When you share, you feel you matter enough for someone to want to know your story; everyone needs to share.
Sharing: How much? When? What? Why? With who? Etc.…etc.…
It seems like the answers to these questions should be so simple, so why do so many of us struggle with them?
I’ve read a lot of studies touting the therapeutic benefits of sharing your stories. However, the same studies warn of the detrimental effects of sharing those same stories with the “wrong” people, at the wrong time, etc.…
I’ve read about the physiological changes that necessarily take place in our brains when we “remember” a certain event. Apparently, each time we remember an event, our brains automatically fill in any missing/forgotten/fuzzy pieces with “something that works”, i.e. something that confirms our preexisting belief. We move on continuously noticing things that reinforce these beliefs. To make things worse, each time we remember that event, we are really only remembering our last memory of it…still with me? Our memories of these events effect our feelings about them, and that effects who we are today. Based on that alone…I can definitely see that one obvious benefit of telling your story would be that someone else could help you verify the facts later on.
Some studies have shown how sharing stories helps satisfy our intrinsic need for connection. It makes sense, when you are with someone who knows a lot about you, you generally feel a greater sense of connection with them. They know the real you and they’re still hanging out with you; that’s reassuring and probably relaxing. It’s as if just by sharing your stories with another person, the two of you now share some common history. Even though you didn’t live through the actual event together, you relived it and allowed them to share in that experience; they are now somehow connected to that part of your life as well as the present. When someone shows an interest in listening to your stories, they’re telling you they are curious about you, they want to know more. This can be incredibly validating for you as a human being.
Sharing leads to feelings of connection, from which comes the feeling “I matter”. When you feel you are part of something bigger than just you, you have a purpose, you fit somewhere. Science has proven multiple times in multiple ways that communities that connect thrive; we are meant to share, we feel the NEED to share.
That explains why Facebook, Twitter, snap chat, etc.… are so successful. It’s natural, they feed off of our physiological wiring. However…social media is not real sharing, and that’s why, I believe, it tends to cause more social problems than it helps. True beneficial sharing is necessarily a two way street; it requires mutual trust and doesn’t expose you to judgment. With social media there is a lack of trust and an overabundance of judgment. Add repetition over time and you have the perfect recipe for anxiety, depression, imposture syndrome, comparisons etc.… It may not seem harmful at first but, each time you look at social media put a grain of sand in a bag and carry it on your back. You’ll be surprised how quickly that bag fills to the point where it crushes you.
Sharing involves talking with each other, not about each other.
To Share or Not to Share:
I’ve known people who choose not to share their lives. The feeling is that if you don’t share something about yourself with, say, your coworkers, then when you go to work each day, the people around you know nothing about it; it’s almost as if it never happened/doesn’t exist, at least in that part of your world. No one is going to ask you about it or do/say something to remind you of it. You don’t have to wonder if anyone is thinking or talking about it or what their opinions may/may not be. This is probably extremely appropriate and perhaps even beneficial in many situations. It’s as if that part of you is completely disconnected. In this way, perhaps disconnection can be positive.
Some people say they don’t want to bother people with their stories, waste their time etc.…, some are simply too embarrassed or ashamed and want to pretend it never happened. Others say they started not sharing in order to protect people; ie… to not disappoint, hurt feelings, etc… But who are you hurting in the process? Is the cost worth the benefit? What would happen if you stopped? Are you sure you’re not underestimating these people?
Many people simply feel that they just don’t have anyone to share with. Some have spent their whole lives listening to others, being the rock, and they don’t want to jeopardize their image by needing to share; their role was always to be there for others and now they don’t know how to ask others to be there for them.
In any case, if you continue to go on not sharing, so that you can pretend certain parts of your life/self didn’t/don’t exist, because it’s a habit or you don’t know how/with who, what does that do to your sense of self-worth? How do you go on living in an environment that you feel so unattached to? How does a plant survive without roots…? A cut flower in a vase can only last for so long without some help from an external source. A fully established rooted plant however…that plant thrives because of its connection to the earth; it is able to get everything it needs. The cut flower survives for a limited time, the rooted plant can thrive indefinitely.
Sharing the Past vs. Living in the NOW:
Recently, I have started to wonder what the physiological effects are of not sharing, for whatever reasons, and our innate need for connection. The “non-sharers” I’ve spoken to definitely tend to feel less of a sense of belonging in general. Many of them begin to feel as if their past (their stories) don’t really matter…after all, aren’t we all about living in the NOW?
I believe that living in the NOW is extremely important, however, I also believe that it’s everything that we’ve been through or experienced in our past that has made us who we are, put us where we are, and created our current set of life circumstances. I believe truly living in the NOW requires doing it as a whole person, not just the parts of you that you decided were worthy of bringing along.
