I haven’t always been a pushover. Admittedly even now I’d prefer to describe myself as having a tendency to ‘turn the other cheek’ rather than call myself a true pushover. But that does little to diverge from the truth that I am, too often, a pushover. I often forgo speaking up or stating my opinion for fear of offending someone or making them feel bad. I fear what someone might think of me.
As a child I was bossy and stubborn and yet, somewhere along the way, the roughness of my personality grew into agreeableness and I was deemed mature. And being mature was a privilege so being agreeable became a habit. For most of high school I stayed away from politics, likely as a symptom of my pushover tendencies. Then I came to college. And decided to write for none other than the opinion section. It’s not that I don’t hold questionable opinions. I prefer Moes to Chipotle (quite a transgression some would say) and dark chocolate to milk chocolate. But writing for the opinion section meant more people would see my opinions. More people who could disagree. And so when the day came when someone did disagree I took it far too quickly to heart and wondered if I was wrong.
My conclusion. I was not wrong. Nor was I right.
I wrote the article based on what I knew at the time and my belief in science and goodness was reflected in the piece. I know more now. And I would certainly speak differently on the topic but I would not go back to change that article. It was written by someone who was finally brave enough to speak up. To know people would not agree, would think poorly of her and still write on.
Why is maturity so tied to agreeableness and tameness? As children we are often told to be quiet when we feel strongly about something. But is that truly what we should be teaching? It is true we should not allow our emotions to overrun us, but perhaps we should endeavor more strongly to teach children to understand their emotions, their roots and move from there. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology researchers found that people in the United States were less in tune to their emotions compared to people in countries such as India and Japan. Perhaps, as a whole we should endeavor to understand not only our emotions and those of other people, but also the context in which they are expressed. So much dissent and hate is brewed from a lack of fully understanding the context of people’s feelings and actions. That does make every action or feeling warranted but it is an idea that will foster more people who are empathetic and passionate.
As for women, notions of maturity and agreeableness often diminish the value of our skills and opinions. A stubborn man is seen as strong willed but a stubborn woman is seen as hard to work with. I will undoubtedly say that I have never seen an unemotional man so why do we expect women to be so agreeable and friendly? In the contrast between how the emotions of men and the emotions of women are treated we once again see disparity and see why someone, especially a woman, may become a pushover.
Being a pushover is not fun. And it is not only society who is at fault for teaching the ways of being a pushover. It is also my own responsibility to know what I feel or think is valid. That I may be wrong but that does not mean I have no right to speak on the subject, it simply means I have more to know, more to learn. And being opinionated does not make me bossy, or stubborn or emotional. It makes me human.