Why those "things you should never say to..." type articles will never empower you
I saw one of those "Things you should never say to ... " Type of articles the other day.
It was entitled "13 Things No Estranged Child Needs To Hear On Mother’s Day." Of course I read it. And no, I am not going to link to it because it felt rather victim-y to me.
"Don't say these things to me because I might feel bad or mad or sad."
From the list, here's item #9: "Some people don’t even have mothers! You’ll regret this when she’s gone."
I get it ... sometimes people say mean, rude, annoying, or thoughtless things. Sure, we all wish that some people would think before they speak (particularly our mothers!).
But these days I'd prefer to let people (including my mother) be who they are and say what they want to say—and change or manage my own behavior in response—rather than scolding, should-ing, or "educating."
Managing my response means I might choose to ignore what the person said, change the subject, or even walk away. Or, I might choose to be genuinely curious and engage them in a conversation about their beliefs.
This is infinitely more powerful than trying to control what the other person does or says.
And that brings me back to the subject of being estranged from one's mother and the complicated feelings that can accompany Mother's Day for those of us who don't have Hallmark mother-daughter relationships.
Although my mother and I aren't completely estranged now, we were for several years. Back then, I had told her that I was done, that I didn't want to see her, talk to her, or get any emails from her.
Because I gave myself the gift of time and space away from her and chose to focus, instead, on myself and how I want to show up in the world. I no longer feel the need to limit or control our interaction.
If I want to send her an email, I do. If I want to talk to her, I call her. If I want to go see her, I let her know. She is free to do the same.
I know that the empowered boundaries guide I created will help me navigate those interactions.
All of that being said? We do not have the same relationship we once did and for that I am both supremely grateful and deeply sad.
Our relationship "before" was based on conflict and then "making up." The conflict sucked and the making up was awesome. Until the next time.
When I decided to manage my own behavior and not engage in the conflict (which usually took the form of defending myself and lashing back), our relationship became shallow. We don't go as deep as we used to ... now our conversations are about the weather, doctor's appointments, and who died recently. It's an "arm's length" relationship.
But you know what? I can do sad. I can even do guilt, panic, and annoyance, if I have to. And so can you.
My complicated relationship with my mother (and how I didn't like the way I was showing up in the world as a result) is what fueled my passion to help other women with similar transitions.
My job is to make sure women:
- Understand the incredible power of stories they've been telling themselves
- Become emotionally fluent (so they can do ALL the emotions too)
- Manage their own thoughts and behaviors (rather than waiting for others to change so they can feel better)
- Create empowered boundaries (which make for more honest, intimate relationships),and
- Ultimately rewrite their stories as resilient, autonomous, empowered beings
Resilience, autonomy, and empowerment = KNOWING, like I do, that:
- You can do uncomfortable emotions like shame, fear, panic, and deep sadness and the earth won’t open up and swallow you whole
- You can speak your truth (even if your voice is shaking) you can impress the hell out of yourself (because that matters more than impressing others)
- You can stand up for what you believe in without being defensive (because defense is the first act of war), and
- You can WOW yourself with dignity, grace, and courage (and a side of kick-ass, if that's what you want)
So, Happy Mother's Day to you and to your mother, no matter what your status. May you choose to think and feel what you want to, rather than what others think you should, and may you let them do the same!
Karen C.L. Anderson is a writer + certified master coach. She makes sure that women know how to WOW themselves with dignity, grace + courage, with a side of kick-ass if they want it!