Have Your Own Back: Tools to Help Master this Practice

February 04, 2024

Throughout the coaching program I was involved in last Spring, the most important takeaway I had was to always have my own back. Seems relatively simple, almost obvious, but this concept felt foreign and even radical when it was first introduced to me. As I have practiced having my own back (yes, practiced, because it’s a skill one must develop through experience), it has been revolutionary and life-altering.

In those twelve hour-long zoom calls, my coach offered me tools and tricks that I could put to use in tough situations and conversations, which has provided me with a new paradigm about womanhood and what it means to show up to my own life. Self compassion, turns out, wasn’t always modeled to me, and so making the choice to be kind to myself hasn’t come naturally.

Outsourcing our Knowing

If you have people-pleasing tendencies (don’t we all as women), then this concept will perhaps feel radical to you, too. What I didn’t realize was happening throughout my life until it was brought to my attention, was that I was outsourcing my power, my knowing, my feelings to others. It’s common for women, because of the way we are conditioned, to suppress our feelings about things in order to “Keep the peace” or make others comfortable. We don’t want to be a burden. This is not always a bad thing, but it comes with a cost when it is our default setting. The price we pay in the name of being accommodating is the loss of our self worth. And this is why so many of us can feel lost or like we don’t actually know what we want. Because for a lot of us, did we ever really have the opportunity to explore that question honestly? Seems like so many of the choices we make and have made are societal prescriptions or roles and expectations that have been passed down to us from our parents and caregivers. Because of that, many of us haven’t had practice in naming what we want or standing up for ourselves.

Resentment Festers

If our default is to think everyone else knows better than we do, or that we should stay quiet so as not to ruffle feathers, we slowly die inside. Resentment can fester which can create a firestorm in our souls. It can be really confusing to know how to deal with resentment when we don’t understand and acknowledge that it didn’t come from us. In other words, it’s not our fault that we feel resentful, but it is still our responsibility to fix it and take our lives back. So, how do we fix it?

As I stated earlier, we are born into systems that seem to diminish the wants and desires of women. We are good at playing the parts we were told to play, and in doing so, we trade our humanity for acceptance.

Don’t complain. Don’t speak too loud. Don’t want things. Don’t have opinions. Be accommodating, not confrontational. Don’t be angry.

It’s a one-way road to burnout and self-betrayal.

Here are some of the tools my coach offered me to master the practice of having my own back in hard situations:

1. Notice and Name

Notice what is hard and NAME it (example: this person that is close to me disagrees with a decision I have made and that makes me feel uncomfortable because I don’t want to disappoint them).

2. Come Back Into Your Body

Before your conditioned thoughts take over and run the show (ie. maybe what I’m doing is wrong/I don’t want to upset this person so I’m not going to have a hard conversation/disagreement is too uncomfortable for me/what if they are disappointed in me and it ruins our relationship/I don’t deserve the thing I want/maybe I am being selfish/maybe this person knows better than I do), come back into your body and pay attention to your emotions. Take deep breaths and remind yourself you are okay and that your desires and emotions are valid. You are allowed to feel how you feel, so own it.

3. Use the Hard Pass OR Loving Engagement Strategies

Hard Pass is just what it sounds like: Tell yourself you will not let your conditioning run the show, and give the mad woman in the attic (aka the bully of our inner voice) a HARD PASS. Basically: Not today, mad woman in the attic! Byeeeee!

Loving Engagement is more of a conversation between the REAL you and the mad woman in the attic (the conditioned you). Gently put your hand on your heart and tell yourself “Of course these thoughts are running amok, of course I don’t feel worthy, of course this conversation feels hard, of course I don’t want to disappoint this person. However, I will not oursource my feelings to others. I will give myself compassion and stand my ground because I know what is best for me, even if that causes some discomfort”).

4. Move around and Shake Off the Negativity

This is a step that can help if we feel stuck in the moment. Sometimes taking a short walk or even just standing and moving a bit can help dissipate the thoughts that feel consuming and provide us a reset before we return to the difficult moment with more confidence.

5. Say/Do the Thing that is Best for You Without Apology

Now have the hard conversation, stand your ground, establish or hold a boundary or do whatever the moment requires from you that will ensure that YOU HAVE YOUR OWN BACK.

Sometimes I feel like an imposter when I utilize these tools, but that’s only because I am new at prioritizing myself. After having hard conversations it’s normal to experience a vulnerability hangover or a sense of “fake guilt.” It will take time to develop and strengthen the muscle of self-trust and self-compassion, but with intentional practice, standing up for ourselves without apology will become the default setting. And what a better way to live in this world! I would rather disappoint others than disappoint myself, wouldn’t you?

As Glennon Doyle so wisely says, “When a woman finally learns that pleasing the word is impossible, she becomes free to learn how to please herself.”

you might also enjoy Knowing Your Worth: How To Honor Your Feelings And Live Unapologetically

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