When I discovered that “mediator” was an actual job, I was thrilled that I could get paid for what I had been doing most of my life – managing complex relationships and bringing people together. I felt I had finally arrived. Professionally, that is.
In my personal life, my desire for harmony had found expression in some very unhealthy dynamics. If Doormat was an Olympic discipline, I would have been a strong contender for the gold medal.
I was an expert in
- staying quiet to keep the peace;
- putting other people’s needs first at the expense of my own well-being;
- arranging myself around whatever circumstances presented themselves;
- finding new ways to please everyone, hoping they would like me; and
- meeting others’ expectations to fit into their vision of life.
My legal and conflict resolution training had equipped me with solid communication skills and the ability to handle tense situations, and I was great at using these skills for my clients’ benefit. But for some reason, I was unable to do the same thing for myself. I had no desire to overpower anyone, and the only other option I saw was to retreat and accommodate.
Fortunately, I found a way out of this painful dynamic. Surprisingly, at least to my very intellectual self, the key was not more mindset work - although that certainly helped. The fundamental shift toward how I now approach conflict situations, and how I live my life in general, occurred through working with my body.
In 2007, after having been a couch potato for most of my life, I began martial arts training. As I learned how to defend myself against physical attacks, I developed a sense of empowerment that transferred to all areas of my life. By the time I earned the rank of Shodan (first degree Black Belt) in Kenpo Karate, I no longer felt like a victim.
Along the way, I also discovered Yoga and became fascinated with how our posture and alignment affects how we feel - not only on the mat, but in everyday situations. Through years of personal practice and three teacher certifications - Yin and Vinyasa Yoga through YogaWorks (RYT 500) and Embodied Yoga Principles, I learned something that literally changed my life:
The most effective starting point for changing my emotional state and my behavioral patterns is to change how I hold my body and how I move.
I now consciously use my posture and breathing to stay confident, calm and focused.
I am no longer afraid to
- speak up for myself in a way that is kind yet badass,
- set firm boundaries that respect everyone - including me,
- honor my own needs as much as those of others, and
- be my authentic self.
These days, when people try to walk all over me, they don't get very far. I still don't like to fight, but I could - and would! - if I ever had to. The prospect of conflict no longer sends me into hiding, and I can now use all my fancy communication skills - even in the most challenging conversations. As a result, my relationships are more balanced and meaningful, and I am so much happier.