Yesterday, I told a friend that I am unable to get out of a situation that isn’t working in my life because I don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.
To be honest with myself, what I meant by that is “I don’t want to go through the unpleasant drama that other person is highly likely to create if I tell them what I really feel.” So instead, I just minimize contact to the best of my ability.
My friend challenged me on this “dishonesty”. That challenge caused me to examine myself more closely. This is a recurring theme in my life! For the first time, I realized how many times I ignore or excuse others’ unfair, unkind or impolite behaviors just to “keep the peace”. I have this fantasy that I am being kind because I am accepting the other person just as they are. Ironically, in my work life, I am fierce when I see an injustice against one of my clients or myself. But in my personal life? Well, I am overly non-confrontational.
I rationalize that it isn’t really that big of a deal when someone often says mean things, or if I continue to associate with a person whose personality I no longer want to be around, or if someone seems to pull me down emotionally every time I’m around them.
Upon reflection, I see this pattern started in childhood. I felt like I had to be always alert
to one of my parent’s moods, and that I needed to be certain not to do anything to upset that parent or the resulting fireworks would be too high a price to pay. But I haven’t lived at home since I was 17. That’s a whole lot of years! Isn’t it time to stop carrying that forward? Yeah, I think so too.
Perhaps you have patterns of behavior you are using in your adult life that don’t serve you either?
My rational mind has kicked in, and I have a plan to help me handle this. Maybe my plan will help you if you have the same tendency?1I am going to tune in to my feelings as I anticipate seeing/being around someone. If I find myself clenching my guts and preparing for whatever they may dish out, I’m going to know it is my intuition sending me a warning. Likewise, if when I leave their presence I feel exhausted, wounded or drained, I will do the same. 2I am going to talk to a professional counselor about this. It has become such a part of my personality, I may not always be able to see myself objectively and know when I am doing this to myself. I suppose a trusted friend might be helpful, too, but I think this pattern is too ingrained to be a Do-It-Yourself fix. 3I am going to consider myself worthy of being treated better – starting today.
For most people, I notice that is easier said than done. We seem to exempt certain people in our lives from acting appropriately. I know fierce businessmen whose wives are just short of abusive. Some business owners fail to deal with poor behavior from employees. 4I will release the subtle arrogance that makes me say, “I am capable of handling this person’s behavior, but they are not capable of hearing me speak my own truth.” There are all kinds of reasons we allow “bad” behavior from others, but I suspect this is part of our secret inner rationale in most cases. 5I will stop forcing myself to stay in situations that feels unhealthy, inauthentic or even toxic for me. I may choose to speak up for myself, or I may choose to leave the situation and not return to it.
Logically, we all know we have to help ourselves “grow up”. Yet when it comes right down to watching our destructive, unhealthy patterns repeat themselves, it can be hard to take actions in the right direction. Let’s do this together!