I grew up in the South, so I learned early that good Christian girls (and women) were expected to always be “nice.” This fundamental edict is ingrained in me at a very deep level, and I measure myself against it constantly.
When I go through challenging circumstances of any kind, my first inclination is to blame myself. I look for ways that I must have been at fault to cause the hardship. This is even more the case when the challenges are from difficult relationships.
In fact, the single biggest thing that gets me in trouble in relationships is that I am so tuned in to what I think other people are wanting, needing, thinking, feeling that I am unable to honor my own wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings. This leads me to ignore my intuition under the assumption that I must be the one that’s wrong when there’s a conflict between what my intuition is telling me and what someone else wants.
“Secret of Adulthood: If I want to ask a lot of myself, I need to give a lot to myself.” ~Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project frequently shares her Secrets of Adulthood on her blog and on Twitter. These are things she’s learned over the years about how life works. The one posted above is one I encountered today on her Twitter feed.
Like many of her Secrets of Adulthood, it sounds rather obvious, but it’s something that I don’t do very well at living into. I tend to expect a lot of myself but think that it’s selfish to give anything to myself. The problem is that when I don’t fill my own tank, I have nothing to give to others. Therefore, I continually disappoint others and myself with my inability to do what is expected of me.
It’s precious to watch a young child (or a newborn animal) just learning to walk. They pull themselves up and stagger along on unsteady legs as they build their strength and learn to balance themselves upright. It often involves more than a few tumbles and moments of abrupt sitting down before their gait becomes natural and steady. And they must learn to walk before they learn to fun.
This process is not unlike my own process when it comes to learning a new way to approach life or replacing an unhelpful pattern with a new one. I begin practicing that new pattern (or new outlook) is unsteady ways that involve lots tumbles and shaky moments. Eventually, though, the new pattern becomes my new normal, and I can navigate it without effort.
I’ve gotten to the point where I very seldom listen to music at home because I so value the silence. So today I’ve been going through my extensive CD collection in an attempt to weed it down to a more reasonable size given how little it is used. In the process, I’ve been listening to some of these old CDs again today to help me choose the ones to keep and the ones to get rid of.
As I’ve gone through this exercise today, I’ve been fascinated to discover the impact I’m noticing on my creative work as I have music going in the background. I’m so used to writing and creating in silence now that I kept finding even the quietest instrumental music to be a distraction!
As I’ve read through this book about Sabbath and am reminded of the gifts that it brings, I have found myself considering ways to create a real Sabbath as an intentional practice in my own life—not just an occasional break, but a committed practice to take a day off every week from my usual chores and busy work and to-do lists to settle into spacious time for rest and renewal.
It seems like just being myself should be something that comes naturally, but it’s so easy to bend a little here and flex a little there in order to be liked and to compromise in relationships. If I’m not careful, I have stopped being “me” and become someone else that I don’t recognize. I’ve learned over the years that this is something I need to pay attention to in order to make sure I don’t wander off track.
The links I’ve collected for this week’s link love are all ones that speak to different aspects of my struggles to consistently show up in an authentic way in my life without hiding parts of myself to make others comfortable, trying to be something I’m not to be liked, or setting goals based on what I think is expected.
“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.” ~Stephen Covey
I’ve been the recipient lately of an unusually (for me) large amount of positive feedback, and this has done wonders for my mood and my self-confidence over the last few months. However, this has also provided an opportunity for me to really observe how I react to feedback from other people, and I’ve discovered something very interesting.
I’ve written several posts lately about my struggles with success (and the challenges it brings) and how it causes me to hide my light and to hide myself in general. Ironically, part of this pattern involves quitting something either when I feel like I am about to be successful or when I feel too threatened by someone else’s success (thereby convincing myself that I am a failure).
These sound very much like opposites, but they are (ironically) part of the same pattern for me. Both involve wanting to avoid any sense of being in competition with other people because competition always means someone loses and someone will wind up feeling bad. It might be me. Or it might be the other person, in which case I feel guilty for having caused them to feel bad. I can’t win!
“You have to confront the very parts of yourself that you fear most to find what you have been looking for, because the mechanism that drives you to conceal your darkness is the same mechanism that has you hide your light. What you’ve been hiding from can actually give you what you’ve been trying hard to achieve.” ~Debbie Ford
I’ve spent most of my life projecting my shadow elsewhere so that I could avoid looking at the darkness that I carry within. I was so afraid that if I came face to face with my own darkness, it would destroy me. But as Debbie Ford says above, that also meant hiding my light because the light is what highlights the shadows. Light draws attention to me and makes it more likely that others might see those shadows too.