“It’s All About Me” is the name of my upcoming book, which might sound slightly controversial for a book about sex and relationships.
How can it be all about me when I have a partner to think about? In our modern day perceptions (exacerbated by the latest rom com) our parter is expected to be our everything. As Esther Perel describes it: Everything that we wanted from a traditional marriage – companionship, family, children, economic support, a best friend, a passionate lover, a trusted confidante, an intellectual equal – we are asking from one person what an entire village once provided.
Why is it good to be self centred?
This is a lot of pressure to put on one person, so it is little wonder that couples are, as Perel says, “crumbling under the weight of so much expectation.”
It can be too much of a burden to bear, the weight of these unrealistic expectations. We need to remember that it is not our partner’s job to make us happy and we do not need a partner to “complete” us. This is not a healthy or empowered attitude and does not serve us or them.
The ideal is two whole people coming together, centred in their own power, to create a life together with a common vision. A life that is better because of what you share. You are together because you want to be, not because you need something from the other. This involves seeing ourselves as a whole person first and then a person in relationship second.
It is our responsibility to keep ourselves in balance within this relationship. Of course our partner can support us in this, just as we can offer them support in keeping themselves in balance and having their own needs met, but if we expect our partner to “make us happy” we are going to be disappointed.
From a place of autonomy we have much more to offer each other. When we achieve happiness we can share it. If we have no happiness ourselves, how can we share it? It is unfair and impossible to ask for happiness to always come from our significant other and unlikely that outside circumstances will always be as we would wish them to be.
When we are self-centred enough to be aware of our own needs this takes away the pressure from our partner and the relationship is more likely to flourish.
I can do nothing for you but work on myself…you can do nothing for me but work on yourself
In simple terms someone who has not been self-centred enough to get themselves in balance cannot be genuinely altruistic – there will always be strings attached or egoistic motives. Altruism from a place of happiness or balance is as an expression of true and pure love.
Think about it: would you rather have someone do you a favour out of a feeling of obligation, or would you rather have someone be happy to do it? The two feel totally different. If you are going to serve people, serve them because it is your joy. Doing something for someone else doesn’t make you a better person if you are doing it in an attitude of resentment.
We have more power than we realise. Even sitting in a room doing nothing, our energy will affect others in the room. If we are tense and stressed out, it has an effect on those around us; don’t think that they won’t feel it. On the other hand if you can keep yourself feeling happy, or at least balanced, even when sitting in a room doing nothing, the energy will feel lighter for others. That is how much influence we have.
To be self-centred, and self-aware is a good thing; we are centred in the self by nature and have no other option. We can treat others as we would like to be treated; we can know our own preferences but can never truly know those of another.
Self centred is not the same as selfish.
This does not mean being selfish, which I don’t advise. When I say “It’s all about me” I do not mean to have total disregard for others around us. As we are all connected that would be detrimental to the self in the end anyway. If everyone is miserable around you, how can you be happy? You cannot help but be affected by those around you, especially a partner and it works both ways.
Happy people automatically want others to be happy. When you make others happy around you, it makes you happy. If you can bring yourself into balance, and remain centred in your self, wanting the best for others will be your natural state.
Morality is nothing but a conscious person’s lifestyle.
It really is “all about me,” even when it’s about you it’s still about me because that is the only place I have control.
In life before social media we would put up nice photographs of people and times we want to remember on the walls of our homes and we had albums of holiday snaps to share with family and friends.
Since when did sharing our fun times become inauthentic?
I’ve heard so much lately about “being authentic on social media” and it’s been declared that seeing people’s good times and not the bad is not being “real.”
By that reckoning, if you enhance a photo, is that using some of your photography skills, or being inauthentic? Is using a filter now inauthentic? Is wearing makeup inauthentic? Shaving your legs? Is it inauthentic to clean yourself up, or wear nice clothes? It could get ridiculous.
What is more authentic: your best self, or your worst self? And who is to say?
It seems to be a human predisposition to judge and so we shouldn’t be surprised that the judgement is now being turned to social media. To be “vulnerable” is the new cool and while I am a huge proponent of being open and honest, vulnerablility by definition needs more careful consideration.
Dictionary definition: Vulnerable: 1 capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon 2 open to moral attack, criticism, temptation etc 3 (of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend
Vulnerability is in fashion right now and everywhere people are implying that if you are not being vulnerable then you are not being “real” especially on social media. This could not be further from the truth.
In life we form relationships with others; some people we would describe as acquaintances and those relationships tend to be more superficial. Then we have the people closer to us who know us well and we are safe with. These are the people we would naturally choose to be more vulnerable with because we have used our discernment and know we are SAFE with them.
Your safe circle is those you know won’t judge you, or hold what you say against you in any way because they know who you are. They are the people who you can trust to hold a safe space around you in the midst of your shame and raw emotion and strong and lasting bonds can be formed accordingly.
On social media you are linked to more people than your safe circle. Putting something on social media, out into the ether, it is easy to forget that on the other side, whether we like it or not, there are people judging us who are not all caring and supportive.
As I said at the beginning I fully support honesty, openness and transparency but oftentimes oversharing on social media is not vulnerability but a problem with not having healthy boundaries. Even Brené Brown, the biggest encourager of vulnerability, says:
“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky.”
Here are a few guidelines to staying healthy on social media:
Your own content:
It is your page, so post the things that you want to share, or things that you want to remember. Post things that align with your values and make you feel good. Remember, everything that you put out on social media tells each person that can see it something about you. Make sure it is something you are comfortable with people seeing. Even those people who don’t know you so well. It is worth being conscious and aware of what you are posting but not to the extent that you are trying to manipulate people’s idea of you (that will do nothing for your self esteem).
