Day 22: Obligation or Opportunity?

Authors Note:  This is the 22nd entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

ImageDuring this time of the year, chances are many of us have been traveling around to visit family, friends, and others with whom we have a chance to connect as we travel back to our childhood and/or family homes.  As we do this – and as we wind down our travel time – consider this:

21. Spending time with people out of obligation. Just because you spent every waking moment of your elementary school days with someone doesn’t mean you have anything in common with her now. There’s no need to see every old friend and third cousin who passes through your city. Be intentional about who you spend your time with and allow yourself to let some relationships fade away naturally.

This one goes hand in hand with the post relating to entry number 20 – “Day 17: Albatross or Songbird” – when we talked about cutting off/banishing toxic friendships/relationships with your life – and entry number 2 – “Day 2: Affirmative Action” – where we discuss saying “yes” to everyone even when you don’t want to do something.  However, this one goes in a little bit of a different direction – in this case, what we’re really talking about is a sense of obligation.

When was the last time you went back to visit your family, and you heard that one of your old elementary or high school friends was in town?  Or better yet – someone’s first cousin, three times removed, was visiting, and they’d really “love it if you’d stop by” (even though the last time you saw this person was in 3rd grade and you have zero contact with them now)?  Unlike saying “yes” to everything because you don’t want to – in these instances, I tend to have this feeling that goes something like this – “I really don’t want to go – but I SHOULD go – because it’s (family/friend/etc.).  If I don’t, (fill in the name of relative or other friend) will be really upset with me.”

Talk about issues colliding!  Here we have a situation in which you DON’T want to do something, that you are possibly connecting with people who add zero value to you at the present moment (or who maybe never did except when you were FIVE), and the “good girl syndrome” all blending together in an obligation casserole.  I mean – how much guilt, regret, disappointment, etc., can you handle all at once?  

Evidently – quite a bit.

These moments happen to us all.  At these times, I tend to focus on what is important to me.  Do I really need to/want to connect with this person? Maybe or maybe not.  Is this a possible relationship that I can reconnect with and really learn from? Could be.  Is this a relationship that – when I was active in it before – brought me joy and/or something more, or that I contributed positively to?  Possibly.

When I consider these things – I come back to what fulfills me and brings me joy.  But I also consider the joy of the other person as well.  I end up splitting these moments at about 50/50.  Sometimes I go and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes – I’m just too tired to function and I know that I’d be a horrible companion/company for the evening, so I spare my grade school friend and/or relative the bear of dealing with a grumpy JPK.  Other times – I change my mindset and embrace the possible.  I’ve rekindled some amazing connections this way.  

The point of all of this rambling is simple – you have to do what is best for you at that moment.  Go if you want to – or if you feel ready to go . Don’t if you don’t want to.  Never let the lone sentiment of obligation rule your decision, for if you do, you will become a slave to it, and that will never bring you or anyone else around you joy.

How do you handle situations like this?

JPK 

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Day 20: The Big Chill

Time to embrace who we really are, ladies.  Consider this post this evening:

13. Trying to be “chill.” Maybe you truly are the “cool girl” who loves nothing more than kicking back with a six-pack and a movie. But for those of us who don’t possess the “chill” gene, let’s stop trying. Striving to be the mellow girl at all times keeps us from expressing our needs, desires and opinions.

Look – I get it.  You meet new people – you want to be the “best you” you can be.  So you start to gloss over things that bother you.  You overlook things you normally wouldn’t.  You go along with the group to do something that you normally would immediately say “no” to.  If you’re in a new relationship – magnify this times about a thousand.  I know some of you out there don’t do this – but the reality is that most women do.

We’ve been socialized our whole lives to be what others want us to be.  When we were small, we lived for the “good girl” moments – those times when we were praised for doing exactly what our parents or other authority figures wanted us to do.  These rewards sustained us – and for many of us – they still do.  Many times, we go along with what is expected out of fear.  “Will I ever find another (job, partner, opportunity) like this again?  If I don’t – what will I do?  It would be better to just go along with it – it’ll all work out better this way.”

Sound familiar?

I fall victim to this all too often – and when I do, it really makes me angry.  Just today, I actually asked my husband for permission to buy something.  For those of you who know me – you know this is NOT normal – but it just fell out of my mouth like I was asking about the weather.  I fell into that damned people-pleasing trap that I had been encouraged to stay in my entire life.  Blissfully my husband gave me this incredulous look like, “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?!?”  I immediately realized what I had done, and it left me cold.

I can tell you for a fact the primary reason that my first marriage did not work is because I played the “chill” or “good” girl. I followed what I thought I was supposed to be, liked what others liked, did what I thought my first partner expected, shut my opinion down, and  as a result I completely lost sight of myself, my needs and what I really wanted.  I talked a great talk (I seriously should have gone into acting) – I said I wanted kids, that I wanted a house, that I wanted all of the “normal” things every woman “should want” in a marriage, family, community, etc.  For a while, I thought I was supposed to want these things – and so I began to believe that I truly did.  But something was always wrong for me.  And finally, one day I figured it out.

I was trying so hard to fit the definition of what others wanted me to be, that I completely lost sight of myself.

It was a chilling moment for me – and one that I still fight every day to not repeat – at work, at home, and with friends.  It’s a tough fight.  I have very specific and divisive opinions – and I know that I run the risk of alienating others when I express them.  However, at the end of the day, I realize that if I don’t give voice to my voice – I am not being authentic.  I am not being me.

So make a commitment with me – keep trying to fight off the urge to follow what others want for you instead of what you truly want for yourself. You will face this often – but remember, you are in ultimate control of how you respond and what you choose. You have to be honest with yourself in these moments.  But when they come – if you feel uneasy – step away.  Take time to consider your response.  Search who you are and what you believe and then answer and/or make a decision.

Perhaps then you will rediscover yourself, and when you do, keep her close – she’s ridiculously valuable.

Until tomorrow,

JPK