As I write this blog, I feel a little rubbed all over with sandpaper, salt and lemon juice. Just call me the human margarita.
Yesterday I shared a post on linkedin that I thought was fairly innocuous. Random man makes poorly executed overture, I have a conversation with him to try and get him to understand that sliding into someone’s DM’s with ‘nice pic’ isn’t an overture worthy of the name of Casanova and that it’s kind of insulting. I share the slightly insidious feeling outcome with a lesson around boundaries.
Damn. You would think I would learn by now, wouldn’t you?
‘He paid you a compliment, you say thank you and move on’ ‘You’ve taken more offence than was necessary’ (and my favourites so far) ‘you’re pathetic’ and ‘attention seeker’.
It frustrates me to the point of angry tears that it’s so unacceptable to so many to feel how you feel. That we’re supposed to just smile politely, move on, don’t make a fuss.
I know that the line is about children being seen and not heard, but fuck me if a few people don’t think it applies to women too.
Man made you feel uncomfortable? Well he’s not sitting in your garden screaming at you, what are you worried about >> otherwise known as the ‘other people have it worse than you, shut up and stop feeling sorry for yourself argument’. Because my friend’s broken leg means I don’t feel it when I stub my toe, right?
You should accept the compliment and move on >> the ‘good girls’ argument. That if you say no, or are non-compliant in any way, you are not a good girl and therefore not worthy of respect or admiration. It’s the conditional-care approach of every manipulative person out there
(by the way, and before anyone comments, I am completely and entirely aware that this cuts both ways on gender lines. This isn’t an attack on gender, although I’m using the ‘good-girl’ term because it’s the most handy summary of the situation)
Lengthy posts telling me how I should have responded with a simple thank you and moved on to blocking/reporting if his behaviour became inappropriate >> I’m setting this out because the behaviour was, in my view, inappropriate from the outset. And given it’s my inbox, my picture and face he’s commenting on, I get to decide whether it’s appropriate or not. I’m also fully conversant in how to use block and report.
Here’s my biggest issue with this though. I shared this post as an attempt at demonstrating that it was ok to set your boundaries, to say how you felt, to feel what you feel without repressing it.
I shared this one comment down in the thread, which summed so much of it up;
As I wrote this post I thought through how I would discuss it with clients, women my own age who have had similar experiences. But I also thought about my friends' children, how we would respond if it was another child at school, older than them, leaving them feeling uncomfortable.
There's a child in your profile picture, I'm assuming yours. Would you say the same to them? That when someone leaves them feeling upset and uncomfortable that they should ignore that feeling and be polite above all else?
Maybe you would; I'm of the school of thought that says a child shouldn't be forced to hug a family member and should be taught bodily autonomy. But that's because I have been in so many situations like this over the years where I have felt uncomfortable, or ashamed, or objectified. And the lesson I learned was 'behave and act with grace, no matter how they make you feel'.
Learning to disassociate from your emotions, to override your instincts, to be more concerned with appearances than the truth, all played a big part in how I got to burnout. So I teach my clients to be more mindful, more self-aware, to not simply act from habit
Does that make it easier? Hell no. For every four supportive comments I’ve received I have also had something negative, telling me I’m wrong or argumentative or emotional or wrong.
It takes so much fucking energy just to show up sometimes. To be honest about this stuff. To stand there and engage with every comment, even when they’re calling me pathetic or an attention seeker or an idiot.
Feeling misrepresented, misheard, misunderstood is a big old trigger for me. But the alternatives are to repress my emotions and stop sharing the growth, or to not care what people think of me.
Neither of those are helpful, to me or to you.
So, let’s take a lesson from this shall we? Rather than making it a pity-fest.
Other people aren’t necessarily right or wrong, they just think what they think.
I’ve received several comments telling me that I’m inflexible or that I won’t accept what other people say. This has come on the back of my getting in the sandbox and exploring, have discussions. I don’t know when it’s going to be acceptable to disagree and have a discussion about the way we view things in order to understand each other better, but I’m going to keep going. I draw strength from the thought that those who see me as argumentative or rigid don’t understand me or what I’m trying to achieve. Thanks for filtering yourself out, move on.
You’re never going to be 100% right, so focus on the support, take what you can learn from the detractors, and move on with it
Things I’ve learned from this discussion include perception is everything, that I seem to have damned good filters in my male connections as they seem to be the ones who are picking up on the emotional intelligence and perception points.
Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing
I shared the post because the messages felt insidious and because I wanted to make a clear statement (as I do once or twice a year) that boundaries are a good thing, that it’s ok to feel the feelings and to act on them. Because, as insanely basic as it sounds to anyone who has followed me for more than five minutes disassociating emotions takes you down a dark path of not responding according to your own needs. Seems that that’s still not a universal message, so I guess I get to keep going.
Finally, draw strength from the support you receive
My friend has just sent me a brilliant twitter discussion around this exact point. I’ve received a half dozen messages and dozens of connection requests from people who like what I’m saying and appreciate it. The people who don’t, probably wouldn’t like my stance on flexible working or politics or dogs either. They’re not my people and that’s ok. I don’t need to demonise or diminish them, I just get to be grateful for the people who do get it. Refocus on the support you’re receiving, make that the lens everything else comes through. You’ll see what you expect to see, remember?
Don’t get derailed by other people
A lesson for me; I have so much work I want to get done today, things I want to do and see and I’ve got to focus. Say what you need to say. Let other people have their say. Move on. That’s all.