Dearest Readers,

Let us turn now to the subject of speaking up when it is unpopular to do so. For example, you are in a group situation and perhaps someone has brought a child. The child is a lovely creature and on her best behaviour but is nonetheless disrupting the meeting and making it difficult for people to listen and stay focused. No one wants to say anything for fear of offending the parents and yet the situation is calling for something to be said.

What do you do?

The choices are simple: 1. Let it go. 2. Say something.

Letting go is always a good thing. But what if the discussion is extremely important? What if there is someone there who needs the information so badly that her sanity actually depends upon it? Is letting go really the best option?

Saying something will cause friction. It may even cause resentment. People won’t like it. They may even start to dislike you. But the group is being disrupted and people are getting annoyed. Many people would like to speak up but are fearful of the repercussions. Someone does, in fact, need to step up to the plate.

Would you be that person?

I’ve been both the “let it go” person and the “step up” person. The letting go works but provides no real solution. The stepping up opens the door for communication and problem-solving but causes some angry feelings to arise and enter the mix. Neither option is easy. Especially the latter.

Why? Because someone, inevitably, will decide you are a jerk. You will then have to live with the reality that someone out there doesn’t like you. If you are a person that says, “Who cares?” to this statement I applaud you and celebrate your insouciance. I’m not there yet.

But I am getting there! Slowly. It’s been a long and winding road so far. Here are some of the more pleasant pit stops:

  • Don’t take things personally.
  • Validate yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back (literally — reach up and pat yourself on the shoulder).
  • Look in the mirror. Meet your eyes. Say, “You’re doing great. I love you. I really love you.”
  • Remember to hold your own heart tenderly.
  • Respond to your actions with compassion.

Whew! Lots of great tools. All beneficial. Some more challenging than others. Especially for the recovering perfectionist.

In a similar situation to the one above I recently stepped up and said, “This is not working and we need to discuss it.” Afterward, I came home feeling anxious because I knew I’d offended someone. The voices of dissent charged in and started their attack. I bought in for a while and started to beat myself up but then I took charge and used those tools of self-validation to calm myself down and celebrate the courage it took to speak up.

Not everybody is going to like me. And that’s okay.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Today I will give myself the validation I seek from others. Today I am good enough and I am loved enough because I give myself the love and compassion I need. I believe that I am worth it!

Good For You

Dearest Readers,

If you read yesterday’s blog you’ll know that I spent some of the morning having one of those crucial conversations that requires great courage. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t comfortable but I did it and feel good about the outcome.

About ten years ago I read a book called Living in the Light by Shakti Gawain. It was probably the first “personal growth” book I’d ever read and it had a profound impact on my life. Shakti talks a lot about Energy and how it works and how we can work with It. She’s very practical and down-to-earth and her ideas and practice resonate with me to this day.

One of the things I remember from Shakti’s book is the idea that if I am doing something for my Highest Good it will then be for the Highest Good of all concerned. At the time, my people-pleasing skills were at their peak and my sense of Self was at its lowest. This idea was almost too radical to comprehend.

Essentially, this new way of thinking meant I no longer had to make decisions and choices based on what I thought was best for other people. If I chose the path of my Highest Good, everyone else would be taken care of and I did not have to worry.

I did, however, have to do a great deal of letting go. I had to learn how to trust and I had to learn how to keep an open mind about what “Highest Good” could mean.

For example, I was caring for two small children at the time. The job was suffocating me. I knew quitting would be the most direct path to my Highest Good but I would be leaving their mother in the lurch. She needed me. How would abandoning my post be for her Highest Good?

Guess what? Not my department. So this is where the Trust comes in. If I try to figure that part out I’m playing God. I will never take the leap. I’ll stay put because I can’t see the outcome and therefore can’t let go.

Admittedly, it helps me to at least try to figure it out. “Maybe if I quit the mother will realize she needs to stay home and spend more time with her kids. Or the out-of-work nanny who is desperate for a job gets hired in my place. Or the the kids jump for joy because the bossy, cranky babysitter is gone.” If I can’t know what everyone else’s Highest Good is it still feels okay to do a little bit of guess work for reassurance.

So when I ended that professional relationship yesterday I relied on this new way of thinking to get me through. “I’m doing this for my Highest Good. I cannot see the outcome but I trust that it will be for the Highest Good of all concerned.” It made the task much more palatable and I felt supported and calm.

Of course, the people-pleaser balks. Cruel! Heartless! Selfish! But the people-pleaser is a controlling, fearful, worry-wart and she must be given another job. She is no longer allowed to make decisions. She is allowed to observe and learn and watch for opportunities to be of service. That’s it.

Thank-you, Shakti!

Inspiring Message of the Day: Today I will do my best to trust that the Energy of the Universe is benevolent. When something seems difficult or challenging I will trust that there exists behind it a Positive Outcome I cannot yet see.

The Art of Self-Care

Dearest Readers,

A recent conversation with a friend about boundaries plus an article in Psychology Today called The Good Guy Contract by Alex Lickerman, MD, (given to me by another friend) have both reminded me how far I’ve come in the relationships department. Learning to put my needs first, letting go of wanting you to like me and trusting that it’s not my job to run your life have all been challenging but rewarding transformations. Not to mention small miracles!

The Old BS (belief system) tells me that I’m not important enough and that your approval will make me okay. It tells me that I know what’s best for you. Scary but true. What I had to do in order to change this kind of thinking was look at the underlying fear.

What am I really afraid of? What is truly driving this kind of self-seeking behaviour?

Here’s where it gets tricky. How is people-pleasing self-seeking? Aren’t I thinking of the other person more than I am of myself? Not really. There is a difference between selfless service, which is performed with no thought of reward or recognition and action taken from a place of need or control. That’s where the fear comes in.

I’m afraid I’ll never be recognized. I’m afraid of being disliked. I’m afraid you’re going to get hurt or sick or die so I’ve got to worry about you or take care of you or tell you what to do. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of dying.

All of these fears are valid. We’re human, period. But which one of these fears is driving my bus? Which one of them is making my life unmanageable? If I can answer this question honestly I can begin to change and to be changed, and I can start to practice a new behaviour.

A few days ago I was asked by a woman to “go for coffee.” About a week before that she had asked me if I would help her with a personal issue. I said I would and I gave her some “spiritual homework” do to. Her desire to go for coffee was really just procrastinating the homework. So I said no.

I could have said yes. After all, it’s just coffee. What’s an hour or two of listening to this woman talk about her problems? I can do that. I’m generous. I’m kind. She needs someone to talk to. I’m a good person!

No. I’m not. If I’m putting her needs before my own I am a sick person. I am a co-dependent. I am unable to accept that I am important enough to come first. My insecurity is driving the bus. I am afraid that she will be disappointed. My caretaker is driving the bus. I am afraid of feeling the discomfort of saying “no”. My fear is driving the bus, period.

“I’ve given you your next steps. When you’ve completed them call me. We’ll get together and you can share your progress with me. That is what I can give you. That is what I have time for. That was our agreement.”

Ouch. Hopefully I did it with a little more compassion. As Alex Lickerman wrote in the aforementioned article, “My best friend came to me asking me why I had become such a jerk to all my friends.”

Yup, we have to be willing to lose some of our popularity if we are going to practice putting our needs first. But like an old friend of mine always says, “We can’t save our face and our arse at the same time.”

Inspiring Message of the Day: Am I putting my needs first? If not, why not? What is the underlying fear? I am now willing to answer this question so that I may begin to learn to practice the Art of Self-Care.