Learn to stand up for yourself and take up space!

A few years ago, a friend of mine got married – if you have ever been to a Ghanaian wedding, you will notice that the female friends of the bride come together to play a part in the wedding. When my friend got married, I played an active part in the wedding together with other friends of hers. However, after the wedding, there were a series of incidents that made me decide to not take part in any one’s wedding without evaluating my relationship with the person first. After a year of hearing some unsavoury comments made by the bride, I finally got a chance to ask her why she had made certain comments that made me look like a bad person much to the horror of our friends. But I wanted to ask and set the record straight – my name was being dragged in the mud for something I had not done and I needed to tell my story. I had always been of the notion that I did not always have to tell my side of the story, but this time, I needed to take space and make my voice heard.

I found that in a certain social setting I belonged to, gossip was rife and no one was questioning the few people in our midst who were constantly starting gossip. These gossips would call people in leadership in this social setting and tell them something a member of the group may or may not have said – mostly to the detriment of this other person. The hearers of these malicious narratives would take it to the bank without giving the people who had been accused a chance to explain or refute what they were being accused of. These people who spread these stories were never held accountable for their behaviour and many people had been hurt in the process including myself. Me being me, I decide to end this vicious cycle and confront one of such people because, what she had been accusing me of had made it’s way to me and I found myself unable to refute what I was being accused of. Because by the time I got to hear what I was being accused of, many people had heard and believed what this woman was saying and no one was ready to hear me out.

In February last year, I was going through some family issues that had affected me immensely – while I dealt with this issue, I had a call from someone I respected very much from this social group I used to be part of. She  would tell me on this call that the friend, at whose wedding I had played a part in, had called her to tell her that since she got married, my behaviour towards her had changed. That the consensus from several sources was this friend sounded very distraught by how I was treating her – in short I felt like a bitch and I needed to stop! I was very confused but not surprised – one thing I had found in our community is that every single woman is always jealous when their friends marry. As I wrote in a previous post, single women are not jealous of their married friends – single people have our own issues we are trying to navigate in life. So here I was navigating my own issues and facing the accusations of this married woman and some how I felt her word held more weight than mine. As I tried to understand where this was coming from, there were a few incidents I could recall that had happened between said friend and I, but I was not sure how these translated to me being envious!

I requested for another person I respected in this group to hold a meeting with this lady and the people she was accusing, my self included, so we could all address the issue in the same room with everyone being given a chance to tell their story. However, before this issue could be addressed, covid happened and the meeting was cancelled – so for a year I was confused and as I heard more stories this friend was telling people, my confusion morphed into anger and I erupted when I met her for the first time in over a year! I did not mean to but I did and to be honest, I am not sorry I confronted the people that started this gossip! You see, when I met this lady, she behaved like nothing had happened and all was well between us – unfortunately, I do not do very well at pretence. So I asked why she was telling people that I was acting strange towards her after she married. She calmly proceeded to tell me that a mutual friend had told her that I was talking bad about her behind her back to this other friend – as I tried to refute this statement, this friend would not stop to allow me to speak – so I spoke at and over her because I was furious!

I then called the other lady to ask if she had told my friend what she was accusing me of and she denied ever saying anything like that. It was then that I realised what people had been saying about their own stories – about how they had been accused and simply chose to walk away without shutting these gossips down, was true. As far as I was aware, I had to stand up for myself and the truth. I matter and I was not about to shrink to make other people feel they were more relevant than I am.

I then asked the question why people chose to not speak up but allow others to make them feel less than – and I realised it was the fear of being seen as difficult and therefore not belonging. But then why belong to a group with such toxic traits – where no one seeks the truth but judge people based on a one sided story? I have had people from this social group approach me about things said about them that may or may not have been true or conversations had in private that people had taken out to be used against them later. They had not had confidence to confront the people who had done these things because these bad eggs had the ears of the leadership and some were very manipulative. For a year, I had maintained that I would not do the same thing by telling my story to a third party but rather ask the person from whom these stories were coming from.

A very dear friend always tells me that there are three sides to every story – your version, their version and the truth. In all our dealings, we should seek out the truth – no one likes to be accused of something they have not done or said. If we ever find our selves in a setting where there are people who go around misquoting people or always seem to be present when something is being discussed, I believe we should call them out to ensure that they don’t breed distrust between people. I got a chance to question these people and get my truth out – I spoke up and took up space and you should do the same. At the end of the day, no one knows you like you know yourself – trust yourself to do what is right for you and don’t shrink in the shadow of people who try to paint you different to who you truly are.

Thank you for always getting in touch and telling your story – I would still love to hear from you so we can effect the change we need by sharing our experiences.

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