Sometimes you have to do hard things you don’t want to do to get to the outcome you desire. Sometimes you do them without a second thought, either because you don’t want to face the dissatisfaction or because you simply don’t think about the task at all. Sometimes, however, you think about it a lot (maybe too much) and it pisses you off.
Or… if you are like me… you do the last thing every time. You think, dwell, simmer, get angry, and then come to terms with it (hopefully). You realize, ultimately, what you don’t want to do is simply a means to an end.
I do all of these and more. I am, as some tend to describe me, a “mix of wanting to please people and rebel.” Which, frankly, is a shitty combination because it means I have an internal dialogue with very different, opposing voices.
“You need to do the thing because it is what will make others the most happy.”
“Rebel. Definitely rebel. Don’t let them control you.”
Every. Damn. Time.
There, in my mind, is a fine line between being controlled and being asked to carry out something. I often struggle to find the divide and tread lightly down the middle. I have a very strong sense of individuality and tightly held beliefs surrounding personal rights and expression. It is, in some ways, what helps to make me “me.”
My thoughts are not often political–though personal expression and cultural norms seem to be becoming more and more prominent in some areas of politics anyway. Frankly, I don’t know what ideology I hold in the politics realm… I am still trying to find out and I probably will be developing and then re-developing those beliefs for a long time to come.
What I do know, however, is that I despise how one’s appearance can limit, influence, or determine what jobs you get, how well you are paid, and the way one is perceived in the workforce and society.
I am not shy about my piercings. I have a lot. I think they are done tactfully, and I find them to be a wonderful means of personal expression. I dye my hair. I love to change it up (though by change it up, I mean different shades of red because I LOVE RED HAIR). I wear black. It’s my color of choice and in what I feel most confident. I do not dress “feminine” and that shouldn’t matter–regardless of my heterosexuality. Sexual identities can be fluid and diverse and whether or not someone “looks the part” is simply a societal standard stuck in the past. I say this because I am aware that I am an individual with privileges not afforded to some and I, in no way, want to downplay others’ struggles.*
But in a landscape rife with people wanting you to “fit in,” personal expression makes it hard to comply… and I don’t want to abide by their rules anyway.
In my new job, as a server, I see a lot of different people. Some might be a bit alternatively dressed–in a way similar to me when I am not in my uniform–while others would disagree or look down on my choices of expression. In this industry, to make money (tips) you have to conform to the majority–whether you want to or not. I don’t want to. And here is where the “pleaser vs. rebel” personality of mine comes in again… fit the mold and make more money… or be yourself (at least piercing wise) and potentially get less for it. Ultimately, because we work be a shared tip system, I decided to “fit” a bit more. Whatever the hell that means.
It was a hard time coming to that decision. I dealt with some personal doubts surrounding my expression after someone implicitly called me a whore for the way I looked and scolded my choice to wear more earrings that I “should” as well as have a nose ring instead of a stud. (For the record, “more” meant less than half of what I COULD be sporting and very conservative jewelry).
Hearing that I am “whore-ish” was not pleasant and it made me doubt a lot of my choices. It made me look in the mirror and wonder if all of these piercings suit me or I just tricked myself into thinking they look good on me. It made me self-conscious and insecure and quiet because I, all of a sudden, doubted most of my being. I am not surprised I had this response for a bit, considering my past (and current) struggles with body image and self-worth.
But consider that a comment such as the above could create that much of a response… it’s plain sad.
I put too much worth in what others say to me. It is the pleaser part of my brain. But the rebel will then hop in with a “fuck that” and I tend to move on… after a while.
My choices should have absolutely NO effect on whether I am worthy of pay for my work or a higher position. But they do. Because in a society like ours, people believe that everything should be there to please THEM. Of course, not everyone is like this, but I am speaking in a general sense for the ease of this discussion. Just like my sex can limit me (looking at you lower pay for women in the same position as a male counterpart… that is STILL a problem), my appearance can.
But guess what… neither SHOULD.
This is not a small issue to fix. It is not something that CAN be fixed in days… months… maybe even years. It is society wide. It is ingrained in beliefs. It is insidious.
I don’t support it. I never, ever will. And I will, ALWAYS, be the rebel when it comes to fighting these inherent judgements. The pleaser part of me gets shut the fuck up.
*I want to make it clear that I do not and cannot say I understand all the struggles of not conforming to what others (and the greater society) think you should look like or be. I do, however, understand a select amount.