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How to Avoid Being in a Dictatorship

And you thought you lived in a democracy.

“Black and white shot of attractive blonde woman standing, looking at wall in sunglasses with window” by Alex Ronsdorf on Unsplash

Inspiration for writing comes from many places. Sometimes my daily events. My angst. My family. And sometimes, it comes from really thoughtful writers. Sometimes the article is so poignant to me that a simple comment is not sufficient.

Such was the case of Tomo Luetić’s microTALKS with Jeff Barton

I want to let people know they are not alone

An interview-style post with some very thoughtful questions and answers. When asked, “What do you hate about yourself?”

The…thing I hate is I’ve always been afraid of being myself. I’ve let others dictate how I live my life. Jeff Barton

Jeff Barton’s honesty really struck a chord in my heart. What do I hate about myself??

This is one question I always Avoid. No one wants to hear another complaint about the color of one’s eyes or jean size. Friends and coworkers would rather hear a positive statement like, “I love myself completely.”

In truth, I have come to Accept things about myself that were not my favorite growing up. I have my Mom’s face, but my Dad’s hair color. My eyes are green. I’ll never be a size 6.

My name is Johanna.

Try it. Look at the spelling. Pronounce that in your head. Think about how you would call me.

Ok! Got it?

Now forget it. It’s wrong. You pronounced it wrong. It’s ok. I’m not offended. No one. EVER. Gets my name right the first time.

Yeah. That is something I have had to accept about myself through the last 37 years. I could sigh and complain about it, fuss about pronunciation. Blame my mother for giving my name an unusual pronunciation. Laugh about (again) that it was massacred. Or I can simply answer to whatever you say.

To the people who really know me, who truly care about who I am…Those are the ones I will correct. I will patiently teach you again and again how to pronounce my name.

You see my name is important to me. To say my name in a right way means you have my full attention. My ears and my heart. I will listen to you. If you know my name, then you have a glimpse of who I really am.

Being stuck in a Dictatorship is easier than you think. All you have to do is go along with the crowd. The easy flow. Don’t have a loud or negative opinion about anything. Please people. Really please them.

If you please people all the time, you will become engulfed by this task. So much so that you will not recognize yourself anymore. When you start saying someone else’s preferences before yours, then congratulations. You now have a new citizenship. Or a jail.

Learn who you are.

As a mother of 2 little girls, a song from Moana is often played in my house, my van, and any other place my girls can belt it out. (The louder the better in their opinion)

Moana was told what she was supposed to do. The only daughter of a chief. She was going to take over her family tribe very soon. Well, until she went to open ocean. Rescued the heart of the mountain. Saved everyone from starvation, and led her family to a new adventure. In less than 2 hours, the viewer is presented with a heart-searching tale and in true Disney fashion, everything ends happily ever after.

I feel like first half of Moana all too often. Dictated to. Told to. Expected to. Going along with the flow because that is the easiest thing to do. Friends don’t get upset when you do this. Parents smile and pat you on the head. Bosses call you at the last minute knowing you probably won’t say no.

Learning who I am has been difficult for me. It’s easier to accept what people think about me.

Things like, “Oh, you have four children! You must love to babysit. Want to watch my kids too?” No. No, I really don’t. Having four children means I wanted to have four of my own. No more. Playing kids’ games and reading to them is not my favorite things to do. (Don’t hate me, but I have never read “Llama, Llama, Red Pajama” or any other crazy book like that to my kids.) I would rather go play at a park or challenge them a game of Mario on Wii U.

Practice Saying No

You may want to do this in front of a mirror a few times a day. Adding a polite “No, thank you” is also good. (Bonus points for manners, I am a Momma who encourages good manners by the way). Or if you really want to be impressive say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but my answer is no.”

And then stop talking.

Yes, just stop.

I’m pretty good at saying No. (Really! I am!!). But then I fall apart. I try to add more to it. Things like…I’m too busy. My family’s schedule is hectic right now. I helped with that last year. When explaining your “No” answer, it is easy to get trapped in hoping the person will agree with you and even feel sorry for your predicament of why they cannot help you.

Not everyone is fooled by this tactic and quickly respond with ways that you can help with. “An earlier time, perhaps?” they might say. Or, “This won’t take that much time.” Or, my least favorite, the guilt complex response. “If everyone says no, then nothing will get done.”


Not everything in life SHOULD get done. Some plans aren’t meant to work out. Demanding a positive response in life by guilting them into something is not the answer.

A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. Unknown

If you practice your “No” now, you will be able to say when you need it. Will it be easy? No.

Leaving the dictatorship of people is always hard. Freedom is hard too, but worth it.

Surround Yourself with Friends of Your Choice

Friendship as a child is not often a choice. You tend to make friends with people that your parents hang around. Play dates with fellow mommies, co-conspirators in Sunday School class, classmates in kindergarten. Friendships are thrust upon us.

As you switch from childhood to early adulthood, the dynamic changes. Suddenly, friends aren’t thrust upon us anymore. It is up to you to decide who is going to be your friend. Throw in a healthy dash of hormones and a popular vs. unpopular crowd and all of a sudden friendship choices aren’t easy more.

Choosing the right friend is so important. This is not a business decision to make your career better. This is a survival decision. Having bad friends or people who are continually wanting you to change for their tastes will hurt you.

The…thing I hate is I’ve always been afraid of being myself. Jeff Barton

When you are in the right place with the right friends. You don’t have to be afraid of being yourself. You can be you. Whether you are cracking jokes or baring your soul, it doesn’t matter. These people accept you for who you are.

Suddenly, the thing that was hated is now loved. Because you can relax and enjoy life to it’s fullest. And that feeling of freedom is awesome!!!


Johanna (p.s. pronounce it without the H — like JoANNa)

How to Avoid Being in a Dictatorship was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

This post first appeared on The Ascent, please read the originial post: here

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How to Avoid Being in a Dictatorship


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