At this time of year, I hear from a lot of people who are battling against what they perceive as the weighty expectations of their nearest and dearest about Christmas / The Holidays  In their heart of hearts, they don’t want to do whatever is being asked (or are assuming is expected) and yet based on this notion that because they’ve for instance, gone to Aunt Flo’s every year or because they are somebody’s child hence they must do what mom and dad say even if they’re a mum and dad themselves or just old enough to be an actual adult, they don’t feel as if they have a choice. They don’t feel that they can decline because they’ve previously accepted. 

This is the same issue that we battle with about asserting boundaries and saying no. It’s as if we have ‘one shot’ and that whatever we agree to whether it’s stated by us or inferred by our apparent lack of resistance, we think that it removes our right to ‘change our mind’ or in simple terms, to do something that takes account of our own needs, expectations, wishes, feelings, and opinions. 

Does the fact that somebody has been able to cross our boundaries give them the right to continue doing so? No one is entitled to disrespect us just because they have previously benefited from what may be our lack of self-esteem or our lack of awareness or even foresight about what certain behaviours or decisions mean. That entitlement does not exist regardless of how we personally manage our boundaries. Integrity dictates a person’s character and actions, not opportunity. The fact that a person is met with somebody who is not managing their boundaries that well does not give them the right to exploit this.   

What are we supposed to do when we realise that we no longer want to be or do something? Pretend that we don’t know better? Are we not allowed to grow as people and make choices that reflect that? If we act as if we have no right of reply, no right to take action even if it’s a delayed one, that leaves us with no options. It’s as if we’re worried about causing offence by acknowledging through a change of our side of things that the situation no longer works for us. 

We worry too much about offending!

Whether we say yes to something fair and reasonable or yes to something that compromises us, no one has the right to continue receiving that yes. We are entitled to reconsider instead of feeling that we must enter into a permanent tacit agreement. 

No one is entitled to disrespect us just because they have previously benefited from what may be our lack of self-esteem or our lack of awareness about who they are

That taps into the issue of complacency. We avoid this and remain conscious, aware, and present when we don’t take it for granted that we can just go on autopilot and that people will say and do whatever we expect them to because that just puts us in a fantasy world where we end up feeling disappointed that people haven’t lived up to the assumptions and pictures that we’ve painted in our minds.  

We have to continue to show up. They have to continue to show up. When this happens, neither person is expecting the other to show up as a yes-person because they care about the other person’s feelings but they’re also aware of their own. 

And coming back to this whole Christmas / The Holidays malarkey, if we’ve done the same thing year after year and it’s not really ‘doing it’ for us anymore, it is OK to take a breather or at the very least to acknowledge that these things are not that enjoyable when they feel or are indeed forced.

Sometimes we go into these arrangements like the sulking, skulking kid who doesn’t want to go on holiday with their annoying parents or be caught in the same room as them. We go into child mode and whoever it is, we hand over the authority to them to decide what we’re going to do. Really, who the hell is going to enjoy anything entered into like that? I know so many people who brace themselves for this time of year as if they’re going to have teeth pulled without anaesthetic! If we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes we create Dynasty levels of drama in our minds about this stuff because it’s easier than admitting that we actually can do something about things and then doing it. 

That’s why so many people get drunk and lairy or get into what in retrospect appear to be petty arguments at these ‘festivities’. It’s all of the suppressed feelings and thoughts. This is also a good time to remember that most people don’t have a family like The Brady Bunch…

There is no rule that says that you ‘should’ suffer through what may be a very unenjoyable gathering. 

Ultimately, you could still actually make the decision to do whatever it is [the Christmas / The Holidays arrangement] that you’ve been struggling with but you’ll stop struggling with it when you make it from a grown-up place rather than almost victimising you and dragging your feet. You’ll stop feeling shortchanged due to people not paying up the ‘debt’ created by you going along with things not so wholeheartedlt. You might even surprise yourself by enjoying it in much the same way that we can drag our heels about going somewhere and end up having a great time. Obviously if you go somewhere hellbent on not enjoying it or coming from a place of, Everyone is out to get me or I’m the odd one out, then lo and behold, that’s what you’ll look for and behave like. 

