Teach People How to Treat You

I was reading “Tell Me About It” in my local newspaper this morning – it’s an advice column written by Carolyn Hax, and today’s subject involved a woman having a disagreement with her sister over some travel arrangements. The exact details of the discussion aren’t really what sparked this post, though…what got me thinking (and writing) this morning was the advice given to the writer by Carolyn:

Since you’re smarting at the criticism instead of calling her on her disregard for boundaries – or just on the silliness of her demand that adults not be treated as adults – I suspect she isn’t just clueless, but instead accustomed to pushing you around. And you’re accustomed to taking it.

That got me to thinking…how many times have you (have I) decided to make changes in our lives and let other people’s reactions slow us down / stop us in our tracks? I am blessed to have had the full support of my immediate family (my husband and daughter) throughout my weight loss journey, but I can remember times when that was not 100% true. Sometimes, they would eat things I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – and the resentment would rise in me.

Rather than subject them to blaming, emotional upset and arguments, I decided not to suffer in silence. I called a family meeting and spoke to them from my heart – using I, me, my language to avoid blaming – and told them how it made me feel when they ate things around me that I couldn’t indulge in. I let them know that I felt left out and to a certain extent betrayed. I tried hard to make them understand that I needed their support and help – and my message came through loud and clear.

Now, if they want to indulge in something I can’t (or decide not to) have, they either do it when I’m not home, or when they are out and about running errands. They still get to have their treats, I get to avoid the stress of looking at / being tempted by things I can’t have, and everyone’s happy. I should also add that they have modified their eating style and plan to incorporate the healthier foods I have decided to make a primary part of my eating plan, and we are all happier and healthier as a result.

Ultimately, you can teach people how to treat you – if you are struggling with weight loss, developing an exercise habit, or just changing to a more positive set of behaviors, you MUST be your own advocate. Don’t hold in resentment against those you share your life with because they don’t give you the support you want / need / desire. If it’s your family – those you see everyday for long periods of time, you should have a sit-down discussion with them and express your desire for their support and assistance. Now this doesn’t mean you’ll magically get it – not all the time – but at least your motivations and your intent will be crystal clear. If they choose not to support you, then you have an additional decision to make and perhaps some modifications to your lifestyle.

Avoiding situations (and yes, sometimes people) who do not support you in your journey toward increased health and happiness can be difficult – but YOU and your goal to be the best YOU possible are worth every minute of it…worth every modification you have to make, worth every action you have to take to reinforce your positive new direction. Saboteurs sometimes can’t admit to what they are doing – the relative who continually tells you you’re too thin, the well-meaning friend who tells you to ‘ease up’ on your tough workouts – they are most of the time well-meaning, but they’re also afraid of being left behind.

There’s a certain sense of comfort about who you USED to be – people thought they knew you, what you stood for, and sometimes they compared themselves to you and they came out ahead. Now that you’ve changed for the better – you are getting stronger, healthier, more assured, more confident – and they are suffering in their own minds by comparison. I was always the “good friend”…the girl / teen / woman who was no threat because my weight caused me to see myself as unattractive and I didn’t do anything to raise my own self-esteem and self-confidence. I was the perfect backdrop for a more confident, attractive, ‘together’ friend who could, in their own slightly selfish way, look great by comparison with me.

It wasn’t until I began my journey to better health, making the decision to live a better life through weight control and exercise, that my innate strength came to the surface. I began to realize that if I could accomplish an 85 lb weight loss, if I could go from not being able to walk 20 minutes at a clip to walking miles at a time, if I could go from someone who said “I’ll never be a runner” to completing a 5k, I could do ANYTHING. My confidence and assuredness grew by leaps and bounds, and so did my desire to stop “taking” unsupportive behavior from people in my life.

Teach people how to treat you – you don’t have to cut unsupportive people out of your life forever, unless they refuse to change – and by teaching them how to treat you, everyone wins.

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