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you post:
Does this make me happy?
Does this feel good to post?
Is this something I truly believe in?
If I am re-sharing is it from a reputable source?
Am I posting this because it will make me look a certain way?
Is this in accordance with my values/morals?
Am I taking pictures because I am enjoying the moment, or is it purely for social media?
Am I trying to evoke some kind of reaction?
Am I misrepresenting this situation?
Are my feelings likely to change about this in the near future?
Does this represent who I feel I am?
Does this inspire/interest me?
Am I open to discussion about this?
Am I going to feel bad or triggered if someone disagrees with me?
To truly be authentic… is to be essentially the same whoever you’re talking to, and whatever situation you’re in.
If you have the feeling when you post that you are not pretending to be anything you’re not, then that is as “real” as you can hope to be.
Sometimes you may feel called to share something more vulnerable about yourself. It may be that you have been through something difficult and speaking out could help others to find their way through a similar situation, or to feel they are not alone. There is definitely a place for sharing this sort of thing as many people can find it useful and comforting. If this is the case it is safest for you and most helpful to others to share after the lesson has been learned and the wisdom has been gleaned. As Glennon Doyle says:
“If you’re going to share widely—make sure you’re sharing from your scars, not your open wounds… You have to be still with your pain before you can offer it up and use it to serve and connect with people you don’t know.”
It can be damaging to share before the experience has been fully processed. Posting a transient and fleeting “woe is me” sentiment is no more real or authentic than anything else (unless of course you are a person who stays in negative emotion without moving through it) and it certainly demonstrates less than healthy boundaries. Negative emotions are to be worked through, perhaps with a trusted friend or therapist. But know that they are passing through; they may be how you feel for a moment in time but they are not the “real you” (unless, of course, you choose them to be).
You are responsible for your mental health only. People are as prone to judging social media as they are everything else. Anything you post could be triggering for someone, and you are not going to please everyone. If you post something happy or celebratory you could provoke jealousy, if you post something you are struggling with people will call you a moaner. You are going to get it “wrong” either way. Look after your own mental health and wellbeing by making sure you post what YOU are happy with.
Other people’s content:
Social media is entertainment and if it is making you feel bad and less than entertained, take a break.
Focus on you for a while. If you are feeling triggered by anything you are seeing on social media, that is a message for you, telling you what you need to work on within yourself.
Here are a few things to remember when browsing other people’s content:
Know that humans have bad days
Keep a sense of perspective while scrolling through social media. To be human is to know pain. As the Buddha said “Life is suffering”. Yes you may be seeing mostly the moments people want to remember on your news feed but hold the thought that everyone is human and has their ups and downs. A news feed full of misery or hardship is not going to make you feel good either unless you are a masochist, or someone who can only feel good when others are worse off (neither of which is healthy).
Celebrate other people’s good news
Bearing in mind that humans have bad days, celebrate the good times that you see on your friend’s news feeds. In knowing that life isn’t all sunshine and light, can you find it in yourself to be pleased for people when they are having a good time? You will find that if you celebrate other people’s good news with them, it will actually make you feel good too.
Take ideas and inspiration rather than making comparisons
When you see things on social media that provoke envy in you, use it in a constructive way. This is your body’s way of telling you what you would like to see more of in your own life. Don’t go down the route of thinking, but I haven’t got the time, money, contacts etc. Have a think about what it is that you are wanting to create for yourself (travel, social life, achievements…). There are always ways you can see more of what you want in your own life. You might come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth it for you to make the changes necessary to create what you thought you wanted and then it will be your own choice. Either way, that thought process will make you feel more empowered and more able to be happy for other people’s good fortune.
If you notice anything disingenuous it’s their problem not yours
It can happen that you have a friend and their life looks completely different on social media from what you know it to be. Bear in mind that this is their problem, not yours. They may have issues with self-esteem, feeling inferior, or feeling that they are lacking in some way. People are entitled to post about who they aspire to be as well as who they actually are. It’s their page and social media can be a great place to get creative. If you feel someone is being deliberately misleading, you are not obliged to follow them. Your job is to deal with the feelings that this provokes in you. If you can get yourself to the place where you are truly happy with you, it will matter less what everyone else is doing.
Notice how you feel
Be aware of what is coming up for you when you look at your news feed. Don’t ignore how you feel; this is the perfect opportunity to get to know yourself better and work through some of your own issues in a healthy way. You may want to talk things through with a trusted friend or therapist, or journal about it to get it out of your system.
If there are things on social media that you come across that are constantly making you feel bad, exercise your right to unfollow. You get to choose to follow what is good for your mental health.There are tools you can use to snooze someone or not see what they post while still being friends. Just like your page is your own, your news feed is also your own, use it to follow people and organisations who inspire you or make you feel good and those you feel are in alignment with what matters to you.
Social media has become a part of modern life and if we are going to be a part of it, it is to our benefit to learn healthy ways of doing so. In social media, as in life, it is important to have healthy boundaries; so that we can be our authentic selves without being vulnerable.
I am a huge advocate of not judging the journey of another and consequently not letting the judgements of others deter you on your own journey. In my next #sallysquote I will be talking about the most controversial decision I have taken lately, my recent dalliance with Botox.
