I was the youngest, so I was a bold, adventurous, curious kid – that worried my parents a lot! I was an introvert, but I also loved doing the most dangerous, adrenaline-surging things like bungee jumping or doing flips off of loading docks onto concrete. I was an enigma. Even though I did daredevil stunts, I was quite shy, reserved, and quiet. People asked me how I could be so vibrant and expressive with my actions but so quiet with my words. Well, I was the youngest.
What do I mean by I was the youngest? I was not heard! I was significantly younger than my sister. My parents raised us in a traditional Catholic household; the theme for children was to be seen and not heard. I grew up feeling like the comic book villain Two-Face. On the one side of my being, I am this good Catholic girl who did what she was told, conformed to every rule, and did not question authority. On the other side, I was this rebel that adhered to nothing but my own rules. I was audacious with no limitations and determined to be free. I think a lot of us grew up like Two-Face, you are who your parents want you to be, but you form, blossom, and evolve into the person YOU want to be.
It seemed the more I developed into ME, the more restraints were being forced onto me. The things that made me see myself as unique and special now transformed into my prison. “You are such a beautiful girl,” turned into “Remember you are a pretty girl, you need to dress a certain way, look a certain way, act a certain way so men won’t want to attack you.” It’s funny how my looks determine HIS crazy!
“You’re so smart and so talented, you can do anything you want in this world,” turned into “You’re crazy if you think you can make a living by doing what you love to do and create your own company!” Wow… they thought by saying these things to me they were helping me.
Negative statements were imposed on me, so I decided to fight back! The uninhibited wild-child took over. Anyone who imposed their oppressive opinion on me would be met with defiance. That led to a lot of conflicts. “If you could be like this…, or all I want for YOU is…” these statements are to express care, concern, and provide direction. However, all they are doing is telling me – I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU! How that person thought, felt, and wanted for my life was more important than what I thought, felt, and wanted for MY life.
As I became a businesswoman, I learned that I created a space that allowed me the freedom to lead a company and repel any outside negativity. But, as I became a woman, the freedom I devised for my company was not the same for my personal life. Sometimes I still conducted myself as the good Catholic girl around my family and sometimes my business mentors – I was seen and not heard.
One day I decided to be boisterous and speak out on things that truly bothered me. When I did this with my family and friends, I learned about resistance, misunderstanding, and anger. My thoughts used to be, if you are saying something negative, you should know that I am going to defend myself, and I will have a rebuttal. People do not like rebuttals, especially if that person has been in a position of power in your life for a long time – it is jarring.
I had to learn that matching volatile energies is not going to work. No one is listening; they are waiting for their turn to speak. Nothing positive came in those conversations, only resentment. I call it the never-ending argument. You say something that rubs someone the wrong way; they return with a counterpoint that rubs you the wrong way. Back and forth, this negative ping-pong match flies between you both.
In the end, both parties come to an understanding. Both of you put down your paddles and begin to HEAR each other. Or one of you becomes exhausted and gives up the fight. This last result leads to hidden resentment and anger, leading you both further away from each other, which was not the intent for the initial comment.
I learned, through counseling – Hi Kathleen ? that as much as I need to be heard and understood, others are craving the same. During our first few sessions, Kathleen allowed me to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. She did not say too much. Kathleen did not interrupt nor tell me what to do. She did not want to “fix” me; she just listened. I cannot begin to tell you how that lifted me spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It gave me the space I needed to be a better version of myself.
If someone close to me says something negative or off-putting, I do not immediately take a defensive approach. I listen. I hear. I ask myself, what were their intentions? I do not allow strangers or passing acquaintances’ negative thoughts and actions to weigh on me because I can walk away and leave that energy with them. With loved ones, I cannot walk away. I needed to form a barrier to protect my feelings while validating their thoughts and still allowing them into my space.
People will say and do things that will rub you the wrong way – knowingly and unconsciously. I say to myself, “they want to be heard, they want to be seen, they want to be noticed.” No one wants to be invisible when they are expressing their feelings and thoughts. If I am patient, I may begin to understand this person is not trying to hurt me. They are encasing me in their experiences and trying to protect me. I can listen without being affected and infected.
You can hear someone, respect their space to express themselves without being wrapped in the negative. The power of listening to someone gives THEM the power to be heard. When they feel empowered that someone is listening, they may extend the same courtesy to others.
Even though I was the youngest, I grew up! I learned that not being heard was not about my age, it’s about CONSIDERATION. If you consider the other person’s feelings, thoughts and purpose of their words, you will begin to have a better understanding of their intentions. This puts YOU in control of the conversation – you can choose to continue or end it, it’s your choice.