This post is for anyone who has wanted to speak up about something or do something, but you’re afraid to because of backlash. You can be wanting to speak up about racism or sexism at work, you can be thinking of quitting a job, freezing your eggs or even just breaking up with your long term boy/girlfriend.
I was chatting with my friend about “breaking societal rules” in order to challenge the status quo the other day. And he asked me a really good question.
“Why are you so open with your decision to leave Singapore?”
He was referring to the backlash I received from the public – people telling me I’m “privileged” and “ungrateful”. People warning their children against reading my blog and listening to my words, for fear their children would “go down the wrong path” and start becoming “lost”. Worse yet, they were afraid that I would convince their children or friends that I was ‘pro-divorce’ and against working in the insurance industry.
I told him this.
Without understanding what I’m really saying, people with a lot of fear will pinpoint only the negative parts of what they’re hearing.
They would make immediate assumptions of my intentions and turn anything I say into ill advice.
Ask yourself the last time you got into an argument with someone.
Out of 10 times, how many times has the argument actually been because of what you’re REALLY fighting about? And how many times has it been because of a misunderstanding? A misunderstanding that stemmed from both parties’ own wrong assumptions and insecurities?
Before I spoke out, I made sure I was clear on my intention. I knew what I wanted to say, which is why I was confident that my words were accurately aligned with my intention.
If anyone wanted to take my words out of context and spin it in whatever direction they desired, it wasn’t because of what I said, but what it made them feel.
That’s why – I ignored the chitter chatter. Why? Because they were just projecting their fears. Their words told me one thing – They’re having a reaction to my words. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. A reaction is neither bad nor good, it’s just a reaction.
The acknowledgement of fear is important. Having fear is not a problem at all. It’s asking ourselves whether we want to keep this fear that’s vital. It’s giving us a chance to explore our limits.
If I said – “I left a high paying job in Singapore because I wanted to explore the world and face my fears”
They would read it as “Aiya, she probably wasn’t doing very well in the first place that’s why she left. I heard she got divorced so she must have alot of alimony from the divorce. If not how can she afford traveling for so long.”
Or maybe they would say “I bet her parents are paying for her trip, I heard she went to NUS. NUS kids are privileged. How do you think she got into NUS? Her parents must have paid alot of tuition and enrichment fees”
Or even “she’s not going to last long. After a while, she will be broke and have to come back to Singapore. No way she can continue traveling like this.”
And so on and so forth.
How do you know when to ignore their chitter-chatter? When they are judging instead of being constructive with their comments.
Usually, when you raise a controversial subject, you get polarizing views on the matter. Either they agree whole heartedly, they’re intrigued and ask more questions, or they downright reject your opinion. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Because you can never target to help everyone.
I spend my time instead, replying emails, DMs and even taking on video meetings with the people who matter.
People who have always felt alone in their desires to explore the world. People who feel trapped in their lives because they have gone down paths they didn’t intend to. People who feel afraid to speak up because they know they will face rejection. These are the people I speak to. Literally anyone else, I don’t have to bother, because they’re not ready to even listen without projecting their fears.
Sometimes, these fears also arise PRECISELY because they agree but they’re afraid to lean in, afraid that if they accept my proposition, they will realize their life is headed in a wrong direction. In that case, the bigger their response towards my words is, the more I know this is a signpost. Not for me, but for THEM.
Because you know why? People who don’t have any other opinions of my words will simply say
“That’s cool, but it’s not for me. I don’t need to explore the world. I know exactly where I’m headed to and I like it.”
That’s how people who are secure in their own lives will talk. Not gaslight. Not make personal attacks. Not disagree for the sake of disagreeing. They might not even make a comment and just forget about the subject because it doesn’t relate to them.
I would engage in conversations that are meaningful. Like for example when people ask me
“What do you do for retirement planning? If you’re not in Singapore, how would you plan for retirement? If you’re constantly traveling, how do you deal with the loneliness or lack of community? What are the other lessons you’ve learned from nomad traveling?”
These are some of the questions that signal to me they’re actually listening to what I’m saying, but they have other reservations I didn’t touch on.
So back to the conversation I had with my friend.
I told him that I knew speaking out about this topic would be rather controversial.
But I couldn’t care less about the judgment, because they’re just fluff.
And if you keep paying attention to the fluff instead of building what your substance is all about, you’re wasting precious time and energy.
Instead, if you’re so easily triggered by people’s opinions and judgment about you, I would look into THAT.
Why do you care?
Why are you so easily disturbed by what strangers say about you?
What they said about or to you, is it true? Do their words hold any truth? And if what they said about you is truth, is your ego willing to accept it? If what they’re saying about you is hurting your ego, maybe this is a chance for you to learn from that.
Or if it’s a family/friend, ask yourself this.
Whenever you have a major decision to make, something that’s really important to you, would you ask them for their advice?
If you wouldn’t, you at least know now, that these people are not your ACTUAL role models in life.
They’re people you’re obligated to please. People you are afraid to lose. But they’re not people you actually want to take advice from.
This is what I mean……………by going on a journey to understand YOU.
Where do your fears come from? Where do your desires come from? Whose principals and values are you living by?
If we spend our lives…..and make decisions based on the judgment and advice of the wrong people….we will one day find ourselves very unhappy in life.
Unhappy not because their advice wasn’t RIGHT. It just wasn’t right FOR YOU.
That…is why I speak up. Because if you ever get a big reaction to what I say, think about the WHY?
