so bad at standing up for myself? If family or friends are ever in need, I am the first one to stand up and argue their case. When a bread delivery truck side swiped my dad’s ute and the driver was lying through his teeth about the events, I immediately stepped in, notebook and pen in hand, started making phone calls and sending faxes (okay, it was a little while ago). By that afternoon, the bread company had admitted responsibility and were organising quotes to repair the damage to my dad’s property.
When my mum was involved in a mutual fender bender… hmm, anyone else noticing a trend with my family? Anyway, you get the point. When there is a situation to be addressed, I am there, strongly and confidently stating my case, negotiating and, might I add, emerging with a favourable resolution. I have been known to attend a political rally or three and, for a while, was the union representative at my work. But when the situation involves me individually. When I am the one in need of an advocate, I stay seated. There’s no immediate jumping to my feet. No “I’ve got this” swagger.
Where am I in my own time of need? Oh that’s right, I’m sitting in the back quietly stressing out trying to convince myself that “everything will be okay”, if I just keep my mouth shut and don’t annoy anyone. God damn it woman, you were a lawyer! You were a litigator for crying out loud! Companies paid you to argue their cases for them. And you did. Successfully.
What in the world is my problem with standing up for myself? Let’s go back to when I was a litigator, spending every single day (literally, every day, Sunday through Saturday) fighting for other people. Even in this situation, when I was at my most litigious, I absolutely hated pay review time of year. The law firm I was working at required employees to submit a business case outlining their new wage proposal. Just the thought brought a tightening to my chest. Why do I have to go through this? The partners know how hard I work and they know what everyone else is getting paid. Can’t they just be fair and pay me what I’m worth?
No, Elizabeth, they cannot. Instead, your partner, the one who hired you, the one who cannot help but see the hours you are putting in and the work you are producing by sheer virtue of the fact that his office is right next to yours and he signs every letter you send out and every Court document you produce. Your partner will ask for a submission, review it, enquire “is that really all you’re going to ask for”, accept your revised submission and then inform you that the partners “think you’re greedy” and have rejected said submission.
If a friend came to me with this predicament, Lawyer Elizabeth would immediately appear and step into action. What then you might ask, did Lawyer Elizabeth do for herself? She cried. That’s right. She attempted the whole “stand up for yourself” routine and ended up in her partner’s office, in tears. Strangely enough, that did not get the job done.
So, once again, I come back to the question – why can’t I stand up for myself? I am currently in the middle of a situation that requires me to switch into Lawyer Elizabeth mode and, so far, I think I have managed to do that professionally and without emotion (which I’ve left for close family and friends only; most of the time). But I have to admit, I probably went into Lawyer mood a little later than I should have. Partly, I think it has to do with trusting people. In this situation at least, I trusted what I was being told and believed the outcome would be favourable without me needing to step in. I trusted the people and the process and because the outcome should have been in my favour without the end for any intervention, I trusted in fairness. Unfortunately, as a spoonie, I should have known that life does not come with a fairness guarantee.
This aside, I think I mostly fail to stand up for myself for fear of being seen as “pushy” or “annoying”. Where has this idea that standing up for myself will brand me as pushy come from? Just the other day I wrote about asking for help and, quoting my fabulous doctor, said that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s the only way to ensure your needs are met. Well, the same could be said here. Standing up for yourself is not a sign of pushiness, it’s the only way to ensure your rights are upheld. Standing up for yourself is not a sign of pushiness, it is the only way to tell others that you are not willing to be neglected, abused, steamrolled….
I don’t know where this fear came from or when it first started. What I do know however, is that ends here.