‘Tis the season…for complicated family dynamics! In this super short, super digestible solo episode, we’ll dive into how to set some simple mindful boundaries with your family, through the holidays and beyond. We’ll talk about how to manage negative talk around the table, redirecting tough conversations, and how to be yourself when you feel like you need to play the role of someone else.
This episode is in support of Together Rising. Together Rising transforms collective heartbreak into effective action. Since 2012, Together Rising has raised over 2o million dollars, and 100% of what Together Rising receives from every personal donation goes directly to an individual, family, or cause in need. Together Rising identifies what is breaking the hearts of their givers, and connect the givers’ generosity with the people and organizations who are effectively addressing that critical need. To learn more, visit Together Rising’s website orfollow them on Instagram.
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I knew this moment was coming. While not “big” by industry standards, my Instagram numbers were steadily growing, and between three speaking gigs in two weeks and a brand new collab underway, I was seeing an amount of traction that was abnormal for what I’d experienced thus far. I knew, also, that as my “numbers” began to grow, that so would my trolls.Maybe if I kept things sterile and serene on social, but that’s not my jam, because I believe that if you have a voice people are listening to, you should use it.
But also, I know it wouldn’t really matter either way. I could post about politics or I could post about pomegranates. I could post about body image or I could post about the best bakeries in Manhattan. I could post instrospective captions or I could post a string of vague emojis that don’t really mean anything in particular. I know that women are bullied on social media for just existing (much like in life!), and I also know that the more outwardly successful you are, the more bullying comments you receive. Just go to the comments section of anyone you deem even mildly #famous and you’ll see what I mean.
this was the pic, btw.
I also want to add that this isn’t the first time I’ve been harassed online. I’ve received DMs on all platforms and seen men tag each other in my posts commenting with wagging tongues or some other disgusting emoji or outburst. But this was the first public-facing comment that was directly directed at me, whose direct purpose was to knock me down and dehumanize me.
I’d like to say I was unaffected and laughed the second I saw it. But when it showed up in my notifications, my heart dropped. I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it – part of me for the last month had been whispering in the back of my mind, Wait for it… – but it still stung. After the first 15 seconds, I shook off the sting and started laughing. I’ve Made It!, I cheered to myself! And proceeded to check out this dude’s account then block and report him, not before (of course) snapping a screenshot for harassment proof and to text my friends. Oh, and blast on my personal social accounts.
I knew sharing this would be a little social experiment. How many people would laugh, how many would get angry? How many would know that this is sadly expected, and how many would be agog that this would happen to ME, “violently positive” (as I’ve been deemed by some friends) Katie Horwitch, who keeps her posts PG-13 at their racy-est and proactive at their most charged? I’ve come to expect a wide gamut of reactions based on the wide gamut of experiences and perspectives all people come into a conversation with.
But what blew me away in THIS conversation was the overWHELMING prevalence of this one comment:
This is obviously a very sad person and we should send him light.
Now, not everyone commented with these exact words. Most came to me in the form of “Wow, what a miserable life he must lead” or “What a sad person he must be” or “Laugh at their misery with compassion” or “Imagine how shitty his existence must be and how badly he must need a hug” or even “By the looks of it, this guy is clearly so sad in life and clearly needs medication.”
I’m not one to downplay mental health issues. But the overarching theme and connecting thread between all of these comments was: he gets a pass because of how hard life must be for him.
I know my friends were well-meaning when saying these things, and didn’t meant to downplay anything. I know this because I know this kind of deescalation is a conversation and perspective that’s been taught. It’s kinder than “stooping down to their level.” It’s more “enlightened.”
It’s the “high road.”
But it begs, no, PLEADS the question:
Why is our default response with hurtful men, particularly WHITE men, to play the compassion card, while when it’s a woman or POC, it’s to get angry and spew hate their way (even when they’re NOT actually being a bully, but that’s another conversation)? Why is it that the bully in the situation gets a free pass when the bully is an angry white dude?