I’ll give you an example. Growing up, I was born into a Christian family. Being homosexual was wrong. Accepting homosexuals was also wrong. But I always felt like this didn’t sit well with me. Why is being homosexual wrong? Who is to determine that?
Years flew by and I was sitting on a fence the whole time, unable to speak up about my own opinions in front of my family and also very confused on how I should actually think. Whose values do I take on? The Christian faith’s? My friends’? The society? What If I grew up in a different society? How would it change?
But as soon as I started to make big changes in my life, changes that helped me discover bits and then more bits of myself, (even including getting married and divorced was a big change that helped me learn about myself), I started feeling very affirmed in my own opinions and would speak up about them in confidence. I didn’t care anymore, what my family would think or say, because they didn’t matter to me. It didn’t make me love them any less, it just meant that their opinions wouldn’t sway me from mine.
Their guiding principles or values were no longer mine. I was finally on a path to set my own foundation in life.
The forming of one’s own identity is precisely at these junctures. When we can FEEL a strong rejection towards the opinions that are being forced down our throats. When we can time and time again, feel that we disagree. Even though everyone close to us believes in something else.
Now, I have to state very strongly. That this is not to say they are wrong.
Contrary to that, I’m saying that in life – it is extremely extremely difficult to determine what is right and what is wrong. Determining who is right and wrong will take centuries and sometimes, is not the battle to take on.
What I’m talking about today, is taking on the battles to figure out WHO YOU ARE as a person. If you have ever asked yourself questions like “Who am I? Why do I feel lost? Why do I feel empty? Why am I not happy? Why do I feel like my life is missing something?”
Perhaps, what you’re searching for…..is the definition of yourself.
Once you understand the WHY, you are one step closer to finding out who you really are, and one step closer to solving the big mystery of “What do I want in life?”
If anything, the more we raise controversial issues to discuss about, the more we also find out about ourselves. Because we can be aware of our own reactions towards other people’s opinions.
In fact, sometimes when we speak up about something, we might immediately get backlash (even from the people we are close to) that is telling us we are wrong.
Like for eg, if you one day spoke up and say that eating meat is wrong and everyone who eats meat will go to hell.
Depending on the backlash we receive, we will better understand how different we are with the people around us. Either way, we get closer to understanding ourselves better. Ego should be set aside for the greatest lessons we want to learn.
One key thing to remember is this: There’s never a need to judge.
We don’t have to judge the people who are judging us.
Judgment is probably the only thing I would say is the most useless activity. Why? Because it doesn’t serve any purpose at all. Plus, judging others is also a way we are projecting fears.
There’s no need to say “Aiya these people are keyboard warriors, they don’t know anything.” or “My mother will never support me so there’s no point telling her anything”
If it’s your family that you’re dealing with, I would say Do more, Talk less.
Sometimes, the best way to convince others is by doing instead of talking.
On top of being useless, I am also proposing for a kinder society when I say we shouldn’t judge.
Not judging literally means to me = not assuming they will do or say something or/and thinking ill of them. I know it’s harder to do than to say, trust me. But I believe that if we aim for the moon, we at least hit a star even if we fall short hahahaha.
Not judging is also giving people a chance to change their minds. It’s giving them a chance to say “yeah you’re right, i was wrong”
Not judging is understanding that everyone is walking their own journey but at very different paces.
If our goal is eventually to see significant change within a society, the best we can do is knowing that whether someone is fast or slow in their process of learning, they will still eventually get there.
Obviously, the world is full of people who are on completely different paths with completely different goals.
And that my friends, is why wars still exist in 2022.
So, if you find yourself having a disagreement with someone, don’t be too hard on yourself.
If even on a world leadership level, people can’t agree on fundamental things, what we experience on a day to day basis, is completely normal. If we really find people who disagree with us to such a large extent, we either decide to part ways for good, or we ask ourselves if it’s worth it keeping them close to us.
Sometimes, people’s personal dealbreakers change and reform. And when two people hit a dealbreaker they can’t agree on, it’s better to part ways than to force a relationship to continue. That relationship will experience a lot of resistance and might often times lead to more wounds and regrets.
- It’s easier said than done when people say “Face your fears”. What we can do first is to find out what our fears are, and figure out WHY they have formed
- Once we know where our fears lie, ask ourselves if they are valid. If they are, let’s spend some time to address these fears. Perhaps, some of our wounds need mending, some of our insecurities need tending to.
- If our fears are not valid, ask yourself what’s holding you back? Sometimes we already know what we want to do, but we’re waiting for a big push or pull factor to decide for us. These people are called Floaters. I don’t there’s anything wrong with floating, but I would encourage you to think of Happiness as a journey, not a destination. If you’re not setting path towards Happiness, your happiness index will remain the same, until a push or pull factor comes in and changes things. If you’re happy with status quo, then maybe there’s no cause for concern.
- If the backlash we are receiving turns out to be right, then our ego needs to give in and acknowledge that we have stuff to work on
- People’s opinions of us will change constantly. We might even be changing constantly. Move on from worrying about judgment and absorb the benefits of these changes.
- If we’re not taking advice from the right people, we will live our lives according to what we feel obligated to do, not what we really want to do.
For people who tell you “If we really just do whatever we want, then anyone can go out there to murder, rob, steal, rape and break all sorts of laws.” What would you do?
Type in the comments or DM me on IG (janetoryl)