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Last week I had what I refer to as a ‘punchbulb moment’ – a lightbulb moment that punches you in the head, aka an epiphany. I have them every once in a while, like when I suddenly clicked that what had happened to me with my father and his family (being frozen out and the Chinese whispers) was part of a bigger pattern that had existed before I was even born and the grief anguish dried up, or when a series of incidences related to having failed my driving test twice while pregnant with Nia along with a few work-related things, had shone a light on the fact that I am a perfectionist (a recovering one now thankfully although it takes vigilance!)
Anyway, last week I failed my driving test for the third time. Guess what? The sky didn’t fall down although I did bawl my eyes out a few times on the day although it wasn’t due to being ‘hangry’ and more about feeling a bit embarrassed (I didn’t realise that the car had crept up to 35 in a 30 zone) and desperately overtired. I’ve rebooked my test and have done plenty of self-soothing.
Anyway, I digress…
A couple of days before, I had a light hypnotherapy session – I went last year and my tendency to have a dodgy tummy when feeling stressed pretty much vanished – and I was sitting there in the chair, chatting what to my own ears sounds like crap, when I had my punchbulb moment. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of, “For some reason… I’m thinking of my brother [the one who's eighteen months younger than me and we were almost like twins growing up]…. I used to feel bad because I was always made out to be the brainy box, almost genius and they were always making out that he wasn’t… I learned to feel guilty and wanted to protect him… I wanted to give him a chance…” It felt unrelated to whatever I was talking about at the time and yet, it felt so vital for me to sit up and pay attention.
I rambled on some more including about how I’d learned to rebel and not stretch myself so as not to invite even more expectations but also because I didn’t want to lose him. In the days since, lots of things have started slotting into place and I see something so clearly now:
I was a perfectionist but more importantly, I’m someone who has unwittingly trained herself not to outshine.
There are times in life when I’ve given myself a hard time for how I reacted to something in the moment. Note that I, like many others, have given me a far harder time for having feelings and opinions than I ever have for underreacting to boundary busting behaviour!
Now of course, if I had my time over again, there’s a few things I’d do differently in the moment, but to be fair, reactions, especially 1) belated 2) cumulative, and 3) helpful ones, would not be high on my list.
Underreacting has kept me in shady situations long past their sell-by-date. It’s also triggered analysis paralysis.
My version of overreacting, which contextually, it may not have been or it certainly wasn’t as bad as I’d portrayed, has often triggered the alarm bell and reminded me to steer clear of that person or situation.
When I have responded disproportionately, yes it’s given me a cringe and in darker times, a lot of shame, but overcoming this involved self-compassion through seeing these responses for what they were - feedback to understand and evolve me.
The single most useful thing about a reaction is that it provides you with clues as to your inner state, your thought process, and the overall situation.
Readers often say to me, “I feel so embarrassed/bad/ashamed/foolish/stupid/OTT etc., for how I reacted”. It’s wanting to control the uncontrollable, driven by the desire to be in control of that person’s perception of you. On some level, especially if you’re typically a pleaser, you’ve been suppressing and repressing your needs, desires, expectations, feelings, and opinions in an effort to influence and control their feelings and behaviour.
If I don’t react, I won’t wipe out all chances for them to to choose me if they decide that they want to change.
Good Girls/Guys don’t get angry.
Newsflash: How you reacted is how you reacted. It’s done.
We are human. We love, we want to be loved, we don’t always make the best of choices and yes we do make mistakes, plus to top that all off, we’re keen for acceptance and scared of rejection both real and imagined.
It’s that time of year again – I turned 37 on Monday and we also got the keys to our new home (you can see a pic on Instagram). Exhaustion doesn’t even cover it but a very happy, looking forward to getting back to a bit of work, but not before escaping and spending the weekend at Camp Bestival. Hopefully our tent will be up by the time you read this. Have a great weekend and without further ado, here are this year’s birthday thoughts inspired by some of my own experiences this year as well as those of readers.
- Mistakes are growing pains but ultimately growing gains.
- Why do we have this expectation or desire to be liked by everyone, when so many struggle with liking themselves? No one is liked by everyone so rest assured that you’re not alone. There is no need to collect likers. Vibe with people who chime with your values and appreciate those who you don’t have to jump through hoops for them to appreciate you for who you are. Being ignored or disliked by another person doesn’t make them more valuable or more powerful.
