If you’ve never felt the crippling anxiety of correcting a bartender who gave you the wrong drink, this post is not for you.
It should be simple, in theory, to order something, pay money for it, and expect that you will receive what you paid for. It should also be simple to wear a tank top because it’s hot outside, to tell someone who is spouting their opinion that you disagree with them, or to pick a restaurant for a date night.
Yet, if you’ve spent even ten seconds hovering between the bar and your seat, debating whether to bring the drink back or spend the evening pretending you like cotton candy vodka, you know that nothing is simple. Most women learn from a young age that decisions need to be drawn out processes that involve gnashing and grinding of teeth, especially if a decision is going to make us look a certain way to others. If we’re taking up space we need to compact ourselves. If we want something, we need to make sure we deserve it. If the 1920s movie villain wants to tie us to the train tracks, we should tie ourselves down rather than be seen as disagreeable.
Women perform mental (and sometimes physical) acrobatics to be certain that nothing we do draws attention, let alone judgment, from others, and yet we feel lonely and unfulfilled when no one bothers to look at us.
Let’s repeat that: no one bothers to look at us.
The great irony in the fact that we spend so much time concerned with the opinions of other people is that other people are equally as concerned with our opinion. No one notices your smallest actions unless those actions require a response, in which case they’re focused on how you’re perceiving their response. We are a world of people living inside our own heads, and rather than feeling hurt by this distance, we need to embrace the individual space it creates for us.
To be clear, people’s inward focus doesn’t mean that we can’t command each other’s attention when necessary or that we can’t speak or write or move to mesmerize others. What it does mean is that our everyday choices, the little things we spend way too much time fretting over, don’t matter to other people nearly as much as we think they do. And if a decision doesn’t matter to us, and doesn’t matter to other people, why are we worrying?
The moment women realize that the choices we make for ourselves are just that, choices we make for ourselves, we begin to experience the freedom and confidence of owning our space. If you trip and fall, if you’re overdressed or underdressed, if the bartender isn’t happy to have to make you another drink, c’est la vie.
In two minutes, a day, a week, fleeting awkwardness will matter less and less, but the satisfaction of making decisions that you know are right for you will grow your confidence, and the time you don’t spend worrying about what people think of you can be spent thinking about the ways you can love and help other people.