Did you notice a meme going around with a photo of a pink or grey sneaker? It’s one of those optical illusions where some people see one color while others see something different. When I looked at it, I saw a grey shoe with mint laces. I showed the photo to my husband. He saw a pink shoe with white laces! This kinda sums up the United States right now. Not everyone sees things the way I do. Some say, “Pink or Grey doesn’t matter. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.” But here’s the thing, when I opened Photoshop and used the selector tool on the photo, it confirmed that the laces ARE mint green and the shoe IS grey. This is data. It’s not subjective. It’s not a matter of opinion. It just is.
The challenge is that when people are sure of what they’ve seen it’s hard to accept contradictory information.
Throwing reason at an emotionally charged belief usually falls on deaf ears. Pointing out facts only serves to amplify the opposition. This is a dynamic I witness many empaths experiencing. They sound the alarm. Others reply: “Move along, nothing to see here, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” It’s really easy to doubt your reality when practically everyone else says, “the shoe is DEFINITELY pink!” With this kind of invalidation, it’s only natural to second guess our choices. I can’t even count the number of conversations I’ve had about this. One sensitive after another shares their confusion and dismay as they watch people engage in risky or even downright dangerous behaviors. As a facilitator, I see how the fear of alienating loved ones, emotional exhaustion from countering unreasonable demands, years of gaslighting, and ongoing invalidation causes them to waver.
Imagine you’re the one sober person in a group of intoxicated people. You point out what’s obvious to you. They deny it. You shout “GET OUT!!!! The house is on FIRE!” They reply, “Don’t be such a party pooper.” Any alarm or concern is countered with ridicule and irritation. It’s easy to back down. It’s easy to “agree to disagree.” This is especially true when it means facing anger, bullying, and push back from loved ones. Yet, regardless of how many drunks back each other up, as the sober person, you’re the only one free from beer goggle distortions.
This reminds me of when I was first learning about addiction, abuse, and family systems. I discovered that in unhealthy environments, dysfunction is the accepted baseline reality. Completely inappropriate behaviors are the default. What’s confronted and corrected in healthy settings will be supported and maintained in broken ones. As we transcend dysfunction, we can identify problems we never noticed before. The challenge is, the rest of the system needs to preserve the old ways. Breaking free from these distortions is essential for recovery, health, and wellbeing. This means drawing a firm line and owning our truth despite everyone else.
It’s normal to experience resistance when we challenge the status quo.
It’s normal to face denial when we confront dysfunction. Yet, no matter how loud or petulant they are, bullies can’t alter the truth. When your bells and whistles go off, you have the right to honor what you know. You’re allowed to avoid the car when a drunk gets behind the wheel. This is actually the better choice. Let’s imagine a little kid demands chocolate cake for breakfast. I’m pretty sure you’d say, “that’s not gonna happen on my watch.” As adults, we understand the consequences better than they do, so it’s our job to protect them. Sure, the child might throw a tantrum. This doesn’t mean that letting them do what they want to do is right. Protecting their safety matters more than their happiness or you being liked. This is a metaphor for what’s going on today.
Of course, with consenting adults, it’s more complicated. Some folks remain hell-bent on keeping things the way they were, even after the roof has caved in. Sadly, this may mean they’ll suffer from the consequences of their choices. However, YOU don’t have to go down with the sinking ship. Sometimes acting with real love is the hardest choice. Sometimes it means setting boundaries with a lump in your throat and a pounding heart. Sometimes saving your butt requires letting go of those who will not or cannot adapt.
I share this today because many of the empathic women I know and work with are struggling with being the truth-teller and the limit-setter. Every day I hear about how they’re dismissed, invalidated, or criticized. Every day I hear how gaslighting stirs up their self-doubt to the point of questioning whether they’re making a big deal over nothing. I witness every one of them recognizing the same inconvenient truths. I notice the pattern. All of them are on the same page. We work together to suss out what’s true. We release the “you’re being too sensitive, overreacting, and making a big deal over nothing” messages. We explore where things are coming from and what’s actually theirs vs. what they’ve picked up from the world around them. We search for any triggers or emotional baggage that might affect their clarity. We take time to tune in and access the inner compass that resides within their own sacred heart. From all of this, I’ve distilled a message that many of us need to hear right now:
Don’t judge your empathic rainbow by colorblind standards.
Trust your instincts.
Listen to your heart.
You deserve to stick to your convictions, even if others break rules or pressure you to acquiesce.
Stay safe and keep you and yours out of harm’s way.
Jennifer Moore is a featured author in The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, 25 Tools for Stress Relief. Learn more about this book by joining our Book Club.
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