freedom in relationships comes from using your voice then letting it go

being-assertive-letting-go Having worked with hundreds of women to find peace and rediscover their authenticity, I can say that this is one of the absolute toughest and most important lessons to learn. And this goes for any kind of relationship -- partner, friend, co-worker, family member, you name it.

In relationships, freedom comes from two things:

1) Learning to use your voice and assert how you feel and what you need, and then...

2) Letting go of the outcome. 


Be Assertive

Many people grow up in families where this process is stunted, because doing#1 is not okay. This is tough, because parents DO set the rules and boundaries, so naturally, kids feel like they don't always have a voice or have choices. That's part of growing up. But as a child matures, if their opinion is not given value, if they do not feel safe or encouraged to express how they feel and what they need, they learn to keep that in. While this most commonly happens in the family of origin, that's not always the case. It could be learned in an abusive relationship or in a bullying situation, too.

So, if you've learned to not talk about what's really going on with you, you'll find other ways to passive aggressively communicate that very often end up hurting you in the long run. Many of my clients communicate via their eating disorders or addictions. We practice assertive communication all the time-- and usually they hate it. Not only does it go against family messages in many cases ("sweep it under the rug," "don't ruffle any feathers"), but there's also the cultural message that "emotions are a sign a weakness, and weakness will get you hurt."

First, you have to determine what your own beliefs are around expressing what you really need + feel, where they came from, and how they're working for you. Next comes the hard part of practicing confrontation and assertiveness, even when it feels totally foreign and uncomfortable at first. I've seen women make amazing progress with this even just in the one, two or three months they're with us. It can be difficult at first, which is why it really helps to have a therapist or coach walking through it with you. Sometimes if you've been suppressing your voice all your life and you suddenly start using it, it may be difficult to find that line of "assertive" versus "aggressive."

Let Go of the Outcome

And then, of course, comes the difficulty of #2 -- "Okay, you're telling me to use my voice, and I am, but it's not WORKING! Nothing is changing!"

The power does not come in someone else changing their behavior. It comes from speaking your truth, AND being able to let go of the outcome. Now, of course there are going to be situations where if you speak your truth and nothing changes, then you may have some hard choices to make about what you need to do. (You told your friend you're frustrated with being flaked on after the 5th time, and she's still doing it? Maybe it's time to move on from the friendship.) So, if you learn to do #1 but aren't doing #2, you'll continue to feel trapped and frustrated.

Finally, a disclaimer on this one: I'm really talking about letting go of the outcome in our one-on-one relationships, not at a cultural level.  I think we have to use our voices until the cows come home in order to create real change in the world on a broader scale.

Where do you get tripped up in this process? And what helps you to stay true to yourself without losing your mind trying to control others? 

reframing "being triggered" + things that "push your buttons" {healthy relationships}

triggers-healthy-relationships A couple things happened at work yesterday that, on their own, weren't a big deal -- but back-to-back and with my particular brand of baggage (not designer, might I add), were painful experiences. Afterwards, I found myself pushing play on the old tapes: "Crap, here it is again. All my insecurity and inadequacy stuff is being triggered. I hate this." I started to slide into self-pity and doubting my abilities and choices.

PAUSE button, engage!

This is one of those "you teach exactly what you need to learn" things. I know I will never be totally rid of my inadequacy thoughts, because I'm of the belief that doing so would require some special witchcraft I have yet to encounter. But I do believe that I can take certain steps to recognize the tape for what it is and reconnect with myself and what I need in that moment, which will help me to avoid spiraling into full-on crazytown. And that, friends, is what I call (realistic!) progress.

One of the things that helped me yesterday actually came from a recent professional training I attended. The training was on a rather specific and intense topic (sex addiction therapy, anyone?) -- but one of the teachers, a talented therapist with a thick Mississippi accent, made practically all the concepts relatable and valuable for life far beyond this particular area.

He focused a lot on boundaries and communication in healthy relationships, and accountability vs. victim mentality. These two gems really stuck with me:

Be careful with the word "triggered" (and the mindset it carries). 

For example, saying "The way she worded that email really triggered me" is actually passive, and thus, you're giving your power away (victim mentality). Instead, you could take ownership of your feelings and reactions by saying "I got reactive when I read the email she sent." If you're not in the therapy/coaching world, you may not use the actual word "trigger" very often, but you might still create a story around certain situations with that passive mentality: i.e.  "look at what happened to me that made me feel this way." It really helped me today to use that frame of "I'm noticing I'm getting reactive to what just happened and feeling sadness and shame." Those are my  feelings, and even though they may have been precipitated by an event,

Similarly, notice what it feels like to say "He/she is really pushing my buttons."

(Chances are, it doesn't feel too empowering.) The teacher at the training said,  "The only button you have is a belly button, and no one's pushing it." Just like with the point above, giving someone else the power to "push your buttons" ultimately puts you in a helpless place (again, victim mentality)  where you give away your power. Sure, don't deny the feelings that arise when certain things happen, but remember that those are your feelings, they're about your stuff, and no one has the power to make you feel a certain way.

I feel ten times better about what happened yesterday by just reframing my reaction, owning my feelings, and talking about it with someone I trust. I hope these tips also help you next time you're faced with a challenging situation. Until next time -- xo!