mindingmybiz

This blog is my shared process in working towards integrating self-awareness with all other aspects of life, while on my way to becoming more authentic and whole.

Archive for the tag “personal growth”

Self-Reflections on Real vs. Fake Confidence, In Relationships

I like who I am.  I genuinely do.  Yes, there are parts of me I feel more comfortable with than others, but they all make up who I am.  They all belong to me.  The sum of all my parts make up who I am; deep, passionate, caring, and completely lovable. Not everyone will see me in this way, at least not all the time. I don’t either, and I’m OK with that. 

Others have parts of themselves they’re uncomfortable with too, and when certain parts or emotions are expressed in me, it may provoke a reaction from others which illuminates how they feel or interact with their own similar parts.  It’s very rarely personal, but almost always revealing of how one holds certain parts of themselves, usually unconsciously.  That’s exactly why it isn’t personal, yet to the degree an individual can make space for all their parts it will impact the degree of intimacy or intimate-capacity they have for another.

In conflict, pivotal opportunity arises.  The opportunity to strengthen a connection by showing up with openness.  When the struggle (and it’s often a struggle, hence the conflict) to do this is self-acknowledged, compassionate curiosity can soften the edges.  

As a type 6 on the Enneagram, I can detect extremely subtle emotional energy, for better or for worse.  You see, emotions tell on us. They reveal what we tell ourselves about ourselves, and what we tell ourselves about others, all at lightning speed. Curiosity engages with this process and slows it down, because it all happens so rapidly. Slowing the speed down serves to prevent defensively disengaging and shutting down the process, or reacting to it by going on the offense against whatever or whomever we feel defensive towards. What often happens when we don’t consciously slow down to reflect, is a missed opportunity at best, and a self-sabotaging repeat of things we’ve later come to regret.

When an individual shows up with a non-defensive presence and can attune, or meet me where I’m at with sincere, non-judgmental engagement i.e. empathy – it is extremely subtle but profound. This is how intimacy is built, and it is also where it is lost if someone cannot engage with this process. The capacity to be intimate and emotionally available with themselves, and therefore with others is what’s illuminated in these moments. And with that, the opportunity to grow. And, there is always room to grow individually and relationally.

When the opportunity is seized, it’s truly a gift.  A gift that’s birthed in imperfection. It’s a privilege to witness this. What I’m witnessing is another sacred human’s strength and profound trust in themselves, and the impact of being trusted by them as well. There’s risk involved. I want to show up as honestly and authentically as I can, there’s little room for perfectionism in this process.

The natural slower rhythms of synchronicity within this level of intimacy spring from doing enough of this on an individual level first. When two individuals mutually cultivate this kind of space between each other there’s a shared protectiveness and enjoyment, and it’s quite nice and quite rare! So, treasure it.

And while enduring the experiences where there’s a lack of synchronicity, I’m learning to not take the misattunements personally.  It’s more than likely a ripple effect of the rapid past-time insecurities, anxieties, and defenses at play. The key word is: rapid. It cannot be overemphasized how important slowing down is, in order to engage in this process productively.

In certain cases you may find yourself in isolation when it comes to having the intention to evolve, and strengthen your own self and the relationship. When another individual (of which you have no control over) is more invested in their ego boosting their self-esteem, they will defend and resist with great effort. It’s hard to believe because it feels so personal, and it is, but it’s not about YOUR personhood, it’s about theirs. Their very own sense of self-esteem is dependent on a false self (ego) to feel secure, and there is rigidity, not flexibility, in the ego. It’s ego-preservation vs. self-preservation.

When the True self is the one fueling self-esteem, there’s an openness that emerges because the True Self, knows itself and all of its parts (the good the bad and the ugly) can belong so clearly to itself regardless of how anyone may react. It’s an integrated Self that is self-accepting.

So when you experience resistance, understand this is where you can also grow. And to be clear, resistance and defensive reactions can range anywhere from avoidance to fleeing to going on the offense by becoming either passive-aggressive or blatantly aggressive. This is indicative of ego-preservation, that results from having a fragile source of self-esteem (the ego).

When (not if, but when) this happens, you’ll have an opportunity with yourself to get very clarifying information around your own ego-preservation activities, which we all have to different degrees, and of different levels of awareness and intensity depending on how your personality operates (read up on Enneagram). The cracks in your own armor around this may likely get exposed.  Ouch. And welcome to the human race, once again. How you respond has impact. Invite yourself to become empowered.

Some of us are more easily duped by our egos than others. To those who have very sophisticated egos when it comes to self-awareness and where we are on our growth maps, you may want to ask yourself some discerning questions:

  • Do you value or dismiss what’s triggering you? 
  • Do you engage in vulnerable and compassionate self-reflection, sharing this with at least one individual who will challenge and vet your narrative?

If not, you’ll stay stuck and your evolution will pass this opportunity by, and will return again and again until you’ve worked this through to completion.  And, may then visit your descendents for the opportunity to evolve in the next generation.

Little by little, (which is the pace that organic life grows) you’ll stretch your window of tolerating discomfort as you receive these Divinely inspired opportunities to say yes to building a sense of genuine self-confidence that stems from grace and truth.

