In terms of parenting, I often feel as if I’m up against the world…and the world is winning. Whether it’s about PG-13/R movies, “T” or “M” video games, paintball guns, air-soft guns, texting, cell phones or whatever, there are always ten other kids who are allowed to do more than my children. It’s a constant battle—with everybody. Even the parents who I’d bet would have the same values as I, don’t. Inevitably I end up questioning my own values: am I too old fashioned? Too strict? Too…(fill in the blank)?
Unfortunately this questioning does not help my parenting. Nor, by the way, does it help in life. Throughout the years, I’ve found that women are particularly prone to this type of self-questioning—everywhere in our lives. We may start out feeling strongly about an issue, concept or incident, however we often cave when challenged. Not only do we cave, we cave by turning things on ourselves. We begin to think that our thinking is wrong. We start to talk ourselves into believing the alternate view and then try to get comfortable with what we know to our core doesn’t feel right.
Here are several examples of this dynamic:
• When Brandy asks Tom to spend more time at home, he responds by telling her that he works this hard for her. He tells her to get off his back and stop guilting him into feeling bad about not being home more. When she tells him the kids want to see him more, he tells her that’s her job and the kids will be fine. Brandy has begun to back off. After all, she’s a stay-at-home mom, so the kids do have her. Besides her husband is a hard worker. Maybe she is being unfair?
• Sarah was livid when her husband said he was going on a weekend biking trip with his female friend from work. When she confronted him about this, he said she was crazy to think that way. He was clear that his co-worker wasn’t the least bit attractive and he simply needed a biking partner. He was adamant that he was going and that Sarah needed to get a grip on her jealousy. While he was gone, Sarah began to ask herself why she was such a jealous person. She wished she could be cool with this situation and started to feel bad for her husband.
• Sally did not like it when her friend Tammy drank. Tammy would start swearing like a sailor at anyone and everyone who upset her. She would become loud and out of control in front of her children, friends and even co-workers. When Sally tried to talk to Tammy about this, Tammy laughed at her and told her to lighten up. Tammy said Sally was a stick-in-the-mud and way too uptight. Tammy said she could speak however she damn well pleased and Sally should take a Valium. Sally began to question if perhaps Tammy was right; maybe she did need to lighten up. After all, swearing wasn’t really that big a deal. Besides, most children have heard it all before anyway, right?!
Women need to know something: when it doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t right. All the doubting, reframing and second guessing in the world is not going to change that gnawing feeling. Why? Because that gnawing feeling is called INSTINCT. Too often women numb their instincts. We do this for many reasons: fear, we don’t want to hurt someone, we want to be liked, we don’t trust ourselves, etc. Rather than trusting our instincts and risk upsetting our loved ones, we take the hit ourselves. Perhaps, we think, we’re misreading something or we’re too sensitive or (fill in the blank). Basically, when others question our instincts–many of us cower.
Over time, cowering takes its toll. We begin to trust ourselves less and less, others begin to doubt us more and more and we make ourselves small. This creates a ripple effect of self doubt, insecurity, ineffectiveness and damaging relationships. Human beings are given the gift of instincts as a source of protection. They are like our beacon in the fog. They keep us on track and protect us from troubled waters. Ignoring them is a foolish, unsafe practice that puts us at risk.
If you’re gut is telling you something—LISTEN. If you begin to question yourself , then run your instinct through the instinct tester: pretend your best friend was telling you the same story you’re beginning to question yourself on. Would you tell her she was crazy and being paranoid or would you think she was right on? For example, if my friend told me her boyfriend was going biking for the weekend with a woman from work—I’d tell her she’s crazy to question herself, that it is absurd for him to do that. If, however, she said he was going golfing with the guys and she thought he should never go out without her…well, you get the picture.
Bottom line: stop numbing your instincts and instead hone them. They’re a gift and your beacon in the fog.
CHALLENGE: Pay attention to what your instincts are telling you. Learn to listen to those nagging feelings, see those red flags and hear the rumblings our world is sending you. Also pay attention to all the ways you deaden your instincts. When you begin to question yourself, run your instincts through the instinct tester and trust the answer.