Why Take a Stand

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It is easier said than done to “stand up for yourself” or “be yourself”, especially when it is not 100% clear what constitutes standing up for oneself, or even who “yourself” exactly is. I think I am constantly redefining who I am and searching for deeper meaning and purpose in everything I do, so often I wish these concepts were more straightforward to better deal with myself in times of doubt.

I grew up in Stilling, a small town in Denmark, with many people who were judgmental and unaccepting of the inhomogeneous. The children, especially, were very nasty in the way they treated anyone who “stuck out”. Bullying was something most children only hoped to excel in, so they could be the bully and not the bullied. It only occurred to me the other day that the town’s name “Stilling” is the key operating word in the term “tage stilling” which literally means to “take a stand”. So if I sprinkle some hindsight reasoning on this little revelation, I suddenly see the major life lesson I had to learn in those years growing up there.

I still cringe at the memories of being the outcast because I was Chinese or “yellow”, since “Asians pee against the wind”, and how ugly, weird, and disgusting the others thought I was for being different. Though the Stilling years were suboptimal, they were very effective at molding my inner compass.

Today, I have certainly become fiercely assertive but at the same time more soft-hearted than ever. And despite the fact that I was never really successful at “standing up for myself” in the Hollywood movie kind of way (where you say something cool in a sticky situation, and then suddenly people start respecting you), I learned to trust that my inner compass had to be right sometimes (just pure probability should justify that). When things were bad, I persevered by taking as much of a stand for myself as possible given the circumstances and then rely on the fact that “this too shall pass”. I spent much of my time dreaming up vivid images of places and people I wanted to experience, and how it was really just up to me to go find them. These images lured me on a plane to Los Angeles on my 18th birthday with two suitcases and an acceptance letter to acting school.

I loved how I was able to reinvent myself, and in the years that followed, I became increasingly comfortable with making big decisions and trying out new things, because I realized there are only upsides to taking risks in life that involve gaining experience, and not always being accepted or understood can really build some backbone.

Now and then, I still meet bitter, judgmental, and angry people, who take their frustrations out on others, almost as if the space within them is so narrow that they have no other choice. I have come to think of them as people trapped in their limited capacity, who were not able to create their own vivid images or take the necessary risks to realize them.

Far more often, I meet extremely kind and compassionate people, who are always such an inspiration, because they are able to find the capacity in themselves to care about others, especially when they really don’t have to. I once met a very extravagantly gay (and oh so fabulous) restaurant owner, who said (while sitting on my boyfriend’s lap having embosomed him a few moments earlier) that “kindness is the most beautiful thing in the world”. That sentence really stuck with me.

Of course, even the best people can feel afraid and forget to stand up for the strong, capable, and amazing people they are and all the good that they are for others, but I think the ones who get through it in ways that really set examples are the ones who dare to create those vivid images, especially in difficult times, and who are brave enough to take a stand for the person they want to be and make decisions that get them closer to realizing their vision.

So now, when I have my bad days, I try to be less concerned with how to answer the questions that arise from doubt and fear and instead try to figure out how I can find capacity to be better and kinder (to myself and others) and celebrate all the great decisions I have already made in my life to then consider; what if I were exactly where I have always wanted to be?