I Wish I’d Learned This Earlier Than I Did
Welcome to another episode of Therapy with Bron. But hey, I figure if I struggle with this shit, some of you might, too.
I try really hard not to live my life consumed by regret. There are too many other things I’d rather be consumed by–laughter, love, a good story, kitty and kid cuddles, nature, music, etc. But even though I try not to dwell, I do have some regrets about things that I wish I’d learned earlier in life.
1.) How to say no. 🎼🎶🎵 Lord, show me how to say no to this. I don’t know how to say no to this.🎶🎵 (What? You thought I’d pass up opportunity for a Hamilton reference? Foolish mortal.) This is one of those things I’ve never been terribly good at. I’m not saying that I go along with everything that’s ever suggested to me, but I’m often overly concerned that me saying no to someone will hurt their feelings. In the past, I’ve found myself agreeing to projects or taking on obligations that I didn’t really want to do. Weirdly, these boundary issues have never really extended into my relationships with my husband or my kids or my daycare kids. I don’t even know what that says about me.
2.) Asking for what I need doesn’t make me selfish or weak. I’m not sure why this is such a damn struggle. I mean, it’s really common sense, right? If you need help or you need a hug or whatever, just ask. I think that societally we’re all under the misconception that need = selfishness/weakness – both of which are heavily frowned upon by western society. While I’m clearly not a professional psychologist or a sociologist, it seems like most women skew toward selfishness (particularly older generations) though, with younger generations, I feel like they’re pretty equal. And the majority of men seem to lean toward weakness. Of course, neither of these things are true and most of us are more than willing to cut others slack we won’t cut ourselves, and that’s not healthy.
3.) Self-care is necessary and doesn’t make you selfish (there’s that word again) or lazy. Self-care is any activity that you choose that helps you relax in order to maintain your emotional and physical health and helps you feel able to continue to function. Currently, Parks and Rec and all manner of crafting are self-care go-tos. I think I must have internalized a lot of weird opinions about selfishness and laziness, and TBH, I’m not even sure where they came from. Catholic school seems the most likely place, because it wasn’t from my mom who was my primary parent/caregiver. I mean, she’d encourage “mental health” days from school when we needed them, and trust me, very few school age kids in the 80s had any kind of grasp of mental health.
4.) Being proud of yourself isn’t bragging. I think a lot of us, women especially, have a lot of anxiety tied up with any kind of pride in themselves and their work. For whatever reason, it seems more acceptable to verbalize pride in your children as long as you’re not that person and that’s all you ever talk about or the person who takes ownership of their children’s accomplishments as though they’re responsible.
But back to being proud of yourself for a sec. For a lot of women, (focusing on women here, because there’s a definite gender difference with this issue) there’s a special kind of anxiety that comes along feeling any kind of pride in yourself or your work. And actually verbalizing that pride? Hahahahahahahahaha. No. Even if we’ve worked our asses off, and are genuinely pleased with something we’ve done, we won’t say anything positive about it. We might even speak negatively about it or say nothing at all.
5.) Saying thank you when someone compliments you doesn’t mean you’re bragging. I know I’ve mentioned this phenomenon on the blog before, but dude…still a struggle. And I know I’m not alone. When someone compliments us or our work more likely to say, “Thank you, but…” That “but” is always followed by a variation of the following: “I got lucky.” Or, “I had a lot of help.” Or, “People are just being nice.” Or, “They like me.” Or “They just felt bad for me.” These are things I hear my colleagues say on the regular. These are things I’ve said on the regular. Granted, I’m much more cognizant of this issue now, and I try really hard to just say “thank you, I really appreciate that” without trying to downplay it. But it’s soooooooooo hard.
I know there are people out there who put this behavior down to false modesty or fishing for more compliments, but this is an anxiety-inducing issue for a lot of people.
6.) Imposter Syndrome is a thing that exists. A few years ago, I learned about this little thing called Imposter Syndrome. It, again, predominantly affects more women than men, but men definitely experience it, too–particularly men in academia. The simplified description is basically that you feel like you’re a fraud, you have no business being in your field, and certainly no business calling yourself an expert, and someday, everyone will find out that you have no clue what you’re doing and you faked your way through your entire career. This constant feeling that the other shoe is going to drop is most common when starting a new project, nearing completion on a project, and/or achieving any kind of success with a project. And the more successes you have, the worse this feeling gets. The end result is usually metric fuck-ton of anxiety and it makes sufferers hesitant to call any kind of attention to their work. It’s fucking bullshit.
7.) That one Maya Angelou quote is 3012% accurate. The quote I’m talking about is: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” I have a tendency to take people at their word. I’m rarely suspicious of anyone’s motives, and if they say something that sounds reasonable, I believe them. Some might (and probably have) called me naïve or gullible. You know what? I’m not even going to argue that. I could have saved myself years of heartache, grief, anxiety, and second-guessing myself if I’d a.) come across this quote sooner and b.) paid attention to it. I think we’ve all had people in our lives who purportedly had our best interests at heart, cared for us, and only wanted to help or see us succeed. Yet, so often, their actions were at odds with what they said. And if questioned, they’d always have a reasonable explanation for whatever troublesome thing they did. If you’re particularly naïve or gullible, that bullshit can turn into some next level gaslighting.
8.) Listen to your gut. No, I mean it. Really listen. If something or someone feels off, even the tiniest bit, pay attention to that feeling. I’m not suggesting that every twinge you get about a person means they’re an axe murderer. But you know how you sometimes meet people and they seem super great, (and some of them totally are, btw–those usually aren’t the ones you get twinges about) but you get this weird little feeling in the back of your mind or the pit of your stomach? Or even if everyone else really likes a person, but some indefinable thing about them rubs you the wrong way? Listen to those things. I’m not saying you need to run away and shun them, but maybe that’s a cue to slow down and observe this person a bit more before including them in your inner circle. Those little twinges are rarely wrong.