“There is a possibility you’ll develop a slight bruise on your head from the injection, so you’ll have to think of some kind of excuse” said my Doctor. “Or I could just tell the truth” I replied. My Doctor looked surprised. “We are used to being shrouded in secrecy” he said. “Most people don’t even tell their husbands. In many cases we are under strict instructions NEVER to call home.” I live in a small town in Dorset where it is not the norm (or so I thought) to get Botox. I had quietly wanted it for about 8 years when I noticed the lines above the bridge of my nose getting more pronounced, so at 38 as my Birthday present to myself I decided to put my fears to one side and bite the bullet.
Going against the grain and facing my fears
Even though I had made the decision that this was what I wanted, I was scared. I didn’t know anyone who had Botox (to my knowledge) who could tell me that it was going to be ok and I had found my doctor using only Google and gut instinct. I was worried I was going to be left expressionless, with a numb face that I couldn’t feel, or worse a botched job or a bad allergy. Deep down I worried that was what I deserved for my vanity. I have seen women on tv getting Botox with no more thought than their morning coffee and heard of Botox parties, I wanted desperately for it to be as much of a non-issue for me.
Botox and insecurity
I told many members of my family before I did it and although they didn’t understand why I wanted it, they were not unsupportive. My mother spoke of putting poisons in my face. In this day and age we use all sorts of “poisons” cosmetically and medicinally, internally and externally but I realise many people use this as an excuse to get on their high horse about Botox.
My eldest son in particular was surprised at my decision saying he didn’t think it aligned with my values. As I talk so much of loving the self he said he hadn’t thought I would be insecure.
To speak to this I want to say that I don’t feel that my desire for Botox was driven by insecurity. If Botox hadn’t existed I would have loved myself and my flaws and got on with living my best life. I am more than my Botox and more than my outward appearance for that matter. Just as makeup exists, Botox exists and it is an option I know is open to me.
I encourage young women to love all of themselves and that includes their genuine dreams and desires. I happened to have a desire to try Botox. I am supportive of women and people in general making their own aligned choices out of those that are open to them. People are free to make and enjoy choices that I wouldn’t make and just because I make a certain choice does not mean that I believe everyone else should make that same decision.
Botox in particular is an acquired taste and something that needs careful consideration. I love the fact that all our journeys are different. It is not always easy to go against the grain but it is always worth it if you are following a genuine desire.If you didn’t know me well you would have no idea I have had Botox. I still have lines on my face and I can still frown but those who know me have said that although they weren’t concerned by my appearance before, they can see how I would be pleased with the results.
The results of my Botox
I am very happy with the results, not despite but because of the fact there is not a dramatic difference. My Doctor was incredible, I didn’t feel a thing getting it done (there was no numbing cream involved) and he didn’t overdo it, giving me just enough for me to feel like I am no longer starting to look stern. Contrary to my own concerns I can still feel my face and move it freely. I would say my face actually feels less tense and more open which actually makes me feel (and look) more awake, an unexpected bonus.
I know Botox is not for everyone but there may be other things that are less conventional that you think will make you happy and (as long as it isn’t hurting anyone) I would encourage you to make the move in that direction.
Whether it’s a college course, a colourful outfit, or Botox, it is up to you to make the choices in life that you know in your heart will make you happy regardless of the opinion of others. Not one person in my life thought I needed, or necessarily should have Botox but I am so happy I did it. It is now a non-issue for me, like I hoped it would be and I won’t bat an eyelid about having it done again (even though I still can!).
Are you in a healthy sexual relationship? Or are you thinking about having sex for the first time?
When it comes to sex no one is looking out for you, it is not something you want to bring your parents or friends along for and your partner will have their own motivations, so you must make sure you are looking out for yourself. Sex can be one of the best experiences in the world, or one of the worst. It is natural to feel a bit apprehensive before having sex for the first time, or with someone new but how do you know if it it just nerves, or a warning that it shouldn’t be happening yet? Here is a list of questions to ask yourself to make sure that you are about to have good and healthy sex.
Some questions to ask yourself
Do I feel sexually aroused? Let your body lead you and then follow with your head. If your head is thinking “I think I might like to have sex, I wonder what it would be like…it would make a lot of sense to have sex with this person because…” I would say you are not quite ready. If your body is aroused and you feel strong desire to have sex, then you follow that with the head “am I emotionally ready?… Is this the right relationship to make this move?…How will I do this safely?…” that is the best way round for the most enjoyable experience. If you are not turned on by your partner for whatever reason then sex will certainly be an uncomfortable experience.
Does it feel right? Do you have any nagging doubts or funny feelings that you are suppressing because they don’t make sense to your rational mind? Sex is not always totally rational and if you ignore what your instincts are telling you it is quite likely to be an experience that you will regret. Having spoken to many women on the subject of sex the consensus is that if it feels right and is something you really want then you are unlikely to have regrets. If it is something you are talking yourself into you are likely to regret going through with it.
Why do I want to have sex? Could I have regrets afterwards? There are many reasons people have sex (keeping up with friends, to impress, to keep someone, for control, to make yourself feel attractive, because you can, for a good story, to make someone feel better, afraid to say ‘no’, too drunk to say ‘no’, the list goes on…) but it is only good for your health and well-being if that reason is because you really want to.
Do I feel able to say ‘no’ at any point if I change my mind and will we both be ok with that? This applies at any stage of a relationship – even if you’ve been together for years you reserve the right to stop at any time.
Do you love or at least trust your partner? In my discussions with men and women they would agree that the more deeply you feel for a person the more remarkable sex is.
Do you care for each other equally? If it’s a fling it’s important you both know this. And some people take relationships more seriously than others. When I was younger I didn’t take relationships that seriously but the feeling was not always mutual. At least one of my relationships broke up because I didn’t necessarily see it as “forever” but “for now” and the other person wasn’t happy with that.
