Don't should yourself

I find with Baggage Reclaim, that there becomes a theme to the types of stories that people are sharing with me or a common thread in what it is that keeps each person stuck with their thinking and behaviour, and so far this year, that theme is obligation and entitlement. We’re either feeling duty bound even when we’re not, or we’re cycling through a thought process that rests on this sense that we’ve been and done all of the things that we feel that we’re ‘supposed’ to in order to have got what we desire and it hasn’t worked out, hence we conclude that we’ve either been robbed or that it must be due to us not being “good enough” in some way.

Due to having an overactive guilt thyroid, many of us end up being burdened with duties and this perennial sense of obligation to be and do the things that will ‘please’ others, often at our own expense. This in itself actually taps into the issue of entitlement, what we believe certain things that we are or do give us a right to receive or do. For instance, when we’re a pleaser, there is at the bare minimum, an underlying expectation that in exchange for suppressing ourselves and catering to other people’s needs, expectations, feelings, opinions, and wishes, that in turn, we will receive validation, attention, love etc, or we’ll at the very least minimise or outright avoid conflict, criticism, disappointment, and rejection. We spend our time being and doing the things that we feel constitute a “good person” or a “good girlfriend/boyfriend”, even if some of those things involve us not having boundaries, and then we feel cheated that we’ve gone to these lengths and that people haven’t reciprocated to the same degree.

Many of us carry the belief that if we love someone, that it entitles us to their reciprocation, especially in situations where our lack of boundaries is causing us to effectively punch below our weight with someone who doesn’t treat and regard us as the worthwhile and valuable person that we are. That’s why, when they move on, it’s, What the what now? I can’t believe that you don’t want me! There’s also the belief that love gives us the power to change a person or that if a person claims to have feelings for us, that this ‘should’ give us the right to change them too.

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Wolf offended that little wolf doesn't want to blow down houses

It’s a pretty bemusing, baffling and sometimes downright annoying experience, when someone expresses discontent with who you are as a person by essentially claiming that who you are is ‘wrong’. It’s like, “You’re doing you wrong. It should be like this and this, not that.” Erm, who says? They’re not you.

What you can immediately learn in this situation, is that when person claims that you’re ‘doing’ you wrong, they hold beliefs that people ‘should’ be the same as them, or that they should at the very least be and do things that don’t rattle their outlook. They feel threatened by differences and may even perceive you being different or being reluctant to conform to their outlook on request (or demand), as you inferring that who they are is wrong.

What they’re really saying is that you’re not doing a very good job of being them. Of course you’re not – you’re you and that’s the only ‘role’ you’re going to do well.

Even when we’re related, that doesn’t make us clones. Sometimes family believes that blood equals conform and be directed. There’s a lot of safety in this, in that we can be protected from having to think too much and be vulnerable, but then it doesn’t leave any room for autonomy plus when we’re faced with adult choices that can’t necessarily be managed by consensus, we feel lost and scared. We can also end up feeling resentful that life-by-numbers isn’t offering us protection or even a great deal of self-knowledge.

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Being kind to you and expressing your feelings to safe people, shrinks loneliness

When we stop expressing how we feel, we lose, not only that all vital connection to ourselves, but we also end up feeling lonely due to a lack of emotional connection with people who are theoretically in our Circle of Trust. We fear that if we’re honest, that they won’t want to know us, will be angry, or will tell us that we’re wrong, so we don’t express our feelings and opinions as we don’t trust them to handle them.

It’s a vicious circle.

Something similar happens when we determine that we’re not liked, which may not be a statement of fact but more a statement of our perception, which will be skewed by any unhealthy beliefs. Of course, if we believe that we’re not liked then this will stop us from forging intimate relationships, because we’ll fear allowing a person to get close enough that they might know us and find something to dislike. In turn, low intimacy results in feeling lonely and we then judge that loneliness and feel disliked and unlikeable. And round and round we go.

We forget that we’re not our emotions. Feeling sad doesn’t make us a ‘loser’ or ‘bad’, or even inadequate, and we’re not going to be in a position to feel better if we keep judging us for having feelings. Feeling sad is actually a cue to take care of ourselves – to be kinder to us, to reflect, to seek support. Severing emotional connections doesn’t help.

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Girl thinking, I don't like her but what reason does she have to dislike me?

One of the things that fascinates me about human nature, is our irrational desire and sometimes need to be liked by people who we ourselves do not like. We can be mad at a person and decide that we don’t like him/her but then feel wounded and even rejected when they don’t respond to our dislike in the way that we would prefer. It’s as if we need the validation of knowing that they’re negatively impacted by our opinion. We want them to chase after us for our ‘like’ and when they don’t or it even becomes apparent that the feeling is mutual, we feel compelled to engage them in some way that may generate the response we want or that will let us gain clarification about their position, or we quite simply feel rejected.

Why do we need people who we don’t like or who we’ve even called out on something, to like us? Why do we need them to be ‘visibly’ affected in some way? And actually, while we’re on the subject, why do we feel that we should be able to tell a person all about themselves and that they should take it ‘graciously’ and still want our approval?

And that’s really what’s at the heart of this; our relationship with disapproval.

