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Fighting the Norms

No matter where we live in the world, we face the problem of fighting ongoing norms. Things that our families of origin or our societies or communities expect of us. There are roles we should traditionally play and rules of engagement we are supposed to follow. Often, wrapped up in these roles and rules are biases, prejudices, myths and lies.

We discover them slowly over time and experience. Many of my own biases and norms became obvious to me after I lived in different parts of the country and worked in a variety of industries. Many continue to reveal themselves as I continue to coach and train others in their own discoveries. It is a constant process to uncover where we have these beliefs that limit our behaviors or devalue our gifts and talents.

For instance, as a very outspoken independent woman, I battled for years how to mask it because families and cultures like their women to serve, be kind, sweet and dependent. Most people won’t describe me as those more culturally acceptable characteristics of females. I tried to balance it, embrace it after masking it. I also spent a season as a bull in a china shop, using it to bowl over people.

As women, I’d like to see us globally accept the way we are wired and embrace our gifts and talents more fully. Let’s not deny ourselves being fully ourselves to do our work and leave impact. So begin the process of discovery by asking yourself a series of questions:

1. Where am I holding back? Why?

2. Where and with whom am I pretending (masking) my talents?

3. What negative assumptions am I making about situations or people? Why?

4. What are my list of personal values? Are they mine or someone else’s?

5. What have I always wanted to do but haven’t done? Why?

Each of these questions can dig into the layers of myths, biases, and norms. Continually work through these questions with a confident, therapist or coach. Start this dialog with yourself so that you are more conscious of situations where you are either compromising values or compromising who you are. How can you then begin to step more into who you are and not be off-putting to your family or community? Balance between these things is a myth, but I like to think of holding these things in tension. Like a guitar string tuned correctly, the right tension will play a harmonious note. Holding societal, family or community expectations in tension with who we fully are can be done in the right harmony.

I do an exercise with clients called the “Who am I”. It is an exercise in discovering the layers of who we are in our body, mind, and spirit/soul. A full awareness of each layer and an alignment between them can help us discover who we are and how to step more completely into our whole selves.

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