Monday, July 9, 2012

Did I Overreact?

I have learned a huge lesson this month. One that seems simple and straightforward, but one I have resisted for years and years (decades, even!)

Let me sum it up for you:

If you guide your behavior by paying attention to the way someone else feels about your behavior...then YOU ARE POWERLESS.

This means taking action without worrying about other people's reaction to your action.


This means that you might not meet the 1950s dictionary definition of "nice". It might mean that you are the very epitome of the 1950s dictionary definition of "mean".

This is hard for me. This might be hard for most women, and even some men (because men are people too).

I am referring, on a large scale, to our close, personal, intimate relationships (not about large actions that would affect a community).

Let me give you an example: have you ever led someone on romantically because you felt too "mean" to just ignore a text message or email from a would be (or past) suitor (even though ignoring is just what you wanted to do)? Did you worry that they would perceive you as mean, and you just want to be seen as nice (we all want to be liked)?  So you answer them, or accidentally encourage, or go on dates you do not want to go on because you just want things to go well, be drama free, no one to get hurt? (note to self: these types of situations really aren't supposed to go "well").

Here is another example: have you ever told someone that you are not interested in a relationship. So, they ask if you can just be friends instead. You have your doubts. But, to be "nice", you say sure! (even though you know that they harbor romantic feelings for you (or vice versa))? Thus, making every time you are with them uncomfortable and awkward?

What about the time you say yes to things you really do not want to do because you are worried how the other person will respond if you say no (even though your gut is saying NO!)

Why do we do this? Why do we not trust our guts? Why do we not do what we actually want to do? Even if it makes us "mean"?  Sure, we could blame it on being raised in a religious setting that teaches women to be sugar and spice and every thing nice (um, I think that is society in general, not just religious society). Sure we could blame our docile mother who just baked cookies and smiled through all the things she did that she did not want to do. Sure, we could blame it on ourselves--we overreact! We are overly sensitive! We are paranoid!  Maybe the guy is nice! Just give things a chance! Maybe you are wrong. It is easier just to say yes! --So, yes, I guess you just blame yourself and now stop doing it!

Why do we second guess every first decision we want to make?

How would your life be different if you did not second guess? No apologies.

Someone asks you out and you do not want to go, so you just say no (without the fear that you should say yes because the world tells you that you are a spinster and that you need to get married).

This is classic fear-based behavior--What will people think of me? What if I hurt their feelings? What if they tell other people I was mean or crazy or that I overreacted? That I am too much drama? That I am difficult? That I am hard to please? That I have too high of expectations?

I challenge each of you to notice things that you are doing that you do not want to be doing. It is not fair to yourself, or to the person you are in a relationship with, to continue to do these things. Even if that means ending the relationship. And you have to have enough faith in your feelings and emotions to let them guide you. Be true to them. And you have to have enough faith in the other person to realize that they are capable of dealing, and moving on, and finding a better life path.

And if we all did that, the world would be a more honest place. A better place. A happier place. 

Look out world. I am doing what I want to do, and I am no longer afraid what you might think of it.


Newt said...

I agree, but easier said than done. I have definitely walked the other side of the line trying to train myself to set my own power boundaries (did I just make that term up? possibly). Maybe erred on the mean side, but oh well. We are re-calibrating our attitudes and behavior to a new set point - "clear and polite," as opposed to the old "nice and sort of wishy washy" - so of course there's some adjustment period where it's likely we will swing to the other side of "harsh and abrupt". And now, looking back on a couple situations, maybe it felt harsh and abrupt to me, but actually more likely it came across as clear and polite to the other person, that's how ingrained I had been in that way of thinking.

Anyway I feel like you're terrific at articulating a lot of the things I've been thinking about or learning over the past few years. So thank you, and keep up the good work d'Arcy.

D'Arcy said...

Aw! Thanks! Actually, your articulation of Power Boundaries is PERFECT! Just what I was trying to say. And I agree. I have accidentally been to harsh (told a guy that I did not feel a connection and apparently it crushed him), but I have also been incredibly wishy-washy hoping they would get the hint and just leave me alone. It is a hard, hard thing to continue in the dating world and I find myself stressed by it too much. However, being true to my first instinct is getting me through it with a lot more grace.

JMH said...

I believe that empathy is the greatest human emotion, so this makes me a little uncomfortable. Maybe it should. Of course it should.

This post seems to me the mentality of a warrior, of an artist, of someone who will not accept the established values of the community, having found a higher version of values, and is acting towards what is right, damn the consequences.

But to be faithful to those you know, being concerned about how another person feels or thinks about you, believing in a group of people, a group of feelings, no? What is life without this?

Newt said...

JMH empathy is about concern for other people, where they're coming from, etc. that's a vital component of adult relationships.

I don't really think that's what d'Arcy is talking about here at all though. It's about the tricky situation, where the right thing is sometimes the hard thing to say, where the truth is unpleasant, but leaving it unsaid will cause further hurt feelings down the road. Where denying what you feel starts to eat away at you inside until you are just a shell of the person you could be.

Embracing one's own needs and desires is just as much a part of emotional intelligence as embracing the needs and desires of others. If you cannot love yourself, it's damn hard to truly love others. It's not a choice, freely given, if you cannot say no as honestly as you can say yes, if you agree to things because you feel you have no other choice.

Uhhh... I think I'm rambling now.

Newt said...

Ok. I shouldn't put words in another person's mouth. Sorry d'Arcy. That is what I was talking about.

D'Arcy said...

No apologies! You're spot on! And my sweet JMH is the kindest person ever, so I can see why this would make him uncomfortable.

To me, being "mean" has an intent to do harm attached to it. And I'm referring to people of the opposite sex. So many people lead each other on because they do not want to be "mean". But, in this world, there needs to be a place for honesty. And trusting your gut. And following your feelings.