I have always prided myself in my ability to stand up for other people. Jokingly brushed off as my bold New Jersey personality or my over-zealous Italian genetics, I have long since established my forthcomingness as a part of my personality.


Recently I attended the season opener Giants vs. Cowboys game, where I witnessed a Giants fan being ridiculed. Though Cowboys fans rarely stray further than friendly banter, this particular scene left a sour note in my mouth. Naturally, I felt the need to insert myself into the situation and stick up for the lone man.


Like many others in this outspoken day and age—where virtual living renders us transparent and hyper-connected—I try to use my platforms and interactions to preach for justice, defend the marginalized and argue for human rights and equality. But here is the tricky part—why do I not seek the same respect and decency for myself?


For someone who embraces confrontation and finds no qualms with speaking her mind, I’ve always characterized myself on the aggressive side of the spectrum. I was therefore surprised to find that some people close to me instead characterized me as passive. It wasn’t until I took a moment to consider their words that I realized they were correct. While I seethe in my boots when I think someone else is being mistreated, I rarely lift a finger when similar malaise is tossed my way. I am, I have realized, startlingly passive when it comes to the way I allow people to treat me.


In a recent encounter, I noted to a friend that I was frustrated with the way a girl spoke to me. She casually hurled insults at me under the guise of facetious joking and asked me to complete petty favors for her. My friend—someone who will thankfully tell you the bitter truth—told me I was the only person the girl appeared to treat in such a manner. And then she gave me a very important wake up: we give people permission to treat us a certain way when we don’t stand up for ourselves.


If we are being treated in a disrespectful manner, sometimes it is because we have silently signaled that we allow this type of treatment. By refusing to voice my concerns to the girl in question, I was in fact tacitly signifying that it could continue. And you know what? That shouldn’t be okay. This doesn’t mean erupting into anger. I am instead pushing for calm but firm discussions and perhaps the end to some social interactions.


I think it is important for us to pause and take a moment to consider how do we let people treat us? Perhaps you are satisfied with your relationships with others and have already discovered how to maneuver allowing other people to hinder your happiness. But maybe—just maybe—it’s time to realize your worth and make sure you’re being treated with all the love and respect you deserve.


So next time you find yourself being mistreated, please don’t allow it to persist. Negativity has a way of worming itself under your skin and blossoming into bruises that are hard to erase. Address the issues that are weighing down on your life—and while you’re busy standing up for your beliefs, don’t forget to make yourself one of them.


Emma Polini is the managing editor of the Van Alstyne Leader, Anna-Melissa Tribune and Prosper Press. Email her at epolini@heralddemocrat.com.