It’s a rhetorical question, although I’d love your thoughts.

I was told I was wishy-washy by my eighteen-year-old son as I was trying to explain why somebody might appear selfish but not really be that way.

Ok, it does sound a little wishy-washy when I put it like that.

(Wait – am I being wishy-washy NOW, doubting my own views? Oh, the hazards of being an overthinker).

Why wishy-washy?

Those words have been echoing around in my head for the last few weeks. For an overthinker, even a casual negative comment can morph into an established fact.

I’ve been trying to stick to my counter-argument, which is that I’m staying true to my core values of kindness and respect

But this past week a couple of things made me question whether I’ve been using my values as an excuse for not taking a stand.

For being afraid to be wrong. Afraid to upset people in case they won’t like me. Afraid to get anyone offside in case it brings destruction raining on my head.

It turns out that I may be guilty as charged: I may be wishy-washy.

Exhibit One

I can’t help wanting to know the facts. It’s in my training as a journalist and my DNA as a person – what is the evidence, distinct from the emotion?

When this post showed up in my Facebook newsfeed, I saw the gap between inference (drink driving) and fact (‘charged with traffic offences’).

Police facebook post

So this response on a community Facebook page riled me.

‘They crashed the car, drink driving on P-plates… then set it alight?’

No evidence  – just inference. Sadly not unusual on Facebook.

It grates on me as a journalist and it upsets me as the mother of young drivers: I can see how easily mistakes are made at that stage. Judgemental comments add to the stress.

So I posted a reminder to stick to the facts.

And then regretted it.

After posting, I worried that it wasn’t kind or respectful to call out the commenter. What if she was upset by my response? What if she didn’t like me because of it? What if other people thought I was wrong and didn’t like me either?

So I messaged her and offered to remove my comment. I was relieved when she brushed off the whole thing. I could stop panicking. It was dealt with.

Until this.

Exhibit Two

On the eve of International Women’s Day, another photo raised my hackles.

Girls Awards

GIRLS? my mind spluttered (turns out the mind can splutter).

Who the hell has an awards ceremony (and it turns out a business group) for GIRLS in Business? 

Well, this group does – and its thirteen thousand members are apparently all happy to call themselves ‘girls’.

It sits uncomfortably with me because words matter. To rephrase the old saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can break my heart. And they can be used to put down strong, smart, ambitious women by referring to them as ‘girls.’

I didn’t like it and I headed to Twitter to call it out.

But then, my wishy-washy kicked in.

Was the term ‘Girls’ somehow acceptable now? Would most people – everyone but me – think it was ok?

So instead of having a strong opinion, I posted this. A bob each way.


Girls in Business Twitter

Over the next few hours, I found that quite a few people agreed with my opinion. I didn’t hear from anyone who disagreed, but I am sure there are plenty – you might be one.

And with the benefit of hindsight, I realise that’s ok.

I realise that I value the importance of dissenting opinions. It’s the mark of a healthy society. I get that at a macro level.

But at a personal level, I had been struggling with it, and that is far from healthy.

The Verdict

I am guilty of being wishy-washy.

I have been using my values as an excuse to avoid being rejected.

I didn’t know I was doing it, but they say ignorance is no excuse.

What I do know is that in measuring my behaviour against my values, I was neglecting to take a stand for those values when I saw them disregarded by others.

It’s not that I didn’t notice unkind or disrespectful behaviour. I did and my first instincts, good instincts, were to oppose it.

But what came after that was a deception – I convinced myself that I shouldn’t have spoken out because it could be seen as unkind or disrespectful. Notice the subtle difference there? Not because it was unkind or disrespectful but because it could be seen that way.

The opinions of others actually mattered more than the values I thought I was honouring.

I was afraid of being rejected.

So now I know.

It’s not going to make it easy to combat my fear of rejection, to make it easy to call out what I see as actions counter to the values I hold.

But at least now, I’m aware of what’s standing in my way.

Now I know it’s part of my makeup, I can look it in the eye and tell it to back off when I decided that my opinion is worth taking a stand for. Worth pushing back against my inner wishy-washy.

There is just one thing I’m not sure about…

Is it reasonable to include the proviso that I’m expressing my opinion? To say, ‘I think this is wrong’  and ‘I believe this’?

Or is that still being wishy-washy?