How do you feel when you read that statement? Challenged? Many years ago at the start of my coach-development journey, I came across this phrase. “What??” It totally stopped me in my tracks.
- I’d lived most of the years of my life to that point firmly believing that what others thought of me was more important than what I thought of myself.
- I would wear clothes that I thought would fit with what I thought others’ perceptions were of me.
- I wouldn’t dare speak in public – what would people think of what I have to say?
Ask for help – Me?! Surely that would be a sign of weakness, and anyway, only I know how to do xyz. I had lived as an inveterate people pleaser, putting others’ stated needs and agendas ahead of my own, never having an honest conversation about their true needs. To the detriment of my health and mental wellbeing, many times building up resentment, anger and self-hatred for my weakness. Any of these resonate with you?
I really struggled with the concept of “what you think about me is none of my business”. Surely this implies I am being careless of others’ feelings? And horror – does this mean I’m being selfish?
My coach at the time challenged me to think about the impact on my life and mental health of this habit? “Take this statement away, Trudy, journal about it, see how your life might be enhanced if you learned to accept you as knowing what’s ok for you, to trust your own guidance?”
I did just that. I set myself a challenge to allow myself just one instance a day to respond differently than I had before I’d come across that life-changing statement. It took a while to learn to do this without my heart thudding like a motorbike, as this was a lifetime habit I was adjusting. For 30 days, at each day’s end, I wrote briefly about what happened in each instance. For example, if I was asked to do something for someone on a day when I was already busy:
I wrote about how I felt on being asked, what my initial previous habitual reaction would have been; what different response did I offer, how did the requester respond, and how did I feel in offering a different response; what happened in the conversation? What was the outcome?
I found the writing of each instance especially powerful, as it allowed me to reflect on how little respect I had previously shown to myself and my needs. And I was increasing my self-trust and self-confidence by creating an evidence log of my progress.
Why do we develop this habit of allowing ourselves to put others’ needs and agendas ahead of our own? Well, we don’t want to disappoint others, risk rejection, or not being liked. So we conform to what we think are others’ expectations. And along the way we lose touch with who we really are, and what it is we really want. This conforming becomes a comfort zone, which is not in fact comfortable at all! And of course, there are times when, as social critters, we know it’s important to compromise, to negotiate an outcome that works best for all parties.
How can you help You?
If this does resonate with you – how can you help yourself? Here are some easy to starter tips. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m absolutely not advocating selfishness. Nope. I am asking you to respect you and your needs. Think of the oxygen mask in a plane – you are required to place your own oxygen mask on before anybody else’s.
- Allow yourself to connect with and listen to your own inner guidance. You have a powerful natural wisdom that can get smothered by trying to second-guess others – and second-guessing is so exhausting! Take your journal, ask yourself the questions I mentioned above. How would your life be different – better, even?
- When you’re beginning to develop these self-respecting responses, it would be really helpful to have prepared a basic ‘script’ for yourself which you can adapt in any situation. In this way, you won’t find yourself getting tongue-tied and trip yourself up in fear.
- Allow yourself to become aware of, and intentional about your everyday choices and actions. Why are you doing what you are doing? Is it for you, or to pacify or people-please?
- Keep (or start to keep) a private journal with your reflections. This is the best way to become aware of how awake you are to your intentions, energy, passions. Buy yourself a gorgeous A5 size book, one which you’ll love using. How often to write? Well, every day is great, and even once a week is ok too! Consider it an investment in your Self and your future.
I hope you found this helpful and useful. Should you have any questions at all, or wish to make any comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. In love and gratitude xx
©Dancing Leopards Ltd 2018