I don’t like being challenged. I don’t like people challenging my mindset, beliefs, goals, feelings, habits, actions… you get the point. I don’t like being accountable to other people. Still, I’m the one who has been asking for better friendships, and better friendships are meant to push us past ourselves.
One of the reasons I don’t like being challenged is because I hate having to defend myself. I am an incredibly reflective person and I often need time to gather my thoughts and figure out the best way to approach a topic. Having to defend myself on the spot means there’s no time to rehearse my point of view or gather supporting sources for the information I present. I have to think “on the fly,” and that is not easy for me, so I end up stumbling over my words and seeming unsure of my position which—as someone who deals with anxiety—makes me want to retreat into myself where all the challenging voices are my own.
The thing is, I can’t continue to do that if I want my friendships to be deeper and stronger. My attempts at avoiding the discomfort of confrontation tend to translate to others as passive-aggression, and that leads to a host of other problems in the relationship, including more confrontation. I learned that over the weekend. I learned that even when I try to deal with my feelings alone, my friends are still affected, and it causes them hurt and frustration as well. I learned I can hash out an issue with a friend in a way that allows us to express ourselves, hear each other, create solutions, and move forward.
I also learned that I can be proud of things I participate in even if they don’t “look” like me.
I’ve spent a lot of my life in conservative Christianity. Not like the conservative evangelicals who are picketing outside abortion clinics and trying to destroy democracy and who are not actually a reflection of Christ at all; but the ones who believe in waiting until marriage to have sex, dressing modestly, and “guarding the avenues of your heart” by avoiding certain types of entertainment and conversations. Because of that upbringing, I have held parts of myself back for a long time and molded myself to that image when navigating public spaces.
Over the past few months, I have been enjoying a new project (a podcast) with one of my cousins and one of her friends who has quickly become one of my friends. The thing that makes it so interesting is we have had drastically different upbringings and we have very different personalities and views as well, yet we tend to come together on a lot of subjects. These women don’t navigate the world from a place of restriction the way I have been, so they are able to discuss things with much more freedom than I feel.
I find myself still concerned with the way other people will see me and the assumptions they will make about me, especially from a conservative or professional lens, and I let that affect me in that I have not been publicly sharing the podcast. And it came to a head in recent weeks after our last episode came out.
Keep in mind, I am actively evaluating and reframing perspectives that were built on religious traditions and imposed upon me, and I do not subscribe to the traditional view of “professionalism,” however, I found myself in a place of discomfort and uncertainty.
Although I have always stayed true to myself in our conversations, I am also used to having certain conversations in private and I was concerned about how I would be viewed—personally and as a professional who is trying to gain new career opportunities—by those hearing the conversation. I started to question whether or not this was something I wanted to continue participating in. But I had to realize that not everything I participate in is going to look like me. In all honesty, most things I participate in aren’t going to look like me. Heck, my religious community doesn’t even look like me.
The podcast is a reflection of us. There are three of us with very different ways of speaking and understanding and living, and so long as I stay true to my authentic self when I open my mouth (or type up a message), it should not matter if the conversation goes in a different direction than I anticipated. Because, as a whole, this podcast has forced us all to grow, to learn, and to be accountable to ourselves. It has given me girlfriends. And as challenging as that can be sometimes, I asked for it, and it’s what I needed.