Our expectations shape our experience at any moment.
Imagine coming home to find a gift, beautifully wrapped…and ticking.
Now if our past experiences lead us to conclude this is probably a bomb, our experience of that moment will be dramatically different than if we have been telling our friends we really wanted an antique clock and that day was our birthday.
Think about how you expect to be treated by others.
Do you expect to be treated with respect, what about if they are upset with you? What about when you make a mistake? Does your expectation of being treated respectfully change at work? At home? With your parents? Siblings? Is it different with your partner? We often have some variation about how we expect to be treated by strangers, and people closest to us. Interestingly, we often make excuses for those close to us and allow them to be more rude, dismissive, invalidating or disrespectful than we would a stranger or co-worker, and sometimes it is the opposite.
So now let’s look at why any of this would even matter.
When we expect to be treated as an equal, as someone whose thoughts, needs, and experiences are as important as anyone else’s, when people don’t do this, we are more likely to stand up for ourselves and respond in a way that is healthy for us. This might be by just pointing out that they were being rude, asking them to stop or maybe even leaving the situation. Doing this may be difficult, but even if it doesn’t go the way we had hoped, we feel better for having at least tried.
When we don’t expect to be treated respectfully, for whatever reason, whether it is because that is what was modeled to us through our parents’ relationship or we are unhappy with who we are at that moment and don’t think we deserve to be, whatever the reason, the result is that we take it. We often don’t speak up (which often makes us feel weaker and worse), we tell ourselves it is no big deal (minimize) , make excuses for the other person or ourselves (they are under a lot of stress, they had a hard day, I’ll talk to them about it later- I am too tired to deal with this right now, etc; rationalize) or even convince ourselves we like “quirky sarcasm” in the other person. All of these are coping strategies we turn to, they help us avoid the real impact of allowing ourselves to be mistreated. It allows us to hide a little longer from standing up for ourselves and we pretend it is no big deal. The problem is that pretending requires constant energy, and we start to feel drained and small and scared.
Part of why standing up for ourselves seems scary, is that we expect that we SHOULDN’T have to set healthy boundaries with loved ones, they should just know, and when they push their will, we take it personally. The truth is that we are programmed by evolution and genetics that do what we think is best for us at any given time. It is human nature to push our own agenda and do the best we can with what we have and know at any particular time.
When we focus on this and see the other person as doing what they are doing because that is their job, then we expect to have to stand up for ourselves and to set boundaries that are healthy for us in ALL of our relationships, with lovers, parents, co-workers, even the banker who is trying to get you to buy the latest banking upgrade, it stops seeming so threatening, they are all just doing what they are supposed to do, just like you are.
So the value based exercise for this week is a call into action, call forward your strong and healthy self and to “try on” the belief that it is everyone else’s job to push boundaries, and it is ours to set healthy ones. Try this on for as little as 10 minutes this week and notice how your experience changes, who it is easiest to do this with, who is it most difficult to do this with?
Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts or comments on the website or on Twitter, at @DrAdrianaWilson.
Have a great week!