This is how ultimately how I see adult development works, whether I like parts of it or not. 

“But, what good is that?”

We’re currently in the midst of a pandemic. “Normal” isn’t happening. In times like these, I find there to be an “illumination effect” in revealing what lurks in the shadows of everyday distractions. Take away the distractions, the daily routines and “normalcy” – you’ll find things you didn’t see or feel so clearly. Or, at least it was more conveniently overlooked. It’s in this space, I wrote this poem regarding my own intimate relationship and taking its pulse, within me.

“But, what good is that?”

I want to share myself as authentically as I can, being fully who I know I am. – With him.

But, what good is that?

I want adventure! I want to be fully awake and alive; spiritually and emotionally, not just physically! – With him.

But, what good is that?

I want to be challenged and stretched graciously yet persistently, to reach for new heights and new depths! – With him.

But, what good is that?

I want to bust free from this goddamn smothering straight-jacket of “status quo” and “fitting in” for crumbs of superficial validation. – With him.

But, what good is that?

I want us to become who we were divinely created to be, not merely who we’ve been “tamed”, “conditioned”, or “raised” to be. – With him.

But, what good is that?

I want to be wildly free, from this cage of mediocrity. – With him.

But, what good is that?

What my heart and soul long for is closeness, beyond merely physicality. – With him.

But, what good is that?

My pursuit and fight for intimacy is a result of an ongoing experience of a partner who resists intimacy, and me resisting his resistance. This is resulting in regression and degeneration – the opposite of what my heart longs for. – With him.

But, what good is that?

Why, do you keep asking me this? I’m trying to have intimacy!

But, what good is that?

The merry-go-round of resistance keeps me from what I’ve been terrified of – acceptance and the grieving through accepting what is. There is shame wrapped up in the grief. This is my inner work of healing, which I’ve been unconsciously avoiding because it’s so damn painful and uncomfortable. We are apart, together. And together, apart.

Go in peace my dear child, grieve. – With me.

Know Your Place

Where do you look, in order to know your place?

Allow me to show you. . .

Please, have a look in the mirror.

Get to know the one staring back at you. Understand the person in the mirror – deeply, intimately, slowly, steadily, and thoroughly. You’ll find your place, inside.

In the words of Maya Angelou: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all.”

This used to make no sense to me. Until, I understood for myself that freedom is found within. In making space by letting go of finding your place, outside of you.

When you truly and thoroughly claim yourself, you belong to you. Another person’s disapproval or judgment cannot displace you. You cannot be internally exiled, by another’s exile of you.

This is about personal responsibility, which is what leads to personal freedom.

To truly claim and belong from the inside out, you’ve got to allow yourself to travel the depths of all you are. You’ve got to allow yourself to feel what arises while looking inside yourself. Is there discomfort? Stay there. Gently. This is the gateway to freedom.

To the extent that you disown and deny aspects of yourself when it feels uncomfortable (often subconsciously because it’s what you experienced in your formative years) you’re abandoning yourself. It may feel “familiar” to do so. I know it has for me. I didn’t know any other way. But by doing this I was putting myself, out.

Self-abandonment will keep you in a prison cell, while giving away your power to others to define who you are. Or, to acknowledge that you even exist.

There will be certain aspects of yourself which make you feel uncomfortable. Intensely so. You may feel the urge to reject and shame certain parts of yourself. This is all a part of the healing journey. There’s nothing wrong with you if you experience this discomfort. You can start by being present and curious with your inner-banisher, for this too is a part of you. Why does this part feel the urge to banish certain parts of you? Which parts of you get the boot? Those are parts that need to receive special attention, from you.

When you abandon parts of yourself, you’re likely going to inadvertently depend on an external source to do what you aren’t doing for yourself. Perhaps because you weren’t consciously aware you did this, or haven’t trusted that you’re enough to do this.

You can and you are.

In fact, only you have the power to set yourself free. Accepting the vulnerable parts of you is an act of true inner security, strength, and courage. This is necessary and therapeutic when it happens through another person’s validation who assists in filling developmental gaps from childhood, but don’t stop here. It’s only when you start doing this for yourself, that transformation and freedom unfolds.

If you’re constantly looking for others to accept your vulnerable parts while you reject them, and you get their temporary validation – you’re still not free; regardless of how much another may love or validate you. It can be a great start, but you’ve got to take the baton sooner or later and do this for yourself as a practice. In other words; again and again.

Take note; you cannot bypass parts of yourself which make you feel the most uncomfortable. Actually let me restate that. Of course you can do whatever you want on your journey. You are the one who lives it. But know this – you will be housing a fragile sense of self that gets easily triggered by factors outside of your control. So, consider this side-effect of discomfort-avoidance as you evolve. As you evolve, you’ll likely notice yourself tolerating avoidance less, and becoming more sensitive to what you’re missing out on when bypassing the rich opportunity that discomfort often presents.

I’ve found it’s also immensely empowering to become well acquainted with different aspects within, which seem in direct conflict with one another. Give yourself time and gentleness, and convene. This is profoundly healing work. Work that pays off because it empowers you to trust yourself more and more, which includes owning your right to make mistakes and learn from them.

