Episode 118: Are You a Rule Follower?
Today, I’m bringing you a topic that I know will help so many of you as this is a common occurrence in our day-to-day lives. This show is centered on helping you live a confident life and I talk often about quiet confidence and what that really means is living a life full of security, a life you can feel certain about so that you can be honest, authentic, and show up as the real you. Too often we aren’t really giving ourselves the opportunity or gift of showing up real. We do a lot of pretending and I know that I was just as guilty of that for a big part of my life and it’s not fun, it’s painful, and it doesn’t create confidence.
So in this episode, I want to talk about the dangers of pretending to be fine when we’re not, pretending that things don’t bother us when they really do, pretending to be happy instead of being a human being with a full range of an emotional capacity, pretending to enjoy things when we’re not enjoying them, pretending to agree with things or with others when we don’t agree, pretending to want things when we really don’t, pretending to move on when we’re not ready to move on.
We do an awful lot of pretending in our lives and we do it often for the sake of others and not wanting to rock the boat or to be who they think we should be, or because we question our own ability to move on – like, “I should be over this by now – what’s wrong with me?” Kind of a thing, or even because other people tell us, “You just need to get over it already” and so because there’s no rule book or specified time frame of healing we “fake it” hoping that we’ll “make it” someday and preferably soon, right?
These things are not only hurting your ability to feel and create a confident life but it’s damaging to your relationships as well.
This is a form of people-pleasing and people-pleasing is the belief that you can “make” other people feel good – so you say yes when you want inside to say no because you believe that you saying yes will “make” them happy. You go along with what they want to do, where they want to eat, how they think you should parent, what they think you should do with your life.
And people pleasers often think they’re being kind. People-pleasing really is taking a strength too far so that it becomes a weakness. It’s taking your kind nature and coupling it with fear so that now it becomes dishonesty and a form of manipulation.
This always startles people at first because they’re like, “No! I’m a kind person. I’m not trying to be manipulative!”
But people-pleasing is a form of manipulation because you are trying to manipulate or control the outcomes. You say yes because you don’t want the other person to be unhappy or uncomfortable or upset with you. So you say yes, even though you don’t really mean it in an attempt to try and avoid an uncomfortable feeling or an uncomfortable conversation all the while creating that exact same thing within you.
People-pleasing is lying. It’s dishonest. You’re being dishonest to the other person when you say something that’s contrary to what you really believe and think and you’re lying to yourself because you know what you want or don’t want and yet you’re ignoring and silencing your own desires and thoughts because you believe that their feelings are more important than your own.
All of this creates disharmony within yourself, like with your relationship with yourself and it create disharmony with the other party because you haven’t been honest. They don’t have all the information and thus can’t know the real you and can’t make informed decisions. Eek!
So when pretend to move on when we’re still hurt it’s a form of people-pleasing, of manipulation and dishonesty because we’re still hurt. Think about why you’re pretending instead of being honest. Is it because you believe that your response, your answer, the way you’re showing up can affect how the other person feels?
And we want to be really careful here because that belief isn’t serving us – either party and it’s simply not true. You can’t make other people feel a certain way – only their thoughts can do that. They cannot make YOU feel a certain way – only YOUR thoughts can do that.
And why wouldn’t we want them to feel however they choose to feel? Like saying yes when you want to say no. When you say yes, they’re most likely going to be pleased, happy, grateful even, right? So would we – we like getting our way. We like when people agree with us. But it wasn’t you that made them feel good. It was their own thoughts that made them feel good. Likewise when you’re honest and you say no when you don’t want to – they might and most likely will choose to feel a negative feeling but again, it’s not because of you. It’s because of their thoughts.
It’s like when someone asks you to do something, to fill in for them, or something and that’s a no for you this time. They probably aren’t going to be happy about it because that means that now they have to asks someone else and take a different course of action – but think about this – did you make them feel that way? Did you cause the upset? No. You are their circumstance – which is totally neutral – until they place a meaning on it. They created the negative feeling, not you.
Now I’m telling you all of this to set up the stage for you learning how to be honest, authentic, and to allow yourself the space to heal when you need to heal. We have to stop pretending we’re okay when we’re not. We have to stop pretending we’re not hurt when we really are.
And knowing that others don’t cause or create my feeling and visa versa we are the point where we can give ourselves the space to understand why we’re hurt. When we’re pretending there’s no room for the hurt because we might believe that we should’t be hurt. We shouldn’t think or feel that way. That if we’re hurt it means that we’re ungrateful or unappreciative and we need to remember that we are complex human beings. We’re not a dichotomy. It’s not this or that. Either or. It can be this AND that.
We can be both hurt and appreciative.
We can be both in pain and feel loving.
Other people can’t heal you. This is an inside job. Coupled with the Savior and His healing atonement you can move forward but not until you stop long enough to acknowledge, understand, and address the hurt.
