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Duck leadingThis article is a tad self-indulgent. I’m letting myself get away with it. I have a feeling many women (ok, maybe men too) will relate.


Leadership is a word I’ve shied away from ever since I can remember. Even as far back as primary school, when asked to collaborate with fellow students on a project, I hated it. I intuitively knew that someone had to take charge in order to get the job done, and I was willing to have a go, but my personality was definitely not suited to asserting myself, so I would tend to withdraw, sit back and let things unfold however they would.


When I worked in the corporate world, I soon learned to connect expressing ideas for innovation or improved efficiency with pain and discomfort, and just stopped bothering. I would quietly brood and feel frustrated at what seemed to me to be an illogical way of operating unfold at the whim of egos and who had the most dominant personality. I saw my suggestions in meetings (when asked for them, by the way), ridiculed, and then implemented later by male managers. Don’t even get me started!


As recently as my coaching training, this pattern was still showing up. I got bogged down on technicalities, I was a “yeah but”, a mismatcher, a “what if”. I often felt I was the exception, I was different, and that I didn’t fit in. As I feared, every time we had to get into groups, my heart sank! It all worked out though, and was exactly what I needed to face this thing and tug away at some of the threads which were holding this limiting belief together. One group I was in, in a public speaking training which was particularly challenging, gave me a beautiful feeling of empathy and contribution with my group. At another time in the same training, I actually hid in the toilet!

Flexible rules“Those who prefer their principles over their happiness, they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.” Albert Camus


We may not be aware of it, but all of us are walking around with a whole bunch of rules. We acquire them over time for a number of reasons and some of us have way more of them than others.


These rules are related to our beliefs and values, and are the conditions we believe need to be met in order for us to approve of something, to feel happy and content, and other things.


The thing is, a whole lot of them are really not necessary and can be quite constricting and restrictive, impeding the ease with which we allow ourselves to feel good, interact with the world and welcome new experiences and information. They can really be a weight we are dragging around for no good reason.


Rules can also hold us up from getting things done. If our rules aren’t working in our favour, they can detrimentally affect our productivity. That’s a big one on my radar right now, as readers have told me overwhelmingly that they feel overworked and wish they had more time.


So why do we tend to hang onto these rules and gather them in the first place? Well, it’s about feeling safe. They can give us a greater sense of belonging, of being approved of by a group, for one thing. If you dress a certain way, speak a certain way, like a certain kind of TV show, food or car, you can belong to the gang. We make decisions based on experience that we feel more comfortable if certain conditions are in place. We adopt a bunch of rules that were randomly or not so randomly put out there for us to adopt so that we can feel we are ok.

iStock 000002054679 SmallI just read an article about how women teach themselves from a very young age to de-escalate, minimize and quietly acquiesce whenever we are in a situation where a man has made an inappropriate comment or action, whenever we have been dis-respected, whenever those situations occur which make us uncomfortable. This is the article here.


The situations described were so familiar to me, and yet I found myself going for my usual response, telling myself that doesn’t happen to me, well at least not on that scale, no, it hasn’t changed as I’ve gotten older, maybe it’s something that’s worse in the States, maybe it happens to women who work outside the home more, maybe it’s a corporate thing, maybe it’s only applicable to women who go out to bars and pubs more than I do, and so on.


Then things started coming back to me. From when I was child. From when I was at work, as long as 35 years ago right through to more recent encounters. From social situations. From Facebook. All the things I’d dismissed, taken no notice of, let slide, because I’m sensible, because I’m easy to get along with, because I can see past ignorance and see the good in people. I’m blessed with a loving family, a caring and very respectful partner, and associate with mostly very decent people. So yes, maybe I don’t experience much of it at the moment, and maybe that’s because of my particular circumstances, location etc, but it sure as hell does happen, has happened, to me and to every woman.

 

Yesterday was White Ribbon day, or it’s less sanitised name of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I watched the ABC programme Hitting Home, made by Sarah Ferguson and the QandA programme which followed. I read articles online yesterday about the topic.


Before I go on, I’ll address the “what about men” thing.


One of the responses to the current push towards creating changes to reduce the incidence of violence against women in Australia, is to say “what about the men, there is violence against men too”. I’ve brought that issue up myself, because of personal knowledge and experience with the issue of men being physically and emotionally abused by women. It’s a real issue, it does happen, and it’s true that it is under-reported. An examination of the statistics confirms, however, that it is rare compared with violence against women by men, and that very different results can be obtained depending on how one chooses to compile the available information. We do not have a situation where 78 men to date this year in Australia have been murdered by their partners. The one in three statistic being presented is a dangerous fiction. The measurement tool used has been criticised as not asking whether the incident was part of a pattern of abuse, whether it was in self-defence, and does not measure sexual abuse, stalking and intimate homicide. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that in 2012, 87% of domestic violence victims were women. Male victims are far less likely to be living in fear or to be murdered. Most cases of women killing their partners follow a history of domestic violence against the woman.