By doing this inner work, you give yourself the conscious awareness of how these parts have formed your personality and parts of your identity in ways that don’t serve you like they once did, and perhaps you’ve never questioned any of this because you believed “you” were rigidly set in stone. Not so. You are malleable. Neuroscience call this neuroplasticity. As a human being, you are able to form new neural pathways and always add onto your learning, throughout your entire lifespan according to your level of openness. That is how we’ve survived this long. But you don’t just have to merely survive (aka not be dead). You can awaken, thrive, and be fully ALIVE.

I believe all of us formed a “self” as a means to adapt and survive while we were young, within whatever emotional environment we grew up in, by no choice of our own. This is my understanding of what an “ego” is. The ego isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s an adaptation, a pretty sophisticated but manufactured identity or “false self” that was formed without a conscious awareness in order to protect the True-Self, while your brain was still developing, and the mechanisms to defend our True Self got wired in along the way, and often become how we see our “self” vs how we survived our childhood environments which were less than ideal for the True Self to be engage with others. These defensive strategies can also be re-learned to serve us better as we receive feedback from present day life. IF – you are not offended by the feedback because you understand it’s not about your worth, but about your programming.

Until consciously examined, the ego is an adaptive autopilot personality or “false self” consisting of various unexamined beliefs which run you. It learned quickly in early childhood about what kind of “person” you should be in order to position yourself to receive external validation at best, or not be abused or neglected (physically and/or emotionally) at worst.

In childhood we develop our sense of “self” from the outside in. Our brain codes our experiences along with the emotions we carry at the time, based on how others (initially our primary caregivers) reflect us back. This starts during our preverbal years. That is how all children start to develop, from the outside in. It takes a long time for our brains and nervous systems to fully mature and develop. During our development, from the time in utero until we are well into our 20’s, lots of experiences happen (lots of which are not optimal) which get wired in as we try to make meaning of our world; internally and externally. When we don’t have caregivers or adults in our lives who can help us make meaning from our experiences in a way that validates our worth (from them knowing their own worth) we are left to fill in a lot of blanks as young kids. That’s a pretty grown-up job for a child to fill in for, so be gentle on yourself. And this isn’t about your parents being consciously and willfully neglectful or incompetent. In most cases it’s done without their conscious awareness. In any case, this is about how you now can consciously respond.

In adulthood we have more choices. We can choose who we reach out to, we’re not confined to our parents, our family of origins ,or school teachers, etc. We have more say-so. Often we filter through who we reach out to with what feels most familiar on an unconscious level. It’s the most energy conserving way, at first. Until life gives us feedback in the form of pain. Learning to expand what is “familiar” takes intention and time. Taking one step at a time through unfamiliarity will eventually lead to new “normals” of to what feels familiar. Again, this takes time. Be patient with yourself.

In adulthood I can practice accepting parts of me that were judged in childhood. They no longer need to hide for protection, they just need connection to the rest of me, and to others who’ve earned my trust.

When you can boldly accept all your parts, even especially the weird ones – you will set yourself up to receive acceptance that is available externally and freely. If you are still not accepted externally and are respectfully being authentic; it is most likely not an issue between you and them, but an issue between that other person and an aspect of themselves they are not accepting. Often without their conscious awareness. Wish them well or farewell, you may need to grieve a loss depending on what is lost but know you are not losing your own place,, within you. It isn’t your place to force another to accept you or to force yourself to contort yourself so they can pseudo “accept” you. You don’t have to do that anymore.

Know that your place is still securely within you regardless of where others place you.

Wherever you go, you belong. Because wherever you go, there you are. And you belong to you. Saith who? Saith you.

Trust Your Anger

Say what?

Yes. I am here to tell you that you can trust your anger. This emotion has been so poorly misunderstood for many folks, including myself. And I understand why. When we don’t understand that our anger is offering us a love-based power, we tend to distrust, fear, resist and/or misdirect it.

I’ve done all the above. Yet the thing is with anger (and all of our “negative” emotions) it doesn’t magically disappear just because we ignore it. Emotions are energy, and according to my high school daughter’s science teacher; energy cannot be destroyed or created, but transferred. Now, whether the act of transferring of energy is conscious or not, that’s where having an empowerment lens regarding emotions comes into play.

What if anger is meant to be a loving and persistent wake up call? A clarion call to expand, first within yourself.

When we keep hitting the ‘snooze’ button on our anger, it doesn’t work out too well for long. Anger is meant to wake you up and the more you try to resist it, the more it will persist even if it means it has to come out sideways. And when our emotions have to come out sideways, there are usually unforeseen and undesirable “side effects”, pun intended.

Common ways anger comes out sideways is by being super judgmental and intolerant of certain differences, while feeling a sense of self-righteousness. It also comes out by being covertly aggressive while feigning this helpless victim/vindictive mode of operation, triangulation, gossip, “isms”, divisiveness, and ultimately consumes a ton of energy to keep anger, on lock-down. Sometimes there is so much energy used up to lock-down anger (which again is energy itself) that people will collapse or implode from basically going to war with their own energy. Depression comes to mind.