- People unfold and keep unfolding.
- You are your salvation and you hold a wealth of knowledge and insight…when you’re willing to listen to instead of judging you. Learning to listen to and treat you well, beats fannying away your time trying to get a PhD in other people’s behaviour.
- We’ve got to stop exaggerating busy. Aside from the fact that busy doesn’t equate to purposeful, we all choose what we want to be busy at. Busy people can love, have relationships and include others in their lives. Some people hide behind busyness to avoid their feelings, thoughts, or responsibilities.
- We experience envy when someone who we perceive to be in a similar position to us, has what we want. The answer isn’t to hate on us or the other person; it’s to have an honest conversation about where we need to be stepping up for ourselves and/or to be more appreciative and supportive of our own efforts and stop comparing our chapter X to their chapter Y.
- Patterns happen when we are living unconsciously, so transcending the past so that it stops being on repeat requires us to wake up and consciously consider whether this is how we want to respond and whether doing the same thing and expecting a different result is truly the most productive, loving use of our time.
- Attempting to right the wrongs of a past that you weren’t wholly and solely responsible for, leaves your present and future unattended.
- Don’t give away your choices. The words, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’ as well as, ‘let me get back to you’, exist for a reason. Use them.
- Don’t write online what you wouldn’t be prepared to say to someone’s face.
- The more readers and friends I talk to, the more I recognise that many people have parents who engage in Show Pony Parenting. Happy to post pics on Facebook and tell people how great they are but not willing to actually be there. Often want the glory without the effort. It’s like, What will the neighbours/other family/the community think? Erm, what about us? Some are masters of entitlement and guilt tripping. Even though I physically/verbally/mentally abused you or neglected you, I am entitled to a relationship and devotion from you that’s equivalent to one that’s absent of these issues. Use your magic eraser and forget the past right now and be a good son/daughter! Of course when we’re treated this way, it only serves to rub on old wounds.
- Expecting to have a mutually fulfilling relationship or to be happy without being willing to be vulnerable, is to expect the trappings of vulnerability without putting forth the effort.
- Problems, challenges, disappointments and losses, don’t vanish due to being in a relationship. Granted, you will often be able to weather these together but tasks that will never go away are 1) self soothing, 2) self-managing, and 3) listening to and supporting you. In and out of a relationship, if you’re not doing these things, start working on them now.
- As soon as I hear, ‘I’m a very honest person’ or similar being emphasised, I hear ‘o-oh’ in the back of my mind. Honesty is the truth with respect. If you’re being rude, some of that honesty gets lost because you deceive you in some way to legitimise your position.
- Grief isn’t linear; it’s a work in progress. If you experience a loss – that could be a bereavement, redundancy, breakup, divorce and other trauma – you will experience a myriad of emotions as well as periods where you seem to be making headway and then, BAM, it hits you. It doesn’t mean that all is lost and that you’re doomed. The BAMs occur less plus each time, they challenge you to clear more and as well as to strengthen. You don’t see it at the time but what you experience helps you to navigate next time around and to also engage in self-care in between.
- Loneliness is greatly misunderstood. It has nothing to do with how many friends or family you have or even whether you’ve been in a romantic relationship; it’s about whether you are expressing your innermost thoughts and feelings. When you wear a mask – people pleasing – and when you fear expressing your true self, you end up feeling adrift. Feeling lonely doesn’t make you a loser. When you experience loneliness it’s because you’re feeling emotionally disconnected.
- Would I treat a child in a similar manner? Would I judge a child or another person for the same thing? The next time you beat you up for not being ‘enough’ now or in the past, temper your self-criticism with these questions, especially if berating you is a habit that runs back to childhood. To continue stops those younger aspects of you from being healed and ultimately stops you from moving forward and growing.
- All narcissists are emotionally unavailable but not all emotionally unavailable people are narcissists, otherwise Fallback Girls/Guys would also be narcissists… Likewise, all assclowns are emotionally unavailable but not all unavailables are assclowns.
- If you don’t like somebody, use that knowledge well and move on. We live in a time when people make it their vocation to let the person in question know. It’s not only deriving satisfaction from going out of their way to communicate their dislike so they can give themselves a boost and feel powerful, but it can also be a form of seeking validation. ‘Give me another reason to legitimise my dislike of you.’ When a person actively goes out of their way to communicate that dislike, they’re also carrying on as if their opinion is super important.
