On Staying in Your Lane, Dropping Comparison, and Cultivating Compassion.
We’ve been talking for a while now about stepping into our power and getting huge, but that’s me making a vast assumption. So let me ask you something:
Have you ever felt small? Like no matter what you do, you’re not good enough? Like you’re not in charge of anything, least of all what happens to you?
It’s a deep feeling, to be sure. It can feel like a hopeless abyss of tiny, like we could kick and scream like a 3-year-old or break things like a teenager or do anything under the sun, and it still wouldn’t make us feel heard, seen, understood, or valuable.
In 2013, I was tasked with, essentially, creating my dream job. I was contracted through a guy to a major corporation, working in their fitness center and closely with the Wellness Director. The contract was coming up for renewal one year from then, and the guy who held the contract asked me to do everything I could to improve the program and make sure that we kept it.
So I did.
We added classes, growing big enough to build a separate classroom from which to teach. We more than doubled participation in events. We brought a self-defense seminar (which hadn’t been done before) to the building and had a healthy cooking seminar in the works.
When it was time for the contract to be renewed, the Wellness Director asked to put my name in the contract, ensuring that I would be there and that (what I thought was) my dream job would be mine for the foreseeable future.
Instead, the aforementioned man wrote me out of it and fired me.
For a long time, I believed the narrative he told me: that I had been manipulative in the growth of the contract because I didn’t call him when he refused to respond to my emails, that I shouldn’t have worked with the Wellness Director at all, that if he had known I’d do more than he asked he never would have asked me to do it, that a different woman (who had previously refused to work on this contract!) was better for it than I was, and in all his years of managing someone, he’d never dealt with a situation “like this” before. I believed that, even though I was trying my hardest and the people responsible for my supervision (and the contract) were happy with me, that I didn’t do the right thing: that I was doing everything asked of me, producing measureable positive results, and it still wasn’t good enough.
A couple of weeks ago (here), we talked about cultivating compassion, even in situations in which it seems impossible (or like the other party doesn’t deserve it). This was one of my biggest tests in life, and, much like rewriting the story of my upbringing, I came to realize that the frustration and sting I was feeling wasn’t about the situation as much as it was about some deep truths about me.
It was an opportunity to examine the beliefs I held about myself. It was a window into the goals I have for my life, the habits I’m using to achieve them, and the degree of consistency between them (aka, my personal integrity).
I’d guess we all have a hard-stop, record-scratch moment like this in our lives (if you haven’t yet, buckle up. Or investigate, because maybe you didn’t see it at the time.) that causes us to reevaluate and reframe. We realize we’re telling someone else’s story for ourselves, subconsciously accepting someone else’s vision of and for our lives as fact, without stopping to think if that’s even what we really believe or want.
For instance, I believed that the only path to success was someone else telling me what to do, and to fit into that, I had to be submissive. I could never take initiative. I had to be just the right amount of pretty to succeed in the fitness world. I had to be small, always deferring to someone else who was bigger and more powerful and made more money than I did. I lived in a world of constant comparison, never measuring up.
Coming to realize that, wait a minute, I can tell whatever story I want with this life, so let’s make it one I actually want to write home (or on the internet ;) ) about was a big effing deal. Instead of constantly comparing myself to the other woman who was “a better fit” for that guy, I concentrated on finding out who I was. Instead of being bitter that I did all this work for a job I thought I wanted, I examined if working for this person was even what I really wanted and what served my grand vision for my life (spoiler: it actually wasn’t, and here we are.).
In putting my habits under my own magnifying glass, I began to see that I could stop playing small. I could live my dreams, be self-reliant, and overcome obstacles that seem scary, if I follow what I know how to do, develop the tools I need to figure out what I don’t know how to do, and ask for help from people that have proven themselves trustworthy. It wasn’t about anyone else (or their narrative) at all.
What seals compassion is realizing that the people who have “wronged” us are usually doing the best they can, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Rather than be afraid of someone who seems to hold all the cards in an unequal power dynamic, realize that they’re probably acting out of insecurity, fear, or self-preservation, which inspires compassion, because we’ve all been there. Rather than be jealous of someone who gets what we want when we think we deserve it more, we can see that they’re probably walking into a situation for which they might be underprepared, which inspires empathy, because we all know how overwhelming that is. Rather than harp on a situation we thought was perfect for us, we can see that, perhaps, it isn’t even what we really wanted long-term, which inspires introspection and planning of bigger, better goals.
When we feel pulled to compare – in the gym, at work, amongst friends – the first question we should ask ourselves is if we’re judging something we even want. Regardless of the answer, look closer, and forgive: both the other party(/ies) and ourselves.
We get to stay in our lane. Which is great news, because that’s all we can control, and it’s bigger over here anyway.
We get to turn our Victim narrative into a rewritten story of power at any time we choose. We get to claim our space and claim our freedom. We get to be honest – all the way honest, highlighting where we’re playing into it too – and become a Warrior focused on growing bigger, oozing more compassion, and being better.
We get to step into our dreams, eyes wide open, full of power.
And now that you know some of my deep truths, you have a chance to do the same! There’s a post on the Strong by Steph Facebook page, and I’d love it if you’d hop over there and share what you feel comfortable sharing – an insight you’ve learned from developing more compassion or reframing your narrative.
See you there!