Decision Making And External Influence. Are Your Feelings Always Your Own?

The short answer is yes, I think we’re all responsible for our feelings. We may not be responsible for the things that have been said or done to us which can affect our feelings, but we are certainly responsible for how we respond.

There have been times in my life where I have been sure of something deep down, but at the same time insecure about the decision that I want to make. Insecurity plays a big part here, typically with the involvement of others. People have a tendency to project their own insecurities at you, especially when you are talking about making decisions that they themselves would have trouble with. Unfortunately it’s very easy to allow these situations to get the better of you and affect your actions.

To give you an example – Harry was really concerned about going to university, in fact he didn’t really want to go because he was far too unsure about what he wanted to study and felt that it would be a waste of time and money. He was pretty certain about this and tried to communicate it to his parents. However, being high achievers themselves who always pushed their kids to do well, it was hard to get them to receive his feelings about higher education clearly. They only saw where he was coming from through their own filters – insecurity about not doing well in life and wandering off down a bad path you can never come back from. Insecurity about their child not having a good career or enough money for the future. Fear of failure in general – you get the picture. Naturally Harry had some of these concerns too – it’s pretty hard not to take on-board at least some of your parent’s feelings, especially when you’re young and impressionable. Harry hit a brick wall whenever he tried to broach the subject. His parents simply saw him as nervous, just like they had been, and concluded that he would get over it. In time, Harry actually started to believe this too, and besides, all his friends were going to uni so he figured he would feel pretty left out if he didn’t go. Harry uneasily applied for an accounting course he wasn’t really sure about and attended the university his parents wanted him to go to. 3 years later he walked out with decent grades but no idea what he wanted to do with his degree. More than anything he just wanted to get away from the subject and get a job doing something else because he never went to university with a purpose other than to satisfy his parents and keep up with his friends, so he felt a bit lost and resentful about the whole thing. It’s possible that, had Harry listened to his instincts, he may well have attended university later on and studied a subject that he was passionate about, one that would allow him to build the career he wanted on his terms. Obviously he may not have chosen to go down that path, but as long as whatever he chose to do was his own decision, he would be able to learn from his situation rather than become embittered by the fact that he never felt in control.

These situations can include really simple decisions like attending an event that you feel is important to you or perhaps spending an hour with a friend, sibling or parent, but allowing yourself to be convinced by others that it’s not the right decision even though you know it’s what you want, or perhaps what you need.

I guess sometimes it can feel like you’re not even living your own life and I suppose this wouldn’t feel like much of a problem if you weren’t, in some way or another, aware of the fact that it was happening. There’s a lot to be said here for people thinking they know best. In my personal experience, people who are adamant that they know what’s best for you and press this belief firmly on you are the very people who are most afraid of being wrong, failing or simply not being good enough.

I also want to talk about responsibility. This is because, like I mentioned earlier, we are not responsible for how others behave, but how we allow that behaviour to affect us and dictate our actions is absolutely within our control. I was bullied in school, I complained about it, suffered with it, and the next day you’d find me in the principals office having bullied someone myself. I’d deny it completely of course, argue my case badly and worse yet i’d believe my own words because I could not and would not accept that I was also a part of the problem – that I was at all responsible. I think that those of us who are aware of an issue, owe it to ourselves and the rest of the world to consciously take care of our responses. I know from my own experience that it is absolutely a choice to allow other peoples insecurities to dictate your decisions. If you roll over and indulge the insecurities of another person, you might be giving them what they want on the surface but the fact that they are projecting these issues onto you in the first place is, in my view, an opportunity to defy fear and ‘break the cycle’ for all parties involved. If you do not indulge someone else’s insecurities and thus do not indulge your own, you grow, learn and develop, not only within yourself but you also help others who couldn’t see things as clearly.