If different arrangements are made, it’s not to say that the other parties won’t feel disappointed but the sky isn’t going to fall down. It’s likely as well that on some level, they’ve been half-expecting it even if they won’t admit it. Remember as well that there’s always next year – acknowledging how you truly feel means that you can make a commitment and plan ahead to bring in a change. It’s something to look forward to plus you can let the ‘stakeholders’ know so that they have time to get used to it or make their own plans. 

The decision to be or do something has to be made on now, not the past. Stop living there unless you want to continue to put the past on repeat! Acknowledge who you are now! Decide based on now because you’re not the person you were ‘back then’. Just because you’ve been or done something previously, it doesn’t mean that you should or indeed have to do so again. Once you liberate you from the obligation to bust your own boundaries and to remove no from your vocabulary, you will feel a hell of a lot more in command of you and your life instead of being swept along. 

Your thoughts?

There’s a new book coming soon… Finally! All will be revealed in the next week or so. If you haven’t done so yet, check out the the winter session of BR School courses

When you find that you’re persisting down the Other People’s Behaviour Is All About Me track and are getting stuck on blame, ask yourself, “Why do I want it to be about me?”

What are you getting out of making it all about you? Something about blame feels purposeful and may even be giving you a sense of importance that would be better felt through learning (or re-learning) to value and appreciate you, not from being a blame absorber. 

If other people’s behaviour is about you, what is your own behaviour about? Who is your behaviour about?

I used to be an equal opportunity blame absorber. Any time something went wrong or I sensed that something might go wrong, I put me in the centre of it. I blamed me and what I discovered as I started being more honest with myself is that not only has blame got nothing to do with responsibility but it’s a wonderful distraction from having to be truly responsible for our own stuff and ultimately from taking action. 

If you have a pesky habit of taking the blame for other people’s behaviour as if you’re a master puppeteer and so influential that one false move can give you a special version of a person’s character specially reserved for “worthless” and “provoking” people, in some way, even if you don’t realise that you’re doing it, you’re blaming somebody somewhere for your own actions. On a conscious level you may be going, “Me, me, me, it’s all about me” but subconsciously, you may have a number of beliefs based around this idea that if this, this and this hadn’t happened and this person and that person had or hadn’t done something, you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. 

That’s what takes away your options because focusing on the blame doesn’t really leave you with anything to do. You can’t change anything with it other than your state of mind and your ability to move forward.

For instance, you might feel incredibly wounded by not being ‘chosen’ by somebody or being what you feel is ‘replaced’. Whoever they were with after you, you’ve made that about you, so you’ve blamed you for the fact that your relationship didn’t work out (that’s the equivalent of cutting them out of the photo and superimposing your face as if you had all of the power to make or break the relationship and they had zero contribution) and then seen their choice of next partner as being directly related to you.

Blame is in its own way, a means of feeling important but also a way of remaining connected to a person and situation.

Blame is in its own way, a means of feeling important but also a way of remaining connected to a person and situation. When you keep beating you over the head with blame  and almost objecting to reality and trying to move forward, it’s in part because you’ve made out as if this person was the centre of the universe and that special when you were with them, in the sense of defining them as being all-powerful in the relationship. They were seen in some way as being a source of esteem and validation or certainly now that things haven’t worked out, you’re assuming that they must be an authority when they’re just a human being not a higher power. 

In turn, because they’ve been glorified to an extent, this means that it can feel as if the sun has gone in and that you’ve been ‘downgraded’ because now that you’re taking the blame and making them out to be super-important, even if you didn’t see them this way before, it occurs to you that retrsopectively, they must have been more valuable than you. 

In turn, this leaves you feeling “not good enough” and in its own twisted way, this narrative of blaming you for their behaviour and putting you at the centre of why they’re for instance, with somebody else, becomes a means of feeling purposeful and important.

If I can’t be important with you, I’ll make myself important out of being without you.

That’s why you may want this to be about you because if you stop making other people’s behaviour about you, you have to find something else to think and do. You have to take action. 

It’s for this specific reason why as humans, even when we’ve gone through a myriad of emotions in our efforts to grieve the loss of a relationship, we can find ourselves circling back to blame when we’re faced with a choice between that or thoughts (and emotions) that are related to letting go and moving forward. Blame keeps us connected whereas if we proactively step away from it, we have to find another means of feeling valuable and that can be quite scary if the reality is, we’ve never really relied on ourselves and have always leaned towards external esteem. 

