Thursday, February 17, 2011

Authority Figures

I'm slowly realizing that I have a hard time standing up to authority figures, whether they are real or imagined. I seem to lose all of my confidence when I perceive I'm being pressured to do something, and would prefer to take on extra stress for myself than to push back and say no. I did not see this before, and it's been a strange surprise to find it rearing up this week and look at possible root causes.

I have always told myself that I'm uncomfortable around older men because my relationship with my dad was so difficult, but it turns out these concerns are not limited to men. The women I perceive to be in authority over me cause stress when I disagree with something they tell me, or I want to make my voice heard. I don't think any of them actually hold any real authority over me, but if I have given them that place of honour in my mind, it doesn't matter whether or not its anchored in reality.

Seeing this for the first time is extremely interesting and I believe this understanding will help me in the future. I don't want to upset or offend anyone for any reason, particularly people older than me. By nature I want to get along, and keep the peace, but as I get older I am not willing to pay the personal price when it gets too high.

I can't be all things to all people, and no one really expects this of me. It's in my own mind. I am giving myself far too much credit when I worry that people will be crushed if I can't help them out or I don't do what they've asked me to do. Finding and holding boundaries is a critical exercise in learning to live as an adult in our busy and stressful world, and we have to teach our children how to do this respectfully as they grow up.

Most of our problems are rooted deep within ourselves. When I am upset, and stressed out, and can't seem to find a reason, it's worth the time to sit down and think about it until I find a reasonable answer. This week, the answer seemed so shockingly silly and trivial that I glossed right over it. But in my mind, I went back to it again and again, asking myself what I wanted to do, instead of what I felt I was being asked to do, and I found my answer.

There are many reasons for my issues with authority figures, but the reasons aren't as important as the discovery itself. Now that I'm aware of it, I feel a little less nuts than I did before this awareness dawned, and I can see the pattern repeating itself again and again in my past. Now hopefully I can stop it from holding any power over my future.

I want to help others, and respond positively to the authority figures in my life (and look at removing them as authority figures to create a more even playing field), but I also have a say. I need to put my own state of mind and the needs of my family higher on my priority scale, and I don't have to apologize for that.


  1. I really have a hard time with authority figures too. I think it's because my parents instilled a hard core respect for teachers, brownie leaders, grandparents, dance teachers, etc in us. Now as an adult I've always had trouble standing up to my bosses, even when they are in the wrong. It's scary no?

  2. I don't currently have any bosses, which is what made this realization so surprising for me, but yet I still cower a bit with teachers and coaches and anyone I place in a position of authority over me.

    It's good to be respectful, but not good to be intimidated and afraid to stand up for yourself or your kids with other people. Recognizing it is the first step to making small changes and realizing that the "authority figure" generally doesn't have the hang up; I do. They can ask me to do something, and I can choose to say yes or no, and it isn't nearly as big of a deal for them as it has been for me. An interesting process for sure.