Where did I go wrong when wanting compassion and equality around me?
Last year, I lost 4 out of 7 office plants because of my tendency to over water plants, “just in case”. The result was that they wilted and had to be replaced. The fact that something died in my care, really affected my self esteem, over and above losing my pet cat due to a freak accident. I learnt the hard way to water in limits, but I learnt it only about plants.
With people, I was still over-watering. As a leader who wanted to create an equal work place, I did not see where I was getting run over by my colleagues. My authority was being undermined, and asking for basic accountability, respect and work ethic was being seen as an “attack” on people’s freedom and dignity. If I was imagining this, then those of them who had interned with us and seen the work we put into getting clients, or those who had seen how other work places are, would not have seen our requirements as obvious. Uncannily, this is happening in my personal life too. People seem to not see what I give and when I ask, it seems like too much for them.
In therapy, me and my therapist have been talking why it is so hard to step into my power an value and rest there, and let the other person walk half the way and meet me in the middle. Is it a crisis of faith, where without over-extending myself, I don’t think people will stay/cooperate and I will not matter? My therapist often uses the word “fusing” when describing these relations, because people bring projections from their previous relationships, which I fall into. I feel like, not acting as per that projection is wrong to do, a disservice to that relational space.
An employee or colleague could be bringing in projections because of the authority figures they have had, expecting me to be all knowing, to guess their every need and to never say or ask of anything that could cause them discomfort or hurt. But I am NOT the person, the authority figure who hurt them in the past and so, when I am sure I am asking for something in the present which is a part of their duties, I am not doing something wrong. I need to know that and believe that fully and act according to it. If not, me playing into the fantasy of omnipotence will only mean that I keep letting them have a leeway, and one fine day when I do damage control, it will be seen as “too much”.
In friendships too, if the expectation is that I’ll always be warm, understanding and caring and desire to fit into their world and interests, and I continue to do that, I will never feel like my friends truly know me or care for me and the bond will always hinge on a fake self.
I went on like this for too long and the feared outcomes have happened anyway. In a way that sets you free to accept the losses and build a new way ahead. After this, a lot of people will go because they don’t get a full time nurturer in me. But those who stay will also be people who I can expect things from, and be myself with, and set boundaries and delegate with. If I do not overwater, if I dole out the warmth and nurturance in doses as per need, the plants are more likely to stay healthy, with a mix of challenge and support.