I asked for my usual, a 99 (with a flake of course). It was a thing of beauty, and I walked back to our house feeling so proud of myself for ordering it.
When I arrived back to Mum and handed her the change, she said to me, ‘This isn’t right, he should have given you 70p more. You need to go back and ask him for the right change.’
I vividly remember walking back to the ice cream van, not having a clue what I was going to say. I had to wait in line again and waiting only made me more nervous. Here we go, face-to-face with the ice cream man. I think I said something really blunt and straight to the point like ‘You’ve given me the wrong change.’ He went to the till and turned back to place 70p in my hand. I remember walking back feeling strong, like nobody could mess with me.
I love that, as a child, my Mum was teaching me about standing up for myself. It was awkward and nerve-wracking but she was teaching me that I should speak up when I’m not treated correctly.
A couple of years ago I was on a busy tube train, when all of a sudden the man next to me moved his hand down my thigh. It made me jump, but I thought he must have been moving his jacket and accidentally brushed his hand on my leg. And then he stroked my leg again.
I felt pretty frozen inside but managed to shuffle slightly away from him and that’s when he did it a third time. I felt sick and fearful, I got up and jumped off at the next stop with my heart thumping and feeling very fragile.
I wish I’d been bolder, I wish I’d spoken out like my eight-year-old self. I didn’t feel strong and like nobody could mess with me, I felt stunned to silence and almost paralysed. All I could do in that moment on the tube was run. That’s ok, sometimes we need to remove ourselves from a situation if we’re being treated incorrectly – it’s us still taking control, and putting a stop to it.
If someone doesn’t treat you right whether that’s a stranger, a friend, the ice cream man, a family member or a partner, put a stop to it. Either stand up and speak out or try to remove yourself from that damaging environment in which you find yourself. Don’t accept it. No person is above or below you, never let anyone convince you otherwise. You have immense value and worth and you deserve respect. I know that it can be nerve-wracking and even frightening standing up for ourselves, but we need to be brave.
Remember, sometimes it’s right to speak up, sometimes it’s right to leave and seek help. But it’s always right that you’re respected.
Photo by Ira Komornik