I am strong and confident. I’ll be just fine. But some people aren’t. And saying things like “don’t let it get to you, they’re just sad in real life” excuses the bully’s behavior, writing it off as a supporting example of a greater thesis statement about that person’s life. A life that doesn’t involve you, but in this moment, actually does.
Even more than that, using excuses like “what a sad human being” normalizes pushing others down to make yourself feel better. And even MORE than that- and this is what really gets me – it makes the harrassee, on the prey, feel GUILTY for not feeling compassion for their bully.
I see it happen on a small scale in instances like this one and on a more serious scale with my black or gay friends who are told that they should feel sorry for the people who speak such hateful words about them. That, to quote Shakespeare or someone like him, “they know not what they say” and should be sent, to paraphrase, “love and light.”
Well, I call BS on love and light. I call BS on the default of putting yourself in the shoes of the oppressor, whether it’s the man catcalling you on the street or the online troll smearing your DMs with racism. I call BS on it all.
So how do we do it then? In the true spirit of how I write, and WHAT I write, and what others SHARE on this platform, how does this turn into a proactive post offering tools and insight instead of a reactive post venting and offloading emotion?
•SHARE. Brené Brown says that shame can’t live when spoken out loud. Names are shame’s worst enemy and take away shame’s power. When I share things I feel shame around or stuff people say to me that’s meant to tear me down, though, I check my intenitions behind the share. Am I looking for pity or to engage in a hatefest? Or am I posting to expose darkness, to show that this can happen to anyone, anywhere – and we must join forces to take on that darkness?
•Engage with the bully **when PRODUCTIVE and PROACTIVE.** Is commenting back going to help someone learn something or help prove a point when it comes to creating the world you want to live in? Then post away. I thought of posting a comment back to this guy to show others who might be watching how to disarm a bully (my personal tactic is humor and confusion. “I actually thought of this same joke in middle school so I could poke fun at it before any of the mean 12 year-old boys could!” would’ve done it). But this particular comment was so juvenile and nonsensical that it didn’t deserve the time of day – mine or anyone else’s. If the photo or caption had been different – maybe more sexualized or risque – I would have used it as an opportunity to assert my right to portray my body however I pleased. My right to take pride in my sexuality instead of it simply being fodder for others (men) to comment on and make decisions about.
But this wasn’t the case. It was about him leaving a nonsensical comment that didn’t have anything to do with anything except general punny slut-shaming because it’s “funny” and demeaning. It was a classic bully move. This dude didn’t follow me (I checked). This guy didn’t care about what I had to say. He wanted to come into my space, spit at me, and then leave. It would be a waste of my time to try and engage and create a comment war or generate more anger – all on MY page, mind you, which I have worked hard to build and have strict community guidelines around. Namely, don’t be a dick.
I’ve been shamed before for my choices in clothing or maybe a look that “feels” provocative. But those are my choices. I know who I am and I know what I’m doing. And I will always defend that, so that others who might not be able to find the words themselves can have a point of reference if and when it happens to them.
•SCREENSHOT and REPORT hate speech. I’m not talking about silencing voices you don’t agree with. Don’t do that. It’s a reeeeal bad look, to put it mildly. I’m talking about the old PSA of “if you see something, say something.” I’m talking about if someone is coming at YOU or someone else with toxic, malicious vitriol, take a screenshot for your records and then report that shit. Platforms like Facebook are preaching that they have zero tolerance for hate speech and harassment. At the end of the day, they’re businesses. They exist because of us. And their noble claims of being an inclusive, tolerant zone, as much as I would love to say are all about their core values, are most likely ALSO a direct result of a shift in user experience. See something? Say something. Make those platforms do something about it.
Interestingly enough, this also happened the day before the news broke about the US administration’s talks about making it illegal to recognize more than two genders in our country. I shared a post by my friend Kelsey, which I thought was so succinct and well-written. Not even an hour later, I received an extremely nasty DM from someone telling me that I looked stupid and our country looked stupid, and while I was “over here caring about stupid pronouns” there were “people dying from bombs across the world.” Apparently I wasn’t allowed to care about Trans rights *and* international warfare. ::shrugs::
And this is where it all starts to get blurry. How do you interact with, if you even interact with at ALL, people who are yelling AT you and not speaking WITH you, who slam you with hate speech and view life through a very narrow lens of their own making?
