Do you remember when you were little, and your life was full of dreams? Ask any four year old what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll be met with an array of answers. As children we are quite free, to be ourselves. Until, that is, being ourselves doesn’t suit those around us anymore. Perhaps you used to sing a lot when you were younger, until one day in a fit of temper, your father told you to stop making that awful noise. You don’t sing any more. Maybe it was a partner who told you that your art work was crap and you’ll never sell it. You threw out your materials and never picked up a paintbrush again. It may be that you tried dancing as a child, however the teacher didn’t take the time to work with you until you got it, you compared yourself to everyone else and gave up, you still don’t dance.
It always starts with something small, I feel. You’re stepping along in life and then someone says something that gets under your skin. I remember once being told that I shouldn’t wear red because “it looks weird on you”. I didn’t wear red for twenty years after that. It turns out, I shouldn’t wear orange reds because they don’t match my skin tone but given the shirt this was said about was a uniform for something, it wasn’t like I actually had a choice. On the flip side, we compare ourselves to others as well. Perhaps you compare your artwork to Leonardo Da Vinci. You don’t sing like Beyonce. You can’t dance like Jennifer Lopez. The more you compare yourself to others, the less you want to put yourself out there. We shut ourselves down, we stop doing things we enjoy because we aren’t good enough. We lose joy in our lives.
I remember as I learnt piano as a teen, and I was constantly compared to one of my friends. We were taught by the same teacher, except my friend had been learning since preschool, and I started in grade 6. I always felt like it didn’t matter what I did for piano, it would never be enough, and ultimately, I refused to practice and then quit. I still play very occasionally, but inside my head, I still hear my piano teacher’s voice. Is it any wonder that we so often stop doing things we might enjoy, because we are told we suck, and society has taught us that if you can’t do something brilliantly, don’t do it at all.
We grow up in families where the expectations are set by others, both spoken and unspoken. I remember all too well saying that I wanted to be a vet when I was in high school. Let me assure you, I definitely did not work any where near hard enough to get into vet science at university. That didn’t stop my mother working out all the alternative ways to get there. The problem was, you see, I worked out after doing some experience at the vet that I actually didn’t want to do that. My parents were so excited about their daughter wanting to do something so prestigious I couldn’t speak up and say, actually no. Worse, I did subjects at school that didn’t necessarily play to my strengths and reinforced my own not good enough story. I often wonder what would have happened if I’d actually had good supports at school and a great career development program.
Wanting to please other people has actually caused me a lot of strife in my life. It stemmed from me not feeling good enough, so I’d do things to make other people happy. Some of this I learnt as a child at home, some from friends and some from my intimate relationships. I remember not really having “dreams” of my own in my late teens, or twenties even, or even really into my thirties. I knew I wasn’t really living my best life, it was more like, marking time. Doing things to build someone else’s idea of a great life, and not doing anything for myself. In fact, like so many women in this world, I came last. I did so little for myself, I was the cliched, worn-out, exhausted, ever-giving mother and wife.
I struggled through the drudgery of attempting to maintain housework with little to no support at home, regardless of whether I was not working, working part-time or working full-time. I stuck to the very strict budget that was set for food. People are often amazed to discover that at one point for nearly two years, I cooked the same fourteen meals on a fortnightly roster because that’s what I could do with my grocery budget. I felt like I was drowning, I had no satisfaction in life, I had no time to do the few things I did enjoy which were sewing and escaping into books. When I did get the time to do these, I could never enjoy it anyway, because I felt guilty about doing things I liked.
Many of the women that I work with also find themselves in this same space. The difficulty with this is that we are taught that women are the nurturers, the carers. Their role in life is to sacrifice themselves for the good of everyone else. This silent expectation is built in us from such an early age. We learn to be quiet, to fade into the background. Silently waiting on someone “needing” us. We do not learn how to speak up for ourselves, for when we do, we are shut down.
One of the best parts of working with people just like you is seeing them find out who they really are, learn what is truly important to them (not someone else’s expectations) and then making a plan to start living a life that matches that. It’s such a freeing experience to realise that you are enough, comparison is unnecessary (and soul-sucking) and that you can live your best life every day. Want to find out how I can help you be someone who is full of ideas and plans, and then actually puts them into play? Click on the book now button for a free thirty minute discussion about how I can help you get there.