I’ve said this before but Pema Chodron says that “nothing ever goes away until it teaches you what you need to know.”
Pretending won’t make the hurt go away. Smiling through the pain won’t take the pain away. Faking positivity won’t make or create positivity.
Now I get that when someone asks you, “Hey, how are you?” And our knee-jerk reaction is to say, “I’m fine!” Even when we’re not and we don’t want to spill our souls to anyone willy nilly but when we ignore, suppress, or pretend it becomes a form of self-sabotage and creates more pain in the form of inner conflict. If you yourself aren’t a safe space to be honest then where do you go? How are you supposed to heal?
Suppression leads to other non-productive behaviors. We tend to avoid our feelings by engaging in other things that also aren’t helpful like overeating, or eating things that don’t fuel your body which can lead to weight gain or a decline in health. It can emerge in the form of overwhelm and easy to get frustrated. Where you like blow up or have a melt down over the tiniest things – because it’s not the things in the first place. It can look like thinking or talking about or down to others. It can look like addictions: phone addictions, shopping, starbucks or fast food even. Trying to control what you think you can control – your house, your workouts, your schedule, your kids (and notice, I said, “THINK” you can control because it doesn’t always pan out the way you want that to).
The pain surfaces in many ways and all are unhelpful and not productive and not the way you want them to because it needs a release. Ignoring a cut won’t heal the cut. It might need medical attention. It might need medicine. It might need more than slapping a bandage on it.
So the first thing is to allow yourself to look at it. To be made aware of it.
Just like a physical pain, you need to see what it is that’s causing the hurt and pain in the first place. What am I feeling right now? What am I struggling with?
I may have shared this example before but it’s really fitting here. Many years ago before I had these life coaching tools I was our ward choir director for like a decade. I had two kids in that time frame and because I loved the calling so much I was right back to music and our practices like the same week I had my babies. We had an amazing choir and the atmosphere was so loving and fun and spiritual and I just felt like I belonged there. We all did.
Then we had a change in our bishopric and leadership and one of the first things they did was release me and that afternoon it was so unexpected and while entirely innocent and like trying to offer compassion to me he shared a conversation where he too was surprised by this change and said, “Who are we going to get to fill that calling?” And the bishop said, “Don’t worry, she’ll be easy to replace”. And at that moment I couldn’t breathe.
I was shocked and stunned and felt like a dagger to my heart. I held my breath and suppressed my tears as long as I could and the moment I was out of sight of other people I just cried and cried for weeks. I was in so much pain and I didn’t quite understand why.
I was like gaslighting myself, like, “It’s just a calling. You knew this day would come. It shouldn’t be this big of deal. Move on!”
But I couldn’t. I was so hurt and when I was trying to move on, trying to smile when I felt so sad inside, it just backfired and I felt worse. I couldn’t move on until I addressed what it was that I was hurt about. And it wasn’t the calling or being released. Those things happen. We know going into that will happen eventually.
It was the words, “You’ll be easy to replace” – the meaning that I put on those words that I wasn’t enough, that what I did, didn’t really matter. That the sacrifices I gave didn’t matter. What I had contributed for that decade didn’t hold meaning, or significance, or purpose. All of those thoughts, notice, MY thoughts about it created a lot of rejection.
And rejection is a hard feeling. It manifests physically in the body where we actually experience real physical pain.
The mind and body communicate together. When we feel down mentally it manifests in your physical body. We’re more prone to illness, stress, anxiety, and to a slower metabolism.
We think others want to see a smile. They want positivity. But what we all really want is honesty. We want authenticity. We don’t want a fake smile. We want a real smile. We don’t want a fake happy person we want a genuinely happy person. We want what’s real. And what’s real isn’t always happy rainbows and daisies. Sometimes it’s rainclouds and puddles and that’s okay.
I needed to get to a place where I didn’t just try and move on or pretend I was okay. I needed to stay with my hurt until I could understand my hurt so that I could know how to help heal my hurt. When we try to move on too quickly or try to ignore it all together or even pretend like it didn’t even exist it will and does backfire.
Stay with your hurt long enough to understand it. Ask yourself questions, without a time frame, what’s going on? What are you feeling and why? What happened? What are you making that mean? Is it true? Can you really know that it’s true?
When you begin to understand the hurt and why you’re hurting you’re better equipped to know how to heal your hurt. It’s like someone coming to you and saying their in pain and you give them a bandaid when really they need medicine. We can’t heal our hurts until we know why we’re hurting.
Suppressing your emotions, avoiding them, holding it in, smiling and saying yes when deep down your whole soul is screaming no – just creates a deeper wound. It doesn’t make the pain go away it actually intensifies it. You’ll start outsourcing your emotions to others and needing them to give you what you need and it’ll be so disappointing because they can’t give that to you. Which will just create even more pain and problems.
