Have you ever stayed silent because if you said anything it could hurt your job or status or something similar? It’s like a wall that holds you back, even when you disagree. I’m not talking about being polite. Rather, disagreeing or having a different view point is what could get you into “trouble.” Another part of this is being afraid and not doing something because of that. How many people won’t venture out because it is too cold, too hot, too rainy or snowy, or too far away?
I had a conversation with a friend recently related to that last part. My friend thought that I’m not scared and that’s why I am willing to do things like riding my bike at night. I replied that I might be scared, and I’m not willing to have that as a reason to miss out. I do make sure to take precautions. The anxiety that I feel is a motivating factor to prepare and stay safer or drier or whatever the case may be.
The Hard Part
An organization that I have been involved in for about a year and a half has been a love/hate type of relationship. Early on, I decided that as a volunteer I could take the risk of speaking out and I wanted to make my voice heard. I had some initial support that allowed me to be a part of the steering committee. As I have stated in other posts, I am much better at writing than I am at speaking. I remind myself constantly that my belief in the potential community impact and importance of the organization is why I stick around. To you, that may sound silly. However, I have seen and experienced snippets of that impact and still feel it is worthwhile. Some examples of the challenges of continually speaking out include being a woman around a majority of men, high versus low engagement, and communication misunderstandings.
To be clear, most of the time I can get along with anyone who is willing. The willing part sometimes falls off course. For example, the conversation I have with some of the men comes from the attitude that I am someone to flirt with and it doesn’t matter the age difference or either person’s relationship status. Other than the flirting, there is never a reason to talk to me or take me (or any woman) seriously.
Some men insist on what they refer to as “chivalry,” always giving things up to let the woman make a first choice. I believe in taking turns. Or, for example, if you are going to hold the door open, do it because I am the next person behind you, not because I am a woman. Chivalry might be ok for a date or in certain other circumstances. As a rule, it stinks because it is as if women need the advantage of going first or cannot open the doors themselves.
Then there are the men who either joke all the time or are a$$holes. In these cases, it is challenging to have a serious conversation when that is the intent. Jokes are a way to be distracting and blow things off. The flip side, sometimes from the same people, is the a$$hole side of giving everyone a hard time to get through a conversation just to give someone a hard time. That is the only point – to tease or give a hard time. I am ok with this attitude if there is an actual point to it and the delivery is in a way to bring attention. Usually, though, it is joking, a hard time, or sometimes being completely ignored or hijacked. An example of hijacking is when I am directly asked a question from one person and a second person answers without acknowledging that the first had been asked. Sometimes this is the most challenging because it is like being invisible. Plus, it would take someone who is seen (not invisible) as an authority to make the point and potentially get behavior to change. I have spoken up about a couple of these. Apologies or not, the behaviors return.
High or Low Engagement
My philosophy is to be involved as much as possible when it is something I am passionate about or trying to learn. I admit I have a hard time when others do not put in the same efforts. Equally, sometimes my involvement is invisible as far as an output other than my physical presence. Overall, especially a year ago as a student, I have felt spread too thin and have had to make choices.
This particular organization is still in a startup stage with a lot of setups being created. In other words, even if I solely focused on tasks for the one organization (which I cannot do because I need to keep my paying job), the tasks would range. Some of the work has been openly divided up. The problem is that where I consider the work similar to a paid job, not everyone does. As a volunteer, it is a choice of how much to do. If it is considered a job, that means if I am expected and cannot make it, I let someone in charge know. If I promised to do something, I work on doing it. If I have a question, then I also expect at least a direction if not a final answer. I do speak up since I am around. Still to be determined if my efforts are appreciated. See previous section for reasoning.
Do you remember the Universal Translator that tends to be available as needed in Star Trek episodes? In this case, the foreign language is still English. The interpretation differences probably have to do with backgrounds and how the communications have been previously interpreted. When interpretations have occurred that made it seem like I am “this” type of person and in reality I am completely different, it puzzled (and puzzles) me. This happened with my ex-husband, too, someone who was supposed to know me. It is much clearer when it happens now because I usually know what the interpretation is and sometimes there is an actual discussion and the “Universal Translator” has worked. I tend to forget about some of the other interpretations until the situation repeats. People have been mad at me before because of those differences in interpretations, which is not a friendly environment. When I can get a discussion in, I do.