I’m a big believer in “everything happens for a reason”, I also think that sometimes we have to either try harder or wait longer to figure out what that reason is. However, if we simply ignore or pretend certain aspects of our lives didn’t happen or don’t matter, than how will we learn the lesson it was meant to teach us? How will we discover the “reason”? Perhaps that’s why so many of us find ourselves in certain situations over and over again; the universe is trying to teach us something but we just want to push that “set of circumstances” under a rug and pretend it never happened or isn’t continuing to happen…and we keep doing that…every time it repeats itself.
Every year that goes by without sharing your secrets seems to somehow make them worse, it’s not like the past changes, but its power over you somehow continues to grow. It’s almost suffocating, as if you’re drowning, maybe that explains certain phobias, anxieties and/or depression? I believe that when you don’t share significant events in your life, your mind begins to mess with you. Memories become distorted and the truth harder and harder to remember; was it really your fault or did you just convince yourself of that? Do you find a way to twist things so that they don’t seem as bad? By convincing yourself that one experience was a certain way, do you go through the rest of your life behaving or thinking differently to continuously justify that idea? Can your perception of a single event actually begin to distort your decision making from that point on? Yes, I think it can. So, physiologically, the way we internalize and/or process an event(s) as a child actually continues to affect the way we behave and the choices we make as we become an adult.
If we have no one we trust to share with, then our mind is free to direct the show with no outside influence or the interference of different perspectives.
Where to start:
I have met people who have shared so little of themselves, and feel correspondingly little connection with others, that, over time, they have begun to wonder if anyone would even notice if they were to just disappear. If we don’t feel like we are part of the puzzle, so to speak, than are we just an extra piece? What’s the point of an extra puzzle piece? Others, who have spent the majority of their lives trying to take care of others (Hero Support), tend to believe that their services would be missed; that they would let down or disappoint people. These people describe themselves more like the board the puzzle pieces are being laid out on, this belief gives them some purpose. All of these people often feel alone, regardless of how many people are around.
If you’ve gotten to that point…why aren’t you sharing? Do you not want to or do you just not know how/where to start? Do you have someone to share with? This may not be what you want to hear but…, sometimes it helps to hire someone to share with for a while. It’s possible that you may just be out of practice; it can actually help just to talk to someone who makes a living listening and offering different perspectives. You don’t have to feel guilty for “wasting” their time, or wonder if they really care; it doesn’t matter, do it for you (generally speaking, people go into those professions because they care).
If that sounds too crazy, what about a journal? Even if you don’t think of yourself as a “writer”, it can be incredibly therapeutic to just release your thoughts on to paper and then, when you’re done, to read what has come out; most people are surprised by what they find.
Do you have one friend who shares with you? How does that make you feel? What do you think would happen if you shared with that person? Why not try it with something neutral to start with, maybe a childhood memory or a work/home related story, perhaps whichever the person is not part of…
Do you know that every single one of us was put here for a reason? Created to be exactly as we are. Have you noticed that you are at least a little different than everyone else? That there is no one else exactly like you out there…there’s a reason for that. The world needs YOU, but how can that happen if you keep You all to yourself, or keep pretending to be someone else?
Not everyone deserves to hear your stories, but you deserve to be able to share them, you deserve to not have to carry all the weight of some of them and/or to relive and celebrate the joy of others.
Oftentimes, when we share childhood memories as an adult, we process them very differently, from a new perspective, and thereby go forward living with them much more peacefully; maybe you learn something or at least feel differently about it. Sometimes doing so can help you let go and move on, even find serenity where there was once pain or unrest.
I think it’s important to share, I think it’s important that you feel worthy of sharing, that you know that your stories are important and that you matter. I know that it’s not always easy but…what’s the alternative? Reaching the top of a mountain is only as awesome as the difficulty of the climb…
I also believe that sometimes it’s not entirely your conscious choice not to share. Maybe you’ve become surrounded by the wrong group, maybe you’re comfortable there but, are you happy? Are you thriving or just surviving? I was once assured that my pet lizard was happy in its tank because it had never known anything different…
Maybe it has nothing to do with your current “tribe”, maybe you’ve just developed a habit over time, for whatever reason(s), and you have no idea how much those around you would love to know you better, to feel more connected. Have you tried? If not, what are you afraid of? Is that really any worse than living with that fear?
None of us were meant to go through life feeling alone.
You matter, you’re stories matter, your life matters, and it’s all here for a reason. This world needs you, you’re the only one we’ve got!
What is Hero Support?
