How to Handle the Condescending Man in Your Life

Overheard on Thanksgiving in a Beverly Hills restaurant:

Loud, dominating customer:  Acting is a very tough business!  

Sweet, hard-working waitress smiling through her teeth with grit:  Yes it is!  

Loud, dominating customer:  Well hopefully one day lightening will strike and it'll happen for you.

Sweet, SAVVY, hard-working ACTRESS:  Ha.  Well I gotta tell you, there's nothing I love doing more and it makes me VERY happy!

This is a similar conversation I've had with strangers, friends, parents, parents' friends, and friends' parents that has driven me CRAZY over my seventeen years of pursuing acting.  

Does this life coach recognize she needs to do some thought work on judging the non-actors who judge the actors' choice to act?

ABSOLUTELY!  

But first, let's indulge in my DREAM RANT that I'd have loved to have unleashed on him,  which can often feel way more satisfying in the thick of the trigger BEFORE reaching for that higher perspective....which we all know will ultimately serve me better, bla bla blaaaaa.  

#1  How the hell do you not know that this woman may have already booked four guest star roles this year, which is a HUGE accomplishment for an actor, but life in LA still ain't cheap?! 

#2  How dare you project that the probability of this woman "making it" is slim to none.  You have NO IDEA how much she has accomplished, but you ASSUME because she's working at a restaurant on Thanksgiving that not much is happening for her.

#3  My turn to assume:  I'm guessing you've never pursued acting-- so who are you to tell her that her life choice is "tough?"  Maybe...MAYYYYBEEEE she LOVES the choice that she made-- waitress job and all.  

#4  It took everything in me to not walk over and bitch-slap you after berating your wife in front of your three grown sons who barely batted an eyelid at your behavior.

INSERT PAUSE FOR A BREATH.  (care to join?:)

As annoying as it is to hear yet another outsider state an opinion on something he couldn't possibly understand unless he was actually "in the arena" as Brene Brown loves to say, (or on the stage if you will) I knew I couldn't be THAT triggered over hearing the same ignorant remarks I've been hearing for years, regarding one's choice to pursue acting.  

I think what got me was his blatant condescension towards women, whether it was the help or his partner.  

Obviously there's a heightened sensitivity surrounding the treatment of women these days, and I think a great place to start is to begin utilizing the power of our words and establishing boundaries BEFORE it gets to the scarring experiences so many women have suffered through.  

I'm certainly not implying that if all these women had asserted themselves with their words, 100% of the cases could have been avoided, but there are a number of stories out there where the victims felt trapped, fearful, and powerless.   They smiled and/or politely deflected the advances that may have been prevented with a more direct and firm " HELL NO."

I'm extremely fortunate to have never experienced the kind of harassment and abuse that have been making the headlines over the last two months, but on a much smaller scale, I have a plethora of stories, being on the receiving end of a man's condescension.  

Over the summer, I was in a relationship with a "good guy."  

How do I know he was good?  He told me so when he broke up with me that he hoped one of my take-aways would be that I "now know what it's like to be with a good guy."

I shit you not.  

It's amazing how the heart can blind the mind-- I couldn't recognize how belittling such a statement like that was in the thick of the shock of the loss.  My only response was, "I've told you several times before that I've dated nice dudes besides you!"   

I was more focused on the fact that he wasn't the first nice guy in my life, than I was on how arrogant his unsolicited suggestion of what I got out of our relationship could be for me, considering he was doing the breaking up.

To my credit, there were a handful of moments in that relationship where I did stand up for myself when I felt his compliments were back-handed:  "Baby, can I just give you credit where credit is due?  You are being SO GOOD right now!"  

"Good" was in reference to me working hard to accept some fundamental qualities about him that didn't complement fundamental needs of mine.  

In fairness to my ex, who I actually think is a good guy who made some poor choices of words, I knew his intentions were genuine...but it was up to me to use my voice and share what didn't land right WITHOUT LOSING MY SHIT.   

"I appreciate you seeing me try and I hate to ruin a compliment, but can you understand how condescending you sound with that delivery?"  

And what I did love about him and our dynamic was that he'd totally recognize it, take responsibility, and immediately reframe.   

We all have our blind-spots.  We're all unaware of how we come off to others, even with the best of intentions.  

But nipping the condescension in the bud when you're on the receiving end is a vulnerable and brave move towards maintaining your power,  truth, and sense of self-worth.  

Teach others how to treat you.  Voices don't need to be raised.  Threats don't need to be made.  

If the response is belittling or you're considered "too much," walk away.  

Who knows?  Perhaps lightening will strike and they'll realize they should chase after you.

Happy Claire Your Mind Monday.

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