Don't Tell Me What To Do!

Don't Tell Me What To Do!

"Don't tell me what to do!" We've heard that said many times... we've even said it, and at times when we didn't say it, we thought it! "Don't bug me! Don't get on my case! Don't tell me what to do!" Sounds like a teenager speaking... ah! but it is! It's that inner teenager that most of us still carry around inside.

Teenagers have had enough of being bossed around... being told what, when, where, how, and why to do things. Never having any say in the matter... or if he/she did have some say, did anyone listen and pay attention? Mostly not.

So that teenager still resides inside many of us. Mine pops up when it's time to exercise. (It's not a four-letter-word, but I swear my inner-teenager thinks so.) I sat myself down (along with my inner teenager) to get to the root of this attitude. The "I don't want to exercise" attitude was a detriment to my well-being -- after all, exercise, especially once we're out of our teens, is a needed attribute to staying healthy, fit, and full of vitality.

What I asked myself was "why don't you want to exercise?" "Dunno." (Sounds like a teenager response, doesn't it?) So what came to me was that it wasn't so much the exercise that "I" was resisting, it was something else.

So, what was I resisting? Ah! Being told that I "had to" exercise! Who was telling me? Not my doctor, though I'm sure if I went to see one, I might get that advice. Not my husband, though, he also is aware of the benefits of exercise. So who then? ME! I was the one telling myself to exercise. Logical, right? Yes, except that my "inner teenager" was resisting having me (the adult "me") telling her what to do.

Catch 22

So how to get out of this dilemma? Definitely by sitting down and talking to "her" and finding out what type of activity (notice I did not call it exercise, since she considers that a "dirty word") she would like. So we came up with a list of things that are fun to do: walking, jumping on the trampoline, riding a bike, playing tennis, etc.

I then gave "her" (we're still talking about my inner teenager) a choice... My thought was that perhaps by offering her a choice between various types of exercises (oops, activities) to do each day, she would be willing to participate (or at least to let the adult "me" participate).

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So we made a deal. Every morning I let her choose which type of "activity" she would like to partake in that morning. Now, I must admit that she's still "testing" me. There's still quite a few mornings that she says she doesn't want to do any "activities".

OK, I'm giving her some space on this one. I have complete confidence that if I don't impose my will on her, she'll come around... After all, she doesn't want to be living inside an old saggy tired overweight middle-aged body (who me?) whose main exercise (uh, activity) is moving fingers on a computer keyboard...

So, we're still working on that one... some days we exercise, some days we don't. But, we're accepting the fact that we have a choice... And that no one is "forcing us" to do anything. We do what we choose, when we choose, if we choose to... and we feel better when we choose to.

To Eat That or Not To Eat That... That's The Question!

Don't Tell Me What To Do!Another time my inner teenager rebels is with food! She sometimes trips me up when I'm grocery shopping and "makes me" pick up pastries, cookies, and ice cream for desserts instead of fresh fruit, dried fruit, and yogurt. Mind you, in this area, we have a better understanding. She is a teenager after all, and is very conscious of her looks and of "looking cool", so in the food area, we have less of a tug-of-war. But even there, I have to "make deals" with her.

We'll agree that cookies and ice cream are OK in moderation, and decide on an acceptable amount for both of us. Now, I've noticed that she can be sneaky about this. If I take the whole bag of cookies and say I'll only eat five, before I know it, she's distracted me and eaten the whole bag.

After being fooled like this a few times, I now only take out the specified amount of cookies (actually, to make her happy, I take out a couple more than I "should" -- that makes her feel like she's won). I also dish out the ice cream in a small bowl (very small) and fill it so it's spilling over. That way, she feels like she's getting a whole bunch.

Yes, I know, this may seem manipulative to some of you. But after all, this teenager and I reside in the same body, and, since I'm older and wiser (we hope), I do feel that I "know best". (I hope she didn't hear me say that! Or we'll be stuffing ourselves on ice cream for a week!) Yes, teenagers are a challenge! Inner ones just as much as outer ones.

So... What's The Answer?

The solution is to make friends with your "inner teenager". Become a team! Set goals and agree on how to reach them in a way that is fun and that gives both of you "space" to be who you are. We sometimes treat our inner teenager the same way we were treated as teenagers. "Do this!" "Do that!" "Don't talk back to me!" "Behave!" "Be quiet!" (Aaaaghhh!)

We need to respect our inner teenager, so that she can then learn to respect us. We need to acknowledge her needs, her fears, her emotions, and open up a dialogue with her. Yes, we can talk to our inner teenager. How? Simply sit down, close your eyes, and ask her some questions.

Ask her about the areas of your life that aren't "working out". Ask her about why you're having certain difficulties... Ask her if she's upset with you and why... You may be surprised at the answers!

Recommended Book:

Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage
by Neil Fiore.

Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage by Neil Fiore.Using the latest research findings in neuropsychology, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Peak Performance strategies, Awaken Your Strongest Self shows you how to live with greater joy, ease, and effectiveness. Author Neil Fiore, Ph.D., provides a four-step program that involves (1) stepping back from old, ineffective patterns, (2) waking up your "new brain"--what neuroscientists call the “Executive Organizing Function” (3) awakening the five qualities of your strongest self, and (4) putting everything together to achieve your goals. Through innovative examples, case studies, and exercises, you will learn how to cope with stress, recognize early signs of inner conflict, perform at your personal best on everyday work projects, minimize feelings of being overwhelmed; and ultimately, choose healthy alternatives to replace former bad habits.

Click here for more info or to order this book on Amazon.

About The Author

Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.

Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on


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