I was once afraid of people saying, “who does she think she is?” Now I have the courage to say, “This is who I am.”
Ah … that’s easy for Ms Oprah ($2.9billion) Winfrey to say. Or is it?
We all know that people are nurtured, shaped and conditioned by their environment. ‘The fruit never fall far from the tree’ is the biblical adage. Yet Miss Winfrey defies this well-trodden expectation. She was born into poverty in racially segregated rural Mississippi, to a single-parent. She was raped at 9 years old, and became a parent herself at 14. In spite of this, she has managed to become one of the most successful people in broadcast media.
I use the word ‘managed’ in a pertinent and deliberate way. Of course I have never met Ms Winfrey, but can imagine that she has encountered more than a few raised eyebrows, snide put-downs and attempts to subdue her spirit along the way. Her response to this was to ‘manage’ herself in the face of the copious challenges. She created a vision of herself that was indefatigable, based upon her goals and intended outcomes: not on the arduous circumstances of her past.
The upbraiding remark/insinuation – ‘who do you think you are?’ is particularly searing when delivered to a woman, because we have been conditioned to please and acquiesce to the expectations of others. When it is said or suggested to you, how do you respond? What do you do to manage yourself and your environment? What stratagems are in your kit-bag that enable you to take control of your psycho-emotional state, and not be subject to it?
Here are a few tips:
- Check the source material. Recall what was actually said, rather than implied. Only the bravest have the courage to assert a negative opinion in a forthright way (especially if they have a British passport ). If no one says what they think directly, then we may interpret wrongly. Sometimes when we think that someone has a negative opinion of us, it is just a distorted assumption that we’ve created, based upon our own fearful opinion of ourselves, wrapped up in our desire to please and be accepted by others. If this is the case, then we can take steps to re-condition ourselves to a state of acceptance and self-love.
- Check the attitude. If you are particularly affected or confused by someone’s behaviour toward you, get clarity. Gently ask – “is everything alright?” That way, everyone gets a chance to communicate openly.
- Re-focus attention on the person posing the challenge: It’s not a question of who you think you are, it is who does the questioner think they are to prescribe your behaviour and objectives in life? It really says a lot about a person’s character when they make it their business to limit the ambitions and progress of others.
- We are all uniquely special. Within that uniqueness we conform to neurological ‘types’ in the ways that we psychologically process the information that we receive using our sensory acuity, chiefly through visual, auditory and kinaesthetic means. We can use this to mentally reinforce ourselves and develop our resilience by changing the pictures/soundtrack/texture of our perceived realities in our minds. Create calm within by neuro-coding the experience and your response:
Visual Representational thinkers – Turn the offender into a faded black and white picture, getting dimmer and dimmer by the second. Obscure the image with translucent filters and shrink it. Keep on dimming, obscuring and shrinking the image until it disappears.
Auditory Representational thinkers – As a sound – distort it: speed it up and muffle it; then lower the volume until it is inaudible.
Kinaesthetic Representational thinkers – As something tactile, manipulate it like play-dough. Enjoy its yielding pliability within your grasp. Stretch it, roll it, and squash it, then fling it away with all the force and power you can.
And finally – do an Oprah. Raise your head, push out your flat/ample chest and say, with courage and conviction: “This is who I am!”
If you’re feeling extra feisty and bodacious you can even add an extra Jacquie Russell ‘rider’ – “ if you don’t like what I do or how I do it … that’s OK. You’ll get over it, and so will I.”
Thanks for reading.
Personal Development Coach ~ Straight Ahead Coaching Ltd