Is your partner keen to spend time with you? If you are going to be close you need to be a priority. Do you enjoy spending time together that is not reliant on sexual tension or having sex? I once had a boyfriend who said to me “Can we just talk, we’re always having sex” (guess what happened after that comment, yes, more sex!) He was joking but it was true, our relationship was based almost completely on sexual chemistry and we had nothing in common.
Do you respect your partner as a person and admire what he/she stands for and do you feel respected in return?
Are you free to be yourself? One woman I spoke to said she finally felt what it was like to be herself in a relationship in her third marriage in her fifties!
Are you proud to be seen with them? Are they someone you could introduce to your family and/or friends? I often had “boyfriends” who would never have fit in with my family or social circle and if I was honest I was proud to be seen with them for all the wrong reasons, for example, the shock factor…
Are you comfortable telling him/her what is on your mind? Communication is crucial in a relationship. As a rule, if you can’t bring yourself to discuss contraception with them, it is not a great idea to be having sex with them. Are you comfortable enough with this person to at least have a conversation about staying safe during sex? Have you both talked about using condoms and was the talk ok? Have you both got contraception organised to protect against pregnancy?
Am I filling a gap? Do I know myself well and do I have my own interests and hobbies? Having sex because we have nothing better to do is not healthy for our self-esteem or mental health. If you are feeling generally needy or unloved there are far better and more healthy ways to feel good about yourself.
Lastly but most importantly are you happy with the idea?…I’d be happy if (fill in the blank) doesn’t count! Happy does not include: You think it’s all that you deserve. You think it’s all that you can get. You are afraid of commitment. You are lonely. You want a confidence boost.
It is important to decide what you want from a relationship. If sexual experience is all you are after and are happy to find that with no strings attached then as long as you are truly happy with that (check with yourself, then check again) it is your choice. In this case you may want to stop reading after the first six points but for anyone who is keen to have a more committed relationship please think about all of the above. These are the basics of what you deserve. Anything other than this and it can affect you mentally and emotionally.
Signs it’s too soon
You’re not entirely comfortable with each other
You’re dreading the morning after
You’re not sure the other person wants it too
You’re not ready for the relationship that might follow
You don’t feel turned on
You don’t want to
If you have already had sex, how did you make your decision? Do you have any regrets? I would love to hear your thoughts.
I am doing a series of blogs entitled, Are you ready for sex? designed to help you make that all important decision. Here in Part One I want to share my answer to a letter I received from a 14-year-old girl (who will remain anonymous). She was asking for help in deciding whether she was ready to have sex with her boyfriend:
I’m 14 but please don’t judge me on this. I’ve made out with a few boys, but only in my recent relationship did I really feel like I’m ready for sex. I’m quite mature about it, and I would definitely make sure I was safe. My boyfriend is a year older than me and wants it too. My very close friend says that they think I’ve already lost my virginity, and they’re older, but I don’t think I have. It was in and out and only half. What kind of precautions should I take and what would you say about all of this? I just need some advice. Thanks x
I would not judge you on age; people find themselves ready at different ages. It is to your credit that you are thinking this through and not rushing into anything you might live to regret. Here is my advice:
Let it be with someone whose reasons align with yours
I would imagine that you would want this experience to be something you enjoy, so look carefully at your reasons for wanting to have sex. Do not feel pressured or even persuaded into anything by anybody else. It is your body and it is for you to decide who to share it with. Let it be with someone who appreciates you and is doing it for reasons that align with yours.
Be sure to follow your instincts.
It sounds obvious, but the people I have spoken to have found that if they went into a situation willingly and for their own reasons, they had no regrets. If they ignored their own doubts or instincts it turned out to be a bad experience, or one that they would look back on and wish they could change.
At 14 you have age on your side and there is no rush. If your boyfriend cares about you he will wait until you are sure, so that it’s a positive experience for you both.
I have some quotes from women who have been in your position, which may interest you. One lady did regret her decision to have sex at a young age: I feel sad with myself now at 31, that I didn’t have more self respect to hold onto it longer. I lost it around the age of 12/13, very young, too young. But once lost, there was no going back.
The longer you leave it, the better it will be
Curiosity is a reason many people will end up having sex young, and in hindsight, many feel this was not a good enough reason. Another lady says: I don’t know about KNOW it, I’d have liked to have UNDERSTOOD that life’s a lot longer than your teenage years.
Almost everyone I have spoken to agrees with this lady: Just make sure you’re ready and the more you wait… it’s not a bad thing. The longer you leave it, the better it will be.
Another woman agreed, saying: Don’t be scared of saying no. You are very unlikely to regret saying now, whereas obviously saying yes is irreversible… put it off. That’s what I do when I’m thinking about buying something. I just put it off for a day or two, see how I feel about it a bit later. Maybe it does seem like the right person but maybe the timing is wrong, so don’t be scared of delaying things and waiting. You don’t think about that when you’re young; it’s tonight or never.
Get to know your body
I don’t know how well you know your body already, but many people recommend finding out what you enjoy sexually on your own first: You don’t know what is going to satisfy you until you know yourself. And no one else can ever tell you what you’ll like until you know physically.
Getting to know how to pleasure yourself could drastically improve the chances of sex with someone else being a pleasant experience.
Let your body lead, and head follow close behind
My advice would be to let your body lead you, and then follow closely with your head. For example, if your head is thinking, I think I might like to have sex; I wonder what it would be like… I would say you’re not quite ready.