I’m still working this out. Right now, I’m thinking it’s futile to argue with people who are hell-bent on interpreting your words, your decisions, and your SELF as they see fit. As a quote shared by brilliant Vienna Pharon and @mytruthnturs said, “self care is also not arguing with people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”
But I am still learning. And next year, month, week, hour, I might feel differently. That it’s important to speak up no matter what, even if the person on the other end is determined to shut you down. Yet right now, I don’t have time for that shit. I have work to do.
When consulting with brands and “influencers,” I’ve heard people say that they feel like having a certain amount of visibility or recognition will allow them to talk about things they actually want to talk about. That once they reach a certain number or achieve a very specific self dictated level of success, the conversational doors will fly open and the soapbox will appear. When that happens, they say, they’ll talk about racial injustices, gender disparities, wage gaps, the whole shebang. When, when, when.
My question to them is always: why aren’t you talking about these things now, if those are the conversations you want to be KNOWN for having??
And this is where I’m at. In this period of unusually rapid growth, it’s even more vital for me to use my voice in the way I know how and know I must. If you’re looking to build a genuine following and highly engaged community online: post your values. Post your Self. It’ll get rid of the noise real quick, and you’ll end up with the people who are Your People. Win win.
Oh, and as for my last name? You’ll notice I didn’t change it when I got married. Katie Tucker is pretty adorbs and could have worked quite nicely. It could have also avoided this lame bullying comment.
But here’s the thing. I’ve spent years making peace with my last name. I’ve spent years emotionally sifting through the self-deprecating comments of my family members about how much it sucks, or women telling women to make the change as soon as they can. I’ve learned to make loving jokes, and I’ve learned to find the power in it.
One crisp and slightly ethereal day last year, I ran into my friend Michael after I finished teaching one of my classes. Not unusual (we do work at the same place), but this time, his face lit up differently when he saw me in the hallway. Like I was a walking epiphany. “This might sound weird, but I was thinking about your last name the other day,” he started. Oh no, I thought. Here it goes…
“I broke it down and I realized your last name is made up of two labels devised by the patriarchy. ‘Whore’ (or Hor) for sexually empowered women, and ‘Witch’ for socially and politically revolutionary feminists. Your last name is made of up two terms that were created by men to demean strong and powerful women who were viewed as threats. Your last name is basically the most badass, most powerful, and most on-brand last name you could have.”
Damn straight. I’ll take it.
(**my people, for the record, believe in trans rights, believe that black lives matter, believe survivors – and while my people and i might not agree on everything in life, my people like to lean in and get curious way more than lash out and get cruel.)
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Possibly the longest episode title ever – and it doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Taking a wee pause from The Recovery Myth miniseries right now to do some Thinking Out Loud. This episode, something new for me, has no script, outline, or even single subject matter. It’s a mishmosh of some of the biggest things on my brain and the deepest dives I’ve been doing lately.
Inspired by THIS Instagram post, I realized that sometimes the best coversations are long, rambling, multifaceted, and hit everyone in different ways.
In this episode we get down ‘n dirty about:
-Wedding planning and how what people say it’s like is actually NOT the case for me
-Figuring out your limitations so you don’t crash and burn
-A Cheryl Strayed Q+A that changed the way I view the way I work
-My theory about the social media landscape shift
-Some real talk on the real wellness industry
-Tiny tweaks, tricks, and tips to create structure and reclaim your day
Like this episode? Leave a review on iTunes, share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!
I don’t usually write these kinds of things, but I’m staring at my computer screen blankly in the middle of a Maison Kayser with a too-pretty-to-drink splurge coffee in front of me while I wait for my laundry to be done at the local laundromat and this seems like a good place to start. It usually is.