- It’s impossible to be ‘up’ all of the time. It’s not sustainable and the desire to never be ‘down’ stems from a highly unrealistic expectation that life should be perfect and that you shouldn’t experience disappointment. Success, happiness, growth, and courage evolve out of disappointments and hardships, often bringing a deep sense of gratitude further down the line due to appreciating a blessing in disguise.
- What and who would you be if you weren’t living your life according to rules that aren’t rules and essentially censoring your true self? Be that. That’s what ‘being yourself ‘ means.
- Be careful of the forever hungry mindset where you never appreciate what you have because your mind is always on the next proverbial meal. How will you know and appreciate what more is, when you never appreciated what you had?
- Entitlement has been the strongest and consistent theme so far this year in a lot of the stories people have been sharing with me. If you want to understand why and where you are stuck on something, look at where you feel that because you are or have something, that you feel that you should have _________.
- If you agree to do something, don’t amend the T&Cs that you agreed to, based on some hokey judgement of the other party. If you borrowed money and agreed to pay it back (erm, that’s why it’s called borrowing), you can’t decide that you’re not going to pay it back because you don’t feel that they ‘need’ it. That’s jacking someone! If you agree to volunteer, you don’t get to decide to do it shittily just because you’re volunteering. That’s not the kind of help that people need.
- If you haven’t met a person and yet they keep making sexual innuendos or are even requesting sexy photos and making clear that they want to hook up when you meet, they’re not looking for a relationship; they’re trying to screw you. If that’s all you want, great, but if you’re wanting to meet because you’re looking for a relationship, flush.
- When shady folk do a major breach of your boundaries, it’s best not to let it go unchecked because it will be perceived as an opening plus in knowing what they’ve done and forecasting blowback at some point, they will often seek to manipulate the situation by ‘getting in there first’ and accusing you of something (likely made up or exaggerated) to distract from it. This how they cover their arses.
- If you neglect you and feed you with crumbs, anything others do will go through the low self-esteem exaggeration oven and come out looking like a loaf by comparison to your own efforts. Set the standard of how you want to feel and be treated and no one will be able to come along and showboat with less than what you can already do for yourself. That, and when you treat you with love, care, trust, and respect, it kills off that raging hunger to latch onto anything and anyone who gives you the time of day or who activates your need to please.
- Ups and downs are relative and personal hence why comparison and envy aren’t the most productive or illuminating uses of your energy and time.
- When we routinely see ourselves at the centre of other people’s behaviour and are essentially blame absorbers, it’s ‘inverted narcissism’. None of us are that powerful. To think we are is delusions of grandeur in itself.
- When you stop giving to receive and only do so because it’s what you would do anyway, not only do you stop over-giving but you also see where the land lies with certain people. And that can only be a good thing.
- There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship and desiring to love and be loved, but be careful of crossing into that zone where it’s become a need that you’ve decided will be the solution to any internal issues including dissatisfaction with the self. Not wanting to be single due to negative connotations and even self-hatred, isn’t the same as wanting to be in a mutually fulfilling relationship, which brings me neatly to….
- Don’t ‘force ripen’ your relationships. You meet someone. You’re not sure about them. Maybe you don’t even know them yet. Then something happens to activate hope and fantasy. You decide now that you’re in, and in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, you’re thinking, When are we moving in? When will they say they love me? This will not only affect your attitude and actions, potentially blinding you to good or not so good things that are happening in the present as well as dulling your self-awareness, but you may end up alienating yourself. That and you may end up being over committed to something that you have not spent enough time assimilating whether it is actually something that reflects your needs, expectations, wishes, feelings, and opinions and ultimately your values.
- Don’t let people Dump and Charge Up on you. Ever known somebody who circles back to you whenever they’re going through a crisis (possibly the same one on repeat) who effectively offloads on you, gets charged up, and then bowls off and does the same thing again? There’s a difference between being there for your friends (or family) and being their waste can or battery charger. If you feel drained, you’ll feel pained.
- When you’re conscious, aware and present, you don’t have to fear waking up in a relationship where your wondering why you feel so hungry despite having ‘so much in common’. You don’t have to try to retrace your steps to identify what you’ve missed and you go into relationships with a greater sense of awareness of who you are including your needs, desires, and expectations.