I see depression as energy literally used to depress energy; an emotional civil war of sorts that presents in a multitude of self-harming ways in order to release this built up tension from a civil or internal war. There will be success in the sense of temporarily avoiding the anger, but this comes at a huge cost. Consider countries who are engaged in civil wars; burning up valuable resources to fight themselves.

The goal of avoiding anger may be reached by not ever authentically expressing it, but usually this results in ultimately feeling: ISOLATED and drained, while blaming external factors or people, for the internal civil war. That IS depressing.

What if your anger wants to bring you connection, first within. What if anger was a bridge between the gap of who you think you “ought” to be and who you are, authentically?

Anger is an alarm. It’s a wake up call. What is anger waking you up to?

Your TRUE SELF and the power you have in being true to this self.

You may keep hitting snooze on your anger if you fear and judge aspects of yourself, as well as your own sense of personal power. You may believe it’s better to give away your power, and hold someone else responsible for this. Yet when they inevitably disappoint you with your power you’ve given away, you blame them. This keeps you stuck. If this is what you want, don’t change a thing. Don’t look within.

If you want something different, you’ll have to be willing to do something, different.

The way out, is through your anger. Listen to it.

When I’ve tapped into my own anger, this is what I’ve heard it saying: 
Hear Me. See Me. The REAL Me.  Stop giving me away to other people. Stop giving away my Power. Stop abandoning me. I know you can handle me. You can handle my power. I am trustworthy, but I will not shut up. I am not evil. I will not make you “sin”. I do not want to harm you or others. I want to wake you up to something bigger and better, but you are asleep within your comfort zone, fearing the unknown. Fearing the unfamiliar. I am here to provide you with the necessary fuel to trek through uncharted territory and do things that are not within your norm. The norm is boring and lulling you to sleep. I am here to WAKE YOUR LOVELY ASS UP to how parts of you have been indoctrinated with bullshit. Do you want to hold onto bullshit? I am here to wake you up to living a life that you truly mean to live, yet there are limiting subconscious beliefs getting in the way. I’m not afraid to confront bullshit, I can handle it. Trust me, and WAKE UP.”

This is the empowered message of anger. It’s a wake up call to live more consciously and authentically. Ironically, the more you snooze your anger, the more you will distrust it because you are experiencing the side-effects of denied anger, which comes out SIDEWAYS.

And you SHOULD be leery of anger that comes out sideways. It ain’t pretty, it’s quite depressing actually. And yet you can let your anger direct you, back to yourself, one step at a time.

Your Secret Power-Potion: self-validation

You have an emotionally intelligence-based gift if you’re able to own the need to validate yourself (grant your emotions sacred space away from the inner-critic even especially, uncomfortable emotions). This is the basis for emotional self-care. Living with the emotional intelligence to perceive this need is a privilege which provides you with inconspicuous but indispensable benefits. And while it’s a gift for those who are emotionally sensitive (not fragile, but sensitive) it’s also a responsibility that when left unattended for too long, will create suffering. A disconnect from your source of internal power that’s waiting to be tapped into will persist, the more you resist this need.

Instead of believing this need for validation is wreaking your life because it somehow means that you’re defective, weak, or too needy – see it as an opportunity to reclaim your power.  All humans need this, because humans are more than just physical matter. Whether they see it or not for themselves, you can own this for yourself.  Does having an emotional need make you vulnerable? It depends. If you deny them – yes. Very. If you take ownership of them – then it’s a source of power. Why? Because the most powerful potion lies within you. You just need to drink it up.  

For many of us who grew up in the emotional Stone Age, our emotional need for validation has been such a tragically, undeservingly, shamed part of us. Yet, is worthy of the utmost respect.  Why? Because it’s a core aspect of what it means to be HUMAN.

If your internal well-being depends on externals in order to feel good, are you OK with feeling extremely vulnerable and powerless?

For whatever it’s worth to you – I validate your need for validation!  But trust me, you don’t need me or anyone else to validate this for you, in order to survive. You can learn to do this for yourself, with compassion and consistency.

Just as your body needs oxygen, food, and water – your soul needs validation. And you are more than just a body made up of physical matter. You have a soul, and THAT matters. 

You can feed your soul validation (which is the most powerful form of validation for you).  And THEN, you’re able to gratefully receive (versus grab onto for dear life) whatever external validation is being served up your way. External validation is based on a variety of things outside of you. For instance, how much or how little others feel validated.  External validation isn’t an accurate portrayal of your worth.  Receiving external validation in addition to yours, is an important supplement. But when external validation is your ONLY source, this is when you unwittingly become extremely vulnerable, all while you bullshit yourself into believing you’re invulnerable. When you do not practice or let alone, acknowledge your own emotional self-care needs – this leaves you wide open to being needlessly and precariously, emotionally dependent. Even if you feel you’re getting this outside of an intimate relationship like through meeting certain societal or external standards for being “good enough”, it’s still not coming from YOU. When you depend on external sources of validation, you easily become manipulated and/or destabilized either by individuals, group-think, or cultural/societal standards of your worthiness because you’ve lost connection to your internal source of power – YOU. And you let your worth be defined by others.