 

So let’s not kid ourselves about whether this is a gender specific issue. For men, yes some would benefit from access to assistance to leave violent or abusive situations, that assistance should be available to everyone, but for women who are victims of domestic violence, who often have to leave with nothing, with kids in tow, with nowhere to go, and with a sharp increase to the danger they are in after they have left, refuges and safe places are crucial, and it’s ridiculous to deny that women in this situation are the vast majority.

iStock 000070651769 SmallOk, we’ve all done it, I’ve done it, I’m not claiming to be morally superior in this department, and basically that’s what I want to write about today.


Facebook, TV, YouTube and conversations are the likely places to find a bit of moral outrage. If you’re really in the mood to be pissed off about something, you have plenty to choose from, whenever you like. Somebody is always objecting to something and we’re all invited to join in expressing how terrible and awful it is. Animal cruelty, environmental destruction, racism, domestic violence, economic genocide, corruption, bullying, unfair legal systems, sexual abuse, misogyny, poverty, you name it.


Maintream TV current affairs programmes are a classic. Recently we’ve had a whole series of reports telling us to be outraged about “hoons”, basically people doing burnouts on public roads for fun. We get the dodgy builder ones, dole bludgers are ripping off your tax dollars, all that kind of thing. Meanwhile, people all over the world are being bombed, starved, tortured, enslaved, raped and so on, the planet is being destroyed, and there’s barely a peep about it.


Whatever your views on these particular kinds of stories, what I can’t get past is where they fit into the overall scheme of things. We’re more interested in the latest celebrity scandal than we are about blatant injustice on a global level.

Dog wearing shower capThis article is inspired by a video I just watch from Oprah’s Life classes where she is speaking with a woman named Lyanla Vanzant. You can find it here. It’s brilliant.


Lyanla says how we treat ourselves is how we treat God, that we are the representative of God in our lives. “In your life, you’ve got to be as good to you as you want to be to God in order to be of service to others in the world”.


Despite my atheist/agnostic view of the world, I actually wholeheartedly agree with this and have quite a bit to say about it. Those who know me well enough know that I don’t believe in “God”. The inverted commas are because I’m referring to a word which I’ve observed to have very different meaning to different people, and because the word represents to some people, a concept that I do relate to and believe in.


My understanding of what Lyanla says and what it means to me, is that what is genuinely good for us is also for the greater good, and what is for the greater good will also always be good for us. If something doesn’t work both ways, it’s bullshit.


To be of service, to contribute outside of ourselves, to contribute to the world, we have the most to offer when we are at our best, when we have respected ourselves, taken care of ourselves, done all we can so that we can function at our best.

Succulents

Having worked on identifying my highest values, and assisted clients to do the same, what I found is my highest value and one that commonly comes up for others too, is peace.

I ended up with peace at the top of the list because of what that word means to me.  To me it encompasses love, doing what is right (acting for the highest good), forgiveness, learning, certainty in self, harmony, playfulness and freedom.  My other values all lead in the direction of peace.

When we feel anxious, uptight or stressed, what is present is a fear of loss of control, of the unknown, of what might happen, that things are not going as we want them to.

We can let go of this fear by learning to let go of being attached to particular outcomes, by letting go of the need to control, by learning to observe with an open mind and with curiosity.

A mild example of this, fresh in my mind, is a recent trip I made to the Magistrates Court to contest a parking ticket.  I was annoyed by what I believed was an unfair fine, so I contested it.  I could have gotten stressed and agitated by the council’s rejection of my letter of appeal, however I chose to simply exercise the option of taking it to court. 

Ginger flowerPeople worry and stress about stuff at times.  There are times when worry and stress can overwhelm us, boy don’t I know it.  Sometimes life can seem like a never ending series of obstacles, fires to put out, affronts, outrages, injustices, drudgery and general crap.  Throw in some depressing stuff from facebook and TV – politics, natural disasters, more injustice, and you can find yourself knee deep in shit. 

Enough to make you want to do whatever it is you do when it all gets too much.  That’s another topic to talk about – what coping strategies we can find which do no harm.  Lots, of course.

The thing is, sometimes we might be taking on the worry and sense of responsibility for a whole lot of stuff that is not ours to worry about.  It’s easily done, especially for the more conscientious among us, and those of us who are conditioned to feel guilt.

But how are you going to save the world as well as keeping up with the kids’ school notices and worrying about whether anyone might dislike or disagree with you?

