My Story: Putting Myself First

By Saniya Ghanoui —

JV mentions how women are expected to display their maternal side when anyone is hurting or struggling, however, this causes women to forget about their own mental health. 


OBOS Today: You mentioned that you feel that women have this pressure to, you know, be the best version of themselves and kind of be available to everyone else—let me know if I’m kind of misinterpreting.  

JV: No, you’re right. 

OBOS Today: So, what do you think—how do you—how did you feel that responsibility and could you kind of elaborate on why you felt the need to take on other people’s emotional burden for so long, like, you know? 

JV: I think freshman year was all like you don’t want to disappoint anyone, you’re trying to give your best face, just in general as a person like you want to try to be friends with everybody, you want to–not even seem like—you are a nice person so you want to come off as a not person like a nice person would be there for their friends 24/7, a nice person would be doing this. But also, on top of that, being a woman, a woman shouldn’t—has their stereotypical maternal instinct so if you automatically say like no, I don’t want to deal with this right now it’s like you don’t? Like you should be good at emotional stuff, like you should be there for a person like as a maternal figure, like that should be an innate thing and people I think take that to granted—take that for granted and they’re like okay, we’ll just use you 24/7 then because you under—especially like guys, I have guy friends also like—who were like struggling mentally so they did like rely on me a lot. They’re like oh you’re always such a good listener, like blah blah blah, like they always rely on their girlfriends—like their friends who are girls because they listen better ‘cause guys—sometimes they don’t have the patience to listen and it’s like oh, it’s not that big of a deal dude. You’re fine. They’ll brush it off. They’ll tell me like I told my guy friends, and they didn’t care and I’m like oh.  

OBOS Today: [laughs] 

JV: But I think it’s definitely that stereotype too of everyone is like oh, you can rely on your girlfriends like you kinda’ want to keep that up too. You don’t want to be the disappointment. You don’t want to seem like the b word. 

OBOS Today: Yeah. 

JV: Not sure if I should swear on here. 

OBOS Today: Yeah. I thi—um how did you kind of—how did you navigate through that process of trying to fig—trying to, I guess, accept that you don’t have to be available to everyone and that you can say no without being the bad person ‘cause I know just speaking from my experiences or my you know, understanding what you’re talking about—the pressure that woman face—feel that you can feel that what you’re doing is maybe morally wrong or just, you know, that’s not what you’re supposed to because it’s wrong. How did you go from feeling that responsibility and feeling that you would be the bad friend or the disappointment if you weren’t there for them to accepting that you need your space and your boundaries?

JV: Right. Honestly, I think at least like—so freshman year, you’re already like a mess, like you’re going through so many new experiences, you have no idea how to navigate anything, it’s your first time experiencing so many different things. Honestly, like at first, I was very confused and hurt because obviously they’re going to retaliate too ‘cause it’s like how dare you? Or like when you finally cut them off, it’s like you have that feeling of guilt but I think now, like more in my future relationships, I can bring it out in more of a healthy way. I can bring it—not just bring it up like hey, I need space like no, you bring it up in a nice, calm manner so they understand too. I think freshman year, the way I brought it up, the way I cut them off, it was very like—it was very messy, I pretty much just stopped texting them, l pretty much—like no explanation, nothing, which worked for me—I needed that—but it could have been done in a better way, would they have listened if I had done it in a better way? Probably not but at least if—if you do end of cutting someone off in a bad way, feeling guilt is okay. Like you’re going to feel guilt—it’ s—that’s just human, it’s okay but that doesn’t mean that what you did was wrong either. Like you can feel guilt, but you should also know like you did this for yourself. That’s what matters first and foremost—like first and foremost.

But I think now like that I’m older, I just handle those situations differently so it doesn’t get to that point of kind of like negativity, it’s more like of a positive thing of hey, I just need space, like it’s not anything bad on you, it’s on me. I need it for my own mental health. And at least because the conversation has gotten like so like more open now, I feel like people take it easy too— they’re like oh, it’s for your mental health? I understand that. Like I had a roommate situation earlier this year; as soon as I said I need to go home for my mental health, they were all accepting. They were like oh, for your mental health? I totally get it. Like was it because of them as well? Yes, a bit but really it was for my mental health and they all understood immediately so I feel like that could have been a bad—like it was a pretty bad situation, my roommate situation but if I did just like end it angrily which I—I had a lot of anger in me, it would have ended just as bad as it did freshman year but I feel like as we grow up, we handle all of our situations a little better.