Hero Support is a term I use to describe a certain personality or role that some people have/assume in life, or some period of time. Some people are Heroes, some are Hero Support. I think it’s OK, even great, to be “Hero Support”. They are the “wind beneath my wings” that Bette Midler sings about in her song of the same title; a different type of Hero. It’s an important position and one that is an intricate and necessary part of life.
Not everyone wants the spotlight, hero support provides an opportunity for introverts to contribute, feel important/necessary, make a significant impact etc… without taking center stage, or even any of the stage. When I think of “Hero Support” I think of; the 1st lady, vice president, right hand man, the “woman behind the man”, wife, mother, nurse, administrative assistant, etc.… the people who make it possible for someone else to be the more stereotypical “hero”. They provide the essential foundation upon which others can build a beautiful home.
Everyone is different, and that’s how it’s supposed to be; it’s what makes us all necessary. Its proof that we were meant to work together, it’s why we crave/need connection. My mom used to say, “If we were all the same there wouldn’t be horse races”, and she loved the races.
Recently, I began thinking about why sometimes being Hero Support can be so fulfilling and yet, other times, so draining. Sometimes it brings joy and yet, other times, there is resentment. It occurred to me that the difference is the motivation driving the support at the particular moment. When you are motivated by your heart, supporting others makes you feel energized and alive, it adds richness to your life. It is a way of honoring an inner need to help others, to contribute. When support is motivated by a sense of obligation, or putting others needs before your own, it often makes you feel lacking, depleted, even insignificant. I believe many Hero Support are motivated by both of these things at different times of their lives, maybe even different times in the same day.
What Motivates You?
Supporting others can be a strength or a comfort, depending on its motivation. By strength I mean, it’s what feeds your sense of purpose. By comfort I’m referring to a habit created by a desire to remain either invisible/out of the spotlight, or sometimes loved and accepted; this habit can ultimately deprive the world of You, while depriving You of Your Best Life.
I also believe that when the strength is not accompanied by solid/clear boundaries, the lines become blurred and Hero Support can begin to become an “Identity”, ie. an obligation as opposed to simply ‘actions that fulfill a greater purpose’. Over the years, I have noticed a pattern…
Hero Support, when motivated from the place of comfort/habit, or strength without boundaries, begin to define themselves, or become defined by others, as the ones who have it all together, they’ve got it “under control”. From the outside, Hero Support seem to have the perfect life and things come easy. You appear to have been “blessed” with many gifts that many struggle for. After a while, you tend to pride yourself on these attributes and strive to make sure that the image is true, or at least perceived to be true. Sometimes, if you fake something long enough, you forget what’s real and what isn’t. This role provides a sense of purpose, pride, and even value/worthiness. Its makes you feel needed or important, it’s where you “fit” and/or why you matter. It somehow satisfies the innate need for connection.
I’ve also noticed that Hero Support’s “problems” are often perceived (by themselves and others) as not as big, real, important, etc.…as someone else’s. Hero Support tend to go out of your way to not “burden” others, you tend to downplay problems because “you got this”. As a result, your “problems” are less obvious or more hidden/controlled. This can give the impression that you don’t still hurt the way others do. As if you can handle anything and don’t need or maybe even want support. Perhaps it’s because others need Hero Support to be “strong”, and Hero Support wants to comply.
We All Need Support:
Regardless, we all need to be allowed to need support, we need to allow ourselves to be supported. A small cut on your own finger will always hurt you more than a leg being amputated from someone else; that’s just reality and it’s OK to feel your own pain. You really don’t have control over that, it’s simply how you are physiologically wired.
I believe hero support people go through life learning all sorts of protection from vulnerability, so you “don’t get hurt”. You understand that others don’t plan to hurt you, your pain is only collateral damage and shouldn’t be taken personally…most of the time you are hurt by inconsiderate acts, not malicious intent. No one intentionally hurt you, they just didn’t even take your feelings into consideration. It doesn’t make it hurt less…
So you learn to build protective armor, you use: busyness, independence, productivity, perfectionism, being incredibly organized, clean, helpful, accommodating, or using drugs, alcohol, sex…the list goes on. But every once in a while there’s a crack in your armor and when the light gets in, it stings. At that point, you either reinforce your armor, while yelling at yourself for being pathetic, weak, needy, etc.…, or you realize that, it’s not the stinging that hurts anymore, it’s the fact that you don’t have the time or space to allow for it. In a strange way, you don’t mind the sting because you welcome the fact that you “feel” it.
Suddenly, you’re no longer afraid of “being hurt” by others; you’ve helped enough others through difficult times to truly understand that it’s simply part of life, for everyone. You’ve had enough life experience to cushion the often careless blows and put them into perspective. You understand that there is a flip side to all emotions. But now you’re faced with the fact that when Hero Support shows up sad, hurt or weak, it causes a problem; Hero Support can’t do their job if they are not “emotionally stable”.
