be your own advocate

This is a 3.5 minute read.

Its a great opportunity for you!
— -Aunt Somebody

A college study abroad friend said this (in a jersey accent)  anytime we had a chance to do something new.  It referenced an aunt who proclaimed those words upon hearing of her study abroad year. Of course it was, travel abroad is always a great opportunity.  It was also hard and stress filled and sometimes lonely.  But this post isn’t about that. 

Recently I've got a new opportunity..  I define opportunity here as something you weren’t expecting, that came to you, as opposed to seeking it out.   I had time to think about this before having to make any real choices or start committing my time.  That has been a blessing because during that time I have had to wrestle through some things.    I learned two things

How people react to hearing about your opportunity says more about them than you.

I am deeply influenced by peoples expectations of me.

I love change and newness and ideas.  When the opportunity first arose I was excited and attending an initial meeting and set up the next two.  And then I started telling people close to me and family. Reactions were twofold.  

People got really excited for me.  They were certain that I would pass with flying colors and soon be on to better things.  When I expressed some real doubts they dismissed those ideas and instead gave advice on how I could be sure to win.  As I reflect on those people now I see a group of people who like to win, who love to be working, who would like the opportunity themselves.  So they react the way they would be reacting if they were in my place.  

Other people were skeptical.  Not about my ability in this opportunity but they weren't able to see why I would change it all up in this way.  As I reflect on this I find change might be hard for this group.  After all, I am sharing this with close friends and family. My seizing of the opportunity would mean a change - we might move, we might be less available.  That could be hard for people.  But again, that was more about their level of comfort than mine. 

In both cases I don’t fault them nor do I feel negatively towards their reactions. Isn’t it human nature to see yourself in others?  When someone tells you a story you look for yourself and your comfort. 

Which leads me to my second point - I am deeply affected by what other people think of me. I found myself taking actions after telling people that were in line with what they said.  If they wanted me succeed I found myself doubling down on preparation.  If they seemed put off by the change I tried to think about how we could minimize the impact to them.  Proportionately, I spent much less time figuring out what I want.  I was/am deeply concerned about disappointing these people.  When I finally started to wrestle with the idea that I didn’t want to do this my inner voice (I call George) started in.  They want you to succeed!  You have to try!  They will be disappointed in you!! 

Shut up George.

But getting George to shut up is really really REALLY hard.  Everyone has a George and I have had mine for 45 years.  

But I have to in this case.  

This morning, driving along, I realized that if I could choose what to do next and I never had to speak of it again I would decline the opportunity and refocus myself on some other things I am excited about.  It's knowing that I have to answer the questions of these people that has me scared.  Even worse, I am afraid to tell them I didn’t pass the first hurdle and then hear disappointment in their voice over something I didn't really want. 

I must do what is true for me, as if no one else knows about this.  Those external expectations do not matter but the American cultural influence is strong and it says success and achievement and big money and big corporations are where it's at.  It just not where it's at for me.

Advocating for ourselves is never easy.  Women learn to put their needs behind others from an early age.  We are taught to be smaller, take up less space - physically and emotionally. Fit into the definitions that are given to us.  

The irony here is that in advocating for myself, in doing what is true to me I am doing the most brave thing there is.  I am speaking up!  I am authentic!  Doing the other thing, taking the opportunity, doing work I don't love, becoming something I am not super interested in.  That is the easier part.  Hell, women, including myself, have been doing it for years.  The braver thing is to say no and say it for myself, because my own opinion of myself is more important that what others think of me. 

I have to reinstate that Brene Brown trick of keeping a small piece of paper in my wallet that lists out the people whose opinion of me I care about.  Thinking of the now I realized none of them will care that I withdrew from the opportunity.

So yes, this is a great opportunity for me - its just not the opportunity I want.  

I think I have shut George up for a minute....

Just Ship It,

Audra

Mittens I drew on procreate

Mittens I drew on procreate