Monday, January 31, 2011

"The Courage to Stand"

As I talk to more and more people every day I am hearing a common theme to each of our lives. It's this principle of standing for what we believe. First we have to know what we stand for and then secondly have the courage to follow through with what we feel is right for ourselves.

When I was overweight I felt in many ways that I had to do what others wanted me to do because my opinions and who I was, was not acceptable. In many ways, I gave my power over to others whom I saw as more acceptable people. This was an indication to what I thought of myself. As I grew stronger and learned to trust in myself more, I began speaking up for myself and holding boundaries. At first this was quite scary and at times it still is.

An example of this was just this last Saturday night. A friend of mine and I decided last minute to hit the town and go country dancing. We both hadn't been for quite some time and were looking forward to having some fun. Our intentions before going were to practice having courage to stand for ourselves... meaning, if we didn't feel comfortable in dancing with someone that we would let them know. Sure enough I was challenged with this towards the end of the night. I was asked to dance by a guy whom I did not feel good about. He quickly pulled me close to him and began to dance to a slow dance. I immediately felt uncomfortable and many times I was trying to pull myself away from him but as it was a slow dance he kept pulling me closer. Instead of telling him right then that I felt uncomfortable I stuck it out til the end of the song.

I told my friend about it and mentioned that I had a hard time saying no. It wasn't but 5 minutes later that he asked me to dance again and I didn't know what to say. I guess I knew how I felt but wasn't willing to have the courage to say no. Well, he asked me again for the 3rd time and finally I told him "No thank you." He asked me one last time and again I said, "No thank you."

How often do we not have the courage to stand for ourselves? I struggled but finally got real honest with him. I guess at first I didn't want to hurt his feelings but I needed to first take care of myself. He didn't make me feel comfortable and why would I ever want to put myself in that kind of situation, when it's not serving me or him in not being honest.

I would venture to guess that many times we do things we don't want to do because we are afraid of what other people are going to think of us. One of the things we say in our 12 step program is "What other people think of us is NONE of our business." That has been hard for me at times to remember and practice that way of thinking.

Especially in dating, we give each other so many mixed messages when in reality if we could just get real and honest with each other it would make it a lot easier to communicate. This happens in marriage too that we tend to hide our true feelings for fear that how we feel won’t be accepted or will hurt the other person. Although it is true that we need to be considerate of the others feelings, we also need to find a way in expressing ourselves that our truth is expressed.

Another part of this equation is to open up the space for the other person to share honestly. When we don't feel safe in a relationship, we tend to hide our feelings. If we gift the other person the space to share honestly, we get to share our deepest desires and feelings with each other. Isn't that how we really want to be but instead we walk around life afraid to stand for ourselves. What's wrong with being who we are and feeling what we do anyway?

This has taken a great amount of practice for me to get to the point where I feel I do have a voice and it's ok for me to share it with others. If my own opinions are not accepted by others it's ok. One of the things that makes this world turn as it does is we are all different and experience life differently. It's beautiful to be in a place where I don't have to agree with everything that everyone else says.. and visa versa. I used to think I had all the answers for everyone. Now I tell people take what you can from what I have learned and leave the rest. It doesn't bother me if my opinions are not accepted as fact. I just share what I have learned and how it has changed my life and if someone can benefit from my experiences great.. if not that’s ok too.

ACT NOW: Think of a time recently where you have compromised yourself? Ask yourself the question, ‘Why didn’t I feel safe to express my true feelings and stand up for what I believe?’ By the way, this is not an exercise in beating yourself up, this is just about acknowledging when we are not speaking our truth and then making better choices the next time. It took me a couple of times dancing with this guy to get honest with myself and him. It’s all just information of where I was in that moment and eventually I had the courage to stand for myself.

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