I’ve experienced this many times in life and when I think back to a couple of years ago as I grieved the fallout with my father and his family, I realised that part of the pain was going from always having felt important due to my absence from them throughout my life and this idea of being “missed” to this new absence. As I grieved and went through the anger and in some ways blaming myself, I acknowledged that focusing on this idea that “it’s me” and that “everyone” was talking about me or ganging up or whatever, was a temporary way of feeling important. 

Of course there are better ways to feel important and valued and it stopped being important to me or my ego for that matter. Sometimes we fall into the trap of seeing all attention, even crumbs or negative attention, as attention whether it’s from ourselves or others. 

A gift that you can give you that costs nothing other than compassion and a little patience, is to unburden you from thought processes that don’t really make sense. It doesn’t make sense to hold onto blame. Unless you were 100% in control of the situation and you can do something positive about it (something that comes from a place of mutual love, care, trust, and respect), all that blame does is keep you stuck and feed an existing narrative that’s not serving you.

We want things to be about us because we want to matter but we already matter anyway and ultimately, there are better ways to make a difference in this world and to matter than making us the centre of other people’s behaviour while losing ourselves.

Your thoughts?

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Earlier this year (I can’t believe it’s already December), I explained how ‘charming’ tends to be a precursor to code red problems. Mistaking charm as being indicative of other characteristics and values is an example of where we fall into the trap of mistaking personality for character, which are not one and the same thing. 

Personality is about persona and that ultimately comes down to the qualities and characteristics that we want to put across but this may not always be the same as those which represent our true and consistent character. It’s about ‘outside’ and ‘indoor’ behaviour or should I say, the public versus private persona.

A person can have a ‘winning’ personality because they know how to get on and put their best self across. It’s like those people who are amazing interviewees that get almost every job they go for but who struggle to actually do the job and deliver on what they said that they could be and do. You’re scratching your head wondering where the hell that person who you met in those interviews has disappeared to. Lots of us know how to act socially, especially when we don’t have to be around these people all of the time but as relationships progress, we do have to interact in a variety of situations that give us a true sense of who a person is but also, once we are spending a great deal of time around them (such as in a romantic relationship) and they unfold into their true selves, that’s where you see character – the mental and moral qualities that distinguish a person.

You don’t need mental and moral qualities to be ‘funny’ – just ask some of the dodgier comedians out there – and you don’t need mental and moral qualities to be charming and popular – just ask some of the famous people of this world whose reputations are in stark contrast to what they get up to behind closed doors. It’s also safe to say that a person could be incredibly intelligent but lack morals, and a classic mistake that us BR folk make is assuming that intelligence is synonymous with morals. We might be very intelligent and a number of other things and have strong moral fibre but that’s not to say that if we met somebody who worked in the same field as us and was super intelligent, that they would share our core values. 

We tend to get impressed by personality more so than we do character. This is due to the associations we have with the particular qualities and characteristics that we admire. If those associations and any assumptions that we’ve made off of the back of them lead us into a blind spot, it’s important to evaluate these beliefs and get conscious about where we’re jumping to a conclusion that’s setting us up for pain. 

Some people are consistent with their personality and character so you don’t experience a rapid departure from either one whether you’re around others or one-on-one. They’re also like this when no one is around. They feel congruent to you and if anything, their personality is enhanced by what you’ve come to learn through experience about their character. It’s a lot easier to copilot a relationship with someone who is like this because you know where you stand. You know who you’re going to get from one day to the next. 

Some people chop and change what they’re putting across to suit their audience and especially when that divergence between personality and character leaves you with a What The… Headspin, it’s incredibly disconcerting especially when there may be a harem of people out there who based on the persona this person puts across and the reputation they’ve cultivated (or had assumed by others), these people may be swearing up and down about their “character” even though you have first hand experience of something entirely different. You cannot know where you stand with this person because they’re inconsistent. It’s important to note that your experience of them is what you need to use determine whether or not to proceed – no one else has to take your journey and live your life!

Some people pretend that they have a matchy personality and character. In much the same way that hair dye grows out and the roots start to show, people unfold and a person who is playacting at being of a certain character does gradually show signs of it if we’re listening and watching. 

Over the years of writing BR, I’ve heard from so many people who are genuinely perplexed as to how somebody can be helping out at the old folks home, doing charity this and charity that, popular in various circles and yet not so kind and generous to them. They wonder what’s “wrong” with them to invite such a different flavour of behaviour but what we forget when we start blaming ourselves for what may be someone’s mistreatment or the fact that their actions and words don’t match, is that if a person’s character is what we say and assume it to be, that’s not just a public or specific person thing; it’s their identity because it matters to their values. 

