When I was a little girl, I was always the bossy friend. I would be the one to dictate the games we played and who played what role.
When I was in middle school, I was the easy one. I wanted to be accepted by anyone and everyone, so I submitted.
In my early years of high school, I was always the bitch. I didn’t value people who talked to me as though I were less than human, and I let that be known.
As of now, I’m the sweetheart. I’m easy-going when it comes to other people, and I let them dictate what we do, how we do it, and even how I feel.
I don’t want to be such a sweetheart anymore.
[Image description: A black and white selfie of a young white woman with long dark wavy hair and cateye eyeliner. She is wearing a shawl over a black tank top and looking into the camera with a slight smile on her face.]
I grew up learning that being bossy and bitchy were terrible things. As I grew, I learned, somehow, that other people’s happiness meant more to me than my own.
I’ve always found great joy in seeing my loved ones happy and healthy. I tend to cling to being selfless. I let myself believe that it’s what makes me a good person; that it’s the only thing that makes me a good person. I am now just realizing my truth: that it makes me a nobody, a chameleon, a coward.
Have you ever been on a plane and the flight attendant tells you in case of emergency to secure your own breathing mask before you fasten your children’s? I used to laugh at these directions, thinking, Oh yeah, I’m totally gonna value myself over my own flesh and blood. It took me many plane rides and a lot of failed relationships later to fully understand.
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I never thought that if I weren’t taking care of me in all the proper ways, I would be of no use to my loved ones. If I could, I would be the martyr, and I would put all those damned breathing masks on all those damned people before even thinking about taking my own. And I’d apologize if I put my own on before someone else’s. I’d maybe even go to the lengths of giving them mine.
I became this way from all the backlash of the people surrounding me in my crucial developing years. I flinched every time someone said, Gosh, you were so easy before. You’re such a bitch now!
I retreated into myself with every softly-whispered easy and strongly-enunciated bitch. I felt the venom and the malice behind the word “bitch.” I felt the longing and the love behind the word “easy.”
I wanted to be longed for; I wanted to be loved. So why was I being such a bitch?
Time went on, and I started to see things about myself that confused me. For instance, I would apologize before almost any sentence, and usually afterward too. I started to apologize more and more as the years went on. I apologized for having to use the bathroom during a movie. I apologized for voicing how I felt. I apologized for the way I wore my clothing. I apologized to strangers when I wanted to compliment their pretty boots. I apologized for the way I slept. I apologized for how I ate, for how I breathed, for how I lived. If I took the time today to pay attention to how many I’m sorrys I’ve mumbled, I assure you, it would be in the hundreds.
I am realizing this is not the type of person I want to be.
I was conditioned to be the smaller one, the one to be dominated, the one to be taken advantage of and tossed aside. And where were all their sorrys? They didn’t have to be sorry because I allowed them to use me and I apologized for them. I started saying sorry for things I hadn’t even personally done.
I can’t let that go any further.
The first step in changing something you don’t like about yourself is noticing the problem. I notice that I want to be the strong, opinionated woman I’ve always envisioned myself being. I can still be friendly, kind, accepting, and understanding of others, but I don’t have to keep taking all the abuse and apologizing for it.
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I don’t want to be sorry for being who I am. I want to be able to love myself enough that I have some damned self-respect, and I want to stop letting all these nasty-mouthed people dictate my feelings and my life and my inner voice.
So I vow to only apologize when I have truly done something wrong. I vow to stop letting other people push me to be the person they want me to be and then feeling bad about not bending enough to fit their mold. I vow to be myself, to love myself, and to respect myself enough to know when enough is enough. I vow to make strides toward balancing my bossy, my easy, my bitchy and my sweet.
I am done being sorry, sorry for being me. It’s time to embrace who I am and let my freak flag fly.
Nicole Campaniello enjoys coffee, pointing out constellations, and learning to stop saying “I’m sorry” all the time.
[Headline image: Photo of a slender white woman with shoulder-length auburn hair. She is standing in front of a white wall with her hands up in the air as she shrugs exasperatedly. She is wearing a bright yellow top.]