Stay with your hurt and be the one to examine it. Give yourself the gift of asking questions without an agenda. And what I mean by that is holding yourself to a time frame, like, okay it’s been long enough – why aren’t you over this yet? But just with compassion and patience. There’s no hurry. There’s no time frame and when you release the need to move on quickly you’ll notice there’s no pressure anymore. You can explore, and think, and examine yourself in a healing way.
And even just this first step creates and contributes to more connection, more healing, and more confidence. Confidence, especially quiet confidence is safety. It’s creating solid, certain ground that you’re going to be okay. You think you need others to see and understand you but you don’t. You can want that – we all do – but what you need is for you to see and understand you.
You are the hurter and the healer. All those years ago those words didn’t hurt me. It was the meaning I placed on those words that hurt so deeply. It was the story I told myself and I know this because others don’t make us feel and can’t make us feel but the next person they got for that calling didn’t really enjoy it so when they released her – even if they had said the same words, it was more welcomed, like, “YES! Thank you! Get someone else!” Right?
It’s never the circumstance. It’s always your meaning, your story, your words and we can’t just think happy thoughts and be happy. We have to understand why we have that story in the first place. And we can’t get there if we’re not willing to look and ourselves, our thoughts, and be curious – asking questions, and locating some previously learned trauma – even lower case t traumas where it didn’t have to be something huge or big that happened to you but it was significant to you when you were younger.
It’s like in class being asked a question and not knowing the answer – and all of the sudden you have 30+ people/peers staring at you, snickering and you think, “Oh shoot, I should know this and I don’t. I’m not good enough, smart enough.” And that created fear, doubt, insecurities, embarrassment – and the intensity of your meaning created a lower case t trauma that now as an adult we still operate from those set/learned/created thought patterns.
When you’re able to sit with it, to ponder on it, to be made aware of what your hurt really is and why you’re hurting. When you’re able to take responsibility for your hurt – not the circumstances – but what you made the circumstances mean about you – then you’re in a position to heal, to know how to heal, to question those awful thoughts and that painful story, and then to rewire and rewrite a new narrative that doesn’t hurt anymore.
Someone could say those exact words to me today about anything – my work, my calling now, and it wouldn’t create the same pain because I don’t operate from that story anymore. It might not matter to them – whoever “they” are and that’s okay because it matters to me. I know that no person in any capacity is easy to replace – in fact, you are irreplaceable because while someone can do the “job” they can’t do it like you would do it. They don’t have your thoughts, your brain, your talents, your ideas, your background, your feelings.
The “job” could get done but not like you did it. I love what Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) said, “You are a very special person. There is only one like you in the whole world. There’s never been anyone exactly like you before, and there will never be again. Only you. And people can like you exactly as you are.” And I would add YOU can like you exactly as you are.
Which leads to the next step which is creating compassion around your pain. Validating your experience. Validating you. In my confidence model, Know, Embrace, Trust – this is the middle, learning to embrace you. When we’re hurt we all really need to know that we’re okay, that we’re going to be okay, that your pain is valid and that it makes sense why you’re hurt. It’s equivalent to giving yourself a hug – embracing yourself – wrapped in the arms of safety and security.
It’s being able to acknowledge the hurt, why you’re hurt, and creating space for it. I’m hurt and it’s okay, it’s going to be okay. I’m going to make it okay. My pain is valid and it’s okay that I’m hurting right now. My right now is not forever and that’s okay. Practice the “and it’s okay”. The hurt, maybe the circumstances don’t have to be okay – but you, your emotional safety and future can be. You can make it okay for you emotionally. There is a space for that. And that space doesn’t have to have a time frame.
When my kids were little no matter what their pain was Mom’s kisses could mend and fix anything. And it wasn’t the kisses – it was the safety and validation that “I see that you are hurt, it makes sense why you’re hurt, let me help you feel safe and seen and secure”. And as kids, they’re still learning how to be emotionally resilient and they learn that from those around them, parents modeling that for them – which is why if you didn’t get that when you were young it manifests even as an adult until you learn how to give that to yourself. And by so doing it builds self-trust.
Which is the next step. In your healing process we need to know how to move forward. That happened and now what? What does this mean for you now? And this part is critical because this is the part where you decide to establish safety within yourself so that you can share if you want to with others. You can speak openly and honestly with others that you want to. It’s being able to say when asked, “hey how are you?” You can answer, “You know, thank you for asking me that, I’m in a bit of a struggle right now and that’s okay”.
People are often so afraid of being honest because they fear what might come next. They don’t want to talk openly about it. They don’t want to share details. They don’t want their personal, private struggles out in the open for all to see. Which is why we often mask, suppress, lie instead but you can be honest and still set boundaries.
