What I have to remind myself (and my sister coworkers) weekly, if not daily.
You deserve to be here.
Even if you feel like your gender or ethnicity or even your looks got you in the door. You are here, make the damned most of that. And if anyone doubts your work, do better, and better, until they eat their insecure words. Do it for you. Be more, for you.
You deserve to be heard.
Even if interrupted, you deserve to bring the attention back to your point. You don’t have to apologize for continuing what you were already saying. You don’t have to feel bad for requiring attention and open ear holes when you speak.
You deserve to be seen as equal.
Even if your opinions are laughed at or minimized, deemed critical or superfluous. You don’t need to defend yourself with, “I just think…” or “Sorry, but maybe…” You deserve to be received with the same amount of openness as everyone else.
You deserve to be respected.
Even if you might have to work for it a little more than others, because we exist in a time where respect is prescribed by status and human features, rather than by being a human being. You deserve to not be at the butt of jokes or passive uncomfortable comments; you deserve to not be expected to laugh. And be cool, be “one of the guys,” at the cost of compromising your own opinions and self-respect.
You deserve to be complicated.
Even if being simple is easier and more digestible for people, you’re allowed to own your life experiences and opinions. You’re allowed to think things and discuss them, and though you may be called aggressive, opinionated, sensitive, dramatic, and oh the beloved choice word for many, bitchy, you’re allowed to be more than a prescribed set of pleasant female traits.
You deserve to be celebrated.
Even if you absolutely love to thank and celebrate others, you deserve to also be celebrated for the work you do and the ways you contribute. You don’t have to pour yourself dry, with no replenishment in return.
You deserve a response.
Even if you want to excuse the ways human communication fails in this speedy, isolated digital society, you deserve a response. You know that you naturally feel that everyone deserves a reaction and response, because you know that humans should feel seen and known. You know that you do this emotional labor and peace-keeping, because when you are so often not given a response, you feel ignored, unappreciated, invisible, inhuman.
You deserve to be strong, instead of defined by your weaknesses.
Even if you aren’t not a world-class whatever or expert in X, Y, Z, great, neither are they. Nobody is great at everything, and everyone fails, and fails often. You don’t have to lead first with what you lack, but shine in what you do well, and own it. You may feel like an imposter, but we’re all just kids in shoes ten sizes too big, just trying not to trip.
You deserve to be rewarded.
Even if you have great bosses and coworkers, and even if they’re awful and soul-sucking, you deserve to be recognized and rewarded when you do amazing things. Yes, you must also get the dirty and mundane work done, and yes, you will probably have to work harder, put more hours in, be more responsive and be “happier” than others to get a slice of the cake (but times are changing, slowly, but definitely changing). You deserve the raise and promotion, even if you are short and are less broad-shouldered, even if you don’t speak as loudly and compliment yourself easily, even if you don’t throw people under the bus and sneer at the ways others fail. You don’t have to compromise your integrity and humanity for reward.
You deserve to be able to be tired.
Even if you’re expected to be “on” at all times, and being tired is perceived as weakness due to menstrual cycles, crazy feminine hormone brains, life dramas, and generally being a woman. You deserve to be a human and be tired. Because life happens, and sometimes everything happens at once, and you have to remind yourself that you deserve to be treated like a human everyday, and stick up for that, and it can be flipping exhausting. You deserve to be tired, and you deserve for people to just accept it, instead of telling you to go do yoga or drink some tea. Because they don’t know everything that is going on, and you don’t owe them an explanation.
You deserve to feel safe.
Even if they laugh off violent jokes or says things are the way they are so everything’s okay, you deserve to feel safe, because you’re a human and people should have the basic decency to treat you as such. You are no one’s art piece to stare at, plaything to poke at, thoughtless blob to be yelled at. Even if you’re young and single, it doesn’t mean that you’re hungry for romance and a sexual object to every person. You’ve purposely dressed down or have physically made yourself small to not draw attention, but you shouldn’t be responsible for the irresponsibility of others. You deserve to feel safe.
You deserve this, you do.
Even if you pass off every uncomfortable moment and tell yourself to stop being so sensitive or dramatic, you need to look at yourself and own what is okay and what is not. No if’s, and’s, or but’s.
You deserve to be surrounded by humans who see that you are indeed a human, (and yes, that can take time, because the state of the world), but you deserve it. And so do they.