"I don't do that."
"Don't ask me to undermine my code."
When you have staked out a position for how you will live your life, a lot of other people take that as a personal challenge that they must destroy your morality. When you commit to losing weight, people will say, “can’t you have just one cupcake?” When you have committed to early morning workouts, they will say, “can’t you sleep in just ONE day?” Whatever parameters you decide to place on yourself others will take as a silent judgment on their unmanaged lives and seek to undermine your moral code. Even when it is abundantly evident you couldn’t care less how they want to live their lives, they aren’t satisfied by letting you be your best self. Crabs in a bucket.
A lot of clients, peers, and friends have voiced this concern to me over the years. It makes them fearful of parties, get-togethers, and holidays. I try to remind them that you cannot be a follower when you are changing how you live. You must don the mantle of leadership. And you must expect that people will desire tearing you down, rather than supporting you. I've encountered it in every facet of life, from parenting to business, and everything in between. When people see discipline, vision, joy, and clarity, they are oddly drawn to challenge it before they are inspired to emulate it.
And I think it’s productive to place it in a hard moral context. The first line of defense when others seek to tear you down can be a simple “I don’t do that.” Avoid saying “can’t.” Keep it simple: I don’t. This is phrase one. Practice it. Memorize it. It will take care of about 90% of people.
On occasion, this will inspire people (the other 10%) with no moral compass to double down, because your resolve is unnerving to them. Rather than just respect your boundaries, people want to bulldoze through. It’s at this point you need to put the moral aspect out there. You are developing or have developed a code of conduct for yourself. For a variety of reasons, they disrespect that and seek to undermine it.
Unfortunately, when they’ve hit this dead end, they will flip into gaslighting, arguing that your sensibilities are adversely affecting THEM. I think of it like a gang member asking you to keep a lookout while he and others rape, rob, or kill. They were unsuccessful at inspiring you to rape, rob, or kill. You DON’T do that. You WON’T do that. So the inquiry will turn into something like “if you were a real friend, you would support me in what I HAVE to do”. Umm. No. No one needs to accept enabling and complicity in any acts, let alone ones which an individual deems immoral for herself. My self-discipline doesn't say anything about you; but your attempt to upset it does make you a bad person.
There’s a chasm of difference between a favor that is reasonable but difficult and a “favor” which undermines your moral code.
When they've hit the gaslighting stage, you've got one more phrase: "don’t ask me to undermine my code.” That’s all. It's simple. This stops anyone with a shred of humanity left. Practice the line. Memorize it. And to be fair, don’t ask others to undermine their codes. We can all get along and be good to one another while maintaining our codes and respecting boundaries. When people commit to a path, whether it be a journey of growth or a fitness effort, the best thing we can do is to show support, rather than ask them to give up their compass. Over time, you'll find that some of the people most ready to undermine your code will come back seeking your advice on building their own resolve.
Memorize these two sentences. Don't rephrase them into softer versions. Practice them. Say them aloud. Use them.
Stay the course.
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No more can't. No more not good enough. If you compete in a sport, let your mind no longer hold you back from being the greatest. If you don't, let your mind no longer hold you back from being the best version of you that you can be.
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