It’s Friday here, and Thursday yesterday (new moon in Gemini?) threw me two curveballs. One was an equipment issue, and the other was encountering an individual from my past. The latter encounter resulted in some behavior from said individual that shocked observers and mutual friends–but held no surprise for me after many silent years. In the midst of the ugliness (all of it old for me), I found myself with a light heart and light shoulders, finding (rather belated) vindication and confirmation where I had expected none. In fact, the printer failure had caused me more stress during the day. (But that would make an awful blog post.)
I’m grateful that the episode made me aware of how far I’d come; how, for all of us, our biggest lessons are going to come from the people who challenge us. Sometimes, they may be teaching us to honour ourselves.
It’s been a long, hard road for me to discover the damage that can come from people-pleasing at one’s own expense, and it’s a tragedy that girls, more than boys usually, are taught to take on this responsibility. Yet women are also the ones gifted with “women’s intuition”–something seldom understood and even more rarely honoured. In my life I found my biggest obstacle to intuition wasn’t just skepticism or self-doubt, but that annoying voice asking me to reconsider for fear that acting on my intuition may not look nice–it may offend someone. Women are expected to please others–rarely afforded the luxury to reject without suffering the consequences. Thankfully, my lessons for this have been relatively mild.
Part of my journey made me encounter people who got offended at pretty much everything. No matter what I did, some of which had nothing to do with these old antagonists of mine, they would be offended and demand apology from me. (I think I could have been Gandhi and still offended them!) Figuring out I couldn’t win no matter what, I stopped trying to please or appease them; their issues with me weren’t actually my problem. BUT it had been a huge leap for me to learn this, because somehow over my childhood and early adulthood I’d internalised that everything, saving the world included, was my responsibility. (This is now a lesson I’m trying to pass on to the child, but since mosts kids are solipsists, this may be a long-term project.)
Another societal teaching I’d internalised: I believed, more often wrongly than not, that other people, seniors and experts, knew better than I did. Even with proof of my intelligence, perhaps in a society that didn’t expect or support smart women, I too often deferred to others over my own research and opinions or inexplicable “knowings”. The ignoring of my own convictions often resulted in a lot of wasted time and me being pissed off–at myself. (And it always bothered me that “Confucian teachings” conveniently taught that juniors should never question their seniors–in age or position in society–as if those holding “higher positions” had nothing left to learn. Wisdom doesn’t come from age. It comes from an open heart and open mind.)
Another mostly useless societal message: that we should like everybody; everyone should all get along. It’s a trite and shallow platitude (usually from those denying shadow) that ignores real inequalities and incompatibilities between certain individuals and groups of people. For empaths or the generally sensitive (those who get “vibes”), this may be like asking paper to please get along with fire. There may be an infinite amount of reasons why certain individuals or groups may never “click”. And until there’s some understand as to why that may be, and mutual consent to heal/try a mutually beneficial relationship, advice like “oh just give him/her a(nother) chance” from a third party is unhelpful. Some things can also be karmic, and would require delicacy and a lot of awareness to handle.
People carry energy. If you can feel such things, honour that sensitivity. Re-check occasionally. Ignore warning signs at your own peril. If you still have to interact with someone setting off your red flags, do it with a long stick, shields up, and eyes wide open. Do it with awareness, and be kind to yourself before others. The principle of ahimsa, to do no harm, applies to the self too.
We didn’t all get born on earth to try and please other people. Just as we are challenged by some individuals in our lives, we are also going to challenge others.
I believe it’s possible to do it mindfully, with respect, kindness, and integrity, but it requires that we do it based on a strong inner conviction instead of insecurity. The former enables us to stand our ground without hurting another, secure in ourselves. The desperate person on shaky ground will try to “win” at whatever cost, dragging others down if need be.
What I’ve learned is: We can choose who to stand with, who we walk away from, and who we are.