“You teach people how to treat you.”
The first time I ever heard this concept was on an “Oprah Winfrey Show” episode some years ago. She followed it up with another truth: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time!”
When people have pathological tendencies or just general craziness, unless you’re a trained psychologist, there isn’t much you can do to change them – and women, especially, spend way too much time trying. But if you teach people how to treat you – and when we put ourselves in control and begin to rely less on others for our happiness – then the only person that you are working on changing is you.
And while it’s up to you to allow or not allow certain treatment, that means that you have to know how you want to be treated. Some of us have never given it any thought. You have to figure out basic guidelines. I have. And here are some examples:
I do not allow people to yell at me.
I do not allow verbal abuse.
I will not allow anyone to call me out of my name.
It also extends to certain behaviors like violence, or character flaws like habitual lying, emotional game-playing and other types of mental manipulation. I’m not having it.
Of course, there are times that I have slipped and accepted less than I deserve, especially in romantic relationships. But as with anything in life, that is part of the learning process.
Bottom line: In order for you teach people how to treat you, you have to be very clear on how you want to be treated, and then you must honor that clarity. Here are some steps to help get you there!
1. Know what you want – and what you don’t.
This can only happen if you take time to find out who you really are and what your needs are, as well. Get somewhere quiet – a park, a beach, in your car with the radio off (Sorry, Tom!), and ask God to help you come up with the answers. Then write those answers down. In time, your guidelines may change or you may want to add to them.
2. Learn from your current situation. Honor it.
If you’re in a good place, don’t take it for granted. Realize what path you took to get there, and memorize it. Same for if you’re not content. How can you do something different and make sure you don’t repeat the same steps? Ask yourself how you’ve allowed certain behavior from others in your life. Take one situation where you’re tempted to see yourself as a victim, or where you feel mistreated. Ask yourself how you allowed this to happen. You’ll be amazed at how often you may have ignored your own needs or desires because you felt guilty or didn’t want someone to be mad at you. Think about how can you do something different and make sure you don’t repeat the same steps.
3. Teach yourself how to treat you.
This may be the most crucial. Sometimes we’re our own worse enemy. When we beat ourselves up, dwell on our shortcomings, wallow in self-pity and dwell on our misfortune, that’s not sexy at all. Would you date you? Would you ask you to hang out after work? Forget about the weight you might need to lose or if you haven’t had the money to get your hair done. Let’s begin with the inside. We are created in God’s image, and we should act like it. When we begin to believe that about ourselves and carry ourselves like the beautiful creatures God made, others will see us that way too.
Now, honor your guidelines and practice it. If no one has told you how beautiful you are lately, tell yourself! Take care of yourself. Put more healthy things inside your body, and de-clutter your home and your contact list. If people are making you feel bad, delete them. But keep in mind that this is a process, not an event. It’s going to take time, love and commitment, but with each positive step, more will come.
It’s totally up to us – as moms, aunties and sisters – to set a precedent on what we will and won’t tolerate. We shake our heads when we see generational abuse in families, but children truly learn what they live and live what they learn. If you want to break the cycle or make sure you’re starting a healthy one, remember your responsibility to yourself and to those who are watching you.
Don’t assume that every child has been taught their value – or adult, for that matter. So, take it upon yourself to begin to speak something positive into the lives of others. Tell her she’s beautiful. Praise him for being a handsome gentleman. Give hugs, and receive them freely. You could be the light someone is seeking.
Click here for the fourth and latest episode of “Mamas Gone Wild.”
Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.