Being emotionally sensitive supports you to being exquisitely in touch with this universal human need for validation. And this may feel like a curse, but it is a GIFT which is worthy of being unapologetically owned, cared for, enjoyed, and talked about.    

You are no victim to your emotional needs! Though you can interpret this from a victim standpoint when you deny and shun this sacred part of you.

You possess a source of power that nobody can outright steal from you. Nobody. Consider Jesus, Nelson Mandela, or other humanitarian martyrs around the world, throughout history.

In our emotionally avoidant culture, it’s safe to say that the emotional part of you has been poorly misunderstood. You don’t have to buy into it anymore. Again – accepting your need for validation; isn’t what makes you vulnerable; quite the opposite!  It’s what connects you to your power.  

When you connect deeply to the Divine Lifesource from within, notice how this impacts how you react to external slights or invalidations (perceived or real). You’ll still notice them, but you won’t lose your footing.

Others who envy this secret potion and don’t realize they have it to, may get their sense of power/control from provoking or manipulating you. They may consciously or unconsciously invalidate it. Let them!  We’ve all been there before, and can easily slip back into that insecure place.  And still, find the courage to press on as you evolve consciously, imperfectly, and as authentically as you can – one step at a time.  

This is your secret power-potion, because when this practice of emotional self-care is done in secret, it’s powerful.

The Comfort Zone – ROE – Based in young-but-old fears…

These are your Rules of Engagement. If you dare become a defector to this regime of self-government – you’re on your own. But – you will be free. Therefore, choose consciously…

  • Do not be aware of what makes you feel uncomfortable.  At all cost: distract, explain/intellectualize/religionize away these demons and judge others who do not.
  • Don’t you dare welcome, examine, challenge, and shine on the other-side of leaving this comfort-zone.
  • Do not trust yourself.  Look outside for all validation, security, worth, and guidance, and remember to measure the outsides of others against your insides.
  • Interpret all mistakes as evidence that you’re not good/smart/strong/worthy enough, as is.
  • Strive for the appearance of perfection and “having it all together”.
  • Give a lot of fuks about what you cannot control, like other people’s business rather than your own, especially how they judge you.
  • Shrink to make others comfortable within their own comfort zones.
  • Do not be vulnerable/authentic and rock the boat of “normalcy”.
  • Always fear what the critics think, especially your own.
  • Shame and blame everyone else when things don’t go well. Never compassionately look at yourself. Ever.
  • Survival is the ONLY goal. And it’s survival of the ego.  
  • Fear and avoid any and all discomfort.
  • Do not let anyone in to see you. Rejection will not be risked.
  • Do not outgrow this comfort zone.  Conform and live survive.

Pain is the alarm system going off. It’s your Heart’s wake-up call to begin CONSCIOUSLY LIVING. It’s an opportunity saying, “You’ve outgrown your comfort zone.” Hit ‘Snooze’ (Warning: it comes on later) or – ARISE!! And get your lovely ass up…because you are worth it.

Same Old… Same Old…

If you want the same old shit, then do the same old shit.  If not…listen up.

Denial thrives on blame.  Blame thrives on denial.  They work hard together to keep people successfully stuck.

If anyone wants to experience change that’s good for their soul, in any area of their lives, they’ve got to take up ownership in getting themselves closer to where they want to be.

Excuses and blame will never be in short-supply.  If you settle for excuses and blame, you settle for remaining stuck.  You’ve GOT to get passed excuses and blame if you want to avoid being stuck.

Movement.  Change needs movement.

Movement often needs to start with moving your thoughts and beliefs around, in a conscious awakened state.

What is it YOU are after?  Get clear on the “who” before getting clear on the “what”.  Do YOU want this?  Or is this coming from someone else who doesn’t live your life, but believes they know better how you should live your own life?  Big difference, you’re you — they’re not.

Now, after you sort out ownership of the desired change YOU are after, congratulate yourself.  You are stepping into your power by stepping into life ownership.  This may be a small step that nobody other than you will recognize, but it is a big deal.  Huge.  This is where your moxie will come from – life ownership.

Next – Ask yourself this, and wait for the answer from within…

Do you believe you are worth what you’re after?  If you do not, consider the possibility that you are settling for owning shame that is not yours.  Someone from somewhere, has projected their own shit onto you.  This most likely happened when you least expected or suspected it, or you wouldn’t have let it in.  Aka childhood or when someone you looked up to somehow mishandled your vulnerability, and therefore has kept you stuck without you even knowing it.  You’re getting yourself self-awareness, which launches you into self-empowerment.  You can’t change if you don’t have a sense of power.  Self-awareness and self-empowerment are musts in life, underlined with self-compassion.  Breathe.  These are biggies that most people struggle with in different degrees.  Find yourself a good therapist if you need support to sort through this because you ARE worth it.

Back to it, let’s not forget that you are after something good for your soul.

If you long for something to change to the point that it creates enough pain and dissatisfaction in your life without it changing, consider yourself officially: Invited

Invited to step it up in life.  Instead of focusing on things you feel you cannot do, focus on things you can do — today, tomorrow, or within the next few days.

