I met someone on the elevator today and had the most intriguing conversation in the middle of the casino floor. On the plane to Vegas he read an article about the difficulty for some people to engage in small talk. It listed alternative questions to ask instead of the awkward and generic conversation starters like “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?”. He asked my permission to to use me as a guinea pig with his new small talk strategy, which broke the ice and made is so easy anyway!
So he asked my name, then said “Okay Weslie, tell me three things that you need in your life.”
Whoa dude… that’s a little personal but I’ll play along. So here’s the list I shared and the reasoning along with it:
- I have to be unique. I think it stems from my name and growing up in a world where people don’t usually forget me because my name catches attention. As a result, I run hard and fast from people or companies that treat me like I’m just one person in a crowd. If I don’t feel valued for my unique perspectives or if I’m not recognized as extraordinary in some way, I’m out.
- I absolutely must be aware of my surroundings at all times and I have to know how people feel about me so I don’t have any surprises. I’m really good at reading a room, but I’m even better at reading individual people and their intentions. Without that ability I would be lost. I’m completely out of my comfort zone when I’m surrounded by people who are hard to figure out.
- I need to be heard; never ignored. I don’t waste words on anyone, so if I’m talking or writing it’s because I think there is value in what I have to share. Being ignored or dismissed is a clear message to me that I’m not worth the time or consideration and that my words are not important. Again, I’m out with a quickness.
The conversation ended with my new friend sharing the three things he needs in his life. He shared all the reasons but I’ll spare you the details:
- Stability and a plan that allows him to know where he will be in 5, 10, 15 years.
- Trust and honesty from everyone in his life.
- My phone number
So back to my #2… I clearly didn’t read him very well. I had no idea this was an elaborate pick-up scheme! Nevertheless, it was an interesting conversation that I’ll never forget. We also agreed that our top three needs in life will likely change depending on circumstance. I’ll remind myself every few months to go through this exercise again with someone new. Maybe Ryan will have better luck with the phone number bit on the next woman.
So what are your three?
Have you ever stopped to really evaluate the relationships in your life; whether current or ancient history? I’m going through this process and it’s led me to the realization that I have very little control over who comes and goes. This is a RED ALERT problem for me. I like to have my hands in everything. I’ll admit it: I’m a control freak. (If you know me well, this is where it’s okay to laugh.) I stress over the thought of anyone or anything affecting me personally without my direct consent. So before I enter into a relationship of any kind with someone new, I need to know the purpose and the endgame. And when things go south with that person (because they almost always do), I need an exit strategy. Every personal relationship I have goes through careful consideration, and every single one of them has a beginning to remember and an end to formulate. My instinct is to identify my options and know exactly how to run away from someone when the time comes.
Before you call me out, I realize this is unhealthy. My guard is always up and I am constantly working toward an ending instead of living in the moment and enjoying the beauty of human connection. I completely get it and I don’t need a lecture. This is just who I am as a person.
I have TONS of friends but my definition of a friend might not be the same as yours. We talk, text, go out on the weekends, and generally have a blast together. We know some of each other’s secrets and share inside jokes, but my friends never really get to know all of me. Most of my family never really gets to that point either.
I have friends, family, and then I have my people. They know who they are and they are few. They are my champions. There is no endgame, no exit strategy, no stress about their control over my life. They know everything about me that is possible to know and they don’t judge me for any of it. They see me for the mess that I can be and appreciate how I pull it all together on a daily basis. But most of all they support me through all of life’s challenges and never waiver in their love and understanding when I fail. If you don’t have champions in your life, you are missing out. But here’s the thing about relationships, if you don’t know what it’s like to be a champion for someone else, you’re REALLY missing out. That’s where the magic and intimacy of human connection truly happens, even when your circle is small.
I caught myself encouraging a friend today and the words he needed to hear are worth repeating for anyone struggling with similar feelings. At some level, the pep talk I gave him is something I desperately needed myself.
Be who you are, authentically and without regrets. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate your personal brand and your authenticity has not earned a space in your life. Your future, your success, your goals will never actually be yours if you keep worrying about what everyone else thinks. You have to know your value, own your flaws, have confidence in what makes you unique, and celebrate all of those collectively without fear of opinions. If someone doesn’t appreciate your quirks and what only YOU can bring to the table, move along!
Growing up as a female and literally living in a man’s world, there are some truths that I’ve simply come to view as normal that absolutely should be the opposite of normal. As with most people, my life experiences shaped me into the woman I am today: opinionated, direct, and strong-willed. But for some reason there are certain people and situations that force me into a more submissive demeanor. For instance, in the presence of sexually aggressive men I completely lose all control of my responses and emotions. When approached by these clowns I rarely stand up for myself or successfully tell them where they can shove it. So before I started this blog I went on a journey with some of the women in my life because I wanted to dig into the cause of this tendency for me to dial back my true self. I had no idea how horrific and eye-opening these discussions would be for all of us.
First of all, this was not a scientific study with data and stats so please don’t start quoting anything like that. This is merely a recap of conversations with friends, co-workers, family and in some cases, strangers on a plane.
I’ll lead with my conclusion: MOST women I talked with started the conversation by saying, “The first time I was sexually assaulted….” Let this sink in. We were not in a group setting and I did not strategically lead the discussions for an intended result. I’m not that clever.
Can you start a sentence in the same way? If so, I’m truly sorry and my heart aches for you. You’re part of my tribe – whether we know each other personally or not.
Here are a few highlights from my conversations:
- “I learned that if you just take it, the pain is more tolerable than if you refuse.”
- “The first time I was molested was by my grandpa. The family believed me but he was from a different culture and decade. That sort of thing wasn’t a big deal; similar to the way car seats weren’t given much thought when we were younger compared to now.”
- “He’s going to do what he wants anyway, no sense fighting it off.”
- “If I’m nice to him instead of telling him off when he makes a crude comment then maybe he won’t do anything physical.”
- “Well, there’s a fine line between consent and rape. Men aren’t always good at understanding the way we communicate.”
This topic has been on my mind for months. The conversations it triggered with other women transformed me into this new and improved version of myself. I’m not alone, there is no shame, and together we can speak out and start to make a difference.
The first time I was sexually assaulted was at the age of fourteen, in the home of a friend, at the hands of people I trusted. How about you?