When I started WANT, I made it very clear that this was not my personal blog. WANT isn’t even a blog at all – it’s a brand, a platform, part of which includes my work as a writer and activist when it comes to what it means to be a fully self-actualized woman in this world. I present personal work, I never work through personal work. It’s irresponsible of me to use this space as a venting ground or pretend like I’ve got answers about things that I don’t. It’s not my job to drag you down into the muck of my struggles. It IS my job to be fiercely honest and use my personal experiences to help lift you up into the you you know you’re meant to be.
And yet. And yet. Sometimes something comes along that is so grating, so disrespectful, and so widespread that I can’t just sit here quietly and watch it happen to literally every single woman I know. Because choosing to be a writer, artist, activist, and truth-teller means that you also choose to be someone who stands up.
I turned 30 this year. I’ve been living with my boyfriend for almost three years now. I’ve made my reflex (writing) my career (writer). I’ve moved across the country. I’m closer to 50 than I am to 5. I found six grey hairs this October.
Apparently, when you hit certain milestones in life – whether an age or life stage – it’s deemed acceptable (dare I say obligatory?) for others to grill you about your life choices. You know the questions. So when are you getting married? So do you want to have kids? Where do you see yourself in five years? And then, there are the questions you get as a creative: Have you thought about monetizing your “blog” yet? How do you make a living? Aren’t you worried about financial security? But what else do you do? Isn’t it time you joined the real world already? You know, I know a guy…
It’s not just the questions that start to roll in, it’s the opinions and advice along with them. You’re not getting any younger. You’re going to regret it. You don’t know what you’re saying. You should try this other thing. I’ve got a friend of a friend who does this and says that, so maybe you should make that happen. Have you thought about making that happen?
On behalf of all women everywhere (because it also seems as if women get this wonderful privilege of their lives being publicly owned property to own stock in) I’d like to say:
I’ve had to learn the hard way (is there any easy way?) that knowing thyself doth not make you immune to others assuming that they doth know better. Marriage, kids, career, location, LIFE. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I thought the key to living a life free of worry and judgement was to know myself so well that being anyone else was out of the question. But as I grew older – especially as I started to inch toward the big three-zero – I realized something bizarre: for as much as we tout self-knowledge and fulfillment in theory, our society still views the individual opinion as a threat. After all the books and memes and self-help podcasts, we’re still out there judging our women for not following a path that looks familiar to our own. Just like recognizing one woman’s beauty does not lessen yours, one woman following her own path does not invalidate you following yours.
And yet. And yet. We preach the self-love gospel and urge each other to follow the beat of our own drum while at the same time judging the way we do it. We tell our kids from a very young age to trust their gut and “be themselves,” but with no guidebook to do so, we’re left with the daunting task of becoming human and becoming whole. It’s no wonder the quarter life crisis, mid-life crisis, Saturn Return, et al have become so widely embraced by our culture. We’re trying to teach ourselves to swim, while simultaneously trying to follow the directions of the people who aren’t in the water, yelling at us from the shore. We’re drowning in opinion.
The most baffling thing is how at ease others are at asking the questions or forcing the discussion of topics that are usually saved as “serious conversation” topics between the people they directly affect.
Before this relationship, I was single for five years. Five years. Contrary to what others might tell you about singledom, they were some of the best five years of my life. I got to know myself in a way I never had before. I honed my passions and found new ones. I became, for the most part, the person I am now. I think everyone should spend a good deal of time single, because it is the very best way to learn who you are at the end of the day. I loved that process.
And yet. And yet. My inbox was flooded with messages from extended-extended-extended family members trying to set me up with their rich friend’s son. While I was finding my way in the editorial world, the number one question I got was whether I was dating or not. And when I began teaching fitness classes and was really, truly figuring out what I was meant to do and give, I will never forget the family friend who instead of asking questions about why I loved it or what I was learning, grilled me about what I wanted to do with my life and made a disapproving comment about how I “wasn’t going to be an ‘exercise girl’ for the rest of” my life. During a time when I was becoming increasingly self-confident and self-expressed, that comment shot through me and sent me sinking back into my own ocean of self-doubt.