- Everything is easier said than done. Everything. That’s why there’s no point in using it as on objection and a barrier to taking action.
- There are always going to be people who will eff with you. It’s the nature of life. It won’t happen all of the time (unless you’re hanging with shady folk) but when it does happen, don’t mistake it as a sign that something is wrong with you. It will happen regardless of how nice and ‘perfect’ you are so it’s best to get on with the business of being you.
- There’s no magic bullet. It’s too much to expect that you will do something for you and all of your problems or the pain over a particular thing will vanish. That won’t even happen if you soothe on something or someone else – it will just be alleviated temporarily. Consistently and repeatedly treat you with love, care, trust and respect and you will experience the cumulative benefits.
Tagged with: self-love
Over the past couple of months, I’ve become increasingly aware of counting your stresses. Sometimes we get so caught up in getting through the day to day and with the nitty gritties of the individual issues and situations, that we don’t step back and see not only the bigger picture, but also how big our stress load is. If we don’t register the magnitude of what may be high level stresses, we become acclimatised to that particular stress level until we get tipped too far.
I’ve seen many a BR reader struggle with stress and it’s specifically amplified by the sense that the stress isn’t being handled ‘perfectly’. Stress strugglers convince themselves that someone who was more ‘together’, ‘beautiful’, ‘confident’, or ‘capable’, or less ‘silly’, ‘needy’ or ‘sensitive’ or whatever, would just take it in their stride. Not true. Stress is something that affects everyone and it’s very easy to judge people around us based on the way that we judge ourselves, but that belittles those causes of stress as well as influencing factors that may make us more predisposed in that moment to not be able to handle incoming stresses. That and we’ve all known somebody who seemed so ‘together’, who people have said, “But she/he seemed so happy”.
Think back to a time when something seemed to knock you for six even though on other occasions, similar or even worse didn’t have the same effect – there were other contributing factors that caused you to hit your stress threshold.
I’ve spoken with a number of BR readers who cannot understand why on earth they are so distressed by the fact that someone who they admit they’re not that crazy about and who actually detracts from their self-esteem, won’t get back together with them. A bit of digging turns up one or more other losses and stresses in the preceding weeks and months, so in an effort to overcompensate for one area of their life where they don’t have control and are highly stressed, they try to gain control of something or someone that’s uncontrollable. It’s a distraction.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve frequently used the terms ‘imposing’ and ‘imposed’ and it clicked that you always know that there is a major breach of boundaries and that you’re dealing with somebody who just doesn’t gel on the core values front, when they introduce something in a fashion that directly or indirectly communicates that you must do it ‘or else’, or where they try to force you to accept their inappropriate or downright shady behaviour, and when they combine these efforts to attempt to take advantage of you.
I don’t like being imposed upon and I know that I’m not alone in this.
Many of the stories that BR readers share where they often feel powerless, intimidated, blindsided, anxious, or struggling to understand why they feel so compressed by someone who is smiling to their face and telling them that they care or that what they’re doing is for ‘the best’, are about dealing with person who in their quest to meet their needs, expectations, and wishes, will see little wrong with trying to force people to do what they want.
I’m often asked, Natalie, how do I know if I’m dealing with a boundary buster? Sure, I can give you lots of signs but when it comes to discerning whether you are dealing with a person who has problem respecting your line, especially when you’ve said/shown no, just look for where they’re trying to force something through, possibly with a smile on their face that doesn’t meet their eyes.
Any situation where your self-esteem and boundaries cannot co-exist with their position is a flush and go situation.
‘Imposers’ dress up their boundary busting behaviour and demands as ‘requests’. Strangely enough, when you decline, it becomes apparent that they took it as a foregone conclusion that you would comply but also had the backup plan of laying on the emotional blackmail and guilt trip with a trowel. It makes you wonder, Why make out as if you’re offering me a choice when you’re going to attempt to do what the frick you want anyway?
Of course you do have a choice, it’s just that the Imposer has decided that you ‘should’ only take up their preferred option. When you decline, suddenly they’re overriding your no, rebuffing any concerns, or in fact belittling anything you’ve brought up.
