It’s that time of the year, when Santa is making his list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Chances are, if you’re a woman, you’ve been plenty nice.
You’ve been so nice, it has become second nature. You’re probably nice even when you don’t want to be, and that becomes a habit, too.
Many women have trouble putting their own needs before others. They accommodate their husbands and children, their parents and grandparents, even their pets. Years ago, a good friend told me she couldn’t write in her upstairs den during the day because the dog would get lonely downstairs.
The dog? Really? The dogs needs come before your own?
Laugh, but I’m guessing we all have our version of putting the dog’s needs first.
I’ve spent years putting off my own needs to accommodate my daughter’s anxiety. It is the first mistake parents of kids with OCD make and a hard habit to break. When Shira and I were in Middleboro, Massachusetts for intensive OCD treatment, a good part of my work was ceasing accommodations.
When Shira and I were in Middleboro for intensive OCD treatment, a good part of my work was ceasing accommodations. As I settle back into my life in Austin, I realize that for as long as I can remember, I’ve accommodated everyone around me, squeezing my life between the school day, my husband’s work day, the academic year, the Jewish calendar, not to mention the many life cycle events that take up my rabbi husband’s time.
As systems theories teaches, if we make a change in the system, the system will shift to accommodate that change. Believe it or not, children and spouses, parents and grandchildren, even the pets, can change to be more accommodating toward us. It possible to put our own health, well-being and creative calling closer to top of the to-do lis.
All we have to do is speak up.
As we’ve seen in the news, when women speak up and say, “enough,” change can happen. Whether it sexual abuse or abuse of your good will and energy, you don’t have to be nice. Your polite silence is deadly.
As 2017 comes to a close, and we consider the changes we want to make in the New Year, I recommend the following steps toward getting more of what you want and need:
- As you move through the days and weeks, try to catch yourself accommodating the needs and wants of others. How often do you compromise your health and/or creative work for a non-emergent situation?
- Start keeping a daily tab of how often you accommodate and how often you resist accommodating. How does it feel to compromise yourself? How does it feel to set a limit?
- Write out what you are willing and not willing to do. Set a time for ten minutes for each question, keep your hand moving, and let it rip.
- Finally, speak to your loved ones and tell them how much you care for them, but that you are no longer going to tie yourself in knots to accommodate them. You don’t have to be harsh. You don’t have to move out of the house. But you can establish your working hours and set limits around the housework, errands, and carpooling. Everyone can fold their own laundry and help out with meals or whatever else you’re assuming you need to do.
My wish for you this giving season is that you stop giving so much of yourself away. Not that you should pull the plug on kindness, but please practice more compassion with yourself. Stop trying to make the nice girl list.
The feminist sculptor and performance artist, Hannah Wilke, said that when she stood up for herself, she stood up for all women. It’s time for us to stand up, too.