If your body is aroused and you feel a strong desire to have sex, then follow this with your head: Am I emotionally ready? Is this the right relationship to make this move? How will I do this safely? – This is the best way around for the most enjoyable experience. If you’re not 100% sure then wait; there will come a time when you will feel sure, and nobody will be able to stop you.
In the UK the legal age of consent is 16. The law is there to protect children from abuse, rather than to prosecute under-16s who participate in mutually consenting sexual activity. The law states that anyone under the age of 13 can never legally give consent.
If you do decide to go for it then please remember to stay safe and use contraception. One lady said: It can happen to me; I just wish I’d understood that… I’ll never fall pregnant; I’ll never get an STD… She ended up having a baby at 16.
You can choose and then choose again
Don’t forget that if you do have sex and don’t enjoy it, you don’t need to do it again in a hurry. Just because you have had sex, it doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it if it’s not fun. You are allowed to make a different choice – even with the same person.
Have you already had sex? How did you make your decision? Do you have any regrets? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Be sure to keep an eye out for the next instalment in my “are you ready for sex” series.
Did you ever put a condom on a banana? We did in the science lab at school as part of the curriculum. In this day and age sex education in school is pretty informative; we know pretty much all there is to know about the birds and the bees (and bananas). We know what goes where, how a baby is formed, what we could catch if we aren’t protected and how to protect ourselves.
I like to think of myself as a reasonably astute person; I went to a grammar school which shows I was reasonably academic and I was given all the above information. So how then, with all this supposed common sense and intelligence, did I find myself accidentally pregnant at 18 and a single mother at 19?
I believe the answer to this is in my next #SallysQuote. Today we are talking about my approach to sex and relationship education which is a little different to that in schools.
“Nobody is ever going to behave differently than they feel…you can’t make the rules strong enough or the laws big enough or the punishment grave enough to get people to behave other than the way they feel.“
The reason my life turned out how it did is due to the fact that we can often intellectually comprehend an idea but that does not mean that we will automatically apply the concept to our lives. For example, I may know that a condom will protect me from pregnancy or an STD but in real life there could be many different reasons why I might not apply this information:
I may be head over heels in love (or lust) with someone who doesn’t want to wear one
I may feel like the person I desperately want to have sex with won’t want to do it with me if I ask them to wear a condom
I may feel too shy or embarrassed to ask my partner to put on a condom
I may feel like it’s their responsibility and not mine
I may not want to ruin the moment by talking contraception
I may not like the feel of a condom
I may even have a latex allergy
Feelings can override intellectual ideas
I may feel in the moment that the risk is worth taking, whatever I know conceptually about the harm I could come to. Whether we like it or not an overwhelming feeling can very easily overrule an intellectual idea, no matter how sensible the concept.
I bet you can think of a time that something was the “right thing to do” or something you knew would be good for you but you didn’t do it. Just because something is a good idea, doesn’t mean we always do it.
The emotional side of sex education
This is the part of sex education that I like to address in my work: the emotional part. Until we discover that we can have control over the way we feel and we can have control over what we focus on, we are not fully in control of our behaviour and consequently what happens to us.
Just because we know how to put a condom on a banana (or anything else) doesn’t mean we will use one. In real life we don’t always act according to the textbooks. We have our own feelings and emotions that can sometimes rule our actions.
To be aware of what we are thinking and feeling and to learn to use our focus in a way that will benefit us, is to fully claim our power and that is what I like to help people to realise.
He shouts at us, my daughter complained. He’s so grumpy with us all the time and he’s rude to us. My daughter was telling me about one of her school bus drivers. I’m not rude but I don’t say thank you to him when I get off the bus; he doesn’t deserve it!
My daughter clearly didn’t feel good about this situation, so I tried to help her reframe it:
Here are 5 steps to dealing with a rude person.
1. Don’t take it personally.
A rude person’s behaviour is not about you. Think about the times when you are rude or grumpy; how are you feeling? You might be having a bad day; you might be feeling hormonal. In the case of the rude bus driver, he may have had a bad life! He may work too hard. He may have been brought up with people being grumpy or rude to him; he may have been deeply hurt or not found what he wanted in life. He may be feeling resentful or angry about things that have nothing to do with you. Don’t feel like it’s your fault, or that it’s even anything to do with you that he’s behaving this way. You have no idea what he’s going through.
2. “Shoulds” are not helpful.
He should know better! Replied my daughter. He shouldn’t take it out on us! Think back to those times when you’ve been grumpy or short with someone, I replied. I bet you knew you were being a bit grumpy. It didn’t make you willing or able to change your behaviour though. He should go to therapy! my daughter replied. I agreed; perhaps he should. I’ll tell him! she proclaimed. I laughed. Do you really think he would listen to you? I asked her. Do you imagine hearing that from you is going to make him feel better, or do you suppose he might just think you are being rude?
Perhaps the bus driver should know better. Perhaps he shouldn’t behave in that way, and perhaps he should go to therapy. But thinking in this way won’t help; it won’t change anything. The facts remain the same.
3. You can choose your reaction.
If someone behaves badly towards you, you have no control over their behaviour. What you do have control over is your own behaviour in response. You can reflect back to them anger and rudeness, or you can choose a different reaction.
I reminded my daughter: You are not someone who doesn’t thank someone who has driven you somewhere. Don’t allow someone else’s behaviour make you become someone who is not polite. Now you’ve considered the rude person is probably having a bad day, you could choose to feel compassion for them and send them some love and appreciation – regardless of their behaviour. It doesn’t make you feel good when you don’t do what you know is right, even if it is in response to someone else’s behaviour. It will make you feel better to say thank you in a situation where you would normally do so, even if you think the person is rude or unkind.