Now, the comments and questions look different. Questions about marriage. Questions about kids. Career “advice.”
Oh, the career “advice.”
On one hand, there are people who confuse my professional writing with a personal blog and like to make all kinds of assumptions/ask very intrusive and personal questions because of it. I think this happens across the board on the internet, whether it be a website, blog, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever: whereas the people I’ve met through the internet have become some of my closest, most treasured relationships, there are people who know me in real life who use what I share online to make assumptions about who I am offline.
On the other hand, there are people who think that running my own business and career is “cute.” They see it as an opportunity to crowd source how to run it best, a chance to tell me about their friend who does such-and-such and about how I should really try doing that instead. I guess that, for some people, it’s unthinkable that I’ve actually put deep thought and hard work into this. For some people, it’s laughable that I’m doing something real, that I’m making real change, and most of all – that I am in charge.
Amongst the female freelancers and entrepreneurs I’ve talked to (and I’ve talked to a lot), there is this common thread of not being taken seriously. Our professions are seen as hobbies, our work viewed as wishy-washy. And then, of course, when people don’t understand or exhaust their advice options, they jump straight to the questions that let you know they see your life as partially empty. So when you getting married? So when you having kids? The cycle repeats and repeats. So much energy wasted on convincing others we’re right where we need to be and we’ve got this.
The thing is, most people don’t believe they’re being judgy. They believe they’re sharing their knowledge, they believe they’re being supportive even. They believe they’re offering solutions, and they believe they’re letting you know they want the best for you. They believe they’re making conversation, sometimes. They believe they’re not imposing, and they believe they know where you are and where you’ve been. They believe they know.
But to the people who ask these questions: How much do YOU know? How much do you know, really?
When you ask a woman if she thinks her parter is “The One,” you have no idea if they’re floating on air or if they’re struggling to make each other a priority. When you ask a woman if she’s going to have kids, or worse, ask a married woman if “she’s trying” (which is basically just asking if she and her SO are doing it constantly, or going through the difficult and costly process of IVF or a surrogate – and don’t even get me started on all the questions and judgements that I’ve heard go along with adoption process), you have zero clue as to what kind of emotional baggage that brings up, or if she’s going through a miscarriage, or if she’s feeling distraught because she doesn’t really know if she wants kids yet and that sense of uncertainty scares the crap out of her. When you ask a woman where she wants to be in five years or tell her she should really turn her talent into her profession or comment about how she should be doing things differently, you might not realize she lays awake at night struggling to make ends meet or is busting her ass trying to make money at the thing she loves. You have NO CLUE how much work is or is not going on behind the scenes.
Here’s what I would love to say to these people:
Look. I know you care. I think you care. At least, I’d like to think you care. In an ideal world, we’d all care greatly about one another and support each others’ rise up into our own unquestionably unique life story. But the thing is, I know it’s not really that you care about me. It’s that you care about your relationship to the construct of me. I also know it’s easier to live vicariously through someone else’s experiences than completely own up to and focus on your own. I also know that you not treating these topics with the weight that I do – as in, they’re mine and mine alone – signals you do not respect my answer either way. You do not respect my answer, period. You’re simply hungry for information, hungry for ammo, craving the excitement of being “in the know” or in some cases “knowing better.” You want an in with me that I do not consent to giving to you.
How do you think asking about marriage makes us feel about this very personal, very private decision that WE have only discussed in a series of “serious conversations”? How do you think your attempts to get me paired off with your coworker’s nephew makes me feel about my ability to find love on my own? Do you know how much pressure I feel when you ask if I’m going to have kids, and when I say I’m unsure and you immediately try and “sway” my uterus and I into impending childbirth? Do you have any idea how many nos or non-responses I’ve received during the course of my career, or the late nights I’ve worked to push something out because I’m running a business, not a hobby?
