Recently a very bright, professionally accomplished client in her 40‘s asked me, “Is it okay to have my own thoughts?” She wasn’t kidding - she meant it! Although she had had a Ph.D., and was a sought after speaker and teacher, emotionally she was a “people pleaser” who was taught early on that it was “selfish” to be too stuck on her own thoughts. In her personal life, she was easily swayed by the thoughts and opinions of others, deferring to them so she would not be seen as “selfish. Interestingly enough, we chuckled together over the fact that the message came from her very critical and overbearing mother who demanded that her daughter put her mothers needs over her own.
After all she was the mother! It only occurred to my client after 40 years in my office, that her mother was projecting - in fact her mother was the selfish one!
In the course of counseling, she realized that her attempt to be “nice” was really a way to ensure that she was liked for being a “good girl.” She lived her life enabling others and was needy of other’s approval. She doubted herself and her own rights, and found herself enabling an over bearing husband and ended up confused, depressed and anxious! Only by giving up the need to be liked and identifying her own rights could she learn to better manage her own stress level.
She found that by identifying her Basic Human Rights she felt more confident in asserting herself and setting limits with her co-workers and family. These are some that she came up with:
I have a right to set limits with my coworkers and family
I have a right not to be responsible for making other people happy
I have a right not to pick up the slack for other’s lack of conscientiousness
I have a right to be assertive even if they do not like it.
I have a right to ask for more help.
I have a right to not be “superwoman” who is loved and revered by all.
I have a right to make mistakes
I have a right to not live up to other people’s expectations of me
Best of all, she felt finally empowered enough to buy herself a beach chair! Even though she grew up spending summers at the ocean, she was so caught up taking care of her mother it never dawned on her that she could actually sit and relax on the beach in her very own beach chair! In fact, she was not permitted to go to the beach as her sickly mother did not like the beach. My client knew that she had had made a turn in her life when she bought herself a beach chair after 40 years, and in fact she keeps the beach chair in the back of her car, ready at a moments notice when she felt like she deserved a treat to sit out, even if the ocean is over a hundred miles away!
This client example showed me the importance of helping a client stop being a “people pleaser” and enabler by identifying Basic Human Rights. For those who have been emotionally abused and taught to be co-dependent early on, these basic human rights are not even identified. She never did learn to view that she had the rights that most of us see as undeniable. Identifying her Basic Human Rights allowed her to take control of her life and be emotionally strong and confident... and finally get her very own beach chair!
Are there clients that you have that could benefit from identifying their own Basic Human Rights.? Help them make a list! Has identifying these rights helped your clients in their work with you? I would love to hear!
Judy Belmont is a counselor, mental health speaker, and the co - author of "The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life: How To Get Through Life's Holes Without Getting Stuck In Them!". More information at www.judybelmont.com