How to Stop Accepting Crap (and Find Your Happiness)
I believe that someone’s words can turn an ordinary moment into an unforgettable one in a matter of seconds, and in my lifetime, I’ve had three.
The first occurred when I was 12 while I was in my driveway fielding grounders from my dad. It was mid-summer, hot as hell, and I knew that this was my last year playing softball, meaning I 100% felt like practice was a complete waste of time. And trust me, like any 12 year-old with an attitude, I made my thoughts known. However, as soon as I voiced how I didn’t see why I should practice at all considering I’d be done with the sport by the end of the month, my dad looked at me with that stern dad stare (you know the one I’m talking about) and said, “But you’re doing it now.” And back to grounders we went. I’ve adhered to that mantra ever since.
Just 5 short years later, I was shoveling cereal in my face on a Sunday morning, complaining to my mom about having to go to church. At that point, I guess she had had enough (I mean, I was 17), and said, “For everything you’ve been blessed with, you’d think you could take one hour out of your week and thank God for it.” Mic drop, Mom. Mic drop.
And then, 10 years after that, I was sitting on my couch with a glass of wine (or so I presume) about to start Shonda Rhimes book, “A Year of Yes” when this golden nugget, straight from Christina Yang’s lips (of Grey’s Anatomy), jumped out at me: “If you want crappy things to stop happening to you, stop accepting crap and start demanding more.” Two seconds of reading, and I had found a total game-changer.
I remember reading over those words again & again and being like, “Yeah.” Just yeah. I’m with you, Christina Yang. Enough with the crap. And yet as I was reflecting on the past few years, I realized that I, like many of you, had been allowing it into my life up until that moment without any kind of resistance. And why?
Simple answer: The Princess Complex
THE PRINCESS COMPLEX
Deny it as you may, but it’s hard to argue that we aren’t fine-tuned as little girls to believe we will be taken care of. That whatever our problem is – yesterday, today, or tomorrow – it will work itself out. I mean, look at the role models we were given:
Cinderella – saved by a Prince
Sleeping Beauty – saved by a Prince
Snow White – saved by a Prince
Laney Boggs – saved from high school geekdom by a Freddie Prinze Jr
We are wired to wait on someone else to give us what we want, for the universe to align the stars in our favor, for one lucky break. We think it’s coming, we hope it’s coming, and yet, we haven’t lifted a finger to put any of that in motion. We’re just sitting in crap, and instead of taking life by the horns and twisting it where we want it to go, we allow it to direct us where it may, whether we like the path it’s taking us on or not. I mean, I don’t know about you, but if Rapunzel sheds anything like I do, she could have built a pretty sturdy rope out of her loose hair in 3 months, tops. And then she wouldn’t have had to wait around in that tower for so long.
What’s even worse about this is that it stereotypically is a trait of women. Can you imagine a man sitting in a tower waiting for someone to come save him? Hell no. They stand up, take charge, and figure out how to get what they want, and the sole reason behind this mentality versus the one we women use is this: confidence.
WHY WE HOLD OURSELVES BACK
In their 2014 article The Confidence Gap, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman introduced us to root of why women continue to hold themselves back and settle while men go out there and take what’s theirs (or not theirs, for that matter).
They point to a study the Institute of Leadership and Management in the UK performed on British managers, where half of the female participants reported self-doubt about their job performance while less than a third of the male participants did.
Another where Linda Babcock, the author of Women Don’t Ask, found that men negotiate their salaries 4x as often as women and ask for 30% more.
And another from psychologists David Dunning and Joyce Ehrlinger, who found that while both men and women scored roughly the same on a generic science test (7.9 vs 7.5, respectively), the women believed they had scored more poorly (5.8) when asked prior to receiving the results compared to men (who thought they had earned a 7.1).
And it doesn’t end there. They reference female athletes, tech entrepreneurs, engineers, investment bankers and journalists, who are all saying the same thing that Sheryl Sandberg confessed in her book Lean In: they feel like frauds.
