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.
I have been incredibly fortunate in where I have landed in the latest rendition of my work life. I work with a group of people that makes the work day a great deal of fun. My co-workers are people who I admire and consider as friends, and I still can’t get over my good fortune at having arrived where I am.
Having so often worked in situations where this was not the case, I find myself constantly watching the group dynamics and the individual interactions to try to discover the secret of what makes this group so different so I can do what I can to make sure the goodness lasts. I think there are several reasons why this group works so well—some that may be unique to this group, some that aren’t.
I happened across an Epiphany blog post today from Dick Staub, which went by the rather amazing title of Epiphany: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Use words only if necessary. Not only am I late in finding this post for this Epiphany (which was last Sunday), this post was actually from last year’s Epiphany! But given the fact that I recognized a couple of my favorite quotes in that delicious title, I just had to take the time to read it.
I’m really glad I did, and I suspect you will, too. It’s really good well-written. (And full of quotes from some of my favorite authors!)
Several months ago, Seth Godin wrote a blog post on Association in his trademark style of short posts that pack a punch. (It’ll only take a few seconds to read it, and it’s worth it!)
As a creative, I think his point is particularly true. The people that we choose to associate with will powerfully influence the ideas that we encounter that will feed our own creative work. In addition, their attitudes toward creativity will make a difference in our own confidence (or lack of it) in engaging in creative work ourselves.
I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to people and relations appearances can be deceiving, words can be used to trick and to hide as much to expose, feelings can’t always be trusted, and that the “truth” in any given situation usually depends on who you ask. In short, there is seldom an absolute truth to any interaction between human beings, and even the truth that can be reliably nailed down in some way is likely to be interpreted differently by each participant and each viewer.
For many years, this made me hesitant to trust my own perceptions of situations I found myself in. I distrusted my feelings, questioned my motives, doubted my observations. Most of all, I ignored my intuition. At the slightest hint of contradiction to my own opinions, I accepted the “truth” of those around me above my own knowing.
“Genius develops in quiet places, character out in the full current of human life.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I work best in quiet places, particularly if I am writing or doing creative work. People, noise, social media, and often even music are distractions that keep me from focusing the way I need to in order to dig deep enough to find what I am trying to say or to create. So while I have long recognized the value of relationships and human contact for emotional health, I have focused on increasing the degree of solitude when it comes to my creative life.
Building in more opportunities for solitude has indeed helped, and it gives me the space and energy I need in order to increase my creative work. I’ve seen positive results from this approach over the last few months, but I’m also realizing the picture is incomplete.
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.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ~C.S. Lewis
I spent some time with a newer friend today and had the pleasure of discovering several things that we share in common, from interests, to authors we enjoy, to patterns of reacting, to writing styles. It reminded me of just how powerful it is to discover a point of commonality with another person, a discovery that becomes more powerful the more rare the point of commonality is.
These moments of connection remind us that we are not alone. They bring reassurance that all of our quirks fall within the natural variety that makes up the human race, and that we are not broken or defective for being as we are. They bring the pleasure of finding someone to share our interests, hobbies, and activities with who will value them as we do. These moments whisper the reassurance that we belong to those corners of our souls that fear that we are forever on the outside.
“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.