If you've ever been to my website, HerAfter, you know that I don't often write anything negative -- about anyone. I firmly believe that purposefully creating negativity in world already riddle with hate is downright dangerous. But it wasn't until recently that I understood the vital difference between creating negativity and standing your ground. Opinions can ruffle feathers, but still be of vital importance to our evolution as people. I'm passive, I love helping people (it's the basis of the work I do in writing), but the fact that I wasn't truly willing to take a stand was hurting my career.
I'd been advised as a blogger to write articles that are intentionally aggravating as a way to drive traffic. I've heard from other professional bloggers that having a catchy, somewhat controversial opinion can bring eyes to your work, but I'd never been interested -- at least not intentionally. Without a genuine, enlightening perspective on a topic, what would be the point of sharing your view at all? If not to widen the gaze of a reader once they leave your words, then why write? I've never wanted to be that kind of writer, or person.
Turns out, it can be genuine and still controversial. I was taken off guard when one of my recent articles accidentally did piss a lot of people off. The article was about why I don't appreciate being shamed for being nearly 30, unmarried and in a long-term relationship. My goal was to only give a voice to the many women willfully going through the same situation: deeply in love, extremely committed to their partner, getting to the age in which our culture puts the pressure on our pulse to marry. But... not being personally ready, and believing that because I'm not ready, the union wasn't ready. My choice isn't harming anyone. I didn't think my vocalizing the logic would either. After all, to each her own...Oh wait. Nevermind.
It started with the sweetest of intentions. With all the love, honesty and confidence I could muster, I wrote that though all the indicators of which other people live by do in fact point to marriage, I still had work to do on myself, and thus was simply not ready. I pleaded that though I'm happy and certainly plan to marry my partner, I have things I want to accomplish first. I argued that this was important because it would contribute to the kind of wife I would be, and the great love I feel for my partner was worthy of bringing him only the best partner I could be in marriage. These points, (and the use of the metaphor 'moral compass' which one reader argued "isn't a real thing". No metaphors are 'real', my friend, thank-you-very-much) pissed a lot of people off, mostly men. My intention had, with the sincerity of a naive child, been only to invoke empathy. Yes, I was naive.
I didn't think sharing my choices about my life would give other people the entitlement to say what I should or shouldn't do.
I'd wanted to express an opinion that would end the criticism and educate others as to why I and other smart, independent women might not rush to the alter. I just wanted us to understand each other.
I, in effect, did the opposite.
Instead my personal opinion infuriated readers, who called me 'selfish', 'unworthy', and wished such terrible things as that my partner would dump me, as if wanting to be the best version of myself for him was actually really offensive.
Now that it's happened, and my worst blogging fears have come true with a long list of hateful remarks to prove it, I'm not so scared. It didn't hurt like I'd imagined to know that there are people in the world that no only disagree with me, but do not even want me to be able to be honest or happy. The bandaid has been ripped off (heads up, that's another metaphor). Maybe that 'bandaid' was only covering an emotional wound from years ago when I falsely associated aggravating people as hurting them, with being liked as being worthy, important, or able. Now, as a woman, I can see that I don't need to worry about pissing people off if I feel strongly about my point, especially if my point help to give another person strength or the feeling that they aren't alone in their human experience.
Now I'm aware that I can't make everyone happy. And that's ok. The only person I need to worry about liking me is me. What a freeing prospect. I only wish it hadn't taken me so long to realize, and I applaud the brave women in pop culture working to educate younger generations of such a principle. Maybe when they get close to 30 and someone tells them they should get married for marriage's sake, they won't even feel the need to dignify it with a response.
So if a bunch of men want to be angry about the fact that I'm almost 30 and not married yet still have the incredible blessing of being in a nurturing, wonderful relationship in which my needs and wants matter...well, then that's fine by me. After all, anger is just a cover for other emotions, typically fear. Could it be that all those angry readers are just a little scared of a woman who doesn't need a man to validate her, and instead gives her partner a love that is much healthier: love founded on want and appreciation, rather than desperation and insecurity?? #SorryNotSorry if that pissed anyone off.
The bottom line is: it can be hard to differentiate how or when a perspective might cause more stir than change. That doesn't mean we should silence ourselves. Actually, quite the contrary. If we continue to allow fear to keep us from sharing ourselves and our truths with the world, we will always be trapped under the oppressive opinions of others, opinions that don't serve us but instead cage us. If you've got something to say, I hope with all my heart you remember that your opinion of your own life is the most important. And if you piss someone off, don't fear. Some people really need change, but won't be quick to it. Do not take on the fear and insecurities of other people as reflections of your own worth and performance.
Rachael Yahne is a writer, blogger and cancer survivor currently living in Los Angeles. After years as a fashion journalist, she now writes lifestyle articles about purpose, passion, style, well-being and thriving after surviving not just cancer, but all of life's big battles. You can read more of her work at HerAfter.com