When you come across someone who always seems to be grumpy or mean, it is a natural response to feel hostile. In the case of the bus driver, imagine him going about his day and being rude to people, and all the rude responses he must get in return. It must make him feel even worse, and then (unless he suddenly becomes self-aware) it will become a never-ending cycle of bad days.
Be someone who is strong enough to break the cycle. Know that love is what the person needs to feel better (and perhaps then behave better). Be the person who is strong enough to give it. I reminded my daughter: You have a very good life and plenty of love to spare; perhaps you could share some with the bus driver.
4. Don’t expect anything back.
Some people do say thank you to him and it doesn’t make a difference; he just ignores them, my daughter explained to me.
The way you are most likely to get favourable behaviour from someone is to send them love and demonstrate love. Even when you do this you may still not get the behaviour you are looking for, or it may take some time. You are doing the right thing and being loving not only for them, but because it’s who you are. You are polite and gracious person who likes to do the right thing because it feels good. You are not a rude person. Don’t allow someone else’s bad behaviour turn you into someone you are not.
When someone is rude to us, we often feel bad not because of their behaviour but because of what it provokes in us. Once we understand the person’s behaviour has nothing to do with us, and we’re able to send them love (as we would with someone who has done something for us), we feel a whole lot better. That is the only return we can expect. My daughter may or may not receive the added bonus that the bus driver will begin to reflect her kindness and love back to her – but she shouldn’t expect it, or she may well be disappointed!
5. Peace of mind.
Although my daughter wasn’t traumatised by the bus driver’s behaviour, it was bothering her. She thought it was his behaviour that was upsetting her but it was actually the behaviour he provoked in her that caused the underlying discomfort. My daughter has since been driven by the same bus driver, and she did thank him, and looked him in the eye whilst doing so. She was happy to report that not only did she feel much better about the situation but that she may have detected a small smile in return from the driver.
Regardless of the behaviour of this man, I know that if my daughter bears these points in mind she will feel at ease with the situation. You can’t escape yourself and your own behaviour, and if you know you’ve done the wrong thing, or something that doesn’t line up with who you feel you are, it will affect your self esteem (that’s another blog post!).
As I said above, it doesn’t matter if your actions are provoked or not; you will only be completely at peace when you know you have done the right thing, or the thing that lines up with who you believe yourself to be.
In life you will come across many people who won’t behave towards you as you would like. If you can know that it isn’t personal, that “shoulds” are not helpful, that you can choose how you respond, and without expecting anything back, you will move through life with peace of mind.
For my first ever #SallysQuote I want to discuss a quote I have about responsibility. WAIT, don’t switch off, I know the word “responsibility” is not sexy. We usually hear about responsibility from somebody who is trying to get us to do what they want us to do; a teacher, parent, or the authorities. I want to tell you there is a way to look at it that feels empowering, liberating and gets you back in control.
“living responsibly is knowing what we are and are not responsible for. We need to know what is and is not subject to our volitional choice—what is and is not within our power—what is up to us and what isn’t. Without this understanding, we cannot practice intelligent self-responsibility, and we cannot protect ourselves against others’ inappropriate demands—or the inappropriate demands we place upon ourselves.”~ Nathaniel Branden
We definitely want to protect ourselves from others’ inappropriate demands and the inappropriate demands we have of ourselves so how do we know what we are and are not responsible for?
I am going to use my friend as an example: I have a “hippy” friend who has gone the “natural” route. She has stopped cutting her hair, stopped washing her hair and has stopped shaving her armpits. My friend has turned into Chewbacca. It’s not a good look!
Byron Katie’s work is founded on the principle of staying in your own business and this is what I try live by. The basic principle is that there are three kinds of business: The Universe’s business; My business; Your business. The only business we are responsible for is our own and if we poke our noses into any other business, this is where things will go wrong.
Focusing on any business other than our own will only cause us stress and bring us out of balance – not to mention the problems it might cause in our relationships.
The Universe is in charge of:
The weather; natural disasters; climate change… and so on.
Worrying about the Universe’s business, or trying to take care of the Universe’s business is way out of our depth. It will only cause us pain.
Going back to the example of my friend, I could focus on her hair and wish it would stop growing, but clearly this is not something that’s within my control. Wishing her hair would stop growing will just stress me out.
You are in charge of:
What you are doing and what you are thinking (even if that is about me or to me)
My friend is in charge of her own body; it’s up to her what she does with it. What anyone else thinks or feels about her appearance is really not her concern.
I am in charge of:
How I feel, talk and act.
I am in charge of how I behave and act around my friend – but also how I think and feel about her.
I could focus on how embarrassing it is to be seen with my friend; how I believe her hair needs to be tidied up; how she looks untidy and unclean – but that’s her business, and not mine.
I have several options in this scenario, and this is where I have the control. I can choose to tell my friend how I feel; I can decide privately to just avoid being seen out with her; I can choose to no longer be friends with her… Or I can just accept that how she wears her hair is her choice, and focus on the fact that she is a supportive, caring friend to me.
Ultimately, if my friend likes her hair as it is, the only “resposibility” I have is to manage my own feelings about that. The more I tell myself that the situation should be different than it is, the more stress I am going to have. If I can accept what is and stay in my own business, I have the chance for peace.
My responsibility is: MY hair; MY opinion of my friend’s hair; MY decision about whether to tell her MY feelings about her hair; what I want to tell MYself about her hair, and whether I want to change what I am telling MYself; MY decision as to whether I want to continue being friends with her.
