When I was eighteen months old, I got up and walked. Or so my mum tells me. I never crawled, but once I had decided that I was tired of being stuck in the same spot, laid on my little baby belly, I just got up and walked on two legs. Twenty years later, this seems to be a useful analogy for my attitude to life in general. I know what I want and, provided I have the time and the energy, I go out and get it. I have never let the expectations of other people dictate the way my life actually unfolds.

“I refuse to dilute myself in order to make myself easier to digest”

College life, I’m sure you will have noticed, involves a lot of people politics. Person A is friends with Person B who is dating Person C, but Person C doesn’t like Person D, who lives with Person A, so Person A can’t be invited to the event that is happening on that particular evening. Confused? Me too. Everyone is. But I seem to be the only one who doesn’t bend over backwards to try and make things easier for other people on this level, when, to be honest, we all have bigger and better things to worry about.

I’m not going to cancel my birthday dinner or my Halloween party because somebody I hardly know and don’t like very much has kicked up a fuss at not being invited. In return, in this world of two halves, where every action is balanced by an equal and opposite reaction, I would not expect to be invited to the party of somebody who doesn’t like me. Would I be a little hurt if all my friends were invited and not me? Perhaps. But is it worth making a big deal of? No. And is it worth not having an event at all at the risk of offending someone because of a small guest list? Absolutely not.

It would be almost impossible to accuse me of being a people pleaser. I don’t try and upset people on purpose, of course not, but I am homo economicus in its purest form: self interested and rational. Just like a man, brought up to be confident and commanding rather than amenable and accommodating, I will determine what is best for me, and then I will do what it takes in order to get there.

“If being a bitch means being confident, being a go-getter, a leader, a badass – then I am one. I’m a bitch”

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that I would never do anything for anyone else, like donate to charity or pick a friend up from the airport. I’m all for random acts of kindness too, the kind of acts that require effort and energy for little gain. Last Valentine’s Day, I bought a whole carrier bag full of heart shaped lollipops to leave in strangers’ pigeonholes, in the hope that somebody without a Valentine might feel a little better about themselves.

What I mean is that I refuse to dilute myself in order to make myself easier to digest. I know how to say no. There are always going to be people that don’t like me, or are offended by my opinions or my approach to life. The solution to this is not to become less myself. The solution is to surround myself with people who won’t expect that from me.

People pleasing frustrates me, because it’s mostly women who are tripping themselves up to engage in it. By people pleasing, I mean acting out of the fear of inconveniencing people, dreading negative reactions, and struggling to be assertive. If we don’t people-please, we are cold and unkind. We are bitches. Men are not called bitches. A confident and self-assured man is just a confident and self-assured man.


Mountain View

Why I couldn’t stomach being a woman in STEM: a mathematician’s apology

There is, of course, a fine line between being nasty, being mean and cruel and heartless, and being a bitch. I am not trying to be the kind of woman who tramples on other people and their feelings to do what needs to be done. I am not the angry bitch who shouts. I am not the manipulative bitch who treats her friends like puppets. I am not the stone-cold bitch who presses forward through life without feeling or emotion. If anything, I press through life with too much feeling and emotion. However, if being a bitch means being confident, if it means being a go-getter, a leader, a badass — whatever the opposite of a people-pleaser is — then I am one. I’m a bitch.

I have accepted that you can never please everybody. I have become the person with the strength to say no to things I don’t have the capacity for, the person who will take the lead to organise chaos, and the person who will speak up when I am offended, standing my ground rather than staying quiet. Professor Philip Corr usefully notes that ’the word ‘like’ is rather weak. There are stronger words, such as ‘admire’, ‘aspire to’, ‘inspire’ and so on.’ He’s right. I’d rather be admired for my strength than liked for my weakness.