Archive for approval from others
The lie might at first be spoken directly, verbally, by a parent or a relative, a friend or a preacher or a teacher. It might be communicated indirectly, more subtly, through over-protectiveness or unreasonable discipline. The lie is different than a benevolent guardian saying, “I want you to benefit from some correction and direction from me because I want you to be able to live your life to the full.” It attacks the heart; it plants deep seeds of doubt about the wholeness of simply being human.
It teaches the follower to doubt everything about themselves. Their feelings, their thoughts are never quite right, never quite good enough. They have little sense of how to navigate through their own life because how can they trust themselves? They are a beating heart that believes they beat the wrong way. The Guilty Way teaches them to survive by either following other people or following idealistic “rules” outside of themselves. It creates a constant ongoing checklist in the mind, a constant and fearful battle to figure out the next little step. Sometimes those around us who have labored in it longer than we have cheer us on. Many times they do so in jest… or more blatantly with little comments, facial expressions or reactions.
It can tinge in almost any situation. In making choices about what to wear, what to eat, what to say… who to invite, who to call, who to visit… where to buy groceries, how often to clean the house, how to arrange the furniture… what kind of job to have, what kind of friends to have, what kind of wedding to have… where to go on vacation, what kind of bathing suit to wear, what kind of activities to do… what kind of haircut to get, what kind of makeup to wear, what kind of music to listen to, what kind of movies to watch… who to talk to at the party, where to sit in church, how much to charge your customers [if you’re acquainted with this Guilty Way as I am, feel free to add to this list in a comment!… ]
It can become so insidious and accepted that we live our lives turned inside out. We live to exclusively please others or fulfill impossible expectations because we doubt that it’s good enough for us to make choices with our own happiness in mind. We doubt that paying attention to our real desires and thoughts can lead us towards the good life. The Guilty Way wraps around our hearts like a snake, squishing out our life, our spontaneity, the vibrant, good and healthy us. And it is never quite satisfied.
More on a DIFFERENT way this Friday…
Taking a thinking break, I looked over to my calendar. The saying for February was about growing quietly but persistently… I liked that one. Suddenly I realized that it was time to turn it over to March! Pulling it off my cubicle wall, I excitedly peeled up the next page to read this month’s quote. It read:
“The most powerful agent of growth and transformation is something much more basic than any technique; a change of heart.” ~John Welwood
In a split second, I took my pen, crossed out “heart” and wrote a different word underneath.
A change of heart… My heart has to change? How?…
It was as if I was a little girl in church again and the pastor was telling me that I needed to change my heart. Feet dangling above the floor… innocent eyes and ears drinking in every detail, every voice inflection, every verse read, every song sung. Change my heart? Make it somehow… better?
Does this mean I have to change how I feel? Yes, I guess it must be that. I have to have better feelings. So some feelings are bad, and some feelings are good. Okay… so how do I change the bad feelings to good feelings? Because that “good” heart?- that’s what I want. Oh, and having a change of heart means I need to be good on the outside too? Maybe that will help… Okay, give me the list of what’s good and I will work very hard at it. Very hard! If I can work hard enough at this list, then will I get that good heart? Where do I go for the stamp of approval? What signs can I look for to know that my heart really has changed for the better?
I don’t think the writer meant for his words to be taken in quite this way… but that is how they struck me today. Instead of the phrase change of heart, I’ll be looking at the phrase change of understanding for this coming month.
Understanding. After I wrote it, I thought about that word. I pictured something strong standing up on the inside of me, strong legs and strong arms holding up my heart, holding it in place, letting it breath, letting it pump and flow and give and receive and BE alive. Understanding. Knowing that way before it got so confused with other people’s versions of “good”, my heart was good. It was born that way. It’s not my heart that needs to change. The thing that creates the vitality of transformation is a change in the underpinnings of what I believe about myself and a new understanding of where the faulty underpinnings came from in the first place.
