Sunday, October 5, 2008

Keeping personal power ...

Master Kan:
Is it not better to see yourself truly than to care how others see you?

It seems there's always a mean girl or two in every school. A bully who tries to put down others, or exclude from her private clique. Someone so insecure that the only way she can feel superior and confident is by stepping on others who she perceives as weaker and "less than" she is. (I think we can agree that some mean girls grow up but don't outgrow their predatory behavior.)

My daughter had to deal with her fair share of mean girls in school. I always taught her "Never give away your power to others." I told her that when she ignores others' remarks, she keeps her power; when she answers back in hurt or anger - when she attaches her energy to the situation - she has lost her power and has given it to her tormentor for her tormentor to now use against her. Stay detached. If you don't engage, if you don't invest yourself, you don't give away your power.

This may seem silly, but Super Nanny teaches the same lesson. When a child is having trouble sleeping in their room, she has the parents place the child in their bed, say "It's bedtime now, honey." and then leave. If the child gets up, put them back in bed, say "It's bedtime." and leave. If the child gets up again, put them back in bed, without a word. In other words, don't engage with them, stay detached. Eventually, after seeing that you aren't giving them your power - by giving the child your attention, fussing over them, reading or getting drinks of water - the child just gives up and stays in his room and sleeps. It's not a fun game if only one is playing. Same with bullies.

My granddaughters spent the night Saturday so we could go to our church festival today, and as always we spent a lot of time gabbing, with me asking them about friends, school, etc. My youngest told me that an older girl at her school called her "Ugly." Fortunately, she didn't seem overly concerned about it. She knows she's not ugly, with her long lashes, crystal blue eyes and button nose. But I told her the same thing that I told her mom: ignore it. Don't engage, don't give them your power. You know your own truth. You are not ugly and her saying you are doesn't make it so.

The other day, as I was sitting at the light to make a right turn, a guy came up on my right on a bicycle, glared at me and yelled "b*itch!" I ignored him. I know I'm not one and him calling me that doesn't make me one. He yelled it again, as if daring me to respond. I don't know if he was mentally ill or thought I was his ex-wife or something, but I just didn't engage. I told a friend about this and she said "Oh, I'd have told him off! How dare he! That's just rude!" She would have engaged, given the bully her power and had an argument with him. Why? What would be accomplished by that? She'd just be upset and angry and then she'd have that negative energy attached to her. I stayed detached and went merrily about my day, free of his energy because I'd simply ignored him and didn't let his words attach themselves to me.

Other's opinions can be valuable when offered in a helpful manner. They help us learn and grow if our hearts are open and able to sift through the opinions to find those words that speak to us with an honest voice. We can learn by listening to others. But we have to listen with discernment, careful to listen through our hearts, discarding those words that don't resonate with us, never giving away our personal power.

If a bully says that I'm a terrible person, and I don't think that I am, who is "right?" It's all perception. I can listen to his/her criticisms carefully and thoughtfully, but ultimately, the way I perceive myself is what counts, and I won't allow myself to be put into a labeled box that someone else tries to impose upon me with their words. How I react to the mean girls is up to me.

added 10/6: At the bottom of my blog I have a self-meditation widget. Today's self-meditation seems to affirm today's post. Ironic. Excerpt:
Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your own mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others.

May all your interpretations today be positive and happy! - Rose


paintergal said...

This is a wonderful philosophy, but I think it's dependent on your personality how easily you could implement it.
To someone who takes things in and mulls over them, it would be more difficult to ignore a bully's remarks. I still ache from an 8th grade girl telling me I was ugly while in junior high.
If you can teach your granddaughter to stay detached in those kind of circumstances, that would be a good life skill to have.
Thought provoking, Rose!

Rose said...

I'm so sorry that you're still carrying that remark around, PG, and that it's still so sticky for you. You know it ain't true; you are beautiful. Let those words "You are beautiful" stick to you instead and release the other remarks. They just aren't your truth and they don't belong to you.

Ann said...

My son was bullied during his nursery school days and it pains me so much to see his pain. He was even hurt once and I have to go to the Guidance Office to complain. Inasmuch as I don't like my son to be bullied I also do not want him to learn how to hurt another person even if it is just for self-defense because he might get used to it.

Kat said...

Rose...We have handled bullies much the same way in this house. With an added the person who bullied someone you admire for any reason? No? Than why do you let their opinion matter.
Physical abuse is a whole nother ball game. Zero tolerance means just that. My mama bear comes out.
Im not going to stalk down anyone with a baseball bat but I am going to report and hope that justice is served. are beautiful inside and out! I remember the mean girls...I prefered my own company to theirs. Me and my books were very happy together. lol!

Rose said...

Ann - The world needs more peace energy, not violence. That's great that you're teaching your son not to respond with violence, if possible. I love the example of Kwai Chang Caine from Kung Fu.

Kat - I love the added question! I don't understand why anyone would "own" someone else's garbage.

Amber said...

Rose, as always, love your thoughtful post.

I never dealt with bullying as a kid, but like anyone else, I do sometimes encounter bullies as an adult. You are so right...they are much more insidious in some ways. Not all are as freakishly direct as your bicyle dude. (What was up with THAT?) I find the "mean girls" are especially adept at sugar coating their approach as adults. SOme are insecure but I often seem to attract hypercompetitive women and I have actually been doing some self-reflection about what I might be doing that makes these women seek me out. Because it happens more than it should.

Anyway...back to bullying. I am all about not giving away my power in life, but I also believe people treat you the way you allow them to. You still have to stand firm on how you will let people treat you, or you set up bad, sometimes perpetual cycles.

I encourage my kids to stay calm and in control, but to look the offender in the eye and say, "enough". (I'm paraphrasing). I'll also be the first to tell you that I'd be proud of my kids if after repeated civil attempts to get a bully to stop, they hauled off and punched them! :-)

Lynn said...

I love you, Sister Rose. More than you'll ever know.

Lady Prism said...

"We do not see others as they are, we see others as WE are. - Anais Nin

I live this today. I no longer allow other people's opinion of who I am, how I should speak, how I should act, how I should dream affect me. But as life is, even those who are nearest and dearest to us can say the most hurtful words in the peak of n argument. Like what happened just a few weeks ago between my
eldest son and me.

I was stunned that he could say something so hurtful( he referred to me as a "drama queen" - among other things).
I took a moment to breath and just be quiet. Then I turned my back and walked away.

In my younger days, I would have run him down with chastisement. It took all my strength to just be silent. A mean word from a stranger is something I can deal with, but when something hurtful comes from someone you love, that is the ultimate gravest pain.

He came to me after an hour and sincerely apologized.I told him I understood, but needed a day, perhaps two, to just be quietly by myself and so he must not take it wrongly if I were not as attentive to him. By this I wanted him to understand that words, though just mere puffs from our vocal chords, create or destroy people. He got the lesson.

I grew up in a town where people whispered about me and talked about me for being different. My playmates bullied and laughed at me,I was called all sorts of different names. I was the ultimate ugly among uglies. I believed everything they all said.

It took the genuine kindness of one friend to make me realize how special and beautiful I am inside. Eventually, I married that friend.

Everything you wrote here is true. It is how we perceive ourselves that define who we really are. And we do wield the power to be the greatest of what we can be.

ps: sorry this comment is long and seems to be centered on myself. Your post made me recall a few things from my past.