(This one may be for the ladies; sorry, guys.)
This post is for you if:
- A woman (other than mom) shamed you when you didn’t met her expectations that you weren’t even aware of.
- A woman turned on you from left field when you didn’t do something the way she wanted you to do it.
- Your mind races with things you wish you’d said, and better ways you might have responded, long after the fact.
I received a Nasty-Gram last night from a neighbor whom I’ve considered a friend; she said she wanted “to give me a taste of my own medicine” when I hadn’t returned her demanding message during my intensely stressful week. How sad; she assumed I meant her ill, and never considered what I may have been up against at the time. In fact, I had out-of-the-country guests, a family member with severe depression, and had to bring the police to my home due to rampant thefts in my neighborhood. When I’d received her demanding phone call, I deemed it a low priority. She conveniently overlooked that I’d reached out to her earlier that week, and later invited her to my neighborhood meet-and-greet.
I have personal policy I’ve developed over the years:
I do my best to return every message from friends and acquaintances requesting my reply- unless it:
- is a sales call
- demands something I’m not responsible for
- is an attempt to shame or bring other negativity
- gets in the way of my family priorities
This lady’s email was inappropriate on so many levels but reminded me of a recurring theme in my life:
The more confidence, self-assurance, and sense of mission I’ve developed, the more women attempt to coerce me to submit to their inappropriate expectations or demands.
How it Happens:
- Woman sees me as someone she should control.
- Woman does not ask whether I am willing to submit to her expectations, or is vague about them
- Woman expresses that I have NOT met her expectations (or goes directly to #3)
- Woman sneers, shames, pitches a tantrum, & shows her teeth or her ugly backside in reaction to her unmet expectations
Is this familiar to you? What is it that you feel? How do you respond?More importantly, what’s missing here?
- This person didn’t understand that I’m a free agent, responsible for myself.
- This person didn’t ask whether I choose to submit to her expectations. (Last time I checked, this role was reserved for parents…that’s it).
- This person didn’t try to find out what valid reasons I may have for not doing what she expected.
- This person didn’t inquire as to whether I’m alright or need any help, or why I might not have responded.
The Real Crisis and Making it Stop
The real crisis here is that we women (particularly southerners like myself) are taught to apologize for our existence, our behavior, and for disappointing others, without discerning for ourselves whose/what expectations are appropriate for us. I want to change that. To change things, it helps to understand why they occur.
Why do women do this? Why do others submit to this? I believe it is often deep-seated insecurity or jealousy with a dash of poor judgment. Top that off with a dollop of poor communication skills, and you have negative spew. The more self-assured and self-actuated we become as women, the more those who aren’t need to find some fault in us, and the less we tolerate it. Hence the conflict.
An Alabama girl raised in the ’60s-’80s, I was not taught to respect myself or my passions in life, but to serve me, tiptoe around their feelings, and keep my nose clean. I literally apologized for my presence, and ducked my head in deference any time someone barged into my path. I was a ball of insecurity, with no sense of my value or identity. An extreme example of insecurity? Yes, mine was. And I had to fight long and hard through self-education and counseling to overcome the desire to submit inappropriately to others.
So years later, when my first female boss insinuated I’d “screwed up” without telling me what I’d done, I held my head high, and asked for clarification. Long story short, it was a set-up for failure; she’d subconsciously linked me with her nasty divorce because I was going through one at the time. And she’d consciously linked me with “sinners” because I wasn’t in church and didn’t wear Baptist-length skirts. Her later smear attempts failed to injure my self-worth, and I left with my dignity intact, and determined never to treat others that way.
I’ve learned to nip these scenarios of control in the bud– the sooner the better. It is our job as individuals to clarify our boundaries as well as our self-worth for ourselves and others. Allowing someone to randomly decide we owe them certain behavior or action is as inappropriate as their expectation. But we can limit the collateral damage by doing a few things:
- Listen to their complaint.
- Reflect back to them what they’ve said without elaborating or judging: “I hear you say that you are angry because I didn’t______; is that right?”
- State your stance clearly and concisely. Say it as respectfully as possible. “I don’t agree that I should have ___just because you expected me to; I didn’t agree to that.”
When They Don’t Tell You
Many times I’ve discovered that a woman couldn’t stand me for no apparent reason (not apparent to me, anyway). Unless it’s your child, family member or close friend, I don’t recommend wasting your time trying to clear the air with them. As you know by now, many women are plagued with insecurities and jealousy of those who are more confident and self-actualized than they are.
How Can I Stop the Cycle?
Ladies, we are the teachers and examples for the next generation (and sometimes for those older than ourselves). We can teach our children by example how to set clear boundaries for ourselves and others. We can encourage and inspire other women to seek growth and healing. We can become more self-actualized, living fulfilling lives according to our values and passions. These things will do a lot to reduce the amount of jealousy, insecurity, and woman-on-woman conflict in the world.
As to my neighbor, I didn’t respond as well as I might have; we’ll see how that pans out.
What’s your story? Please leave a comment to let us know your experience and how you handled it. Here’s to a brighter tomorrow!