The best advice I can give to anyone who feels like they are in a situation like this is to live purposefully, and not only for other people. If you don’t understand the purpose of your current situation and why it is important to you, then try to find out. If it turns out you’re in this situation for the wrong reasons then try to change the way you look at it, or change the situation completely. I think that the hardest emotional decision you can ever make is not to do what other people feel you should do, or what feels easy, but what you feel is right, deep down and underneath all the filters. In the end I think we almost always know what’s right, we just don’t believe in ourselves, or trust ourselves enough to follow through. It is developing that trust and self belief that we should work on most of all, both for our own benefit and the benefit of everyone we come into contact with.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

 

Respecting People As Individuals

Firstly, I’d just like to say that I believe respect to be the core foundation of any positive relationship and I also believe that respect, especially for a person as an individual, is incredibly undervalued in society today. I’d also like to mention that everyone is different, and as a result we can’t possibly expect to get along with someone if we only like and respect them for the labels we place on them or the assumptions we make about them.

Respect is an interesting concept. You can show respect for someones abilities with words like “That was very impressive, well done!” and really mean it, however this doesn’t necessarily mean that you respect them as a person, or individual. Respect for someone as an individual means accepting who they are, who they might be, what they do and what they might do in the future. Obviously it’s hard to know all of these things for sure, which is why respecting someone is essentially like having faith in them. Now you could be wrong about a person and they might, in your eyes, change for better or worse. This is not of major importance because if you respect yourself then you can accept that you could be wrong, things might change and that it’s ok either way.

Respect is very give and take. You’ll often get respect from those whom you respect and vice versa. The trouble we often run into is expecting or perhaps demanding respect without first offering it. Giving respect to someone as an individual – having faith in them – can feel a lot like giving the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter what experiences you’ve had in the past that might cause you to make assumptions about a person – allowing your assumptions to dictate the way you treat them is, in my eyes, incredibly disrespectful. I’ve seen it a lot between children and adults, where the adult will demand respect from the child in a totally disrespectful manner. These conversations tend to manifest from the assumption that ‘this is how you speak to children’ – as if there’s some sort of formula for dealing with a child like you were mixing concrete or calculating your tax return. I’ve often found that this demand for respect comes in varying forms of verbal and/or physical abuse, and the resultant behaviour from the child is either retaliatory or mindlessly obedient – neither of which I would view as healthy. I’ve seen it between couples, where one party is being totally unreasonable or difficult and just expecting the other person to know what they want without explanation. The response is, again, retaliation of some description, or mindless obedience. In both examples the underlying problem is the same. You have a child who is responding to a lack of respect with, you guessed it, a lack of respect, or perhaps they are too afraid to confront the disrespect and simply accept it. By doing this they are essentially admitting to themselves that they don’t deserve to be treated better. Having been a child in this situation, I know that sometimes you feel powerless to question things so you just accept the situation and the baggage that goes with it. Exactly the same applies to the couple, only in my experience irrational expectations are often caused by feeling disrespected in the first place – interesting thought huh?

In regard to these examples, my solution consists of two parts; firstly you have to respect your own feelings and values. I believe this is absolutely imperative to being able to respect others. If you don’t respect these things, or you compromise your values, the result is generally just giving in and quietly accepting the situation as mentioned in the example. If you only respect your own feelings then you end up retaliating in an attempt to defend yourself and your values – which brings me to part two; respecting the feelings of others. If you can do this then you put yourself in a position where, even though you may feel the desire to retaliate, (chances are they’ve said some hurtful things), you are able to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them accept that their feelings are their own. Whether you want to or are able to help them or not, your respect for their feelings will, at the very least, never worsen a situation. For couples it generally only takes one person to break the negative back and forth, and as time progresses I think you learn to help each other, even when you’re both having a bad time.  In my experience with relationships of any kind, the ones that last do so because mutual respect is present. If one party in the relationship believes themselves to be above (or perhaps below) the other, a bitterness tends to develop between them that will inevitably end the relationship, often not on good terms. In the case of children (at least young children), I think it can be different and more difficult because the responsibility lies primarily with the adult to initiate a respectful interaction. You can’t teach someone to be truly respectful by demanding respect disrespectfully – am I right?  I’d love to know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

Sean