One of the gifts of feminine intuition is that many women possess the ability to read situations and people. This can be helpful at work, in relationships, when making decisions, but it also has the ability to become a hindrance. Why? Because from a young age, our feminine conditioning teaches us that, in order to be nice, we need to make other people feel comfortable.
How do we learn this? Can you think of times, perhaps when you were growing up, that you were asked to do something that made you uncomfortable in order to please someone else? Maybe it was making polite conversation with someone when you wanted to be quiet. Maybe it was being asked, as a young child, to hug or kiss someone you didn’t know well or didn’t want to touch. Maybe it was, upon request, befriending or even going out on a date with someone. Perhaps you were exhorted to keep your opinions to yourself for the sake of politeness or keeping the peace. Maybe it was just being told, by a family member, friend or even a stranger to - SMILE!
As women, we’re constantly asked, either overtly or covertly, to sacrifice our own needs and wants for the comforts of others. So much so that it becomes second nature for most women to lose track of or bury their own needs to the point where they become unrecognizable. We’re always striving to make others comfortable and what does that even mean?
Someone else’s comfort is a pretty tall order. It requires hyper-vigilance about other people’s feelings. It requires maintaining a constant barometer about social dynamics, waiting for the moment when you might be called upon to step in. It often requires burying your opinions, your emotions and your truth, in order to keep the peace. Sometimes we do this for our own safety (Gretchen Kelly wrote a great article about this). But other times, we do it without even acknowledging what we’re doing.
It’s exhausting. It’s counterproductive. And it’s not your job. You are not responsible for the comfort of others. You are not responsible for putting others at ease at your own expense. Your needs (and wants and desires and opinions) are not expendable for someone else’s comfort.
Please understand that I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be compassionate or thoughtful, not at all. I’m simply pointing out that your needs, your feelings, your opinions, should be your first point of reference. Politeness does not trump your truth. Feeling at peace is often more important than keeping the peace. Speaking your truth is more valuable than stifling your voice. Check out the tips below for staying true to your own needs.
3 Ways to Be True to Yourself, Rather than Making People Comfortable
1. Listen to your body, it always tells the truth. When you’re in a situation where you feel obligated to do something that goes against what you actually want or need, your body reacts. Learn to identify your body’s unique reaction to situations like this. Maybe your heart beats faster, maybe you feel nauseous, maybe you feel like you’re frozen. Whatever your unique cues are, learn to recognize them early and use that information to help you decide what to do next.
2. Think about what you need. Before you walk into a meeting, a conversation, or a social situation, take two minutes to focus on what you want and need in the situation. Visualize how you’d like the situation to unfold. When you start to feel your body respond in the ways you identified above, call yourself back to the wants and needs that you identified and try to align your words and actions with meeting those goals.
3. Practice saying ‘No.’ When someone wants something from us that we don’t want to give, our saying no may make them uncomfortable. This is your opportunity to let them handle their own discomfort. Saying no is like exercising a muscle - it will get stronger. You may want to start out by saying no to smaller things and watch yourself become more empowered.
If you take nothing else from this article, take this: focusing on your own experience, rather than feeling obligated to manage the experiences of others, will eventually help you be happier, healthier and better able to pursue your own desires. And that's good for everyone.