“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou
Maybe you’ve met some of the people in my life:
My financial adviser has been charging me high fees, but the returns on my investments are terrible. They are worse than the returns made by my ultra-conservative retired parents. When I get brave enough to ask about the results, I get long, “professional” sounding, but confusing explanations.
My chiropractor promised to give me reports at the end of each session measuring the progress of my spinal curvature with pictures. He does the treatments, but has yet to provide a single report after a year of treatments, even though I’ve asked many times.
My pediatrician kept telling me there was nothing wrong with my baby son’s neck. He said that even though my son only slept with his head turned to one side. After he got noticeable flat head, I got brave enough to insist on treatment from a physiotherapist, on my girlfriend’s advice, not my doctors.
I seem to draw these people like a magnet. Bad professionals, terrible service providers, mediocre waiters; they litter my life. These people get away with their poor service, and I feel secretly angry. As of late, my frustration has been mounting. I just don’t have time to deal with this!
Complaining and whining about this with a friend recently, he gently made a small edit to my language. “It’s not that you are UNABLE to do anything, it’s that you are UNWILLING”.
This small change in language hit me like a thunderbolt. Yes, he is right, I am unwilling. I’m not brave enough to break it off. And that unwillingness is risking my health, retirement, and even my child, things I care about deeply.
Why am I unwilling with so much at stake? Why am I so ok with being taken advantage of, instead of walking away? How do I become brave enough to get into more dramatic action? Here are a few limiting beliefs that were stopping me, and maybe they are stopping you too:
I was raised with the idea that “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. But, there are definitely times when being nice does not serve you well. I looked at this belief closely and acknowledged the times when diplomacy had served me well. I had used it successfully in the boardroom, with other people, and even my spouse.
But, I also acknowledged that I had taken it too far in some areas, hiding behind niceness to cover up the fact I wasn’t brave enough to speak up. I had traded in respect for likability, and confused being nice with being unassertive. And, I was being taken advantage of as a result.
I thought I needed absolute proof before moving on. I kept questioning myself. Are the numbers from my financial adviser REALLY that bad? Maybe I should ask a few more people how they did on their investments before I move on?
This sort of analyzing can go on forever. In my case, it went on for several years with me on the fence. I finally decided to do a gut level check. Do I really believe what I’m being told? Do I really even understand what was explained to me?
I realized that when I stripped the words away, and simply looked at the results, I was not at all comfortable that my money was being handled well. I had been sitting in disbelief that a professional who looked so externally put together, and could talk about fancy investment types I’d never heard of, was actually so bad at his job.
When I started listening to myself, my gut said “get out” in no uncertain terms. My analysis had been getting in the way of me hearing the loud message from my sub-conscious. Once I took the brave step of putting analysis paralysis away, I knew what I needed to do.
Once I got clear about what to do, I still found myself not being brave enough to face the confrontation. Most things worth doing have some degree of discomfort along the way. Like, getting a great body can involve intense work outs that hurt. Or agreeing to lead a big visible project at work can bring about stress, but ultimately can get you to a promotion.
But, even if it’s uncomfortable at first, if you do something repeatedly, it becomes easy. Your emotional muscles for being brave become stronger with every use. So, I accepted that this discomfort was part of my transition to assertiveness, and had faith that it would get easier.
Once I got beyond the limiting beliefs and made the decision to walk away, I got in action. I sent a termination to my financial adviser and asked him to move all my money to my new adviser.
I told the chiropractor that since I couldn’t tell if I was getting any more results due to the lack of reports, I would have to conclude that my back has been fixed as best as possible. Hence, I’d be discontinuing the treatments.
I kept the pediatrician, his overall track record being fairly good. But, I let him know that I was disappointed with the miss of diagnosis. I also told him I was even more disappointed at my own lack of faith in my instincts. Next time, he should expect that I would be more insistent if I noticed something wrong.
I’m glad I’ve taken a stand for getting what I deserve out of these professional relationships. After all, a part of getting more of what you want in life, is being brave enough to rid yourself of what you don’t want. That includes toxic personal relationships, friendships, and even unprofessional professionals! Do you have some toxic relationships you need to put to rest? What’s in YOUR way?