Crisis, ladies, crisis. And the reason is that this confidence gap holds us back from being more successful in our jobs, our relationships, and our health. Oy vey.
But it’s not just our confidence holding us back. It’s also the fact that we are adverse to change, even if that means we stay in situations that aren’t healthy or beneficial to us.
Neuroscientist Dean Burnett and author of the book Idiot Brain (how’s that for a catchy title?) states that it’s all a part of our make-up.
“In an evolutionary sense,” he explains, “the brain doesn’t like uncertainty. Anything uncertain is potentially a threat.”
So essentially, we’re afraid, and it causes us to take the easy road in life instead of the one that, while may be bumpier, will lead us to our own personal Promised Land.
Let’s have a little honesty moment here:
Raise your hand if you have stayed in an unhealthy relationship because you were fearful you wouldn’t find anyone else. Or didn’t ask for a raise because you didn’t want to seem greedy although you truly felt you were underpaid. Or didn’t give your dream job a chance because it left you with a lot of unknowns and a fear of failure. Or didn’t get your health in check because you were too afraid to work out in front of all those people at the gym who looked like they just walked out of a Nike ad.
Don’t worry, my hand is raised, too, and to be honest, it’s for more than one of these. But I realized that night while holding Shonda’s book in my hand that I kind of was tired of the crap. And the only reason I had it in my life was because I allowed it to be there, and whether that was due to confidence, fear, or the Imperius curse, I wasn’t going to use those excuses as enablers anymore. I mean, worse case scenario I fail, and what’s the harm in that? I’m always up for an opportunity to grow.
HOW TO TAKE LIFE BY THE HORNS
This is all well and good in the theoretical sense, but actually making that change can be a touch trickier. However, you know I wouldn’t leave you without a little guidance, right?
I’ve listed the exact steps below for you to follow in order to get what you want, and the best part is, planning this – your future dream life – can take as little as 15 minutes if you’re determined. As you’re going through these, remember, change doesn’t happen overnight and it definitely doesn’t come without a little fear. Fight against it, and hopefully I’ll see you on the other side.
FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU ACTUALLY WANT
It’s time to have a Come-to-Jesus meeting.
Before you can make any change, you have to figure out what it is you truly want. Not what society wants for you, not what you think you should want, but what you feel, deep down, is going to serve you. Find it, treasure it, chase it.
WRITE DOWN THAT END GOAL
Whatever “it” is, write it down in a place where it will be a constant reminder. And while you’re at it, attach a little note on there as to why you want this so badly. It’ll help you stay the path when the temptation of the easy route starts seeping back in.
BREAK IT DOWN INTO BABY STEPS
This is where it gets actionable. You aren’t going to get what you want simply because you decided you deserved it and wrote it down. I’m sorry to say, but there aren’t any magic fairies with the job responsibility to do that for you.
You’ve already done the dreaming, so stop with that and start DOING. Give yourself a deadline of when you want to accomplish that goal and what it’s going to take to get there. Then, develop a timeline dotted with baby steps – these smaller goals will help you make short steps of progress that will eventually get you to your main one (and without feeling like you’re completely overwhelmed). Win-win.
No, these aren’t a mechanism to make you feel guilty for falling behind. Life does tend to get in the way – there’s an unexpected medical emergency, car trouble, <insert bad situation here> – and setting reminders helps ensure you stay on track and get to your goal by your deadline, even with those extra things pulling for your attention.
Use your iPhone for something other than social media stalking and put your baby steps on your calendar with alerts set up. This will ensure it’s always on your mind, which is right where you want it to be.
REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR WHY
Ladies, your happiness matters, too, and the fact of the matter is, when you’re happy, you radiate that into everything you do and everyone you’re around. So when you start to feel the pull from everyone and everything else, remind yourself that this is your one life, and remember you have the choice to act like Rapunzel and let life happen to you or rock that baller emerald dress and Fiona-kick your way to something better. And I don’t know about you, but I look way better in green than pink.
Here’s to putting down the crown and donning some confidence. I have faith in you.