We Teach People How to Treat Us

By: Peggy Willms

Posted in BizCatalyst360 on 11/23/2022

(7 min read)

I recently experienced the anger dealt by Mother Nature, who brewed up a 155-m.p.h. concoction named Hurricane Ian. Living in Southwest Florida, you become acclimated to conversations swirling around planning, prepping, and positioning regarding such natural disasters. We increase our supply of canned goods, batteries, and candles. With the expectation of power loss, gas and propane tanks are filled, cash is withdrawn from the bank, and Ziplock bags of water are frozen. Tubs and sinks are filled in case the water shuts off. Shutters are inspected as they will inevitably be drawn shut. Piggyback phone chargers are ready to go, and flashlights and the AM radio are close.

As well as you can plan, prepare, and position yourself, you are still anxious about the unknown. I expected the unknowns of nature. I did not expect the reactions or lack thereof from others.

We lost power for four and a half days. Being disconnected from the world was something I had never experienced before. After a hurricane, you quickly assess damages. Not being able to determine how the world was outside our neighborhood was one of the most out-of-control situations I have ever felt. We sat hour by hour, day by day, for the power to be reinstalled so we could reconnect with the world around us. Being severed makes you realize the extent of our connection with people and the news when you are no longer plugged in, literally.

We had just moved into our new home two months ago. We run two businesses from home, which hasn’t allowed us the time we should have carved out to meet our new neighbors. This event forced time blocks for building those relationships we would have never created.  Absolute strangers started banging on the windows and doors to see if we were all right; do you need more buckets, towels, food, ice, and coffee? COFFEE? We exchanged food, supplies, and stories. Truly one of the best experiences to come out of this horror.

When power was restored, I tried desperately to fall back into the routine I once lived, which started with my coffee and laptop sitting on the lanai. As the sun would rise each day, my conversations with the animals and the world ensued. On day five post-Ian, my senses were overstimulated with all the devastation around me. Emotions flooded in like 16-foot surges.

The information didn’t file in slowly, allowing us to align our experience with the rest of the area. Just as quickly as the power switch flipped, giving us access to the rest of the world, my emotions hit from black to white, off to on, dark to light. The cell towers were fickle in their willingness to join the after-party. The reception was spotty. Some texts came in from days earlier; many were duplicates.

Trying desperately to find any bit of normalcy, I tackled my workload. Just as a storm leaves devastation in the physical aftermath, mental health is also found in its rubble. The feelings of depression, survivor’s guilt, or even PTSD are palpable. I was not only unprepared for this demolition but also unprepared for the lack of support from family, friends, and clients. Yes, I said it. And I cannot help how I feel. I also accept ownership.

I have taught people how to treat me.

On day six, I was able to check my social media platforms and see not only how people were doing but if they were checking in on us. I hate to admit it, but YES, I needed to know if my survival mattered to anyone. After a quick review, I sat staring at the lake with my arms crossed. I found myself pouting. My lips quivered in sadness, but the weight of anger erupted from my bones to my surprise. In nearly 35 years, I have never asked anyone if I made a difference in their life. Not cool to ask friends, family, or clients if they think you are fantastic. Of course, my sons will verify I have paraded around the house a few times over the years, bragging I was a bomb dot com mother. So, I guess I have tooted my horn before.

“I can list thousands of names of those I have trained, coached, or represented in corporate wellness. THOUSANDS! Why aren’t they checking in with me?” Words I began blurting to the birds.

The feelings felt disgusting. I couldn’t marry up how lonely and useless I felt with my intellect. I know I have made a difference in the lives I have touched. I am aligned with my purpose – to help others improve their quality of life. I don’t need to hear the magnitude of my influence. I lead from my heart – do the right thing!

But this time was different. This wasn’t a shoulder surgery, a geographic move, or a divorce. This was a catastrophic event that few experience in life. A Category 4 hurricane isn’t an everyday experience. Why wouldn’t I have more texts, emails, and DMs?

I pulled up all my social media again. I grabbed my phone. After lightning speed count on all platforms, I compared my “following,” family members, and friends and did the math. I had 27 reach outs. TWENTY-SEVEN. The news had been cast across the globe. Everyone knew what had happened. Where are my clients in Europe? What about my old friends? How come the employer groups I helped flip their bottom line from red to black weren’t reaching out?

Are you telling me that only .0025% of my circle reached out after six days of near silence? WTH is that?

This analysis may sound like several hours passed as I wallowed in a pool of pity, summing up the number of people that give a crap I breathe. How dramatic. From start to finish, it was less than 30 minutes. And my determination was …

I have taught my tribe how to treat me.

Why am I shocked? I know this. I teach that concept. TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO TREAT YOU. It is our responsibility to set boundaries, to show others how much we respect ourselves and what we will and will not tolerate in the ways we are treated. Ultimately, I brought this on myself. In my history, I have declared to the world for decades that I am independent, self-sufficient, empowered, and the fixer of things. Making it through the storms of life is what I do and teach. It is my DNA. Why would I expect antennas of sheer fright to rise in my tribe regarding my trials and tribulations? I got this. I am fine. I don’t need help. All sentences I have blasted on repeat since my inception.

After smearing away the flood of salt from my eyes, I thought, “Peggy, you got exactly what you have asked for. You taught people to let you, do you. They know your responses to their questions, “Do you need anything? … “Can I help” … “Are you okay?” So why ask this time?

Human beings are designed to take care of themselves first. Whether we admit it or not, we innately will put ourselves first- an argument, a meal, or a storm. The world is so caught up in the here and now. We struggle to do this thing called a life outside of our little bubble; nonetheless, we check in with others.

I either ask for help or stop focusing on the absence of the offer.

I have always said I don’t base your success as a business or as a person on your social media responses or if the phone rings. People are watching whether they give you an emoji or comment. You are making a difference. Keep living your purpose. If you give a gift, have no expectations. Sharing is caring. Write stories like no one is reading them. Sure, days will come when you want a word of affirmation or testimony that you have made a difference, and I wish we would give them more freely throughout our life, not just as our loved ones are nearing the end.

Tell a teacher, friend, grocer, neighbor, or parent how they have made a difference in your life. Tell them BEFORE they need to hear it and tell them BEFORE you do not get a chance to. Most likely, they have taught you how to treat them. You may feel they do not need a boost of confidence, a hug, or special thanks.

If someone is needy, you answer their beck and call

If they are strong, perhaps you do not check in at all.

Just remember, even concrete walls fall.

As I conclude this blog today, I am in the lobby of a hospital cardiac unit, and a volunteer just began playing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” on the piano. James Redfield, author of the Celestine Prophecy (who also wrote the Foreword to my first co-authored book, The Four-Fold Formula for All Things Wellness), would say how beautifully serendipitous that message is. He might suggest that my higher self is reminding me that I only need my God and me. He might suggest that my higher self is being blessed with a melodic message; a message that I only need my God and myself and to remain focused on my passion for helping others without expectation. He might also tell me that .0025% of the Universe is my audience – not .0025% of 10,000.

Peggy Willms
                                                                     All Things Wellness, LLC

The information provided is the opinion of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice: diagnosis or treatment. The author, the business, All Things Wellness, LLC, and its owner Peggy Willms, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information in this article or website. We assume no responsibility for tangible and intangible damages such as physical harm caused by using a product, loss of profits or loss of data, and defamatory comments. This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.