Character is what you get with actions, and security comes in knowing that actions and words are matching.

Character is what you get with actions, and security comes in knowing that actions and words are matching. If you don’t know where you stand with a person, that’s a big damn clue right there that you’ve been mixing up personality with character. If what you’re met with is promises and intentions that don’t stack up, you’ve been enjoying their persona but other aspects of their character and habits have been interfering with the delivery of those said things. 

Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you

Sometimes we get too carried away with personality. Fun and funny for example, are wonderful qualities to enjoy in a person but they’re not an automatic precursor to desirable characteristics and values. It’s not as if only relationship worthy people can make us laugh for instance (the same can also be said about ‘attractive’ and ‘intelligent’ people) and this is where the difference not only between personality and character shows itself but also how core values distinguish themselves from secondary ones (appearance, common interests etc). 

It’s not as if only relationship worthy people can make us laugh…

Reputation is a widespread belief that someone or something has a particular characteristic and it’s important to note that there are people who spend a fortune on reputation management. Some of us are engaging in reputation management even when it’s only one or a a few people, and that can cause us to wear a mask because we worry a great deal about what other people think and also about whether who we are and what we do is “right”. It gets in the way of us being authentic. 

In understanding whether you’re compatible with somebody, get past the pomp and fanfare. Character really expresses itself through vulnerability because not only do our intimate relationships require intimacy for depth but dealing with life’s inevitables such as conflict, criticism, disappointment and loss, require us to dig into our character in order to respond. You get a really good sense of who a person is when you tell (or show) them no or when things don’t go their way. That’s character! Pay attention and keep your feet in reality. Don’t get swept up in the hype whether it’s coming from them, others or you, because you cannot make what may be a big life decision (deciding who to spend what may be the rest of your life with) based on what may be packaging without the contents to back it up.

When it comes to personality, there’s nothing wrong with being attracted to particular qualities but don’t assume that those things you admire are an automatic precursor to other values and that they’re telling you all that you need to know about their character. 

Our relationships romantic and otherwise, give us a window into understanding who we are and where we need to step up for ourselves. When we find that we’re experiencing the lather, rinse, repeat of the same type of person in a different package and the Groundhog Day of yet another situation that leaves us feeling and thinking a certain way, it’s time to ask:

What am I missing here? What am I overlooking?

When we experience the pain of a person unfolding into who they truly are and it falling short of who we wanted and even expected them to be, it’s hard to think about lessons and examining where we’re in effect repeating ourselves.

There is this fear that if we acknowledge that at times we’ve gravitated to a certain type of situation that this makes it “our fault”, when in actual fact it doesn’t; it just explains how we fit into the dynamic. It explains why we were vulnerable to this person stepping into the ‘opening’ in our life. It explains why they were attractive or activated something in us, and it’s far from being a sign that we have Jedi mind tricking abilities.

These experiences provide insight into where we need to expand our awareness so that we can grow and transcend this particular type of dynamic. It’s how we stop the disappointment cycle.

Wising up means that in adapting our outlook and supporting behaviour, the next time that that type of person or situation comes a knocking, we will make a conscious choice to choose a different path. It may not even come our way because we’re no longer a ‘good fit’ for it.

In the aftermath of things not working out, it’s hard to feel thankful about not being with the person or opting out of the situation because in seeing ourselves as being inextricably linked to why that person acted as they did, or why we were disappointed, or why the situation was what it was, we can’t see the wood for the trees. We’re too busy blaming and shaming ourselves. We’re too busy feeling that we’ve been robbed. We’re feeling rejected and at the same time wanting to reject information that would actually help us feel less rejected by adding some balance to the proceedings.

The weird thing is that sometimes we don’t know that we need to address something until it’s mirrored back to us in the other party’s behaviour. It’s not neccessarily the one-off stuff but the habitual stuff.

I would love it if we were all armed with the self-awareness, self-knowledge and relationship smarts as soon as we rock up into adulthood but it’s only through experience where we discover what we do and don’t know.

I can remember with one particular ex as he launched a volley of putdowns and deflections at me that I thought, “Wow, I really must hate myself to be with him.” It was this scary lightbulb (more like punchbulb punching me in the head) moment.

