On Leadership and Vulnerability
On Dr. Phil, I recently saw Tim, a young man who had been convicted of domestic battery, (following a complaint by his mother to the police), say, “No, I don’t want to go to Nashville.” In Nashville, there is a center where he could get ‘free’ coaching, (paid for by Dr. Phil), to learn to let go of his anger against his mother, focus on the ‘here and now’ and finally begin to move forward with his life.
Why do I find it so hard to get the help I need?
(and: Am I the only one who feels this way?)
I don’t have issues with my mother, and I haven’t ever been convicted of battery – domestic or otherwise – but still I bring this up now because when I asked my husband – what I should write about, he said: “Write about your issues with your work and what’s bothering you.” Then he added, jokingly, “I’m also going to offer you coaching… in Nashville,” my immediate response was a feisty: “I’m not going to Nashville.”
When did all this start?
I am wondering when this all began, and it’s hard to pinpoint the actual moment. Three years ago I developed a frozen shoulder, which all the physiotherapists and doctors agreed was connected to stress. For years, my dentist has been warning me about my ‘bad grinding habit’ and how it’s ruining my teeth. “Do you have stress?” He asks me, every time I meet him, about once every half a year, or more often, when my teeth crumble under the pressure and I need emergency care.
However, if I step back, and look at my life, I see an almost picture perfect view of what a woman my age should expect from her life. (By the way, how much do I hate the phrase I just used “a woman my age?” ARGH) My husband of now three years is caring, understanding and funny. He’s there for me. My two ‘kids,’ who are, by now, young adults, are both in University and doing very well; well-adjusted and healthy. I have a job I love, a couple of them, in fact: lecturing at University, Coordinating the Personal Development first year modules, and also work asa Life Coach/Therapist. (Big shout out to all the ‘Wounded Healers’ out there).
Interruptions: I can’t take them
As I write this, my son of 18 has woken up in the room next to mine. He is playing his music at full blast as he gets up, showers and gets ready to go downstairs. I say loudly, through my closed door and his, “Turn down the music.”
No real response. As he moves around, he keeps his music on loud, singing along to it. I have my soft ‘Concentration Music’ playlist on as I write. I try to ignore his music until I cannot bear it any longer and I shout out to him through the closed door, “Dai Kvar!” which in Hebrew means “Enough already!”
And now my life is not picture perfect anymore and I feel angry and stressed. My heart is pounding in my chest and I want to go over and become a battering mother. I wonder why this smart, wise, confident young man I raised can’t be considerate enough to use the earphones he has, or lower his music? I take in a few deep breaths and decide to go out and talk to him.
What happens when I ask (properly) for what I need?
- Apparently, he didn’t even hear my shout of “Enough already.”
- He didn’t know I was in the room next to his, writing.
- He didn’t hear my calming music, (as his was far too loud).
But now that he does know, he has shut off his music and is taking his shower quietly.
‘It’s all about communicating your needs,’ a voice in my head tells me, and I feel like crying.
This is a perfect example of how I am experiencing many things in life right now.
I expect things to happen in a certain way, but when they don’t, I get extremely irritated, frustrated and I lash out. Then, whoever is on the receiving end of my anger is totally confused and wondering – “Now where the heck did that come from?”
What are boundaries and how do I get them?
Funny that I thought I wasdone being a people-pleaser years ago. But once that is ingrained in you from an early age, let’s say, about age 1.5 when I was toilet trained, or 2 when my mother had an emergency operation and I was left with an aunt I didn’t know very well, or when my parents took in a foster child when I was about 2.5 and this foster baby cried night and day due to a lactose allergy, well perhaps it’s not easy to let go and claim ‘my place’ in the world.
Maybe having such young parents – 21 and 22 – when I was born had an influence on who I became. Maybe it’s Dr. Spock’s fault, and I know he has since revised his message to young parents, but still, the damage is done, and here I am, unable to focus on what I want or need, only to feel the intense anger, frustration and irritation of everything that doesn’t feel right to me. I’m a better rebel than a leader.
Let me repeat that for emphasis because it sounds so right.
I am a better rebel than a leader.
Good insight, Audrey. Well done. (very faint smile).
Now, the next question is whether to fight that or embrace it? Do I want to use my strengths as a rebel? Be a fighter, a subversive, one to always swim against the current? I’m a good swimmer, too, so don’t worry about that!
Or do I want to slowly begin the uphill climb to tell my small rebel self that its work is done (thank you for your help in surviving up to now) and now focus on becoming a leader, which involves setting my expectations and boundaries clearly from the beginning?
(I still think I’m a better swimmer than a hiker, but in the Northern countries, where I now reside, the water is just too damn cold!)
And, rereading this, I realize that I have just set up myself for two difficult options: Rebel (swim against the current) or Lead (climb the damn hill). What if I don’t choose either and I just ‘am’? Is that an option, I ask myself? At least for now? Or is there something in me that always searches for that extra challenge?
Let me just end this with two Louise Hay-type affirmations of my own:
- I set my expectations and boundaries clearly to those around me.
- I knowingly decide what I want to be, do and accomplish in my own proactive and creative way.
*P.S. Today in the Dutch news there is an article about a “Nashville declaration,” signed by some very conservative politicians in the Netherlands, against gay rights. I am definitely NOT on that side of the fence…!