You can answer truthfully and not give details or reasons why. Most people will empathize with you without having to know details. Everyone has had struggles. They get the struggle aspect and we don’t need to ask why or what happened. Sometimes it’s enough just to be honest and to allow ourselves to be seen where we’re not hiding and it invites that connection to go even deeper because like I said early we don’t want fake. We can’t connect to fake. We connect to what’s real. We connect to those we can relate to.
Recently someone asked me the same question – all smiles and happy and “How are you doing?” And I didn’t respond quickly and immediately. I thoughtfully responded with something like, “you know, I’m a long-suffering state”. And not needing to share any intimate details she connected with me immediately. She knew that state. She empathized with her experiences and she just hugged me so tight and said, “it’s going to be okay. It always turns out okay”. And it was just this beautiful thing.
I wouldn’t have had that moment to connect with her had I slapped on a smiley face and lied, “Oh everything’s great, thanks!” Because that would have been the end. She couldn’t have connected with me because I didn’t give her that opportunity to. I would have shut down the conversation and connection ahead of time because everything wasn’t great at that moment.
Now I’m not saying you have to share everything with everyone. I’m saying, be honest. Be honest with yourself first. Acknowledge your hurt and get to know yourself even more. Understand it, validate your pain – we need to be seen but not by others – you need to see you! Embrace yourself. Make space for you to fully human with a wide range of emotions. And then trust yourself enough to take steps into your healing journey. What is next for me? How do I want to interact with others? What do I want to share if anything? How can I be authentic and real in a way that feels safe for me?
Pretending you’re not hurt doesn’t make the pain go away. It only intensifies it and makes it worse. It burrows and won’t go away until it teaches you what you need to know. This process shines a light on all the dark corners of your hurt until you can see and know and understand yourself – which is the whole premise of quiet confidence – certainty, security, and safety.
The more you practice this for yourself and learn how to heal from your hurts, the easier it is to connect with others. One because you’re no longer afraid of them hurting you – because they can’t. Only you can do that with your story, your thoughts, your meaning. And two because you can more fully articulate what you are experiencing so that you can connect with the full information.
They can’t understand you because they don’t have your brain, your past experiences, your fears, doubts, triggers – unless you tell them.
In a marriage this is so helpful because oftentimes you both are operating from two totally difference scenarios. You might be hurt because of something and they might be trying to help but without understanding why or what’s going on they’re not going to be able to offer you anything productive because they’re floundering.
Dr. Marc Brackett, professor at Yale for emotional intelligence and author of Permission to feel taught that being able to articulate your emotions helps you validate, legitimize, and organizes your experiences – it gives your experience substance and not just a floating feeling swirling in your brain. It helps others connect with us because they can look beyond the immediate behavior and understand the cause.
When I was a mess of tears over that calling experience both my husband and my bishop were at a loss to how to help me – and I was too at that point. So they spoke words about the calling and thinking I’m missing the calling and couldn’t address the real root of it that was rejection and the pain of the belief that I didn’t matter. Those are two totally different conversations, right?
One is, “I’m so sorry you’re going to miss music and your sad because you’re not in music anymore” right?
Vs the other that’s, “Oh you’re feeling hurt and rejected – that you are not enough, that you don’t matter” – huge difference.
That’s the power of learning how to sit with the hurt long enough to understand it yourself so that you can start the healing process and then get to a point where you can articulate it to others and invite them into the healing process as well.
I’ve said this many times that others don’t make us feel good or bad but they can invite, influence, and inspire us to feel. They can help make our thought work easier or harder. When you’re talking with a coach that is a safe space, that allows you to be you in all your messy humanness – it’s easier to explore your thoughts, your experiences because you’re not on guard. With others you might be. You might be worried that they’ll judge you, they’ll hold it over you, they’ll throw it back in your face later, or change the way they show up around you, the way they look at you is different and trying to understand your own hurt while also simultaneously entertaining those questions and fears is not a good or healthy mix.
So we can help, invite, inspire, and influence others by making it easier on their thought work but ultimately the healing has to come from within. It is an inside job and it starts with stopping the pretending habit. If you’re hurt, you are allowed to be hurt. You are allowed to question the pain – stay with it until you understand it. Make space for it while you learn to process it. Honor yourself enough to be honest, authentic, and genuine with others and invite the connection to go even deeper – they might not take you up on it. Some don’t. And that’s still okay because you don’t need them to. We want them to but they can’t heal you. Only the you do that by choosing to let the Savior in, to let His loving, healing influence guide and direct you.
You don’t have to pretend anymore. You can stop adding to your pain by acknowledging it, by understanding why it’s there. You can start healing by questioning the story that’s causing the pain. And you can rebuild trust and confidence with yourself as you look forward with honesty and authenticity.
Okay my friends. If you need help with this come work with me. This is a freeing practice that you will use again and again in your life.
See you all next week!