Unpicking the double standards

Part of the work I’ve been doing in recent weeks has been to try and unpick the logic holding together my personal reality. Without understanding the mechanics, it is difficult to make conscious and deliberate changes (but not, it should be noted, impossible.) There is history here, and lots of it, and I could tell stories of how I got to be where I am – but they are long and dull, and the stories underpinning your reality will be very different anyway.

I don’t know if it’s a bottom line, but the issue of double standards is a large and serious part of why I see things as I do. Being trained to accept and uphold a double standard underpins a reality of twisted logic and inherent unfairness. Perhaps it is because of the double standard that I do not protect my boundaries well and have on a number of occasions ended up far more involved with unreasonable people than was good for me. They are allowed to get angry about things, I am not. They are right, and I am wrong (always) they are good and I am unreasonable, they are perfectly acceptable as they are, I must work very hard and make lots of changes. And so on. Endlessly. It’s impossible to be happy if I don’t spot this early and step away from it.

My acceptance of the double standard has been absolute. In my toughest patches, ingesting the double standard further has left me feeling sub-human, made of straw, not a real person. Of course they would react this way. Of course they would treat me like this. And so I don’t stand up for myself, protect my boundaries or ask for what I need all too often, and I perpetuate the double standard still further and accept it as who I am. It becomes ok to hurt me, to ignore me, blow hot and cold, get cross with me, mess me about in any number of ways, make impossible demands.

There’s very little I can do about other people’s attitudes to me, current or historical. What I can do, and have done, is to question my own beliefs and choices. It hasn’t been easy, letting go of the idea that there is something about me which makes any kind of unkindness or lack of care make perfect sense. I’ve kept this story because it has allowed me to think well of people who I otherwise cannot think well of. It allows me to function in situations where otherwise I might quit and run away. I have come to the conclusion that this is not a good thing.

Habits and beliefs of a lifetime do not fall away overnight. To change this I am going to have to pay a lot of attention to my own emotional responses, to spot what I genuinely feel before I slip into suppression and co-operation mode. I have to watch my own thinking, alert to signs that I am letting someone else get away with something that would be totally unacceptable if I did it. I have to check my actions and make sure I’m not doing things that keep me in these loops. None of this will resolve quickly, but habits of thought can be changed.

I need to draw up some new lines about what is acceptable and what isn’t. I need to work out what is intolerable to me, draw a line, and hold it. Without these things, proper boundaries and a sense of self are just not available, and to go forward, I need to relate to myself as being as much a person as anyone else.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Unpicking the double standards

  • angharadlois

    Boundaries are tricky. I still struggle with them. Good luck finding a way forward with this, because it is such vital work.

    At the moment, having failed at the hard-and-fast boundaries I thought I ought to emulate, I am learning a different form of boundary setting, more appropriate to me. It is inspired partly (of course) by the way earth, water and sky all mingle in my estuarine home: there is a space between what I am and what everything else is – a mist, if you like, where everything mingles; I can meet each thing there and choose whether or not to let it further through. Sounds odd, perhaps, now I come to write it down. But if I ever make sense of what I am doing, I will try to write about it more 🙂

    n.b. not sure whether this perspective is at all helpful, but when describing the things you have recognised as wrong and realised you do not have to tolerate, you still give a lot of time and space to those harmful words – whole sentences about what it is not ok for you to do and what it is ok for others to do to you. It is a great step forward to acknowledge that it is not ok for you to be treated like that; I just worry that you are putting yourself through it all over again in describing that treatment in so much detail…

    • Nimue Brown

      I suspect I need to have some time being really hard with my edges, really clear and defined, just so that I know what that is. I like the language of mud and estuary, that really appeals, but I’m not ready for it yet…

  • Lesley

    It’s all about learning to respect yourself and finding yourself to be worthy, isn’t it? I know I’ve struggled long and hard with this – I do feel that, especially as women, we’re conditioned to believe that everyone, absolutely everyone is of far more worth than we are and therefore our boundaries can be mutable. We need (and I’m talking to myself here) to be far tougher with boundaries. No fly zones etc., (lol!). At least at first, until we are clear and sure of where and how we stand. It takes a lot of willpower though, to change a way of being. But…we can do it. The first step is recognising it, 🙂

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