You’re not a greeting card

Don’t make yourself small to make others comfortable

Sometimes+our+desire+to+please+others+stifles+our+ability+to+be+our+honest+selves.+When+we+dismiss+our+own+honesty%2C+we+sacrifice+our+voice.

Madison Geering

Sometimes our desire to please others stifles our ability to be our honest selves. When we dismiss our own honesty, we sacrifice our voice.

My heartbeat was so wild that I could feel it reverberating through my fingertips. The musty air of the classroom took solid form and pressed against me as my throat closed up with fear. Thundering through me was pure dread as a former officer on the Bonita Vista High  (BVH) Speech & Debate team scanned the desks for a student to call on. 

I was a freshman at the time and calling me ‘insecure’ would be an understatement. However, the only place I did feel confident was a classroomuntil that day. 

Entering the completely foreign Speech & Debate program gave me a shock of uncertainty. I didn’t know how to navigate this new frontier. I didn’t understand all of the new ideas and terminology that was being thrown at me. 

And I was too uncomfortable in my own skin to admit my shortcomings to anyone else.

So there I was: paralyzed in the back of the classroom, holding my breath and praying that I wouldn’t get called on. Heat reddened my ears, and I shifted my hair to hide the evidence of my timidity.

Leaning into the wall, I shrank smaller and smaller and smaller. I closed in on myself, willing my body to become translucent. I didn’t belong there. I didn’t know any of these people’s inside jokes and, at that point, I certainly forgot the answer to the question.

Besides, who cared what I had to say?

Four years later, I remember that younger version of myself, the one hiding shaky hands in the corner of the room, and I think often about what I would tell her if I could. This was the girl who was embarrassed to be excited about anything who only spoke to classmates if she was in a group project.

This was the girl who made herself small to make everyone else comfortable.

I see her too often in the eyes of my classmates: people who add an “I don’t know,” “I guess” or “sorry” to every sentence in an effort to soften themselves for others. People who want to make other people happy, never stepping out of line, never in short supply of demure smiles and kind words.

It wasn’t until I got a little older that I recognized the poison I was feeding my mind. No one should have to change who they are or how they think in order to please others. ”

— Madison Geering

What would I tell a younger version of myself? You’re not a greeting card. It’s not your responsibility to keep everyone in good spirits.

It’s your responsibility to speak your truth and speak your mind. You can be proud and assertive without being vain and brutish. 

If you’re always worried about stepping on someone’s toes, you’ll never set a foot in the right direction.

I used to tiptoe through conversations like I was walking barefoot on broken glass. I used to swallow my words like they were prescription medication. I used to hunch my shoulders as if I could become small enough to fit between the cracks in the baseboards.

It wasn’t until I got a little older that I recognized the poison I was feeding my mind. No one should have to change who they are or how they think in order to please others.   

Often I see other classmates, and even myself at times, slip into the habit of prioritizing being compliant over being ourselves. Shrinking our presence in order to conform to others’ expectations prevents us from taking the helm of our lives.

What would I tell a younger version of myself? Own your confidence.

It belongs to no one else.