This week’s blog post was inspired by my previous post because high school thoughts came up when I was doing it. I mentioned how back in the day being bored made me feel like a loser because I somehow equated it with not being popular enough. It got me thinking about this whole concept of popularity and why it is so important to us. In this post I want to discuss where it comes from, why we feed into it, and how we carry the energy related to our popularity in high school throughout our entire lives. I also want to make the argument for moving on from the past and why we should choose authenticity over popularity moving forward.
Way back in the cave days, every group member relied on the other one for their physical survival. They counted on each other for safety, food, interactions and to stay alive. This connection with the other members and desire to protect one another is evolutionary, it is in our DNA. Tribe mentality was a real thing and was absolutely essential at one point. In contrast, while the emotional turmoil of high school might feel like life and death to a teen aged brain, it is most definitely not. We desperately want to be accepted by the other group members so we can feel good about ourselves. We learn at a fairly early age in school where we think we fit in and then label ourselves accordingly. Whether we were the popular cheerleader that everybody loved, or the nerdy outlier who never felt like they fit in, we tend to keep those labels with us as we get older and move on from school.
The next time many of us are challenged with the high school setting, is when our own kids are in school. Ever notice when Suzy or Sally are having trouble getting along with the girls, we actually feel it ourselves like it is happening to us. We say it is because we love our children and do not want to see them suffer, but there is actually a little bit more to it. When we experience something from the past, it triggers automatic emotional memories that are in our bodies without us even being aware of it. We think we know exactly how Suzy or Sally are feeling, but the truth is we are just experiencing our own emotions and projecting them on to our children.
What comes up for you when I say that? Have you ever paid attention to how it feels when your daughter has her friends over from school and they are raiding your refrigerator like the crazy, high-strung teen age girls that they are? If you were popular in school, you might think it is so much fun to have all the girls at your house and enjoy reliving the past. If you were not, it might stir up a lot of buried emotions and memories of your own past that can cause you to feel anxious in a group of girls. Or what about when your kid does or does not get invited to prom? You can be sure your brain is going to react to that one too. Isn’t it fascinating that we can be middle aged and still so triggered by the high school days? As humans, we tend to look to the past to create evidence of who we are and what we are capable of doing and I guess that includes our ability to make friends and be popular as well. Add to it, the expectations society has of women, and we are kind of screwed from the get-go.
Historically, women in general are supposed to be selfless, agreeable, people-pleasing and loving. We were supposed to overlook our own needs and desires for the benefit of our family. The guys got to go do their thing and figure out how to provide for us ladies, and we were supposed to make sure we looked good and reproduced. We also had to take care of our husband’s and children’s emotional needs and not consider our own. Uuuumm, thanks but no thanks!I mean WTH? It is no wonder so many of us lose ourselves in the role of mom or wife and start to believe that peace of mind and self-love is only a fantasy. How can we possibly enjoy peace of any kind when everything we do is for the approval of people around us? Talk about laying a solid foundation for resentment! Not to mention, it does not matter what we do because they get to think what they want anyways. Meaning, we can do and say all the right things, and there is still somebody who is going to have a problem with us. That is life on planet earth when everybody is walking around with a brain that is full of BS Ladies, this is why we are so exhausted! Luckily, I can offer you a simple solution. Choose authenticity over popularity and start having your own back for a change.
What is going on in your brain now? Fear? Discomfort? Guilt? No worries, that is just all brain BS! It’s not your fault, it is the way we were raised. You know the old saying though, “when we know better, we do better.” Now you know better, so it is time to make some changes. If you could change anything about your life, where would you start? Just one thing that you do regularly that you hate doing and you only do it to keep somebody else happy and because you think it is your job. For me, my transformation started with the laundry.
For years, I have been the laundry person in my marriage. You could not pay me a million dollars to let my husband wash my favorite clothes that require special attention. Why? Because he would ruin them for sure, LOL! That being said, I also kind of started to resent doing laundry. Every time I would go to gather it, I would start to subconsciously feel trapped and wish I was finished before I even started do it. I did not at the time realize I was rejecting the present moment as not good enough but that is what a lot of us do when we feel like we have to do stuff we do not want to do. When I realized what I was doing and became more self-aware, I started to think differently about the laundry. Instead of thinking I cannot believe this is how I have to spend my time, or I should be doing something much more important, I chose to focus on what I could do to make laundry less annoying while keeping my clothes safe as well When I looked at it from that perspective, I was able to identify that the most annoying part of laundry was putting clothes away in my husband’s dresser and closet and I decided it was time for him to do that.
Now I know I make it sound so easy, but it was uncomfortable for me to even make the suggestion after years of just doing it. I felt like he made more money than me and goes to an office all day (I work at home) so maybe I should not be asking this of him. I was also a little concerned he would give me a hard time and I would get frustrated with him, so part of me just wanted to avoid the whole thing. Luckily for me, I recognized brain BS before I even coined the term and ignored it. I turned over the task to my husband without any fanfare or drama. I just said, from now on you are going to put away your own clothes, okay? And he said okay. I was like, what? OMG! Why did I wait so long to do this? Then I thought, what else can I stop doing that will improve my daily life and that’s how my transformation began.
How is your transformation going to begin? What is it that you are doing grudgingly that you want to stop doing? Maybe cut back on babysitting your grand-children one day to free up some “me” time? Or deciding you are spending too much time away from home with your aging parents and perhaps ask your siblings to help out more? Or do you want to begin with something really small but significant, like I did with the laundry? There is no right or wrong way to initiate changes. You get to do it however you want. The important thing is to start being more authentic so you can change your focus from external approval to internal, which is so much more empowering!
In conclusion, be on to that brain of yours when it has you thinking that popularity is more important than authenticity. Pay attention to how often you are being phony and lying to loved ones so they will continue to approve of you. Every time you do that, you are rejecting yourself and your own needs and depleting yourself even more. The tribe mentality served a purpose back in the day, but now it is time to decide for yourself how you want to think and approach your life. Instead of people-pleasing that will eventually lead to resentment, how about going for it and finding a whole new tribe that has a mentality that will get you what you want. Joint me in Episode #16 of The Brain BS Podcast to discuss this further.