Glenn recently went to a conference about educational leadership. The core of it was knowing yourself better to be able to lead better. He learned that we all have mantras that we tell ourselves and that directs how we think and act. We discussed his and I began to think about mine. Often times this is something you came up with in your early childhood from experiences you had or didn’t, and your underdeveloped brain told you things about the world that may or may not have been true. For me, my parents got divorced when I was six and I went from being best buds with my dad to practically never seeing him. This led me to create a mantra that I need to be self sufficient because depending on others is not safe. The way this has played out in my life is both good and bad. It has made me independent and a go getter to achieve and stand on my own two feet. It has made me strong, but it has also made me not trust others and struggle to bring down walls enough to let them in. I really don’t deal with rejection well at all. If I sense someone doesn’t like me or even hints at walking away from me, I will leave faster. I will shut you out and run. I spent much of our early marriage wondering when Glenn would leave. 20 years later I am beginning to believe he’s staying. lol. I joke but it’s true. I know these things about myself and I’m now trying hard to do the work of trusting and letting people in.
I had a silly example of this lately. While Glenn was gone for three days my car needed air in one of the tires. So, I went to the gas station and put air in it. However, when it was finished the air was less than when I started. I called Glenn and he said maybe I didn’t do it right. He said he would look at it when he got home. It really bothered me that I seemed to not be able to do such a simple task and that I needed some man to come rescue me. Turns out the tire had a nail in it so it wasn’t me. Whew. But it was a real moment of reflection on why this bothered me so much. If I let myself need someone and then they leave, what will happen then? My mom and I depended on my dad and he not only left us emotionally and physically, but he also ruined the business they had built and put us in a very difficult financial situation. One can understand why I struggle to want to depend on people.
God didn’t make us to be islands. He made us to need others and be in relationship and you cannot do that without letting others in and trusting. This does not mean I don’t have boundaries with others but it does mean I need to learn to trust. Boundaries actually promote trust. If I depended on Glenn to do everything for me and was uncapable of doing anything for myself, then that is an unhealthy dependence and I lack boundaries of where he ends and I begin. But if I maintain a balance of doing things for myself but also asking for help and trusting him to do what he says he will do, then that promotes trust between us. This is most obvious with kids. My oldest son is 17 and a senior this year. We are making lots of decisions about his future right now. It’s a big year. We were doing college applications yesterday. I made him sit down and actually fill them out but I was there to help. If I had filled them out then that promotes unhealthy boundaries because he needs to see he can do that on his own and he needs to own the decisions to do it. I am there to help him when he needs help but he needs to ultimately separate from me doing everything for him, like when he was a child, and becoming his own adult person. If that doesn’t happen then what? That’s when you see these parents going to college with their child and talking to professors for them and managers at their jobs. They have crippled their child by now allowing the child to set boundaries and become an adult. It’s hard as a parent because you don’t want your child to experience hardship or pain but without that they cannot grow. When baby birds are hatching they struggle to get out of the egg. If you help them then they will not be strong enough to survive and will die after hatching. That struggle is necessary to make them strong enough to live.
In learning more about myself, I have discovered I’m a very empathetic person. Sometimes to a fault because I feel what everyone around me feels and it can be exhausting. I think I am this way because I was taught you must put others first and never be selfish. That is what the bible says right? While it is true you should put others before yourself, you can take that to an extreme and never think of oneself at all. People who are selfish or self promoting bother me. I see it in my kids and get overly frustrated with them. I see it in those around me and put up walls to not allow that person in because I’m afraid they will hurt me. It’s stuff from my past. I have a mantra in my mind that selfish people will ultimately hurt you, but my definition of selfish is skewed. I see it as anyone who thinks about themselves. It’s not healthy to never think about yourself because if you did that then you never able to express your needs to others or to take time to care for yourself. Both are things I am not good at. And our culture says that moms and wives are to be unselfish and think only about others at all times. We are to deny our needs in favor of our kids and everyone else at all times. And we wonder why we are burned out. It’s exhausting to keep that up. I’m learning to not see asking for what I need as selfish. It’s hard but I’m working on it. I’m also learning to have grace with others when I see self promotion or selfishness because maybe I’m seeing it through my own lens.
What mantras do you tell yourself? How does that affect your relationships with others? How would becoming aware of those mantras help you as you interact with others?