When we want someone whom we don’t like, to like us and to even chase us down for our approval and prove us ‘wrong’ even if actually, our mind is made up, it’s because in some respects, it’s what we would do, but it’s also because when we feel disapproving of somebody, there is an illusion of power and control. When we focus on our dislike of a person, that’s about our perspective and of course, we’re making a judgement. We feel that we have very good grounds to dislike them – and this may well be true – but when we feel disliked or rejected (even though that may not actually be the case) by that very person, it feels unfair.

We don’t feel that they have a good reason to dislike us, or we may even perceive their response as a reflection of us being in the same or even worse light than them. We may even feel that they’re being petty and retaliating and that our feelings and opinions are being ‘invalidated’, when in fact, we are the ones who are doing that due to how we’re responding.

The thing is though, while in an ideal world, it would be great if people only had entirely rational and ‘justified’ reasons for not liking a person, in reality, we don’t always dislike / like people for entirely rational, reasonable, or even existing reasons. Let’s be real – wanting to be liked by someone whom we ourselves don’t like isn’t exactly rational or reasonable either.

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Baggage Reclaim on following trends - I still can't tell you what the feck Twin Peaks was about

When I was a teenager growing up in Dublin and battling with that very typical desire to ‘fit in’ by being and doing what I thought everyone else was, my mother would trot out her standard line – “Would you jump off a bridge if someone told you to?” As one of only a few black kids around at that time, finding things to help me ‘blend in’ was very high on my agenda. I thought people would overlook my differences or even my ‘flaws’ such as my parents not being together, the big scar on my right leg, and whatever it was that I thought was ‘wrong’ with me that stopped my father from being in touch, if I kept up with whatever I perceived the trends to be. The thing is, this is not untypical of being a teenager whether you stick out like a sore thumb or not. We pretend to like bands we don’t like (The Clash), we claim to enjoy watching things that actually leave us scratching our heads in confusion (Twin Peaks), we contemplate dressing in things that in retrospect, we know we would have looked ridiculous had we followed through (Goth and grunge gear), and we convince ourselves that if we don’t lose our virginity or go to various ‘bases’ that we’re abnormal, so we even contemplate pretending to have done some of these things.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop in our teens and I realised recently when I was reading this really great book to my daughters, The Little Girl Who Lost Her “No” (Amy Starkey – and a BR reader too!), that we can go from people-pleasing kid who’s afraid to say no to their parents, friends, and bullies, to grown-ups who still haven’t found their ‘No’ and so we end up putting our need to please ahead of our misgivings and authenticity. Next thing we’re pretending to be something that we’re not, ‘putting out’ for fear of upsetting, and accepting crumbs because apparently, it’s the ‘done’ thing.

When we’re growing up and not sure of who we are, authenticity seems like a pain in the bum that will cost us friendships and ‘cool’, but there comes a point when we do have to recognise that there’s only so long that we can defer to ‘others’ and operate on autopilot for, before we wind up in pain from not being willing to listen to ourselves. It’s even tougher when we actually have a sense of of who we are, so our needs, expectations, wishes, opinions and feelings, and yet we go ‘off brand’ or ‘off message’ and end up feeling lost and adrift from the people within our Circle of Trust.

We follow instead of being – we diverge from our authentic self, something that we can’t be in any danger of actually discovering or trying out when we’re too busy trying to keep up with the Jones’.

I hear from people who effectively argue that there’s a trend for not respecting one’s self, for screwing around, for never committing, for using people, not being honest, being rude, lacking responsibility and the list goes on. Of course, there are ‘trends’ for everything – there’s big trends, regurgitated trends, and micro trends. Basically, we can find a trend for most things – it’s how businesses sell to us, it’s how the media come up with their scaremongering stories based on ‘research’ that are normally aimed at striking fear through women, and it’s how people who want us to do what they want (even if it doesn’t suit us), ‘sell’ it to us and it’s also how we legitimise our own behaviour and thinking.

If we adopt a trend, it’s because it speaks to who we are as a person or we are unconsciously (or possibly consciously) following a trend because we don’t have the confidence, and yes sometimes the responsibility, accountability, and even integrity, to be who we are. We’d rather follow the trend and be assured of being in the herd even if the herd hurts or even mauls us. ‘Following’ is regarded as safety in numbers (no vulnerability) plus when we rely on being ‘directed’, we don’t have to think plus if things go awry, we may even feel inclined to blame the herd.

Sometimes we find it hard to do right because it feels as if we are only compelled to be and do the things that speak to our hearts and souls when everyone else is doing it too. It’s a bit like, if we were in a crowd of people who were all doing something shady, we might feel as if we no longer have to bother doing what’s right or just plain ‘ole authentic to us – our values.

On some level, we regard being different from someone else as ‘wrong’. We perceive it as a cue to question our position and choices. We may even see differences as an attack, when really, they’re just somebody going about the business of living in their way.

There are always going to be people who diverge from our own values, there are always going to be people who do and think differently, and there are always going to be people who follow their own trends. Truly being authentic is the result of being and doing the things that speak to your values, your heart, your soul, and basically who you are as a person. It means you’re willing to ‘go there’ regardless of whether you get consensus.

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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!