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Brave Enough to Be Authentic

Close your eyes for a moment and recall how you've spent the last 24 hours. What were your actions? Were they congruent, or in harmony, with your thoughts and feelings at the time?

In my experience with stepparents—particularly stepmoms—I've found a common phenomenon where the desire to protect the feelings of others or the uncertainty as to what to say or do are drivers for masking one's true self. As a result many individuals living in 'step' function in what could be called a false sense of being. While the reasons typically cited come from a place of caring it all too often results in resentment and a loss of self-identity.

How do you counter this? First, you acknowledge the fact that no one is a mind reader and although you may think your partner should know you well enough to be able to anticipate how something will make you think or feel, this is an unfair proposition that only sets you up for disappointment. Second, you give your thoughts and feelings a voice. They are far too important to leave to someone else to figure out.

If some topics are touchy or you're unsure how to broach something, follow these tips:

  1. Start small. Discuss one thing at a time despite if you have a laundry list of things to tackle. Unloading too much can backfire and have your partner instantly on the defensive.
  2. Use "I" statements. By doing so you take ownership of what you're communicating. The alternative is simply you passing the buck. How can you hold someone else accountable if you aren't able to do the same?
  3. Highlight the positive. If something's working be sure to point it out; being hyper-focused on only areas needing improvement will cause you to miss what's already working in your favor.
  4. Be transparent. If you’re unsure what to say or do share your uncertainty. You may find out the other person is just as unsure as you and they'll appreciate knowing they're not alone. 

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