The whole point here is to be able to respectfully speak out and take the risk even when afraid. If nothing else, I am learning how to deal with the situations and getting practice at being better at speaking out. In a more established or formal organization, I probably would have been fired several times by now. The question is, if we cannot speak out and everything stays as is, what is the point? The challenges and changes are what makes us grow and mature. Are you satisfied with the current state of life in the world you engage in or will you walk the line (respectfully) for something more?
Thanks for reading!
Have you ever had a change in mood and not know what triggered the change? Or maybe something is making you feel anxious or nauseous, and you cannot pin down the source. In reference to the title of this post, “Wakin’ Up” isn’t about wake up time or morning rituals. It’s about awareness. In particular, self-awareness. With the way society has rolled, at least in my lifetime, our brains default to automatic, a lot. Look it up – it’s biology and also psychology. More resources are available in our brain when things go automatic. For example – do you remember what you had to eat this week at every meal? Unless you keep a food diary, probably not. Or, if you drive to work, do you remember details from the drive? The point to all of this is being aware makes us more connected to what’s happening.
The last few years, especially, I feel like I slid backwards. My energy levels, appetite, and even social interests completely changed. Based on psychology class discussions and readings, if I better understand, then it will be easier to maintain and improve health. It’s also good for personal growth. The top three items that have helped push me in the personal growth direction are as follows:
When I began participating in yoga classes, I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I mean, I knew they were different than most gym classes, and the more I did yoga, the more I liked doing yoga. Plus, some days I know I need it.
My experience widened from a gym to a local yoga studio a couple of years ago. I learned more about types of yoga and hours of certification and how many people liked recovery type classes. I feel like I’ve been in recovery for “something” for a long time. Maybe I have been and maybe it’s multiple reasons. Yoga gives time for me and to slow things down for an hour. If I’m lucky, that time helps me to heal.
At the moment, my favorite class is a Friday night heated vinyasa. When I first started going a few months ago, I would get there and really “sink” into my mat cause I was exhausted from the week. The class has opened things up – less aches are good since inflammation seems to be a root cause of many health problems. Plus, there’s something about that group at that time making the transition to the weekend. Also, the instructor’s focus (which many there do) on cues and creating an awareness so we observe within – differences, aches, everything. I had a personal trainer who would do that – describe what I should feel and where. Otherwise, how are you supposed to know what is correct? Since we practice in a heated room, the heat stays with me and keeps me warm and happy until I am at home and fall asleep.
Sometimes in yoga the instructors refer to meditation. Plus, as Eastern culture penetrates more of Western society, it’s easy to find meditation references related to health, whether in schools or something that is trending. What is meditation, though? I mean, if we cannot remember what we ate this morning or anything about the route we drove to work, how do we connect through meditation? And is meditation really for anybody?
One of my friends happened to mention this book by journalist Dan Harris, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.” After an on air panic attack, Harris began to unravel the real problem – the voice in his head (that we all have) – and take the reader with him on his journey to tame that voice. The journey includes a meditation retreat, and Harris describes his experience in details. The phrases people express about meditation, such as “clarity,” make more sense after reading Harris’ story. The reader learns as Harris learns. Plus, Harris is a cool (acceptable) guy to teach a reader not initially into meditation or anything similar.
Feedback from Others
Years ago, sometimes a member of my Toastmasters club would challenge a speaker to immediately redo a speech after everyone’s feedback. I accepted that challenge, too. For Toastmasters, feedback is expected, and the Club meeting is considered a safe environment. What if it’s more random and in the wild – as far as you don’t know in what form or the timing you may receive it?
Referring again to psychology classes and discussions – without feedback, needed change would be slow, if at all. So when I get picked on for mumbling or speaking too softly (which I know I do), the feedback is aversive enough where I want to change (and I want to be heard). Yes, the group picking on me might make it feel like we’re on the playground as 5th graders instead of at a meeting with adults. It works, and they’ve done it enough that I have become more aware of how often and when it happens and therefore I have a better chance of improving my life. In fact, I’ve told the people who provide the most feedback that I don’t want it sugar coated. I just want to know. Wow, has some of it been a wake up call, too. Feedback is also two way, so I hope what I provide helps others. What you do with the feedback you receive is a choice. Always consider it, then use it or push it aside.
The combination of reading the Dan Harris book, yoga, and feedback, plus my intentions, have helped me. I love that I feel more awake and energetic lately. I am grateful for these practices and experience. What are yours?