Moreover, do you realize what a slight this is to me? Prying into how I live my life tells me you do not care about the decades I’ve spent getting to know myself and the person I strive to be. Prying into how I live my life tells me my self-knowledge does not matter. Imagine how it feels, after years and years of learning how to “be myself” and “trust my gut,” to be the subject of your prying questions, your assumptions, your unsolicited advice, and the subtext of it all telling me that I can be myself as long as I okay it with you first.
If you’re one of those people who cannot stop speculating or has this great idea or has “just got to ask” – DON’T.And no, “not asking” is not tiptoeing around anything or walking on eggshells. Just. Don’t.
Here’s what you can do: Ask other questions. Ask someone how they are in their head and heart. How are they physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
I promise you, if there’s information they want you to know, they’ll offer it up. But if they don’t, you’ve got to be comfortable with not knowing. And if you’re not comfortable NOT being what you consider to be in-the-know? You might do better by asking yourself why you DO need to be.
As a writer, I make my living (or at least a portion of it, for now) by sitting still and letting the entirety of me hit me like a tidal wave. I love nothing more than to sit alone, still and quiet, on a cloudy afternoon or late at night and use my HSPness to its fullest capacity. I’ve come to be such close sisterfriends with vulnerability that I simply call her Sheer Honest Living. It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating. It’s me.
I will never stop exposing myself, my truths, and the truths of the world around me I so painstakingly explore and tune into. And yet…and yet. I will always share what is personal and never what is intimate. I will fiercely live my life the way I know how, because I’ve spent a lifetime learning how I function, and my public Sheer Honest Living in the personal realm gives no one permission to use my openness as their “in” to the intimate realm. I allow myself to be hit with the tidal wave because I know how to swim.
And to you reading this? You know how to, too. I know you do. You are a badass. You are a superstar. Whatever you are doing with your life, wherever you are in life, whoever you’re doing it with. I support you a zillion percent.
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The holiday season. On one hand, it’s a time of food, fun and family togetherness. On the other hand… it’s a time of food, fun and family togetherness.
Getting together with the family can bring out all sorts of emotions. No matter how close your clan is or how different you all are, the various personalities at play coupled with the high-energy of the holiday season too often means we end up associating this time of year with stress, obligation and forced oversharing. Everyone somehow gets entangled in everyone else’s business, and come mid-December we’re counting down the days until the parties end and the New Year strikes. What a waste of holiday cheer!
Setting boundaries (mindful boundaries) with our loved ones right now is crucial to not only our sanity, but to our relationships with our relatives. For most of us, we’re only with our extended family a few times throughout the year, so it’s important that when we are all together, we’re working to build the kinds of relationships – and, so cliché, but the kinds of memories – we want to have.
I come from a large extended family, one I’ve been lucky enough to have living closeby my entire life. Because of this, we’ve developed some pretty close relationships – my cousins on my mom’s side are more like siblings, and my extended family on my dad’s side are some of the coolest people I know. But just because we’re two steps away from Brady Bunch status (mostly TV show, not movie) doesn’t mean it’s always peachy. I know firsthand that disagreements within the fam are usually unavoidable, and it can be easy to get into a scuffle when there are lots of different personalities in the room. And that’s not even taking into account the questions, comments, and demands that might just be one step too far. Even the Bradys couldn’t avoid it (mostly movie, not TV show).
Whether you’re talking politics or your one aunt just won’t stop asking when you’re going to settle down, here are three ways to keep things civil, compassionate and in control without resorting to anger or putting up walls:
1.) COME PREPARED WITH QUESTIONS. You know the saying, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” Ask the questions you’d appreciate being asked. If you don’t want to give a play-by-play on your love life, don’t go there with others. If you don’t want to explain your year of “funemployment” to your uncle, choose to ask him about his hobbies, travels, holiday plans or something other than “How work’s going?” You get the picture.