Hero Support’s entire identity and/or purpose is put into jeopardy if they lose their cool or ability to handle their own mess. After all, from all appearances, you really have nothing to complain about. You are “the rock” and rocks that are used to hold things up are not very useful if they become soft. Hero Support doesn’t like to make others feel uncomfortable or waste their time, that’s not what support looks like. If you’re not “on” it makes those you support uncomfortable and wastes their time; or so it seems. Hero Support has become “The Pleaser“, your job is to make sure everyone is happy. Hero support is not comfortable in the “needing support” role, but who is comfortable in a role they don’t practice?
Who Supports You?
Does anyone support you the way you support others? Who empathizes and makes you feel emotionally secure and/or significant?
Sometimes it’s not until you are ready to accept help that you suddenly realize that you’ve spent so much time, and taken so much pride in, being there for others that you never let anyone be there for you. So now, instead of being scared of being hurt, now you just don’t want to face the hurt of having no one to support you. How can you have spent your whole life caring so much for so many and yet feel so alone? How does that happen? What does that mean? How did you get into this situation and, more importantly, how can you get out?
How comfortable are you with giving support? And receiving it? Can you take a compliment? Do you share your stories?
How do you feel about those you support? Wouldn’t it be OK to let others feel that way about supporting you? What if you were to think of allowing others to support you as a gift to them? Do you know that you ARE worthy of it? Do you know that you need it? We all do.
What would you do for a friend like you? When will you start? Sometimes it helps to think of it this way…if you don’t take care of you, who’s going to take care of your heroes? Remember…you can’t pour lemonade from an empty pitcher. Your feelings matter .
Hero Support people need support too. It’s OK to be strong for others and also, periodically, need/accept others being strong for you. Nothing in nature thrives alone, nothing. The only time you ever see a tree in a field by itself is when some other/external force has taken the others away. In time, if that space is left untouched, either that single tree will die or others will grow around it. The strongest, healthiest forests are the fullest because of symbiotic relationships.
The healthiest bodies of water run two ways, spring/streams/rivers fill them and they in turn feed other springs/streams/rivers; the unhealthiest only run one (i.e. the Dead Sea in Israel). I believe that relationships are the same, everyone needs a place to give and a place to receive, either one without the other isn’t healthy long term and, ultimately, can’t thrive. Connection is a two-way street.
Are You Hero Support?
How many people know your favorite color, place to visit or even your dreams? Do you know theirs? Are you perceived as pretty much having it all together…not really “needing” anything?
Is it natural to want to do whatever you can for others; do they seem to come to you, open up and “know” that you will be there for them? Do you genuinely love to listen to and help others? Does it give you a sense of purpose?
How many “heroes” do you support? When did you take on this role? Is it still serving you? As a strength or a comfort? If it’s a strength, how are your boundaries? Do you know about personal boundaries?
What do you do to replenish yourself so that you can continue to be Hero Support from a place of strength?
When is the last time you let anyone see you cry? Do you still cry? How about the last time you allowed someone to comfort you, to let you know they were there or just listen to what was going on in your head? How would it feel to be the Hero in your own life and ask for support?
I think Hero Support is an amazing and commendable character trait that is fundamental to any thriving community. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t occasionally need support too, you’re still human. One important key for Hero Support is having someone to share with, something I’ll be writing about next…
If any of this sounds familiar, or a topic you’d be interested in delving into deeper, contact me and let’s keep the conversation going.
We are only ever as great or small as we allow ourselves to be.
I think, deep inside, we all know that this is true but, for some reason, we allow others so much input into who we become, even though we are the only ones who are actually there for the whole show. So, if we are like actors in this play called “life”, who is your director? Who is writing your story line… the next scene… the ending?
Who is in the audience? Are they friends- family- colleagues or strangers? Are you trying to impress them or are they there to support and encourage you no matter what? Will they stay for the next scene or will it depend on your performance? Which of them do you expect to be there when the curtains are closing and who is there helping you “backstage”?
What role are you playing? Was it your first choice or the one you thought you were most capable of? Was it handed to you, or did you have to work hard for it? And now….? What do you think about this role? Will/Does it allow you to live up to your full potential? Do you feel like you are BEING ALL YOU CAN BE or is there something more?
How do you feel about it? Are you happy or satisfied? Enough to spend the rest of your life playing it? What have you learned? Is this role what you thought it would be? Does the “costume” still fit or have you outgrown it? Has it become even more comfortable, tight and restricting, or way too big? Is there a new and/or different role you’d like to try before it’s too late?