It’s not that my self-hatred was an invitation for his behaviour and that if I liked me more that he would spontenously combust into boyfriend of the century but when I finally was ready to put ego aside where I had an inclination to make everything about me, ‘little’ realisations like this had been happening over a few years. I knew they were trying to tell me something and in fact, I even heard what these experiences were saying a few times along the way but it was like, What was that you said? I don’t really like myself and this guy is behaving like a tool because that’s who he is? and then my ego would come rushing in and it would be, Ah yeah but what that really means is that I don’t like myself because I’m worthless and good for nothing and that’s why he’s behaving like a tool, and the crucial info would be drowned out and I’d be back to doing the people pleasing and unavailable dance.

In truth, when we like, love, care about, trust and respect us more, we would not be attracted to or continue to be around somebody who doesn’t reflect that outlook.

We won’t be with somebody who does less than what we can already do for ourselves.

We certainly won’t continue to make us the solution to their problems and we most definitely won’t keep trying to make them change in an effort to ease our discomfort about the situation. We’ll take charge of relieving our discomfort instead of giving away our power.

You know what all of my unavailable relationship experiences did? They forced me to grow up. Due to the pain I went through and how it all spiralled out of control and crippled my health, facing me and all of these experiences forced me to finally be a grownup with my parents and extended family instead of three-year old Nat feeling wounded, abandoned, and looking for love in the wrong places. In doing so, I allowed myself to feel, to think, to have needs that I could step up and assert within my relationships and to also just be.

Talking with a friend who has a habit of going out with highly insecure guys who either start getting all ‘Chopper’ on her (cutting her down with comments and manipulative behaviour) and/or who she plays armchair psychologist with, I asked her what’s the draw because that’s what’s being overlooked. It’s not a coincidence that they’re same relationship different package and the truth is, these guys are all over her at the start with their Fast Forwarding selves and she feels on top of the world and then the same ‘ole problems set in and she feels drained.

Being adored by somebody who initially thinks that they’ve struck gold and in essence being put on a pedestal eventually comes at the price of her contentment and the possibility of mutual relationship. A part of her is insecure in the sense that a guy who isn’t veering between awed and threatened isn’t attractive. She realises that she needs to address that part of her that for some reason doesn’t feel “good enough” unless it’s with this kind of guy even though she eventually ends up feeling “not good enough” anyway due to the way that these relationships pan out. The latest guy has been the worst experience of it and she’s seen it in a much shorter period of time and enough is finally enough even though of course it hurts.

I don’t necessarily say, “I’m really thankful for [the shit experiences]” but ever since I stopped feeling and acting as if each of the hurts and disappointments were terrible plot twists that robbed me of happy endings that ‘should’ have happened and that were making me into a doomed person, I can most definitely see that some of these experiences were blessings in disguise providing me with lessons I needed to learn and some of them were just flat out horrible/painful experiences. I can be angry forever more that certain things have happened but that will be dooming me more than any of the experiences ever could.

Longstanding anger and self-recrimination create major problems especially as we use these as the basis for determining our next moves.

If we keep telling ourselves that something that represents loss of self, pain, and an unhealthy dynamic was the “right” thing for us, life will throw more opportunities for that dynamic to come along, either with us going back to a person or taking up with new version of them in a different package. We can’t expect that we will see, appreciate, and ‘get’ somebody or something that represents a different, healthier outlook while on some level insisting that the people, dynamics and things that represent the loss and pain are where we need to be at.

It’s very easy to focus on what another person is doing but use that information to point you to where you can understand and support you better. Take the focus off them and bring it back to you.

Your thoughts?

PS Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers who celebrate! As always, make sure that the only turkey you’re messing with is the one on your plate! Check out the blessings in disguise posts as well as ‘I’m not that woman’.

PPS The People Pleasing Diet is now open for registration.

 

You get to have a say in any relationship you're involved in. Steer clear of anyone who shows or tells you otherwise

Sound familiar?

These are all examples of passive and people pleasing behaviour that make you ripe for not only being involved in unavailable relationships where the other party is the emotionally unavailable driver to your passenger self, doing everything on their terms, blowing hot and cold, managing down your expectations etc., but it can also place you with controlling partners who will happily leverage your eagerness to please, your unwillingness to step up for you and your reliance on being directed.

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My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!
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