Just because you have boundaries doesn’t mean you’re closed off or not invested. Everyone has their own limits as to what they’re comfortable discussing, and everyone is an open book in other areas of their life. Use your empathy skills to gauge what others might love discussing…and what might make them break out into hives. Showing people how you are both genuinely interested in them and respect their privacy will send off signals that you’d appreciate if they’d do the same. And by the way, if someone is prying, it is perfectly okay to give a vague answer and steer the conversation in another direction. You are in charge of how much you are willing to share.
also, don’t pry into others’ lives if you don’t want others prying into your life.
2.) SHUT DOWN THE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK. From griping about life events to commiserating over body image woes, casual negativity is a bonding tactic – a cheap and easy way to form connections and find common ground. I’m not talking about legitimate, concern-causing grievances (signs of depression, eating disorders, abuse, etc). I’m talking about the emotionally loaded conversations we have simply to bond with one another.
Large family gatherings can be a cesspool for negative bonding sessions. When you hear the members of your family griping about how “bad” they’ve eaten, counter that with a comment on how awesome your aunt’s cooking was, then ask about a recipe. When you notice a conversation about work is veering down a negative road, ask to hear about a hobby someone loves or a recent success. Lead with your own pragmatic positivity, and make a pact with yourself that you will not be roped into feeling bad about yourself just to fit in.
just own your coolness, Cindy.
3.) BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE. Whether we’ve grown up around them our entire lives or only see them once in a blue moon, it can be easy to fall into past roles with our families. You’re a “grandchild” in the mix? You’re still a kid in your aunts’, uncles’, and grandparents’ eyes. The oldest child in the fam? Maybe you’re expected to play that part even though you don’t really feel like you’ve gotten anything figured out yet.
Just because you’re the “kid” in your family does not warrant that you’re treated as such. Whether your aunt is infringing on the way you parent your little one or your older sibling is bossing you around in the kitchen, the holidays are a fantastic time to renew your vow to yourself to be the you you know you want to be. It’s a time of year that can bring out the very best of us – or the very worst. It’s up to us which one we choose. Sure, words speak volumes – saying, “I’ve got this” or a simple, “No thank you” sometimes does the trick – but when it comes to setting boundaries with your loved ones, actions speak encyclopedias.
one of my favorite scenes of all time. it’s a rocky road to a healthy self-image, but you’ll get there.
As impossible as it might seem, you can prevent a disagreement from turning into a disaster if you’re coming from the right place. No matter the topic of conversation or vibe you’re getting from the other person, make sure the underlying emotion you carry with you is love. Be empathetic. Be assertive. Listen to your heart for cues on when to budge and when to stand firm – and on when to speak up and when to let it go.
Most importantly? Just because you’re with your family doesn’t mean you need to morph into a different version of yourself. Ease is contagious – and so is authenticity. And you don’t have to always feel at ease to be authentically yourself. The more you do you, the more they’ll catch on. The more they catch on, the more comfortable they’ll feel doing the same. And that’s the best holiday present you could give them.
WANT Yourself: Do you struggle with setting boundaries when it comes to family – or even old friends? What do you do when you start to feel the anxiety kick in?
There’s a saying I once heard (probably from Oprah) about when it comes to the people you interact with on a regular basis:
“We teach others how to treat us.”
And I used to think that was bogus.
Not that I thought that I was immune to “haters” or tactlessness, but I resonated more with the school of thought that how people treat us is a reflection of who they are, not who we are. Which is true…
Here’s the thing, though: in this state of mind, I was only thinking of others being kind vs. being unkind. At the time, I was a perpetual people-person, the one who was there for everyone, and strongly averse to drama or gossip. Why someone wouldn’t treat me with respect – their own issues withstanding – was automatically viewed as their fault, not mine.
It’s funny, because at the same time, I was consistently feeling lost inside myself, pulled in twelve different directions, and reaching with all my might for a hazy life vision and career trajectory that had seemed to morph into something I could no longer control.
What I realized is that changing the way others treat us isn’t just about “treating them the way we’d like to be treated,” or kindness vs. cruelty – it’s about managing their expectations.