Then – get busy.  Follow through.  If you know you have the tendency, more than not to “forget”, slack off, or trip up with excuses when it comes to delivery time – do yourself a well deserved favor and get yourself some kind of accountability partner.  This will up your chances of following through.  A requirement for accountability to work on your end is having humility and honesty.  Otherwise all bets are off.

If you need something more concrete, make yourself a plan of action in writing.  Even if it’s just one or two steps that are different than what you usually do, that’s enough to start with.  Most people need this concrete plan in the beginning, until there’s enough momentum to perpetuate the change you’re after.  Share it with someone you trust.

When you do follow through, no matter how small – tell somebody who can celebrate and congratulate you.  Recognize that force of pride welling up within you.  You earned that.  Keep doing what got you that feeling – by following through.

You can always re-evaluate your next steps.  You can always adjust, but make sure to keep your eyes on what you’re ultimately after.

Gradual steps for personal change make a difference.  And that is what you want –  a difference.  Change.  For something to change, something has to change.

Be compassionate and gracious with yourself, but be wholeheartedly committed to learning as you go, and keep moving forward.

Believe, conceive, and achieve.

You are worth it.  You really are.

Growing by Choice

butterfly growthIn all kinds of relationships between equals, there will be times where the “right” choice, or the “best” choice is not so clear-cut.  But I will always have the choice to either grow or not grow.

Relationships often present opportunities where the grey area becomes fertile soil for exploring what feels right – in the moment.  And when you’re not certain if this choice will result in an outcome you desire or not, there is the opportunity to grow – either way.

One of the choices that may present in a relational conflict is how to use your voice – either through speaking up and engaging, or refraining through conscious silence or having minimal engagement. When I am being mirrored back by another through their words describing me, to me, which involves assigning motives and a story-line depicting me in a way that feels utterly foreign to my soul, I often feel compelled to speak up and defend myself.  Yet, I am learning this is not always the most helpful action to take.

By making the choice to grow through this relational ambiguity, I am realizing that in relationships there may come a time when it is determined that it’s definitely time to walk away and conversely, when it is definitely time to stay in the mess and try to mend things.  But sometimes, it is not so clear up-front.

The way to determine this difficult decision is to dial inward first.  Starting with asking myself some important questions –  Is there room for the real me in this relationship?  Is my voice given respect and being sought out with receptivity, or am I being disregarded and spoken for on behalf of another who is defining me in ways I do not identify with?  If I am drowning in another person’s definition of my reality and of my character to the point where I feel the need to speak up in order to breathe, that is a big red flag.

In times past, I would often speak up loud and clear, with gusto and often with aggression.  It felt like there was so much at stake for me – like the very ground I stood on was being tampered with, tied in with my sense of self.  But as I take the time to reflect I notice a gradual shift taking place.  I find myself peacefully pausing first and feeling a lesser degree of urgency to speak up.  I am more mindful and self-aware now, and in that place I’m noticing more.  I allow and welcome this new feeling – a feeling of hesitation to engage.  I used to think that was a sign of weakness, I feared that if I didn’t speak up immediately I was giving away my power – it felt threatening to not speak up.  I now see an alternative way to experience this.  Though I notice I’m being defined by another in ways that clearly feel misaligned with who I know myself to be, I can pause and am not so reactive, albeit this is a work in progress depending on the relationship.

My sensitivity and focus is pointed internally and I feel more grounded.  Before, my sensitivity and focus were pointed externally, towards the other person’s perception of me.  No wonder I didn’t feel grounded.  When I recently I experienced this, I noticed I felt intruded upon by the other who presented with such an air of definitiveness about my character, all without me having say in how I was being defined.  Yet – I saw I had choices in how to respond – before I responded.  Hello growth!

Engaging, by explaining and defending myself is one choice — but not the only choice.  This feels very freeing and empowering.  Although the struggle to resist being reeled in towards engaging defensively is present, I also notice it is gradually losing its grip on me.  I can pause and find myself being inwardly curious and wondering – Is this battle for me to vindicate myself worth the investment of my time and emotional/mental energy?  I do not have a limitless supply of those resources, so I want to invest them in ways that will most likely add value to my life and relationships even though there is likely some risk, is it worth it?

When I become mindful of these probing questions within, I’m less occupied by the external perceptions of me.  I may still choose to address those perceptions externally with the other person(s), but it comes from a different place within.  The subtle difference is noticed by the feeling that there is less at stake in trying to adjust someone else’s perception of me – something I have little, if any control over.  I can afford to take a more mindful and conscious approach, my ego’s survival doesn’t seem to be driving this – big difference.

Respect is a huge thing for me.  Not superficial respect where someone is being “nice” or “polite” while I’m being dismissed and minimized as I share my inner reality with someone or while I seek to mend a relational injury.  Real respect for me is being treated as though my experiences, thoughts, feelings, and words truly matter.  When I feel as though I’m being diminished by how another is treating me – I take notice.  If this persists after I’ve tried to assert myself, the relationship then becomes an unsafe place for me and I will at minimum – need to take a temporary break.  I can walk away and set my boundary in a respectful but straight-forward manner.  If I am further diminished as a result – again, I take notice.  It becomes evidence straight from the horse’s mouth confirming that this relationship indeed needs to end for now – leaving me at more peace with my choice to walk away.

