My 9-year-old son Alex has been struggling within his friendship groups at school, feeling like he’s not fitting in and having no one to play with at recess and lunchtime.
“I feel invisible” Alex told his teacher.
His teacher’s response?
“Well Alex, that sounds like mouse language”.
The kids in Alex’s class have recently learned the following behavioural styles:
- Mouse – quiet, where you don’t speak up and instead play the victim
- Crocodile – bossy and snappy where you want to tell others what to do
- Dolphin – proactive and friendly where you like to help others and solve problems
- Fox – sneaky and manipulative where you gain at the expense of others.
The advice to Alex was to speak up and have a voice. To let others know he wanted to join in rather than waiting for others to see him alone and invite him in.
Have you ever played the mouse? Where you’ve felt hard done by? When things have not been fair? When you didn’t get what you deserved? Where you’ve waited to be noticed, acknowledged and validated while inside you’re feeling disappointed, let down and angry? Most of us have at one time or another. While feeling sorry for ourselves is a normal response, this thinking won’t help us move forward.
The problem with playing the mouse is that the longer we play it, we find more reasons to keep on playing it. We disempower ourselves through process and don’t address the real cause of the problem – fear. When fear gets the better of us, we become powerless. And for some people, this way of thinking is a pattern or habit that leaves them feeling stuck and unhappy.
Things don’t always go our way. Life isn’t always fair.
I’ve worked with many leaders who were playing the victim without realising it. Where they’ve justified ‘how things were’ as a function of being wronged by their bosses, wronged through decisions made, or wronged by something else. And while they might have been perfectly just and ‘right’ in their thinking, this way of coping wasn’t helping them.
One of the hardest lessons in leadership is to look in the mirror and to ask ourselves how we’ve contributed to things being as they are.
We don’t see the world as it is, we see it through who we are – Anais Nin.
Being the mouse is simply a lens through which to look at a situation. People can’t read your mind and see the ‘lens’ through which you’re experiencing something.
While we don’t control everything that happens to us, we do control how we respond to it.
The hard advice here is that getting past ‘it’ will involve getting over yourself.
Here are 5 ways to not be a mouse. What animal would you like to be instead?
1. Choose to want to help yourself. Be curious about why you’re choosing to feel this way and what you might be getting out of it. It won’t be ‘nothing’ – I promise you.
2. Think about your needs and wants and how you can meet them resourcefully.
3. Stop blaming others. Instead think about what there might be take away or learn from the situation to reset where you’re at.
4. Get into action. Take responsibility in a way that empowers you and helps move you forward. It might be speaking with someone and asking questions to help you accept and better understand the context or reasons. It might be speaking up about how you’re feeling to someone who can help. It might be choosing to focus on pursing a new opportunity.
5. Be grateful – find things to be grateful for as a way to switch your inner brain off yourself and change how you feel. Practicing gratitude is a great practice to living a great life, regardless of your circumstances.
If you’re feeling a little (or a lot) like a mouse, then it’s time to regain your personal power back and re-energise yourself. How will you do that? I’d love to know.