A few weeks ago, my mom invited me to attend the Women’s Leadership Upstate Conference in Greenwood, SC (aka my hometown). Eager to spend a weekend with my parents, and excited at the prospect of professional development, I readily agreed.
Yes, it meant leaving Suwanee at 6:15am on a Friday morning to fight rush hour traffic for three hours. And yes, I still missed the Opening Keynote Speaker and showed up late to my first session. It was still worth it.
While I learned a lot at the Women’s Leadership Upstate Conference, one message really stood out to me.
My second session of the day was with Cornelia Shipley, president and founder of 3C Consulting. Her entire talk was great, but she said one thing that really resonated with me.
“That is not a priority for me.”
She even had us practice saying it out loud, together.
“That is not a priority for me.”
Everyone needs to learn how to say this. It is stronger than saying, “No.” It’s an ironclad explanation for your, “No” (even though you should never feel obligated to give an explanation).
— Brita Long (@belle_brita) March 13, 2015
This is especially important for women to learn, because we are socialized to be nice. From Psychology Today:
Most women have a difficult time saying no, especially if they think someone’s feelings may be at stake or if they think they’ll not be liked. Despite what most women think, this is not some immutable gene or biological defect.
Rather, its actually a socially learned coping mechanism that can, with a little time and attention, be unlearned.
As young children, girls are socialized to be nice and to be more in touch with their own and other people’s feelings than are boys. There’s nothing wrong with being nice. And there is definitely nothing wrong with being liked. Boys on the other hand are socialized to be less attuned to people’s feelings, and to win.
An excerpt from Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It:
As women, we’re bombarded throughout our lives with messages that try to convince us that being “nice” is more important than getting the things we want. Even if no one has ever said this to you explicitly, we’re guessing you’ve most likely absorbed the message that putting your needs first will land you on the “bitch list.”
Learning to say, “No” is an ongoing process for me, and using the phrase, “That is not a priority for me,” or a variation of it, has already made a difference in both my professional and personal life.
Possibly more than that, it has made a difference in how I interact online, here on my blog and elsewhere.
Building a successful career as a freelance writer/copywriter is not easy. I’m at the very beginning stages of it.
Bloggers juggle so much more than just writing out 500-word posts and throwing together a pinnable graphic. Every week, I do the following for my blog:
- Write 2-4 blog posts
- Edit photos, create graphics, format the blog post, insert links, schedule the posting date, write a meta description, etc.
- Use social media for blog promotion and engagement
- Post all blog links to social media
- Find interesting links to share to Facebook and to Twitter
- Tweet regularly about non-blog stuff, to keep my TL interesting and diverse
- Post to Instagram 5+ times a week
- Like and comment on 5+ Instagram posts a day
- Pin or repin 10+ images/links a week that are NOT from my blog, to keep my Pinterest boards interesting and diverse
- Join blog link-ups
- Respond to comments on my blog and on Facebook
- Reply to blog emails
- Read 50+ other blog posts (often 100+)
- Comment on 25+ other blog posts (often 50+)
- Update my editorial calendar
Everything listed above is a blogging priority for me. I do these things to engage with and thus maintain my current readers, to grow my blog readership, and to promote myself as a writer.
But not every blog thing can be a priority for me. I’m not on Pinterest daily. I take a few days to respond to blog comments. I join blog link-ups selectively, and I don’t always follow the rules of commenting on at least 3 other blogs or linking back to the link-up.
I work full-time, I just moved to Georgia and into our townhouse, my Crohn’s demands a lot of my attention, and I need to read regularly for my fairy tale review column. I can only prioritize so much in a week.
I have identified something else that is just not a priority for me.
Engaging with people who are not commenting in good faith.
For the record, I highly recommend reading my Comment Policy. I apparently needed to update it to point out that it’s inappropriate to insult my husband or my marriage. I thought the words “Be respectful to me and to other readers” covered that territory, but apparently not.
Furthermore, reading comments by people who are rude, sarcastic, condescending, or otherwise disrespectful is not a priority for me.
This means I have blocked three Disqus accounts and their IP addresses in the last six weeks. I’ve also lost count of how many Twitter trolls I’ve blocked since starting my account way back in 2009.
For the record, I approved every comment and did not block a single user in regards to my last name satire. Quite a few people disagreed with me, but their comments were not intentionally disrespectful. (Although there was some hilarious mansplaining going on).
Women are socialized to be nice, and this carries over to the Internet. Furthermore, we are expected to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even when that means ignoring our own experiences and our own intuition.
Just because I only started Belle Brita in July 2014 does not mean I’ve never expressed an opinion on the Internet before.
I’ve been writing online and sharing my thoughts with an audience online since 2011, when I moved back from France.
I can tell within two comments at most, but usually with just an initial comment, when someone is engaging with me sincerely or not. I can tell when you earnestly disagree with me, but you still respect me as a person and thus wish to have a lively discussion. I can tell when you have zero interest in actually listening to my thoughts and just want to use my comment section and my audience as your own little soapbox.
I have more important things to do than write out polite, well-cited, thoughtful replies to people who are rude and dismissive. That is not a priority for me.
And for my mental and emotional health, I will choose to block Disqus accounts and Twitter users who are uninterested in true discussion. Taking the time just to read their disrespectful words is not a priority for me.
Only I get to decide how to live my life.
Only I get to decide how to run my blog.
Not everyone will agree with my choices, but they’re my choices to make.
Choosing my own path, both online and off?
That is a priority for me.