You can apply this to any and every situation in your life.
My book is called It’s All About Me because that is the strongest message I have. Even if we think it’s about somebody else, ultimately it’s about us because within ourselves is the point at which we have control. Our business is our “responsibility” and that is where our power lies. When you stay in your business it is empowering; you have complete control, and taking responsibility feels good.
Taking responsibility for ourselves
The word responsibility can be broken down:
In other words, our ability to respond to something.
If we stay in our own business our attention will be focused and more effective.
As Byron Katie says:
“If you are living your life and I am mentally living your life, who is living mine?”
So focus on your life, and choose your response to what comes up. That is your responsibility – your only responsibility.
If everyone could learn to live like this, we would have world peace!
Have you ever been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behaviour? If you are female the likely answer is yes, unfortunately.
I was lucky enough a while ago to catch the BBC programme “Is This Sexual Harassment?” The show explored the situation of a female beginning a new job as a bar manager. She felt uncomfortable with some of the behaviour of a co-worker, and the presenter asked a group of men and women whether his behaviour was acceptable or not. There were very mixed views as we followed this lady’s story.
These situations are often difficult as they can be ambiguous. A certain look, comment or touch that makes a person feel uncomfortable can be hard to put into words, and on its own seem inconsequential. Complaining that someone looked at you in a sexual way is hard to explain and hard to prove.
For example, one situation in the film that would have made me uncomfortable could be brushed off as a simple compliment: the male coworker bends over the new bar manager as she works at the computer and comments, Nice perfume. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have a problem with someone saying this to me, but in this precise situation, in a work environment, it would have felt inappropriate to me and I would have felt vulnerable.
But would I have said anything? It’s unlikely, and this is the problem.
It’s hard to understand, but even when a woman is uncomfortable with someone she may still smile or laugh something off. But why? Why, when a woman feels uncomfortable, does she not just say so?
Here are some reasons a woman may not speak up about unwanted sexual attention:
She doesn’t want to feel uncomfortable at work – Not wanting to feel uncomfortable somewhere you spend a significant amount of time is a big reason for not mentioning something that made you feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. These incidents on their own can feel insignificant and easily brushed off. It can feel as if we are making a big fuss over nothing, and it can seem pointless to say, That comment made me feel uncomfortable when the other person can easily respond, I didn’t mean anything by it or I was only being nice. A perpetrator of sexual harassment is unlikely to admit they said anything with the intention of making you feel uncomfortable or that they were wrong to make a comment like this in the workplace. In fact they could take offence; with their ego bruised and their pride dented, they may become defensive and attack. Women often weigh up the situation and decide that on balance it is easier to put up with the unwanted attention than to make an issue of it and risk further problems.
She doesn’t want to be criticised or disliked – Everyone wants to be liked and sometimes when a man’s ego is bruised even slightly by rejection he can react badly. It can feel like people will call you petty when mentioning something small like a comment or a touch; women fear it may seem they have no sense of humour, are no fun to be around or have no “banter.” This is a real fear and not unwarranted – the word “banter” is sometimes a front for inappropriate behaviour and a way to normalise or legitimise harassment, just like It was only a joke.
The person could turn from friendly (if a little over-friendly) to unfriendly – This is a real fear and not unfounded. There is bound to be a change if you draw attention to unwanted behaviour and this will not necessarily be for the better. Things at the very least could be awkward.
There may be a power imbalance – As men, overall, are still in the most senior positions in the workplace, it is quite likely that the man making her uncomfortable is in a senior role. There can be a genuine fear that speaking out could cost you your job and you could be in a position where you rely strongly on your job and the money it pays. Again this is fear is not unfounded; it does happen.
Don’t rock the boat?
In a situation where you’re receiving unwanted attention at work it can often feel like it’s not worth rocking the boat. I have been in this position myself many times, sometimes in the workplace. Thankfully I have had many well-mannered and friendly, yet respectful, bosses but unfortunately there are a minority of men who don’t play by the rules.
I once had a male colleague I barely knew, who began sending me inappropriate emails. In this situation I did squash it more or less straight away. I was young but thankfully there was a certain distance due to the fact it was over email, and he worked in a different department. I told my line manager, the situation was dealt with by her and the emails stopped.
An incident I found more challenging was when a college lecturer begain putting his hand on my knee under the table, and asking me to visit him in his office. In this situation I acted much like a startled rabbit! I said nothing, and proceeded to avoid this man as much as possible. Obviously in this situation there was a significant power imbalance that was very intimidating to me. I was around 16 or 17 at the time and felt ill-equipped to deal with the situation.
The time I found easiest to deal with was when a superior at work actually leaned in and kissed me. That might sound worse, but I found it easier because he had clearly crossed a line. It was apparent both to me and to him, and there was no disputing it or explaining it away. But even then, when he was obviously in the wrong, I didn’t make any formal complaints.
Is this sexual harrasment?
In the programme they brought in a barrister at the end to discuss and make clear exactly what is – or is not – legally considered sexual harassment in the workplace. She explained that sexual harassment was
Any unwanted conduct that is related to sex, that has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity.
This definition cleared up some confusion between the people on the show; many people in the group felt the male colleague in the film had not meant to cause offence. It is important to note that legally it doesn’t matter if he meant to cause offence; it is the effect his behaviour has on the new bar manager that counts, whether it was purposeful or not.
