I feel a knot of anger in my gut and it is SO uncomfortable. I want to push it down and pretend it isn’t there. Instead, I breathe more deeply and let it up. It is telling me two things that I need to listen to.
First, I am tired of adjusting my needs to meet the needs of others. I am tired of making my needs less important. This is especially galling when my needs are vital and the other person’s “wants” are merely a convenience for them. And yet their “wants” press in on me as a responsibility I must meet.
Inside me is an insidious program that inhibits my ability to be true to myself.
This brings me to the second thing that my anger is telling me. I do not appreciate people giving me advice – especially unsolicited advice. I shared with a friend that I was having trouble saying “no” to a loved one. She puffed up her chest and began to tell me exactly what I “should” say to my loved one.
Did she really think the issue here is that I don’t know what to say? That my problem is lack of knowledge? Does she really believe I’m simply missing the right words? I know full well what to say! When someone is stuck (as I am) it rarely has anything to do with lack of knowledge. In my case, a few clicks on the Internet will bring me a treasure trove of great words and ideas. With a little more investment in time, I can troll through my favorite bookstore and find a zillion self-help books full of advice.
This is why advice can feel like fingernails scratching down a chalkboard. It is demoralizing to be “told what to do” when the answer is obvious and the real problem is hidden. In my case, it is not that I don’t know what to say and it is not that I think that what I want is unreasonable. It is more a feeling that I can’t say “no.” More to the point it is a very old program that is inhibiting me from taking care of myself.
What makes these programs so powerful is that they exist at the physiological level.
They are not just thoughts in our heads, they are also feelings in our body. So, when I think about saying “no” my internal alarm goes off and the program starts to run. My heart pounds, my breathing speeds up and my mind either goes blank or begins to race. My brain has alerted my body to handle this emergency NOW and my body will take the path of least resistance, which is always the old program.
In the throes of this stress state, I feel very stuck. I don’t want to say yes and I can’t get the word “no” out of my mouth. I freeze. I am so aware of my helplessness and deep within I feel embarrassed and humiliated at my weakness. It is in this moment that my friend offers her advice of “just say X” as-if that was all I needed. Her advice, however well meant, only makes me feel worse. I am silent in response because I don’t know how to explain to her why this is so hard for me.
I’d like to tell you that “all” we need to do is get coherent and then making boundaries will be easy. Sometimes that’s true. But when a powerful old program is working you over it is much more challenging. Yes, I need to get coherent. And I need to have a ton of compassion for myself. For powerful old programs getting coherent is the first step. It creates my baseline.
To meet my needs long-term, I must then figure out what I want.
That’s the game changer, figuring out what you want. Here is a sample of how I helped myself.
What do I want? What is most important to me?
Honor my commitments to myself so that I may meet my business goals in the time allotted.
As part of answering question #1 I will also write how I will feel and what my life will be like as I successfully achieve these goals on time. I give myself an experience of my success. A taste of what it will be like. This is essential.
What actions do I need to take consistently in order to meet my goal?
Answer (partial list):
Show up on time
Say “no” to requests from other people during committed periods of the day
Plan my schedule the day before
Review my achievements at the end of each day
If I blow it brainstorm ways I can create a boundary in the future
Now the next time a loved one makes a request that conflicts with my needs I will be fully aware of what is at stake. When I use my tools to get coherent I will be getting coherent in the service of my vision. I will be moving forward towards where I want to be vs. getting coherent just so I can think straight and “try” and decide what to do with my loved one staring and waiting.
When what you want really matters to you, when it is truly important it pays big dividends to map it out; get coherent and then plan ahead how you will manage those old programs that inhibit you from aligning with your vision.
Over time you honor yourself more and more. People around you begin to learn to adjust to your needs and a lovely “give and take” blooms in the relationship. You are learning the joy that comes from standing in your value.