Truth: I can be really good at following the rules.
When I was little I couldn’t wait to get up on weekend mornings and rush over to the small park across the street from my suburban home. But my mom had a strict rule about not crossing that street by myself. So she’d take my hand and walk me over to the park and leave me with clear instructions: call me when you’re ready to come home, and I’ll come and get you.
By call me she meant yell for me. It helped that our house was only about 30 feet from the park and I had pretty good lung power, even at that age.
I always obeyed this rule. Even the time my mom was in the back of the house and didn’t hear me, I stood there, waiting. And calling. Until the next door neighbor came and shepherded me back home.
To this day I’m still cautious when crossing a street.
Truth: Back then, many rules were Big and Explicit.
We probably all agree that it still makes sense to look both ways before you cross the street.
But there were a whole bunch of other Explicit Rules when I was a child. BIG rules that didn’t make much sense.
Like social norms and standards about appropriate behavior and attire. Who was okay and who wasn’t okay to affiliate with. What you could and couldn’t talk about. Right and wrong desires. Whom you could marry.
Now, a lot of those big, Explicit Rules and outdated conventions have collapsed like old decaying buildings.
Hallelujah for that.
Truth: We still have a lot of rules but they’ve gone underground. Now, they’re Implicit Rules.
I’ve worked with a dozen women this past year who are struggling with the Implicit Rules.
It’s particularly confusing for them because these days the message is that there are no rules. Instead, it’s all about being yourself: Real. Authentic. Anything goes.
But these women are smart. They look around. They suspect there are Implicit Rules in place, evidenced by what they hear. Or what they see online and in the media. Or even the pressure they feel from their peers.
The rules that tell them…
-Where they should be by a certain age.
-How much money they should be making.
-What they should have accomplished.
-The kinds of work they should be doing.
-How they should look and talk.
-What they should eat and wear.
-How many kids they should have.
-The kind of person they should marry.
-What their houses should look like.
It’s a case of Should, times infinity.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Sounds an awful lot like a new version of the big, Explicit Rules I grew up with.
In their own way, the new rules are just as challenging as the old ones, because now no one talks much about them.
Truth: I’m fierce about helping my clients dig down to find their deepest wisdom, their quiet knowing, the voice that tells them what truly matters and what rules they can discard.
It was only when I finally started questioning the rules that I got a glimmer of what truly mattered to me. But I had to be very gentle with myself.
So I let my clients lead the way through this. I let it be their process.
More often than not, they’ve already taken the first steps. They show up for our first session with some part of them knowing they can’t abide the rules any longer.
Often, they feel exhausted because they’ve been on the hamster wheel of rule-following for quite a while. So they may need time to work through the letting go and grieving of the identity and life that isn’t them. But when they come out on the other side…wow.
I could tell you some cool stories about how these women are crossing their own metaphorical streets, not waiting for permission. And doing some amazing stuff.
(But I won’t. Tell you, that is. Because, you know, confidentiality reigns supreme in my biz.)
Truth: I have a responsibility to not get sucked in by the Implicit Rules.
This is a sobering truth for me. As someone who has a history of following the rules, there’s always the possibility of getting pulled in again. It happens at an almost unconscious level, in fact.
So I’ve got to stay conscious of that.
Because today I see, like never before, how much of a disservice that would be to both myself and my clients.
It would just keep the cycle repeating.
Truth: There are lots of times in life when you’ve got to break the rules and cross those metaphorical streets on your own.
Question: What streets are you ready to cross?
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