Have you ever looked up and noticed how many things there are in your life that you don’t even like? Somehow they just appeared without you making a conscious decision to let them in. I call them “orange chickens” and you don’t have to keep them – especially if they’re stealing your joy.
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What is an “orange chicken” and how does it steal your joy?
After my grandmother’s funeral I was helping my mom clear items from the house. As my mother was taking items off a set of bookshelves, she came upon a pair of garish ceramic orange chickens that has been displayed on the shelves for as long as I had been alive.
“Your grandmother never did like these orange chickens,” she told me as she took them off the shelf.
“They’re ugly,” I replied. “Why on Earth did she put them out if she didn’t like them?” I asked.
“Because Aunt Nell gave them to her as a housewarming gift when she and Daddy moved into this house in 1946,” my mother stated. “She always felt that you were obligated to display a gift that you were given, especially if a relative or close friend had given it to you”.
My grandmother lived in an immaculately kept home with pale pink walls and carpet, a white couch, and beautiful crushed red velvet wing back chairs. She displayed delicate figurines of Pinky and Blue Boy and her tastes ran toward French provincial furnishings. The orange chickens obviously were not to her taste.
With that stated, my mother promptly threw the hideous chicken figurines in the garbage. What a pity that my grandmother hadn’t done the same years ago instead of feeling obliged to live with items that did not please her.
Improving your life is up to you
How many of us live with orange chickens of our own? Think about the things that deplete you. Think about the demands placed upon you by other people. How often do you end up doing things out of obligation rather than enjoyment? An orange chicken can be an object, an obligation, or unfortunately, even a person.
We often find that orange chickens have managed to sneak into our lives without our conscious realization. Frequently, we find that we’ve got an obligation or task that we never asked for and didn’t choose to take on.
For example, years ago my mother taught Vacation Bible School one summer. While this is a worthy thing to do, my mother did not enjoy it. Planning activities and lessons for kids just was not her strong suit. She was, however, an excellent musician.
The next year when she was asked to teach a class, she politely refused but offered instead to be the pianist and to donate snacks instead. This ended up working nicely for everyone. She had a talent she enjoyed sharing and Vacation Bible School was now something she looked forward to participating in rather than one she dreaded.
Many women struggle with the need to please. It starts in childhood when we are taught to be good girls and follow rules. We are taught not to question, to do for others and obey authority. This type of upbringing creates followers who have difficulty expressing their own needs and desires.
Don’t let others dictate your life!
Whenever we settle for things in our homes or in our lives that do not suit who we are or who we would like to be, or when we take on tasks we dread or for which we are ill-suited, we are showing the world that our wishes and desires are less important than those of others. Can we expect those around us to value our preferences if we do not? And can those of us who were brought up to be considerate and self-sacrificing break out of the mold of putting ourselves last? Perhaps the biggest question is one of how to simultaneously care for others while not ignoring our own needs.
Setting boundaries and prioritizing your own needs does not make you a selfish person. But it does require that you make conscious choices about what you’re going to let into your life and what you’re going to refuse.
How Orange Chickens creep into our lives:
How do we end up with orange chickens? It’s been said that we teach others how they should treat us. If that’s true (and I believe it is) then the following may be things we’re subconsciously doing that are filling our lives with Orange Chickens.
- We choose to ignore Orange Chickens.
- We pretend to others that we like Orange Chickens.
- We convince ourselves that we really do like Orange Chickens.
- Other people convince us that we like Orange Chickens.
- We encourage people to give us more Orange Chickens rather than hurt their feelings.
- We hold on to Orange Chickens until “we have “something better”.
- We feel like we deserve Orange Chickens.
Unless you’re just a fan or orange chickens (and no disrespect meant to those who are fans!), there is nothing wrong with drawing boundaries and setting personal limits. It can be done without sacrificing the needs of others. Perhaps it also means throwing orange chickens in the trash.
So, do you have some orange chickens that you need to get rid of?