Much of what our preferences are is wrapped into those of the ones we love.
Our activities, our pastimes, what we consume, and what we enjoy bleeds into those who share our daily lives. What we truly love, apart from anyone else, can get a bit lost.
Do you know what you love? And are you able to communicate what you want?
Typically, in our household, the menu-planning conversation goes a little something like this:
“What would you like for dinner this week?”
“I don’t know. What do you want?”
Queue the Notebook meme of Ryan Gosling demanding to know what Rachel McAdams wants, which relates to couples and parents around the world.
If I asked you what you wanted for dinner, would you be able to easily name exactly what you desired, or would you think about how your husband may not be a fan of spicy foods, your daughter won’t touch fish and toaster waffles loaded with butter and maple syrup wouldn’t necessarily be the most well-rounded meal you could prepare for your family?
In a relationship, and in parenthood particularly, I have experienced that our default becomes an automatic deferral of our own personal preferences, and we don’t allow ourselves space to appreciate the things that truly bring us joy.
There are seasons in our lives where our preferences aren’t necessarily options. For instance, the season of mothering a newborn is not a favorable environment to cultivate and cater to our personal desires; we’re too consumed with simply covering the basics of hygiene, sleep and survival.
However, oftentimes, even once we’ve outgrown these periods, we continue to exist within the same limitations. We adopt the behavior we’ve acclimated to, and we project our loved ones preferences as our own, often without ever really noticing it.
Left too long, this suppression can manifest into unhappiness, lack of fulfillment, dissatisfaction, and a host of other negative mindsets. We lose touch with what we enjoy and what nourishes us; this is how we end up not knowing what brings us passion, energy and contentment.
How often do we ask ourselves, “What do I want?” Or, “What do I need?”
Somewhere along the way, we stopped listening to ourselves. The less we listen, the harder it is to hear. And then, we just stop asking.
This is not to say that we should completely neglect what our children and our spouses want; I’m not suggesting narcissistic anarchy, but we do need to mindfully regain balance. We need to pinpoint what our preferences are, start prioritizing and asserting them as important. First to ourselves, and then to others.
Identifying and prioritizing our preferences does not happen overnight. These are not big, loud changes, but small, quiet changes over time based in habit and practice.
This week, I’m going to make a small step by bringing home a bunch of fresh-cut flowers and circulating citrus scents into my environments. Both of these simple elements bring me joy, and are easily sourced.
Start small. What is one thing you can change this week that helps you cultivate knowing, owning and communicating your preferences?