Ending a relationship well, on my end is important.  I don’t need to feel justified in ending a relationship by identifying myself as the victim and pointing the finger at some “perpetrator”.  I can forego the witch-hunt – there really doesn’t need to be a “victim” and “perpetrator” identified in order to justify ending a relationship unless someone truly had no power or choice in what contributed to injuring the relationship in some way.  In many situations, the need to identify as a victim at this point often backfires for years to come because it leads to blame shifting with feeling entitled to vindictive behavior when a relationship is ending or down-shifting.  Unfortunately, this happens way too often and it burns bridges.  Bridges that otherwise could have opened the door for a relationship to be healed and rebuilt in the future.

People can always choose to grow and change.  By leaving relationships through blaming and self-righteously lashing out, it flicks off any hope for the relationship to possibly be recovered.  I specifically have family relationships in mind here – it is especially bad news when things implode at the end of a relationship where there are also family ties.  The impact is far-reaching, especially when there are children and other family members touched by this.  There is often unforeseen collateral damage when this happens between family members -it’s really sad.

In the midst of the passing storm, I am awakening to the amazing truth that I have choices!  I make peace with them by being more mindful and less reactive as I learn to discern whether this is a time to tear away or a time to mend, a time to be quiet or a time to speak up, or a time to just reflect more.  I make that choice the best I can, and I’ll make peace with it better when I do take the time to pause and don’t impulsively react.

Bottom-line: It’s my choice – whether I can say I made the “right” choice or not matters, but is secondary to the fact that regardless of the end result, I made the choice to grow while trying my best to make the best choice.

 

Innocent Bystanders of Parental Wrath

poison injectionThe unfortunate phenomenon of kids being poisoned by a parent’s (or any adult caretaker’s) rage towards another adult in a kid’s family is so nasty, but all too common.  Why are parents so oblivious to the damage they are inflicting onto their child out of their anger towards someone other than their innocent child?

Seriously.  Wake Up.  Open your eyes and look at who the recipient of your rage really is -your innocent child.  Such seething and reckless anger dangerously injects the wrong target – your children – when it is acted out by them being dragged into something that is really none of their business.  Please – for the sake of these children, own your anger, work through it in conscious, productive, and healthy ways.  Find it worthy to muster up enough courage to get help as needed in order to do this.

Common scenario:  A kid’s parent (or adult caregiver) becomes embittered towards another adult in their child’s life — perhaps their other parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc., and the embittered parent responds by injecting the CHILD with harmful anecdotal accounts portraying the other adult as not loving the child in some way.  This is done to rally support, garner sympathy, and often in older children can nurse a grudge or put a wedge up in between the child and the other adult where there otherwise would not be one, while simultaneously coercing the child to choose loyalties and protect the parent who is in fact the one injecting them with this poisonous vengeance.  This is often done in the guise of being a victim.  It’s highly effective with children because it exploits their innocence, vulnerability, and dependability on the adult who is initiating this tactic.  It’s sickly manipulative when it continues as a pattern after chances to correct and amend it have been neglected.

I realize there are indeed incidents where a parent in a child’s life truly makes the outright decision to abandon and abdicate their rights and responsibilities that come with providing care for their own child.  That is not what I am referring to in this post.  When that happens, the adult(s) that remain in the child’s life who want to support that child need to intentionally provide healing for the abandonment and neglect of the parent that fled.  This often involves sharing the hurtful truth in a sensitive way that is focused on the child’s feelings and self-concept following parental abandonment.  This is not done by emphasizing how the parent who left did not love them or want them.  That is not why a parent fleas, it is because a parent does not have the wherewithal to be a parent.  This has nothing to do with the child’s loveability or worth.  It is about the parent’s extreme limits, not about the limits of the child’s worthiness of love and care.

When one parent is hurt and angry by the other parent, and they turn around and tell their child that daddy or mommy doesn’t love them and want to see them, that is injecting the child with poison because you’re angry at the other parent.  The child is an innocent bystander that has now become the recipient of your wrath.  How is this loving and fair to the child?  It’s not at all.  It is harmful, and though it is hard and often requires a ton of courage and help to avoid doing – it is completely preventable and up to you to take on, for the sake of your own child as well as your own well being.

I get how difficult it is to not act out of spite when you are hurt and feeling completely wronged by your ex or some other adult in your child’s life.  But your child shouldn’t be expected to be so understanding as they get dragged into something they didn’t cause.  They are innocent and do not need to get dragged in the middle.  So please – get help to keep them out of it.  Get honest with yourself.  If you’re struggling to protect your children from your own pain and bitterness, no matter how valid your pain and bitterness may be, it is never valid to throw your child in the midst of it and inject them with poison as you seethe with anger towards your ex or whomever the adult is that you are actually angry at.

