We use this word… a lot.
I know I sure used to. Just a little late, just a small dent, just a little bigger, just, just, just. It’s a qualifier that signals that something is… less than. Not as important, inconsequential. And it’s this feeling of dismissiveness that’s led me to seriously, carefully consider when I use this word in conversation. I catch myself and others all the time- “Is she just your friend? Is he just your boss? They’re just a secondary, right?” Or, my absolute most hated- “You’re just a submissive.” ” You’re just a top”.
How often do you describe someone as “just”? It’s this last one that grinds my gears and makes me furiously angry. It’s so quick to discount someone- an entire, complex person- into a category that’s implied to be “less than”. “Oh, you’re just a submissive” says that you’re less serious, less intense, less passionate, less capable than someone else, usually a slave or property. I read a blog someone had written titled “Are you a slave or just a submissive?” God did it make my blood boil. No one in this “lifestyle” is better than anyone else. This is not a fucking contest. You are not better than me because you call yourself a slave, or because you’re a so-called master. You are human, just the same as me. There is not a hierarchy of submission or dominance and I cannot abide language that perpetuates the idea that there is. It’s pernicious and lets us pass judgement on others and their chosen roles- something that is not our place to do.
Watch your thoughts- they become your words. Watch your words- they become your actions. Watch your actions- they become your character. Watch your character- it becomes your destiny.
The beginning I think is the most important part; our words inform our actions, our thinking informs our words. What thinking is being empowered by using the word “just”? Dismissiveness. What action is empowered by “just”? Disdain, contempt. I don’t ever want to dismiss someone else’s journey. That’s inhumane and arguably cruel.
Conversely, I don’t ever want to dismiss myself, or make my actions less than. When I use “just” with my boss, I am seeming weak. I look less intelligent than I really am, I’m making myself smaller and less demanding. “I’m just checking to see…” “I just wanted to know”. A wonderful article written by ex-Google executive Ellen Leanse argues that women tend to use “just” more than men, and we use it in a way that implies that we are asking permission. Ellen writes, “It was a “permission” word, in a way — a warm-up to a request, an apology for interrupting, a shy knock on a door before asking “Can I get something I need from you?” I don’t want or need to ask permission to get information to do my job. I don’t need to apologize for asking for things, for information, for taking up time and space and energy. I am smart, and capable, and powerful, and I don’t need to apologize for or get permission to exist.
Watch yourself for your “justs”. Since I’ve been paying attention, I can literally count on one hand the times I’ve actually needed to use the word just. It would take many more digits than I have to count how many justs I’ve deleted from emails and corrected in my speaking. Watch and listen for other people’s justs, too. Maybe you’ll learn something about how they think, and maybe you could ask them, “what do you mean by, this person is ‘just a ____’?” No one is a just. We’re all worthwhile, no matter what we are or what we’re doing.