If you’re stuck in a role or a story line that doesn’t provide you with happiness or life satisfaction, why are you still there? What value are you getting from, or trading for, continuing? Is that value worth your sense of fulfillment from life? Does it make you grateful to be alive? Are you, generally speaking, excited to get up each morning? If so, great, you’re probably right where you belong, but if not… don’t let a few bad scenes determine the entire play. Be bold enough to stand up for yourself and make a change… We will never make everyone happy, but imagine if we all took responsibility for making ourselves happy? I believe the people in our lives that truly love us would rather have us happy in a new role than simply getting through each day in the wrong role. After all, if they spend any significant time around us, my guess is that they too will reap the benefits.
One day your role in this “play” will end; is there anything you can do now to help ensure that you can answer all those questions the way you want to when that time comes?
Remember when you were young and you imagined what/who you would be when you “grew up”? How you would feel? Are you there? On your way? If not, what’s stopping you? What’s the worst that could happen if you tried? Are you sure? Is that fact or something your mind is making up to keep you in the “comfort zone”? How much time have you spent exploring the edges? Either way, is it worth it? Can you deal with, even overcome, whatever that “worst” may be? Is it any harder than getting to the end of the show and realizing you did nothing? What are you hoping for and how do you foresee that happening?
What if it’s as simple as changing the way you look at your life rather than actually changing anything in your life? Maybe all you need to do is shift your focus and realize that you are not just an actor in this play, you get to write it… What if you are living the life of your dreams and just haven’t taken the time to realize/appreciate it? Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind we lose sight of what’s right in front of us. We get so easily impressed by someone else’s “role” or “costume” that we forget how great our own is too. What if you were to intentionally look for all that’s good/right in your life, avoiding comparisons, at least a couple of times a day….every day?
How do you want the next scene to go? Can you visualize your perfect “ending”? What do you need to do to get yourself one tiny step closer to “really happy”, to “I love my life” and/or “I’m so glad I didn’t wait another minute to try that”?
Go for it… the show will go on either way….what have you got to lose? Be the Director of your own life, make your childhood dreams come true, you CAN do it…
It may not be quick or easy but…so what? You’re worth it! (and you have to stick around for the whole show anyway…)
This is YOUR TIME to shine, but you have to TAKE IT…
I read a post on Facebook that said:
“When you have a good heart: You help too much. You trust too much. You give too much. You love too much. And it always seems you hurt the most”.
My first reaction was, Ouch! But for some reason I couldn’t stop looking at it. What was it about those words that was causing me such a strange reaction and why? Finally it hit me, the post made me sad. I wasn’t sad because I agreed with it, I was sad to think that it could encourage people to try not to feel “too much”; that’s how I would have read it some years ago. I used to believe that the more I helped, trusted, gave and/or loved, the more I was setting myself up to be hurt later on. As a result, I started to restrict the amount that I allowed myself to do those things and I began living a very safe, content, protected and inauthentic life. I’m not saying I didn’t have any highs or lows, but neither were very extreme. I became pretty good at “not getting hurt”. I stopped trusting/listening to my heart and I relied on my “logical brain”. Unfortunately, all of the tools/armor etc.… I used to keep the pain out was keeping all of the wonderfulness of life out as well. I began to stop feeling much at all, and what’s the point of that? As I began to delve into “self-awareness”, my whole world began to change, or at least the way I felt about it.
None of this happened over night but, the biggest “life changer” began when I started thinking about my motivation behind my helping, trusting, giving, loving…etc… Why was I doing those things? Was I doing it for me, because I truly wanted to? Because of how it made me feel? For my own personal fulfillment? Or was I hoping for something in return? Was the “hurt “really about the giving? Or was it more about my perception/thoughts about what was/wasn’t being returned and how? Was the hurt because of a “good heart” or a wounded ego?
If I was truly doing these things for my own intrinsic pleasure…for example, if I wanted to love, merely for the pleasure of feeling intense love, would it make sense for me to deny myself that happiness purely out of fear that the recipient may not be able to feel the way I do? Don’t get me wrong, if it isn’t returned, it will probably effect my feelings into the future, I will LEARN from it, but it won’t take away from the pleasure of having been able to feel the most love I could at that moment. Attempting to not love “too much” doesn’t make it hurt less later, it just takes some of the joy away from the process, and the pain of the loss is the same in the end. In either case, you mourn the loss of love, love you didn’t give or receive. But…if you allow yourself to GIVE love, to feel it internally, you get that experience AND you can move forward without any “what if’s”.