 

Calculated Vulnerability

bleeding heartsVulnerability.

This word is attracting a lot of attention lately.  And it’s earned it.  By its presence, vulnerability has a unique potential to expedite deep connection and intimacy within your closest relationships.  But just because you’re stripping yourself down and risking yourself by becoming vulnerable, doesn’t mean you’re practicing vulnerability in the way it’s earned its due respect.   I believe I’ve got enough personal experience to base this conviction off of.  I have explored venturing out into the territory of vulnerability.  And overall, I have had enough good experiences of becoming vulnerable, to counter the painful experiences, to give vulnerability much respect.  But at the same time, I’ve had enough painful experiences to teach me to avoid practicing vulnerability in a reckless or uncalculated way, albeit I’m continually learning as I go.

I’ve learned to practice calculated vulnerability.  Even though I’ve experienced wounds after being vulnerable with people, or within certain contexts which were not suitable for me to do that in, it’s undeniably still worth it to me.  The small but growing evidence of experiencing vulnerability’s dividends paying off are so rich and rewarding, that the wounds cannot override the rewards.  It doesn’t mean I don’t feel the fear or am acutely aware of the risks, or it wouldn’t even BE vulnerability in action.  I still feel the fear, yet I can do it anyway.

Vulnerability is a very rare and indispensable quality when a trusting connection is valued in a relationship.  Even if the word is heard and talked about a lot, the actual embodiment of it is not commonplace, but there’s more to it than just becoming vulnerable for the sake of becoming vulnerable when bringing conscious awareness to it.

Conscious vulnerability comes from a place within, where there is enough inner strength and courage to take that calculated risk within a relationship, for the desired outcome of moving closer and feeling more connected.  This is what makes it worth it.  If it doesn’t go the way you want though, you will feel some pain, to varying degrees depending on the context.  If you would not feel any pain, there is nothing to risk and therefore you are not being vulnerable.

Calculated vulnerability is not demanding that you relinquish your personal power.  A conscious choice to make yourself vulnerable and take a risk with someone stems from your personal sense of power and courage.  This is one reason I believe, many people avoid it, at least it was for me.  When there is a void within, there’s no footing to provide the solid grounding to hold one up when the storms come.  Like a tree with deep roots, the wind may blow hard, but it will not uproot it because of its deep, strong roots underground.  Without being rooted in your own personal power, you are rooted in something else, perhaps subconscious fear, which likely will result in you feeling like a victim if it doesn’t go the way you want.  Self-resentment is likely to ensue, as well as feeling resentful toward this other person for victimizing you.

I used to think people were weak for being so “needy” or when they seemed to have emotional pain and needs or longings.  I see things differently now.  Vulnerability takes great inner strength.  Knowing, seeing, and accepting me and my human needs while surrounding myself with others who are pursing that for themselves and others, nurtures inner strength.

I have been vulnerable with others, not always from a conscious place that was rooted in my own personal power though, and I felt like I needed to control the outcome and the other’s response.  It rarely went well, if ever.  But when I am making the conscious choice to uncover a covered part of me and to bear my soul to another, while it still renders me feeling vulnerable towards being rejected in some way, I can do it with receptiveness to seeing how the other person receives me.  I don’t take it as personally, even though I can still feel an initial sting, it isn’t so much about just me anymore.

Relationships involve taking risks.  I am learning how to take calculated risks when I’m being consciously aware of two dynamics coupled with each other.  The first is what I want for and in the relationship; my desires and longings.  And second, what I’ve observed myself experiencing within the relationship thus far with said person.  Meaning how much I trust and feel this is suitable to warrant taking this risk.  Nothing is for certain but I am consciously calculating these two dynamics and self reflecting as I go.

I also have learned that I have a role to play in how this may turn out by how I approach the other person.  How can I be honest and true to myself, while doing my best to set them up to get it right with me?  If I am hurt or somehow put off by something the other person has done or left undone, do I approach this with harsh criticism, passive-aggressive jabs, or stonewalling (an extreme avoidance)?  Or, do I approach this with opening up from a curious (giving the benefit of the doubt) and vulnerable position, sharing how I am struggling and feeling this out, while trying to more fully understand what’s going on.  When I am afraid, angry, confused, and set off, it is very hard to come to the other person from a vulnerable place.  My tendency has been to come out with either my boxing gloves on or to resentfully withdraw with my middle finger up, in an attempt to protect myself.  Yet I am learning that is how intimacy is usually sabotaged, not protected and grown, in the inevitable midst of conflict.

Owning my power by being vulnerable, which is actually more emotionally honest and straight-up, I can then move forward and not fall back into wanting to either fight or shut-off.  I am putting enough trust in myself to handle whatever comes and being ready for it, even if it stings for a little while.  I don’t do this with all of my relationships to the same degree.  No, I’ve learned I need to exercise discernment based on those two parts of the equation for calculated vulnerability to show up – 1) My desire for the relationship 2) How much I trust this other person and the capacity of the relationship to carry this, even if it gets messy.  It’s a calculated risk.

Calculated vulnerability comes from a place of empowerment, not helplessness and it takes both courage AND wisdom.

 

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