When we feel an imbalance in who we are or who we think we should be, it’s a red flag that something else is going on below the surface. Whether it’s a lack of clarity in through line or that awful feeling of being uncomfortable in our own skin, our body-mind-soul trifecta will always let us know that something’s going awry. Most of the time, we just don’t choose to listen to those signs.
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Every text message, email, conversation and interaction is a way we teach the people in our lives how to treat us. Whether we’re responding to work requests at 11pm, saying “yes” to every single invitation/obligation/favor, or staying out late for that last round of drinks when we’d rather be cozy in bed, each decision we make is a little piece of our property. Time. Energy. Values.
Way too often, we give that property away. And way too often, it’s because of one thing: we fear what will happen if we don’t.
How many times do we stare down at our phones or computers answering every single email, text message, gChat, etc like rapidfire? Sure, timeliness and efficiency are important – but every time we respond to something that drains us instead of fuels us, or simply can wait until we’re free, we’re unconsciously telling others that THAT is how we conduct our lives. To get overwhelmed and angry at the requests, pushes, and pulls coming at us is usually not the fault of anyone else but ourselves.
In general, people don’t want to overwhelm you, stress you out, or steer you further from the you you know you’re meant to be. They’re just taking cues from how they see you’re living your life.
Setting boundaries doesn’t have to be a dramatic shift. How do you teach others how to treat you? By being thoughtful with the way you present yourself and respond.
A few small-but-huge examples of how to teach others how to treat you:
IN YOUR CAREER: Whether it’s via email or in the middle of a meeting, many times we’ll talk a certain way in order to be liked, to make others feel included, or just to give off a “good impression” of being a team player. Sometimes it comes from modesty. Sometimes it comes from empathetic skills in overdrive. But as we’ve talked about so many times, confidence is not synonymous with narcissism or vanity. Instead of using filler words like “maybe,” “kind of,” or “just,” state your case as fact. Be the authority on what you think and what you know. We’re so attuned to thinking this is bitchy. It’s not. It’s owning yourself and owning your power.
ON THE PHONE: Remember when all we had were land lines and “message machines,” as we called them in my house? Remember when we needed to memorize people’s numbers, and if we needed to reach someone while we were out, we needed to find a pay phone or business that would loan us their line? Somehow, we all managed. Just because we’re now all reachable right away doesn’t warrant a response right away. Not feeling that text message? Wait to respond. Need some solitude and the phone rings? Let it go to voice mail and call back later. If there is an emergency, usually people will find a way to get ahold of you (think multiple texts and calls one after the other). In more cases than not, whatever is happening
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GOING OUT: I don’t know about you, but I usually hit a wall at about 9:30pm when I’m out socializing. Any later, and my introverty HSP self does an energetic nose-dive from the high board of fun into the pool of self-loathing and anxiousness. I used to think that there was something wrong with me that I didn’t want to stay out late, even if just with family members, close friends, or small groups. But what I’ve come to learn and accept is that not only am I not a night owl, but it takes me about two full hours from leaving a social event to wind down and fall asleep for the night. When you’re ready to leave, people might sometimes give you shit and beg you to stay. That can feel good. That can make us feel wanted. But stand your ground. Say no to events that begin later if you’re not feeling them, and if you are, give yourself the permission to leave whenever you’re feeling it. No apologies, and no hanging around when you’re energetically drained. The more you do this with grace, the more the people you love will understand this about you. Just give them the chance to know that part of you. People don’t want you to have a bad time or pretend – they want you to be YOURSELF. (Danielle Beinstein and I talk a little bit about this in her WANTcast episode.)
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So often, we don’t set these tiny boundaries because to us, they seem just that: tiny. But it’s those small instances, over and over, that end up making a HUGE difference for the better. In all areas of your life.
WANT YOURSELF: Tell me – how can you (or how do you already) set small-but-huge boundaries with others in your life? Whether it’s at work or in your personal life, tell me one thing that you do to own your power and manage the expectations of others?