The quote made me sad because I recognized it as the very belief that robbed me of so much potential richness in my younger life. Believing it stopped me from feeling all that I could feel; from helping more, trusting more, giving more and loving more. It was this myth that prevented me from letting go of my thoughts about how things “should” be and just experiencing life on a deeper, truer and more meaningful level; living in the moment and dealing with whatever came of it. It lead me to believe that not feeling pain was better than feeling anything at all. It gave me a false sense of “control”. We can never control how others will react to anything we do/say or feel.
I think there is a reason that people have been quoting these lines from Tennyson’s poem since 1850;
“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
The pain of the regrets, “what if’s”, and “if onlys”, hurts much more than any pain caused by having too good of a heart, and the wounds take much longer to heal. If I only knew how much more I would learn from the “hurt” than the regrets... On the positive side, I now take every opportunity to help, trust, give and love as much as I can. I do it for me, I do it selfishly so that I get the most out of my life. I do it because I can, because of how it makes ME feel about being ME. I do it so that, when my time comes, I don’t wonder what would have happened if I had. I’m not saying I let myself be used as a doormat, that I have become incredibly naïve or allow myself be a fool, I’m just saying I no longer let the fear of being “hurt” stop me from getting the most out of my life. I now interpret FEAR as “proceed with caution”, not STOP. I don’t let my fear of others reactions dictate who I am or how I feel. Of course I hope my acts are appreciated, but that’s not in my control.
The Facebook quote reminded me of a story, about a young girl on a beach, being shot at by little arrows. After being hit by a few she knew she didn’t like how it felt. Hastily she began building a stone silo around her for protection. As time passed and she got taller, she continued to build the walls higher. One day, as she noticed a beautiful bird flying overhead, she realized that she had forgotten why she started building…it had become a habit. Eventually, she created a small hole in the silo wall. Outside she saw incredible beauty but had no way of getting to it. The arrow slingers had long gone but she had gotten so used to building those walls, she forgot to stop. Suddenly she became aware that those walls that she had built out of fear, to protect herself from the pain of the arrows getting to her, were now keeping her from the beauty of the life that had continued to go on around her. Unfortunately, she had done such a good job of building, the silo was not easy to tear down. It was a long, laborious, process. Sometimes the sun shining in would sting her eyes and she would need to stop, look away, and take time to let them adjust before continuing. She knew there was no point in stopping, she had nothing left to lose. Eventually, when enough of the walls were down, she was able to step outside the rubble, stretch her body, take a deep breath, and walk on the sand she had only allowed herself to stand or sit on all this time. She never imagined how soft it would feel under her feet, how refreshing the water she had only been able to hear, felt in her hair, and the ocean breeze actually blowing on her face… All this time, in attempt to keep a few arrows from getting to her, she had sheltered herself from the joys and beauty of the world. As she walked away from the silo she cut her foot on a shell. She stopped, instinctively looked back at the stone remains of her “safe-place”, and then watched as her foot bled slightly. Suddenly a wave of emotion washed over her and, in some strange way, she enjoyed the pain, she felt alive. It was the first time she could remember feeling anything in a long time. Within a few moments she had forgotten about the pain and was running along the sea shore, excited about all that she would experience and feel from that day forward. (She also learned to avoid stepping on sharp shells). Never again would she sacrifice feeling something wonderful out of fear of a little pain. From that moment on she vowed to listen to her heart, to trust, and risk “being hurt”. She learned that, without that risk, nothing matters, and feeling empty and alone is painful anyway. She now knew that she would rather feel the pain that may come from feeling “too much”, than the pain that comes from losing the chance to feel anything at all.
She vowed do her best to live a true, authentic, full life, led by dreams and purpose, not limited by fear. She would never again “protect” herself from living her BEST LIFE.
Don’t change who you are, or stop becoming all that you can be, out of fear that others won’t be able to receive it properly. Many of them wont’, but some of them will and, at the end of the day, it’s not your problem unless you let it be. Unfortunately not everyone is going to appreciate you the way you want or even deserve to be, but, I believe, that has very little to do with you and everything to do with them. Imagine if everyone with a “good heart” decided to help less, trust less, give less and love less in an effort to prevent themselves from hurting more? What sort of world would be left? We learn from our “hurt”, it’s just another feeling, fearing it doesn’t have to get the leading role in the stories of our lives.
