….. you found yourself in a situation not of your own making, and after the dust cleared, as the turmoil settled, and as you slowly and gingerly reclaimed your footing, you were able to say, “Man, that was tough! Didn’t see THAT coming! I KNOW I handled that situation well! I know I did! Whew! I am SO PROUD of how I handled THAT!!”? When is the last time you were able to say THAT to yourself, and maybe even to others? On the other hand, as the chaos calms, are you more likely to say, “Well, crap. I wish I ‘woulda – coulda – shoulda’ done or said this or that. I wish I had THOUGHT of that when I was GOING THROUGH IT!”? (There’s that ‘IT’ again! See yesterday’s post for more on ‘IT’)! Often, we are able retrospectively think of just the right thing to say, or the right thing to do, that eludes us when we are IN IT. Sigh……
Just yesterday in a continuing education seminar, a colleague volunteered me for a presentation to 60 other educators. I don’t know this woman; don’t even know her name. Who in the world is she? Do YOU happen to know? Good grief! Why in the world did she volunteer me? In reality, THOSE things don’t even MATTER. What matters is HOW we handle these types of scenarios. When the time came to announce the presenters, she told our trainer and the other people in our specific group, pointing to me, “She is our presenter. Didn’t you volunteer?” OMG! If it is ONE thing I can’t stand (okay, there are many things actually), it is MANIPULATION! Did this woman suddenly FORGET that it was SHE who volunteered me? What is going on here! Chuckling silently inside, I told myself (you know, that quiet little voice that is talking to us seemingly ALWAYS – our OWN voice, to ourselves, FOR ourselves), “Oh, no you don’t. YOU don’t get to volunteer anyone other than yourself.” You see, I had already participated and presented PLENTY over the last 2 days; I was wanting a bit of a break for this one. When this woman, in front of our entire group stated what she did, I calmly replied, “No, actually you volunteered me, and I said ‘no thank you’. Wow! “Where is this strength coming from?”, I asked myself. I wasn’t snide, I wasn’t terse. I simply stated the FACTS of what happened with no emotion, no investment, not much of anything at all. Then I told myself, “Wow! You really handled THAT WELL!”
I just know that many of you reading this will have gone through similar situations, finding yourself smack-dab in the middle of something you did NOT create! HOW we handle these situations truly says so much about us, our state of mental and emotional security and strength (or lack thereof), and can make our break our entire experience.
This is and WAS monumental for me. Let me explain: For years, and years, DECADES even, I was ‘that woman’. The over-achiever who WANTED to show I was worthy (one of the reasons I graduated Magna Cum Laude was because I wanted my father to be proud), and therefore, worked harder than most. I was the woman who felt the only way to be seen and VALUED was to be ‘the one’ to work hard, over extend, willingly accepting what others threw my way. NO LONGER. You see, I no longer have ANY need to be seen in any certain way. Okay, slight overstatement. I am human after all, but for the most part, on most days, in most situations, it is just not important to me anymore in my life that ‘everyone think such and such’ about me. I am me. You are you. What people think is THEIR business, not ours. When we continually place our worth OUTSIDE of ourselves, we are continually hurt, disappointed, and frustrated that others may not see our ‘worth’. How many years was I a people-pleaser hoping for a favorable opinion? Too many, that is for sure.
Life throws us curve balls, and often, they come from the hands of others. Life is NOT a straight trajectory, following a calm, predictable, ‘straight’ line. No, more often than not, we are tossed a curve ball. Likely, that ball is not tossed, but comes toward us like a speeding freight train. “Whew! Where the hell did THAT come from?”, we may ponder. How WE HANDLE these challenges, large and small, can TRULY impact our mental and emotional health. Our CHOICES either move us forward into who we want to be, and how we want to live, or move us further away from those goals and ideals. How interesting it is to KNOW (!!!) that when we place so much importance and emphasis on pleasing others against our own true wishes, we may FEEL in the short run that we are moving TOWARD favorable opinions of others, and that may be true. However the PERSONAL sacrifice of integrity, authenticity, and going against our TRUE wants and needs is the price we pay. We HAVE to live with ourselves; we DO NOT often live with the people we are working SO HARD to please! How long do we choose to live to PLEASE others, who truly are people who don’t even MATTER? Oh yes, there was a bit of temptation to fall into the past familiar patterns yesterday when I was volunteered to do something, but I DIDN’T. Because I stood my ground, denied my people pleasing behavior, I STRENGTHENED that very skill. Practice, practice, practice, and if my choice yesterday upset this nameless woman or others, then so be it. I will no longer sacrifice myself for others. You shouldn’t either. I felt calm, secure, and STRONG. On the other hand, if I had gone along with this woman, I would feel weak, put out, taken advantage of, and like I let myself down. That is the WORST feeling I think; the feeling of letting OURSELVES down. This woman could NOT take advantage of me without MY permission. THINK ABOUT THAT.
