One of my favourite podcasts is We Can Do Hard Things – that’s immediately what came to mind when I realised what I wanted to write about in this post. But I didn’t want to rip their name off, especially as it’s such a great show. Seriously if you haven’t already, check it out (link below). Inspirational.
Today I finally got round to cleaning little dried stains of water that had dripped down the front of my cabinets under the kitchen sink. Not really noticeable enough to kick my will power into a high enough gear to make me lift the sponge (sooo heavy!), but noticeable enough that I felt a twinge of discomfort every time I saw them.
So I finally scrubbed the little so-and-sos off. The relief was palpable – why had I put it off for so long? Probably because I didn’t know how good it would feel afterwards.
Buoyed by the success of getting rid of those irksome little reminders of my housekeeping deficiencies, and a very productive morning of writing, I decided to tackle another difficult task.
I’m ready to finally deal with the shame of being bullied as a 40 year-old. It’s a special kind of shame. Seriously – 4 decades old and I couldn’t stop someone treating me terribly during the first year of the pandemic. So now I’m just taking my hat in my hands and going to these other authorities to admit this terrible thing.
How can I justify the fact I got treated this way? A coach, a published author, successful-ish business person. I’ve run two marathons, backpacked round the world and got an email back from Andy Weir. How could this happen to me? Undertone: how could I let this happen? I feel ashamed and embarrassed.
This person treated me and my work really badly. I tried standing up for myself, it got worse. I tried being nice, it got worse. I tried showing my point of view with research and logic. It got worse. I tried negotiating and finally trying to get this person to honour a contract they wrote themselves and then immediately broke, by threatening legal action. And guess what? You got it. It got worse.
It feels almost irresponsible to “allow” myself to be treated so badly in my 4th decade sitting on top of our spinny floating ball. But I couldn’t stop it. What can we do when someone’s relative amounts of situational power vs personal power (i.e. being in a position of power, vs having integrity and self-control) are so out of whack? The side of me that celebrates fairness and justice was, let’s just say, not having a good time.
What happens when there’s a road mapped out in professionalism and common courtesy but you suddenly realised it veered off miles back and you don’t know how to get back to being treated like a person? After being very self-sufficient for most of my life I realised the only thing I can do is ask people with more experience and industry know-how for help. And hope that they listen.
That’s pretty hard, I mean, there’s a well-documented bias against people who have been treated badly – we’re not really wired to want to hang out with the injured members of the pack. That’s why people suffering from racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia etc have historically had such a hard time (of course I’m not comparing my experience to theirs). If you’re in the stronger group then why be associated with weakness? There can be a palpable physical response, a shudder and self-protective emotional closing down. People perceived as weak find themselves on the outside too easily.
But since mental health is actually a topic with a place at the table nowadays I’m pretty optimistic. And I think these other people share my vision for a better world. A world I will be much more effective at helping to build once I no longer have to deal with unprofessionalism. It’s hard to build something lasting for the future while you’re preoccupied with stopping yourself from being torn down. I hope if you’ve ever found yourself in a similar position that you’re doing OK and you found the support you needed.
So – that was a whole thing. But what I really wanted to share with you was this:
Out-of-the-box thoughts on tackling our to-do lists
- Tiny, annoying things
If there are tiny things that are bothering you a little and you feel like it’s not worth the time or effort to fix them, you might want to think about just addressing them now. It costs us emotional energy not only to be bothered by something little over and over again, but to push the feeling of it bothering you down out of your conscious and to keep on keeping it down.
I think that’s why the relief can feel so big for just a little thing. You get the satisfaction, but you also get the rush of all that energy you spent “not noticing” it, coming back to you all at once. Ahhhhh. Feels good.
- Big scary things
OK, there are some things we can’t handle right now. They might lead to situations, conversations and/ or emotions we just can’t deal with. That’s alright, good in fact. Knowing what we can handle and not handle is essential for mental health. But, at the same time, dealing with it and getting it over and done with can help to put a big scary thing into perspective, and your own agency and power along with it.
So if something feels huge and overwhelming but you deal with it, on the other side you may realise it was more of a medium-sized irritation and you are more resourceful and empowered than you were giving yourself credit for. But if you’re not ready today, I can definitely empathise with that. I’ve had situations where it was stressful to open my own inbox. And that’s my inbox! I should feel able to go there comfortably whenever I want.
But difficult things are… well, yeah, they’re difficult. Whether we think they should be or not. Whether other people think something should be a big deal to us or not. We are strong and resourceful but we also hold fragile and complicated emotions. And navigating that line between pushing ourselves to be strong and protecting ourselves when we’re weak is, I think, one of the hardest things to get right in our lives. But we really know when we didn’t get it right, don’t we? 😉
So that’s my 2 cents on doing the little annoying things and tackling those enormous hairy beasts. I want to leave you with a couple of questions that you might find helpful when you’re putting together your to-do list for the day.
I recommend you take your time with them, let each question sit for a moment and feel for the most real answers that pop up. Also, these are mainly to gain insight, so don’t feel that you need to do everything that comes up (like I mentioned before, it’s not always the right time to tackle something). And last tip – let surprising answers come up if they want to.
To-Do List Insight Questions
What is annoying me right now, or niggling at the back of my mind? (could be anything – in your environment, relationships, wardrobe, health – anything)
What am I scared of doing right now?
I would feel proud at the end of today if I do/ finish ________ .
I will feel satisfied at the end of the day if I ___________.
Thanks for reading. As always, take care!
PS If you have been bullied as an adult, know that there are resources out there to help you. Also, I found this article very interesting.
PPS. This is the podcast I mentioned: We Can Do Hard Things
PPPPS: remembered this old chestnut