Ultimately, withholding all of that goodness, tapering what your heart is allowed to feel, is so much more painful than any external person/force could cause. How can we “train” our hearts to feel less pain without merely asking it to FEEL LESS? You’re human, you have a big heart and a big brain, use them both, TOGETHER. Help others because it’s the right thing to do, not because of how much they’ll appreciate it. Trust your instincts, they know you better than your ego thinks it does. Give when you can because we all need each other. Love until your heart feels as though it will burst, do it for YOU, for the pleasure of feeling, because you CAN. Make mistakes, learn, live, feel. It’s your life, it’s happening now, and there are no redoes. Don’t let the fear of possible future pain rob you of THIS MOMENT. It’s your time! 🙂
I believe that our destiny is to be our best selves. To realize our innate strengths, gifts, passions and values and then use them to make a difference in the world, to help out or contribute in some way, big or small. I believe that our destiny is in us when we are born and that free will helps determine how the journey will go. One mistake so many of us make is to turn that free will over to others, often those with the best of intentions, but they can only make the best decisions for their selves, not yours. Many times, when we dutifully follow the “shoulds” of others, despite the feelings in our gut, or voice in our head, telling us otherwise, we live with the loss later, often in the form of regret and resentment.
For some reason we repeatedly listen to other people’s inner voices yet we tend to silence or discredit our own. Why would someone else’s inner voice know more about what’s right for you than your own? Who else has lived your entire life, experienced everything you have experienced and perceived it the very same way? Who else has heard all of your thoughts? Who else do you know that has always, and will always, be with you every night when you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up, for your entire life? And yet, that is who’s voice we tend to ignore or discredit. Why? There is no good reason, I think it’s just habit. Habits are comfortable, after all, we are neurologically wired for survival and our brains know “doing ‘this” has kept me alive this long so….continuing to do it is safe”, and safe is comfortable (but there is no growth in the comfort zone…)
When we were younger we needed to rely on the voices of others for survival. Somewhere along the way this was no longer necessary yet it’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. I’m not suggesting that seeking and/or receiving guidance is in any way shape or form bad, I’m a huge fan of learning from others experiences. I just believe that, once you’ve gathered whatever information you think you need, your own inner voice should be the ultimate decision maker for what’s right for you. Use the voices of others as guidance, not orders.
We spend years learning, or being conditioned in some way, to listen to others; our parents, teachers, mentors, authority figures, bosses etc… When are we taught how to be in touch with, listen to, or even hear, our own “voice”? Why does that concept even sound strange? Is it the idea that we need to be told or taught to hear our own inner voice? But we are told/taught to listen to others….
It seems logical to treat a 2 year old differently from a 12 or 42 year old. They are in different stages of life and, therefore, should live by different standards. So why, when it’s us, do we allow ourselves to be ruled by our same old standards? Why do we continue to listen to the “rules” that were put into our heads when we were children? We aren’t 12 anymore yet so many of us still do things because “that’s the way I was taught”, or brought up. Did you ever stop to think about how old you were when you learned a particular rule or standard that you have continued to live by? Is it possible it was applicable to your life then but really isn’t any more? Do you continue because you believe it’s right for you, or is it just a habit?
If it’s habit, is it a good one? Is it still beneficial or even applicable to the new realities of your life? If not, than how do you break it? For me, the first step was stopping long enough to question my thoughts and my actions; to just become aware of the fact that they really don’t make sense for me any more. Once I started doing that, the rest just sort of happened, and continues to happen… What about you? What “shoulds” do you still follow for no other reason than because you always have? Do they still work for you? Did they ever? Why do you continue? If you could do something different, what would you do? What’s stopping you? Who’s “job” is it to make up the rules for you these days? Who lives with the consequences? If you could rewrite the rules for your life today, knowing all that you know about your current self, what would they be? Think about that, that’s your first step…enjoy the journey, after all…it’s YOUR LIFE, what is YOUR inner voice telling you?
p.s. If you’ve decided to stick with the “status quo” for whatever reason(s), before throwing in the towel completely, ask yourself: “How will I feel 5 years from now if I don’t make any changes today?” What are you putting off or not doing? Imagine your dream life two years from now? Are you on your way there? If not, what’s one thing you can do to get closer? Maybe it’s just making a plan? Remember…small steps forward vs. big steps nowhere wins every time.
This “blue carrot” flower was always one of my mom’s favorites, and I never really understood why. I mean, it’s pretty, but… Every time I see one, I think of her. This summer, as I was walking, I spotted one and decided to stop take a picture of it. As I was thinking of my mom today, on the anniversary of her passing, I was compelled to look at that picture. It was as if she was here with me…I get it now. Although all of the little white flowers within the flower are equally beautiful, there is the one tiny blue/purple flower in the middle that dares to stand out and be different from all the rest, and that’s the one we see first. It doesn’t try to be like the others and “blend in”, and by being individual, displaying its own color proudly, it makes the entire flower more beautiful. My mom was like that.
