Living Life on Autopilot
I’m fascinated by how often we are on autopilot and then wake up thinking “how did I land here?” It could be something big, like taking a job in a company where the values clash with yours, or getting entangled in a relationship with someone who is totally wrong for you. Or it could be something small like what I experienced on my Southwest flight to San Diego this weekend…something small but significant.
Thursday night, I flew with Jeff to San Diego. He likes the window, and I’m not fussy when it’s a short flight. I am sitting in the middle seat with an adult male on each side of me.
The seats on Southwest Airlines are better than the average airline seat so you can sprawl out a little. But guess what? Everyone’s comfy…but me. My elbows are pressed close to my ribs. The man on my left is spread out with a computer, a book and a newspaper, and he’s wearing headphones. The plane has wi-fi so Jeff is also plugged in and comfortably watching a TV show on his phone. By comfortable I mean he has claimed the 2 armrests just like the man on my other side.
I notice I have no armrest and I have squeezed myself into the smallest possible space. I point out to Jeff that he has both armrests and say I would like to use the one that is between us. It’s not a problem. He relinquishes the shared armrest to me. (This is one benefit of waking up to your automatic patterns – you get to ask for something you want!)
The Incredible Shrinking Woman
Less than 5 minutes later, I have abandoned the armrest, I am hugging my ribcage with my arms crossed over my chest, and my body is scrunched into the space inside the seat.
So I start over. I begin to spread out my limbs and sit up straighter. I reclaim the armrest – because when I constricted myself, Jeff expanded and he had automatically appropriated the vacant armrest. Again, no outside opposition.
15 minutes later, here I am again – needing to do it all over.
This in-flight comedy raised the question, is it me? One way to tell is to push against the limits of your comfort zone and see what happens. When “they” don’t push back, is it possible that perhaps it’s you who needs to change her behavior?
At the same time, I felt great that I recognized that I was on autopilot, because my awareness created the opportunity for me to choose how I wanted to behave, instead of letting my unconscious programming drive me.
Don’t Drink the Kool-aid
Where in your life do you need to take up more space? Do you relinquish your rightful space because you are on autopilot? Do you take up less space than you want, with your body, your gestures, your verbosity, your volume, your goals?
Do you hold on to unspoken but still powerful rules that keep you from living large? For some of us, it’s really old stuff about being ladylike (remember being told to keep your legs crossed?!?). What about rules about not speaking too loudly? Even the pressure to be thinner and smaller is part of the reason women don’t take up the right amount of space.
As adult women, we can say no to the Kool-aid that we were happy to drink when we were kids.
The first step in making any kind of change is becoming aware of what is currently going on inside of you. Take a minute and notice how you sit, stand, speak, and walk.
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