You can’t, of course, and you need to let some of that shit go.  Just let it go.

But first, you need to be able to tell the difference.  What should you take responsibility for, and what can you feel totally free to release from your long list of concerns?

FushciasHaving just moved house again, (I wrote this six months ago), I’m enjoying the opportunity to re-assess how we use the space available in our home.  There is sorting, chucking out, picture hanging and of course some furniture will be changed.

Our environments, those we choose and have control of, are a reflection of how we are feeling and functioning and what we are thinking about.

I’m all for working on improving how we feel, think and function; it’s what I help clients with as a Life Coach, but of course we can get a positive results from giving our attention to the external directly as well.

In other words, clean up your mess, create an atmosphere in your home that is compatible with the life you want to be living, and it will help you feel, think and function better.

You might want to start with your desk, your car, your bed, your bathroom or your kitchen sink.  Get rid of whatever is not serving a useful or aesthetic purpose, and go for clean surfaces.  I find it better to have places to put things away rather than leaving them permanently out on surfaces if possible.  It’s easier to dust, and minimises distraction.

As with anything, ask yourself what the purpose of the space concerned is.  We often keep things in certain places around the house which no longer really belong there, and don’t acknowledge the real purposes we need to use our space for, or notice the full or true potential of our space.

Whilst having a bit of a sort out, I tend to make some piles.  These piles will be about grouping items, like the pile of extension cords and power boards I’ve made until we know which ones will be needed where, and piles of clothes to give away, toys found to be kept for younger children, and broken stuff to be thrown away. 

GuiltI know so many people live with this bullshit emotion as I have, and I don’t wish it on anyone.  Mothers can be particularly prone to it, women in particular are prone to it, and plenty of men are burdened by it too, and this is something I believe is in our culture and needs to change.

The idea of giving up guilt might concern you if you equate it with having a conscience.  It’s not the same thing, so relax.  You don’t need guilt to be guided by your moral compass.  It is not a requirement.  Really.

Guilt, I was taught in my NLP training, is not a natural emotion, it’s a man made one.  It serves no useful purpose.  Again, separate it from empathy, from caring, from knowing right from wrong.  We can have all those useful things without the guilt.  If you’ve stepped on someone’s toe, you’ll say sorry.  If you’ve clipped someone’s car in the car park, you’ll pay your insurance excess.  If you know you’ve done the wrong thing, you’ll make amends or at least stop doing it.  Guilt will not help you with this.  Empathy will.

The good news is, if you experience guilt, you’re probably not a sociopath.  A sociopath may be able to express moral outrage, a part of the projection behaviour they utilise to avoid facing what they cannot face about themselves, as they may skilfully portray themselves as a victim, but this doesn’t mean they actually experience the feeling of empathy, and they are certainly not bothered by guilt.  But becoming a sociopath is not the answer is it.

Coping mechanismsThis one’s about coping mechanisms.  Years ago I saw a shrink because I was really bothered by my tendency to escape into ridiculous fantasies of time travel or winning lotto.  I noticed the more I was struggling with the realities of life, the more I would lie in bed or sit for hours disappearing into my hobby of devising various alternative scenarios.  I was distressed because I thought I might be a bit nuts.  Turns out it wasn’t life threatening, just a coping mechanism.  A fairly harmless one at that.  Still, it served as a gauge to show me how well I was coping with things at any given time.

Whilst this coping mechanism did no great harm other than suck time, I was aware that there were way more constructive things I could be doing.  I noticed that if I could engage myself in something that seemed meaningful or valuable to me, this old coping mechanism would fade off and I’d forget about it.  The main thing that seemed to make it re-appear was when I had difficulty accepting something, like the current reality.

Angry CleaningI have no idea what Google or facebook have to say about this because I have deliberately not looked, wanting to see what happens when I start typing.  I believe, and I may not be the first to discover it, that Angry Cleaning is a thing.  I think I just saw somebody doing it and I think I angrily cleaned stuff myself yesterday or the day before.  Ok, I just Googled it, and it’s a thing.

To clarify, I’m not talking about angry cleaning when you’re angry about the cleaning, or the mess you’re cleaning.  It’s using cleaning as a way of occupying yourself when you’re angry in general.

The first thing to know about angry cleaning, is just go ahead and let it happen.  Stuff will get cleaned, and that’s always good.

Another fascinating fact about it is that true Angry Cleaning is done efficiently and calmly, and that’s always a good thing too.

When we’re distressed, frustated, hurt, overwhelmed, unable to comprehend injustice, and similar very unpleasant emotions, we’ll desperately look for some way to comfort or distract ourselves. 

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