As I sat looking at the picture, I recalled an “event” that occurred when I was in elementary school. I was in a play and the audience was filled with the parents and family members of my classmates. Moments before the show was ending, I noticed my mom running in one of the side doors. When she saw me notice her she seemed to stand taller, smile, and wave with excitement; as if she didn’t realize that she was still in her surgical scrubs, looking disheveled and arriving late…again.
After the show, as I was approaching my mom, I remember noticing another mom talking to her. This mom was tall, thin, looked picture perfect as always, and had been sitting in the front row when the curtains opened. I remember seeing her with her arm on my mom’s shoulder as if consoling her, it made me slow down and listen with trepidation. I heard her say something to the effect of, “oh poor Betty, you must feel so badly about arriving so late and missing the whole show. It must be so hard on you and your kids with you working so much and missing out…they’re growing so fast…etc…” I remember not knowing whether to jump on her band wagon or kick her in the shins. Before I could do either, my mom was already responding; again with one of her whole face smiles and twinkling eyes shining up from her petite 5’2” frame. She looked the other mom directly in the eyes, took her hand from her shoulder, held it in her own and said something that I remember as, “Yes, it is hard not being able to be everywhere for everyone all the time, but I continue to do the best I can every day and then try again tomorrow.” She went on to add something like, “I am so fortunate that my husband was able to video the program tonight so that we can all go home and watch it together, and the baby I was operating on, she is recovering with her parents now too, but thank you for your concern, I do appreciate it.” (She definitely had a little spice with her sugar.)
Without another breath my mom turned, saw me, and came in for the hug. Wow! I distinctly remember that feeling of not knowing what to think or say. Now, when I think back, I realize that my mom was the perfect example of someone who got her self-worth from within. She knew her purpose was to discover her own unique gifts and do her best to share them with as many as possible to the best of her ability every day, and that’s what she did. Of course she wished she could do more, but she didn’t get down on herself for not being able to, she simply used it as her motivation to get up and try again the next day.
As a teenager, I recall times when this same quality of my mom’s drove me nuts. I couldn’t stand that she seemed to not care how mad or upset I or anyone else was at her. How she would show up with cat hair all over her, in surgical scrubs, or smell of the horse barn, and not seem the least bit embarrassed. It wasn’t that she didn’t ever take the time to get dressed up and go out etc… it was just never about trying to impress anyone else (except maybe my dad from time to time). As I have gotten older and had the opportunity meet more individuals that seem to possess this same “something”, a quality that makes all shape and sizes so attractive that they seem to almost glow, it occurred to me that “it” is their self-confidence; the unshakeable appreciation of their own self-worth. The common denominator is their awareness, total acceptance and love of who they are and all that they can be/do.
My mom always told me that, for as long as she could remember, she knew she was going to be a surgeon, even though there were no women surgeons when she was growing up in the 1930’s. My mom never seemed to believe that anyone outside of her had the ability to know what she could or couldn’t do, only opinions that she could choose to take into consideration or not. She was the only one who lived in her body with her mind and her soul, she seemed to know that her job was to try her best at whatever she was doing and that, as long as she did, the rest was not in her control. I would ask her how she wasn’t afraid of this or that and she would respond, “It’s not that I’m not afraid, I just don’t let that stop me.” It was as if the fear made it exciting for her. I would ask how she could not be bothered by things other people said or did, and she would respond with something like, “Honey, you can’t let what others say and do dictate how you feel or act. You never know where they are coming from, what kind of day they are having, who they may be mad at, etc…” She helped me understand: that people do and say different things for a million different reasons and our job is simply to listen to what we feel, inside, and do what is right for us. And even though we can’t control others, and we have no idea what’s motivating their words or actions, we can control how we react, and that’s all we have to do. Such an amazing, and yet such a simple, concept.
My mom played hard, worked hard, loved hard, and had a smile that lit up a room. She was constantly squeezing all that she could out of life. I don’t remember ever hearing about anyone that ever met her that didn’t love her, or at least respect her. Days before her funeral I heard a story that still makes me smile and really sums up her essence. The gist of it was, when she was told that a patient was referred to her and told that she was “the best pediatric surgeon on the East coast”, her immediate response was, “I wonder who my competition is on the West Coast?” That’s pure confidence.
I miss my mom, but I feel as though I continue to learn from her every day. I like to think that a part of her lives on in me as I pursue my passion as a life coach. She is my role model as I strive to help others achieve a greater sense of self-worth and/or confidence; to realize their innate abilities to generate happiness by knowing who they are, doing their best to be their best, and not letting that fulfillment be dependent on or swayed by the opinions or judgement of others. Each time I am able to do this I feel as though I have fulfilled my purpose and honored my mom at the same time. Through me, she can continue to help others live a fuller life.