The barrister went on to discuss which of the behaviours seen in the film would actually constitute sexual harassment. The perfume comment I mentioned above could be described as sexual harassment because he would not be likely to make the same comment to a man. Leaning too close to someone is also sexual harassment in itself, along with other comments the man made (for example referring to the new bar manager as the beauty and himself as the brains). Other behaviours that could be considered sexual harassment included:
Touching her back – any form of physical contact other than shaking hands can be considered sexual harassment
Kissing her – this might seem obvious but many of us will try to laugh something off when this happens. The kiss in the film did not happen inside work – but he is still her work colleague.
Is this Sexual Harassment brings up important issues that we all need to discuss. I think it’s important that a woman knows what her actual rights are in law. It was interesting and gratifying to hear that our instincts are backed up in law.
If it feels wrong, then it is wrong.
If I had known this when I was younger I may have been more sure of myself and what I would and would not tolerate… perhaps. I would still have found these situations difficult and distressing – but at least I would have known for sure that what these men had done was wrong.
Just say no?
The ambiguity surrounding sexual harassment often does not allow the opportunity to say No directly. Behaviour is often vague or questionable; easily denied or laughed off as a misunderstanding.
If a guy asked if you’d like to go for a drink after work, you could clearly say no – but sexual harassment often presents itself as seemingly small, seemingly unimportant instances: remarks or nuances that if remarked upon can seem like you are blowing your own trumpet.
It is easy to force blame onto a woman and say She should have been clear but it is often not as simple as that. In an ideal world she shouldn’t need to be.
So for now, take it from me: In the workplace women want to be friendly, yes. But they do not need compliments on their appearance, touches or personal remarks. Be as friendly as you would to any other work colleague. If you think more of them and it is appropriate, ask them to meet away from work and give them a chance to decline. We all have the right to feel relaxed and safe in the workplace. Is that clear enough?
I’d love to hear from you if this brings up further questions or comments. Have you ever experienced sexual harassment in your place of work? Did you do anything about it? Did you know your legal rights?
Yesterday I was glued to the CBS news streaming from my laptop on the kitchen table, watching the emotional testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.Thankfully two out of four of my children were out with friends and my eldest was out at work so I didn’t need to feel bad for being completely immersed in what was going on across the pond.A subject close to my heart, I had no spare attention for anything other than the basics of caring for everyone (preparing food, cleaning teeth, bath time, bedtime etc).
I was very thankful it was a school day/work day and there was no one home earlier in the day to witness the tears streaming down my face as I listened to Dr Ford recount her story. My tears for her, for me and the thousands, perhaps millions of women watching around the world being triggered by their own #metoo experiences.An article this morning in the Guardian said
“Across America women were sobbing in their cars, shaking at their desks as well as protesting outside the US senate”.
This case for many people was not only about Dr Ford but something much deeper.I saw women united across social media, together in solidarity against a system of patriarchy that has routinely undermined so much pain and hurt suffered by women.Dr Ford bravely represented the millions of women who have been violated at the hands of millions of men.
I have spoken to many women for my own research and no one escapes these issues regardless of their views.More than 90% of women I have personally spoken to have suffered trauma ranging from sexual harassment through to rape and abuse by men, much of which seems to be deeply culturally ingrained as the norm.This is quite simply unacceptable in what we like to think is civilised society.I know that there are many good men out there but I also know that many good men have done bad things.Some even unwittingly.
What came across to me in the broadcast yesterday was Dr Ford’s openness.Clearly an educated woman, she answered every question put to her with dignity and credibility.In contrast Judge Kavanaugh’s statement expressed defensiveness, outrage and victimhood, claiming conspiracy.His statement contained emotion, yes, but even if you had committed a crime you could feasibly be embarrassed, mortified, devastated about what you have to lose and emotional about what your family is going through.What I personally would have liked to have seen was an example to the nation of introspection and self-examination.To hear that he had looked back over his life through a woman’s eyes, scrutinising every interaction to see whether he could have possibly caused any offence.Instead the whole scenario was completely out of the question, walls were up and defences drawn.He was certain, without question, that this was not in his character.He may be telling the truth that he doesn’t remember this incident but did he dare to question his own character at any point?We don’t know.
What sums it up for me is a quote I found from Glennon Doyle:
“No one really believes this woman is lying. If they vote him in: It is because they believe her and don’t care. We should stop saying believe. It is not about that any more. It is about whether or not they care.”
There could be people out there who doubt Dr Ford but the main question is “do they care?”Women are watching, waiting with baited breath for the leaders of this powerful country to stand up and say they care.That things must change for women.That women will be taken seriously.
In a culture that has silenced and minimised the pain of women I do feel empathy for the men who will be called to account.The rules are changing on them.But the rules MUST change.The blind eye is now having its vision restored. For the sake of us all in a civilised society, attention must be drawn to areas that are imbalanced and they must be brought into balance.This is not about revenge but about our daughters being safe and treated with respect.Justice perhaps but not revenge.We need a resolve to do better and be better moving forward.
What I would like to see is more of what is already in motion; truth being brought to light with open communication; Awareness being spread.I would like to see some self-examination and accountability.I would like to see public apologies by men who have behaved in a manner that they now, on reflection, find unacceptable.
But if we vilify them they will not come.
I like to think it will be better for the next generation.I already see a more equal playing field for them.Last night as I sat glued to my laptop my 18 year old son came back from work and moved my laptop away from me to the centre of the table.“What are you doing?” My tone was accusatory. He pulled up a stool.“I’m going to watch with you.”
Yesterday was an emotional day.This morning when I woke up my partner asked me “do you remember what you were dreaming last night?You were whimpering in your sleep.”
To all the other women whimpering in their sleep last night.I hear you.I believe her.Me too.