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And pissed people off in the process.

It’s always been easy for me to stand up for other people. I’ll rage at the awful behaviour that my friends are subjected to, like a lawyer demanding justice for a wronged client. They often wave it off with a dismissive hand, assuring me it’s fine, but I couldn’t understand why they never felt the same anger and injustice I felt for them, when they were evidently wronged by a rude co-worker or a selfish friend.

Over the years, I realized that this burning desire to stand up for them stemmed from something a little deeper. Those exact people that I flipped my middle fingers at, typically reflected the situations I often found myself in — the frustration I often felt towards my mother when she overstepped boundaries, or the times I chose to be vulnerable only to be harshly judged by the same person repeatedly.

I was alone for all those situations. No one stood up for me.

I realized rather recently, that the only person who will always stand up for me is myself.


After I recovered from a difficult break-up, I slowly shed the layers of the person I was when we were together.

The crushing pain and betrayal I felt towards Him somehow motivated me to become a better person. As the heartbreak fog lifted, I became angry for putting my trust in the wrong person. I couldn’t change the past, so I decided to change my mindset instead.

All the negative emotions I felt towards Him eventually helped me develop a stronger sense of self.

I started to stand up for myself against all the people I chose to acquiesce to, simply because I was too afraid to express my needs. I started to become the person that I always wanted to be.

But it didn’t go over so well with some people in my life.

When you grow as a person, your relationships change. Their inability to understand quickly shifts into defensive mode. They view your need for growth as a perceived threat.

I experienced awkwardness, silence, or judgement the minute I started expressing my needs towards other people. Sometimes, it was laughable to them. But most of the time, I was made to feel guilty. So I decided to call them out on their bullshit and asserted my needs.

I had enough.

The betrayal that I felt by Him resonated deeply with me. I vowed to never let anyone take advantage of me like that again. I began to feel the fault line of my anger. Little cracks started to erupt through curt responses. Tiny little bursts of anger would last for days in the form of resentment.

I started noticing the people around me who were toxic, people who constantly made me feel shitty about myself. People who looked at me like I was a walking enigma, the moment I fought back and chose myself for the first time.

So I stopped completely.

I stopped doing things for other people, simply because it was “the right thing to do.”

I stopped agreeing to things that compromised my happiness, because I was once called selfish for doing so.

I started putting up boundaries and stuck to them.

It was a difficult habit to get used to. I began creating distance between a lot of people in my life, questioning my relationship with them — if it ever even existed. It was incredibly isolating and lonesome.

But I owed it to myself to figure out exactly what I needed right now.


Growing and instilling a healthy state of mind requires reflection and accepting behaviours that require the most work. It’s unlearning unhealthy beliefs and habits.

I’ve learned that everyone is at a different journey in their life. Some people just aren’t ready to change, while some people refuse to change. It’s fear that tends to hold people back.

I came across a quote recently from Nedra Glover Tawaab. Doing the work is not easy, she affirms. It’s a worthy, but challenging undertaking:

… You will piss some people off by intentionally evolving. You will reconsider your role in unhealthy relationships, sometimes with people whom you love dearly. Be sure that you are ready to commit to, recommit to, and nurture yourself by doing the work.

When you exercise boundaries, you develop a healthy foundation for yourself. You set a standard for other people to follow and respect. It’s not an easy process but it’s essential to leading a healthier and happier life.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve continued to say no.

I’m learning to do things on my own terms and I’m making a conscious effort to choose myself.

I still battle this nagging feeling of guilt.

But I constantly remind myself that I’m not selfish for choosing to do things that make me happy.

After all, self-advocating goes a long way.