Am I The Only One Who's Messed Up?
We’ve talked a lot about power in the last few weeks. How and why we give our power away when we feel like a victim; when we want to take revenge; and when we want to fix things and make everyone like us.
When I first started learning about these dynamics I got really down on myself for giving my power away in SO many situations…And it was really helpful to remember that I didn’t just make this up on my own. We see these power imbalances everywhere we turn ALL the time. We’re basically brainwashed from a very young age into stereotyped roles that feed into these power struggles. So in a lot of ways it’s a cultural problem just as much as an individual one.
There are disempowering cultural beliefs based on everything. Gender, age, race, religion, skin colour, sexual orientation, intelligence, wealth, clothes, social media popularity, the list goes on and on.
I’m going to talk about gender dynamics today because that is one I am intimately familiar with, but this is just one example of how these power imbalances play out around us all the time.
The way we are treated when we’re young by the people around us is massively influenced by our gender, and the roles that our culture tells us our gender is supposed to play. Girls are socialised to be sweet, to be carers, to be gentle, and to be easy going. Boys are taught that they have to be strong and tough and the only emotion they are allowed to express is anger. These messages can be subtle, or they can be obvious.
We see them in the roles men and women play in movies, TV, advertisements, books, magazines…
If a woman sets boundaries or stands up for herself she’s seen as rude and obnoxious, and if a man is soft and vulnerable he is seen as a wuss.
This feeds into the way our peers, family, and everyone we encounter sees us as well. People who do not conform to these standards are ostracised, left out, made fun of, and bullied. It’s brutal.
When I was growing up I know I must have sensed this imbalance on some level even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it. What I know I felt was that girls didn’t have as much power and strength, and because I had such an ingrained pattern of needing to see myself as strong due to my scary childhood experiences, I started denying my femininity in order to be “one of the boys.”
If I could fit in with the guys then I would be excluded from this “weaker” group and that made me feel more powerful…Which means that I actively cut down my own gender.
I bought into jokes and comments about girls being pathetic and too emotional and not as important or clever as boys. It’s awful when I look back on it. No wonder I had such a low self-esteem! I was basically believing that who I was biologically was fundamentally wrong and 'less than' other people.
So why do we have these awful gender biases? Well that’s simple. We don’t have any place in our culture where we are taught how our minds work, and we don't realise that we are operating from a place of fear, seeing everything through the lie that is our survival mechanism. It’s easy for everyone to just buy into the same story because we’re all freaked out, we all want to feel safe, and we have all agreed that these roles we are told we need to play are what can save us from our fear.
This is a really old and outdated belief system based on the way past generations learned to cope when life was really scary and they needed to rely on gender roles in order to survive. But today it makes no sense!!!
By believing this cultural story, we are saying yes to everything that sucks in our world right now. All the ignorance. All the hate. All the aggression and domination. But we don’t have to! We can choose to believe something different. We can choose to define OURSELVES rather than having these archaic patterns define us. We don’t need to believe people who are hurting us and making us feel small and worthless. And we don’t need to make anyone else feel small and worthless either because we think it makes us feel more powerful. None of this leads to what we really want! We can only know what we really want, who we really are - if we listen to OURSELVES and no one else.
Deep down we always know what’s true for us…
We’re going to get more into that in future posts, but for now we just need to know that if we can pause and listen, we are taking the first step towards seeing what’s really going on.
So after you hang out with someone, take a minute to stop whatever you’re doing, put down your phone, and ask yourself if you’re feeling energised and excited, or drained and exhausted. Are you nervous? Are you relaxed? And then make a decision about whether you feel seen and valued for who you are when you are with them. You don’t need to know why, you don’t need a reason or an excuse, you can just notice how you’re feeling with them and use that as your measure of whether they are a positive influence in your life, whether you are able to be YOU with them, or if you’re being sucked into a role that doesn’t really fit you.
Listening to what’s actually going on for us is the only way to break free of these unhelpful roles that we’re told we need to play…But once we start listening, it’s amazing how obvious the truth becomes!
Check out my Youtube video exploring how to tell which friends are having a positive influence on us and which ones aren't here.