People Taking Advantage of You? Think Again.
A few years ago I was teaching a class at Multnomah Athletic Club, a premier fitness club here in Portland. In a short break between songs, something caught my eye just out the side window. A female member wearing a body harness and dripping with sweat was moving across the floor like molasses, using her full physical strength to propel herself forward. She was near impossible to ignore, as she sweated and strained against whatever it was she resisted. Just as the other students in class turned to look, a man (her trainer) came into view. He was at the end of her rope, leaning back against her might... resisting her call to action.
Without even realizing it, I muttered aloud (but mostly to myself)... “wow, that looks a lot like my last relationship.” Just as I was about to blush with shame, the entire room of women erupted in laughter. I was immediately put at ease and smiled along with them. Apparently I wasn’t alone in that sentiment. ;)
Of course, there are a number of reasons why we choose to tie ourselves to relationships leave us panting for air (that’s another post). Yet, I am way more interested in HOW we can open our eyes and untether ourselves from unnecessary strain.
While a certain degree of tension is to be expected in our relationships, all too often we are pulling around more than our share of the weight and/or participating in a co-dependent tango with co-workers, friends, partners, and family members.
So... who’s at the end of your rope?
You may want to blame whoever it is for being there, but in truth you are at fault. YOU are the one trying to force them to get somewhere they don’t want to go. You aren’t straining against them... you are actively fighting against yourself and your innate desire to act as an independent entity. While it may seem like a loving act to pull them along, you’re not doing anyone a favor here. While you might be getting stronger, sacrificing your power to a force that opposes the direction you want to go in inevitably breeds resentment.
Here are some examples of strapping on a harness and giving your power away...
(sigh) I have to pick up my friend at the airport.
I should go to the party because I will be expected.
I don’t want to do it, but I said that I would!
My boss always does this to me; he is such a bully!
I have to stay and work late because nobody else is gonna do it!
I tried to get out of it, but she just wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I really want to go on that vacation. I wish he was into it, too.
The reality is... it’s only true because you say it is.
You don’t “have to” do any one of those things.
You are NOT powerless. You are NOT a victim. Unless, of course, you choose to be.
You can take off that freakin’ harness any time you like.
How? Stop pretending to be without strength. People can only take advantage of you if you believe that they have more power over your life than you do. And that, my friend, is very unlikely. It is high time for you to flex your true power. And remember, power is not a four letter word. It can be expressed with kindness and compassion.
Let’s turn the former scenarios around...
I’m so sorry, Mary... I’m super swamped. Meet me for a drink when you get into town?
As much as I would love to make it to your party, it’s just not a good night for me. Have fun!
No can do. Hope you find someone.
Thanks, Boss. I’ll get to that when I can. Probably next week.
If the work doesn’t get done, so be it. It’s not my business, so it’s not my problem.
I can’t do you that favor. Please don’t ask me again.
[sound harsh? yep! pushy peeps need clear boundaries]
Hey! What if I took that trip to Hawaii with my BFF? It would probably be more fun anyway!
You can do this! Turn your reality around. Put your power into your own words, and take of that harness once and for all. It works. I haven’t worn one in years, and I’m stronger than ever.
Still not sure how to untether yourself from a specific dynamic? Ask me.