Here are a few strategies to consider when life throws YOU a curve ball, and you may find yourself needing to make choices that will either move you closer to who you want to be, or further away:
- Practice ‘THE PAUSE’: If you don’t know what to say in the moment, don’t say anything at all, or say, “I need a few minutes to consider that.” There is NOTHING wrong with letting others know you need a minute to THINK. Anyone pushing for a quick answer, a fast response, is pushing YOUR BOUNDARIES. Don’t let them! This is within YOUR control; their pushing you is not. Let them TRY; you have the ultimate CHOICE of NOT allowing pushy, aggressive behavior. Practice the pause if you need a few minutes, or feel backed into a corner.
- Consider if what is being asked of you is truly what YOU want to do. There may be times of course when we are flexible, take care of or participate in things we aren’t too keen on, because we care about others, their needs and wants. THIS IS FINE, of course! However, if you are constantly NOT considering your own genuine wants and needs, or find yourself always being on the ‘giving’ end of things, please, take a moment and ask yourself if ‘this or that’ is what YOU genuinely desire. If not, say so. ACCEPT this may feel uncomfortable, if you are not used to standing firm in YOUR life. Feel the FEAR, but stand FIRM anyway. You will be AMAZED at the self-respect gained from doing just this very thing.
- Ask yourself what is IN your control, and what is outside of your control. THIS IS SIMPLE. The ONLY things you control are your OWN actions, reactions, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, feelings, etc. That is IT. We control no one else, ever. Don’t even try.
- Ask yourself: “How important is this? Will it matter in 6 months? 6 years?” If not, perhaps it really is not that big of a deal. Use personal / professional discernment here: I easily could have just jumped at the chance yesterday to again ‘prove myself’ to the group in training; it was more important to me to strengthen my skill of taking care of myself. In 6 months, this specific situation in my training seminar won’t matter; on the other hand, building self-respect, setting boundaries, and standing firm are skills that are important to me, for me, for the rest of my life.
- The good ole’ pros and cons debate: If needed, take time to LIST (yes, write these on paper) the pros and cons of any situation. Often, things will come to us in this process, and we can more objectively assess the situation at hand. Listing things on paper is a tried and true strategy that has served many, and allows clarity of thought by getting the pros and cons OUT of our heads, onto paper, where they can be LOOKED at clearly.
- Talk to TRUSTED individuals who are willing to tell you the TRUTH, withOUT platitudes! Oh, those platitudes!! I have one very special friend, who I’ve worked with for years, who just ‘gets me’ like no one else in my life. She throws out the tough questions, the tough considerations, and really gets me THINKING. Interestingly, she is young enough to be my daughter! This makes me chuckle, it truly does. Yes, I often am supportive for her as well, but boy, having her in my life brings clarity, offers support, but I also know she will be honest, tough (in a loving way), and will give me plenty of things to think about. I am beyond thankful to have her in my life.
- Settle your mind, heart, and soul. Make NO decisions, have no reaction (this is a tough one!), and do nothing at all – when your mind, heart, and soul are in turmoil. One of the ONLY exceptions I can think of here is in the matter of personal safety, or the safety / health / well-being of others in an acute situation. Safety first, always. If you NEED to act to preserve your personal safety, or that of others, of course, ACT. Otherwise, wait until you are settled. ALLOW peace, calm, and balance to settle before making decisions, or saying what might come to mind initially. Time, allow yourself a bit of time to become settled.
- Don’t be afraid to make others mad! If you do, you do. If you are taking care of yourself and not causing harm to others, then so be it. I may have made this nameless woman mad yesterday; so be it. 🙂
So, here we are again. I am wishing you all a beautiful day, full of self-strength, discernment, skills to practice, and contentment in your heart. YOU will have choices to make today, when those CURVE BALLS find you! And perhaps, so will I. Perhaps at the end of the day, we will be able to say, “Man, that was tough! Didn’t see THAT coming! I KNOW I handled that situation well! I know I did! Whew! I am SO PROUD of how I handled THAT!!” Best, L.A.