Imposers also have a very annoying habit of crossing the line while claiming that they’re not doing it. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’, they claim while they have their proverbial foot in your back. ‘I’m helping/supporting you’, they claim even though it’s actually the opposite of helpful or supportive. You can quickly flush out an Imposer who claims to be helping you by telling them that you appreciate that they’re trying to do X but it’s actually Y that you need. You’ll see how quickly you’re met with the resistance that comes with passive aggression, or you may even get straight up aggression.
They don’t take you at your no and will just attempt to find another way to proceed with their original intention so it ends up feeling as if you’re playing Whack-A-Mole or more like Whack-An-Assclown.
When you’re dealing with an Imposer, you end up gradually getting drained out by them. Some of them actually get off on the challenge and almost ‘charge up’ on you right before they try again and others, will sulk, strop, and even malice in an attempt to get their own way. Think stonewalling, silent treatment, blanking you and general hostility that they may actually deny when you call them out on it. ‘I don’t have a problem with you! I like you!’ and you’re thinking, ‘Erm, you just blanked me however many times and gave me the side eye and you only started pulling this BS when I wouldn’t capitulate to your demands’ or, if they’re the very deluded, they’ll actually admit to having a problem with you but use the funkiest reason. It will never be for an actual misdemeanor and instead it will be a variation of, ‘You didn’t do as I wanted’ followed by their crazy making justifications for why you ‘should’ have or they’ll go down the petty route and accuse you of something untrue or blow up something minor or completely innocent.
Imposers love to combine their efforts to push through what they want with a put-down or few,which is where they slip in covert, critical remarks delivered with a smile, humour, or even deadpan. There are a lot of Imposers online – just read the comments on newspaper websites or on Facebook pages. Or think of that person who seems to want to make disliking you and letting you know about it, their vocation. Some people can’t just have an opinion; they want to force-feed it to you as well and ‘make’ you agree with it!
Some Imposers love a grand ‘ole discussion and even an apology but then – yep, you guessed it – soon revert to attempting to impose the very thing that you’ve made patently clear is a no-go. If they’re quick with an apology, it soon proves to be a hollow one because just cross them again by not submitting to their demands and soon they will come out with stuff that completely contradicts the apology and/or promises.
And when it comes to people imposing themselves upon you, this is where you can learn a great deal about inferred meaning: A person doesn’t have to come out and say, ‘I am disrespecting you’ or ‘I am resisting handling this in a mutually respectful fashion’, for them to communicate that they don’t respect you. Sure, there are some people who will come out straight and tell you that they don’t like or respect you (or even that they want to break up with you…), or that they don’t want to do something, but some people will show you (while denying that it’s what they’re showing you because they’re so skilled at wearing a mask that hides their resentment and anger), and you should ignore the signposting at your peril.
If you don’t recognise when you’re being imposed upon or you do but you think, What did I do to make this person react this way?, you will start trying to make sense out of nonsense and so end up normalising shady behaviour and/or you’ll make an incorrect correlation between this so-called transgression of yours and the fact that they are imposing themselves upon.
Newsflash: Only people who have respect issues impose themselves upon you. It is never a good sign and you’re not the only person that they do this with. They may not even recognise their behaviour (although you won’t be the first to have objected), but they have so little empathy and concern for people who are in their way – because that’s what it boils down to – that they’ve either never truly considered things from your position or they have, but they don’t care or they feel that the end justifies the means. On some level they’ll argue that they take care of themselves and ‘handle their business’ so you should too. And that’s where you flush.
- If you’re dealing with an Imposer, start keeping track of what they say and do because it’s like daylight and garlic to vampires.
- Be factual in any dealings and they will soon back off because often, people try to appeal to their emotions with emotional descriptions which can be a waste when you’re dealing with someone who has little or no empathy in their tank. Imposers will use your emotions against you and claim you’re ‘dramatic’, ‘needy, or ‘too sensitive’.
- Do use a hard no – a soft no will be taken as a green light to do whatever the hell that they want and you’ll be marked as ‘weak’ for actually being halfway decent about things.
- Don’t personalise their bullsh*t. It’s not because you’re a ‘soft touch’ – they do this stuff in any situation where they want to get their own way.
Some people mistake your unwillingness to climb into the gutter with them or your ability to pick and choose your battles, for weakness. Don’t let people take liberties. No one has the right to impose themselves and their wishes upon you. You’re not going to harm these people by standing up for yourself but you will harm you by remaining silent. Don’t green light code red behaviour.
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