I read a really interesting article in the paper this week. The reporter interviewed a few high end restaurant servers who shared how they actually dreaded Valentine’s weekend at the restaurant. Couples sat awkwardly across from each other, looking unhappy and not really knowing what to talk about. Pressure was high to get all the details right. An evening of high expectations rarely fulfilled, with more tension than enjoyment.
My life used to be like this! High expectations of finding some kind of “finally” love to satisfy my hungry heart. The vacuum in me was constantly asking, “Am I loved? Am I okay? Am I loving?” and I believed the warm fuzzies of romantic love would answer those questions once and for all. They did, for the first few weeks with any guy I dated. But the feelings never lasted, and then I was lost again. This was my labor of un-love, the slippery illusion of salvation-by-warm-fuzzies falling from my hands time after time. Not only was I left empty, I also felt these pangs of despair that my life could have no real purpose if I was single.
How grateful I am to know that’s not true… Throughout my depression, having those warm fuzzy feelings were some of the only times I felt truly alive. I believed this was love. The lie entangled me beyond my romantic relationships; I thought loving someone meant I should always have those warm feelings for them and act accordingly (and vice versa). My family believed this too, and so we rarely aired out conflicts in our home. We learned to keep true feelings inside so that no one’s feathers would get ruffled. Some of us labored to get all the details right so that what looked “perfect” on the outside would be proof that we were okay on the inside.
Finding the roots of real love relieves me from this labor. Being whole in my relationships means I am learning to bring my true self to the table when I interact with others. I can see now that trying to please them at the cost of ignoring who I really am only leads to destruction in one way or another- true relationship doesn’t last on that kind of foundation. Learning to love myself means I’m not depending on other people to fix me or fill my “holes”. I don’t need to take advantage of them, and I don’t need to let them take advantage of me either. Instead, we can exchange our real selves with each other. We share our truth and enrich each other’s lives. Real relationship practices mutual respect and equality. It is honest and knows it doesn’t have to be perfect or get all the details right . It desires to grow, to deepen, to learn, to tell the truth, to discover… All these things are at the root of true love.
The warm fluffy feelings are still fun and I have no intentions of banning them from my life! But, I’m not trying to control them anymore. I’m not demanding anything of them in an effort to heal my hungry heart. They come and go based on how real the love I’m practicing is. Kind of like cooking an amazing meal- the aroma is a by-product of the timely combination of good ingredients- it doesn’t happen right away, and it’s free to come and go.
This year I get to spend Valentine’s Day with dear friends; I am so excited to celebrate real love in my growing relationships with them.
For more information on the photographer of the beautiful photo in this post, visit this link!
My wholeness allows me to encourage my kids to be who they are instead of who I think they might want to be. It makes me confident enough to model confidence to them. There is not a shred of comparison between who I was broken and who I am now ~ whole. Without wholeness our family trip to Mexico would not have been so beautiful and so very close to perfect. I could not be the mother I am today if I had not fixed my foundation, as Carla explained in the previous post.
While in Mexico, I decided to get hypnotised at the hypnosis show one night. The kids had seen the show the week before and said it was the funniest thing they had ever seen. I have had a lot of judgements about hypnosis for the purpose of entertainment, but really had no frame of reference to have those judgements. This was a family show, and the kids told me everything he did the night they saw it. The kids wanted me to do it, and I said no way, but I got thinking about how I had tried to get my son to play pool volleyball, and a few other activities that week. I wasn’t willing to do those same activities myself, and likely for the same reasons; self consciousness. My daughter also held back from a few things that I suspect she really would have enjoyed if she had taken the plunge and jumped in. It dawned on me that I could be an example to them through my participation in things especially if I was nervous and self conscious about doing them. Therefore at the hypnosis show, I put my hand up and got picked to go up on the stage. I was pretty nervous at first, but being in a hypnotic trance was an interesting experience. To be honest, I didn’t think that I could be hypnotized due to my history of abuse and the depth of trust issues that I used to have but it was really fun, and I felt fantastic afterwards for over 24 hours.
I think leading by example is powerful. The next day, my daughter came with me to Spanish lessons. My son took a couple of classes too. My youngest went snorkelling with 2 guides from the entertainment team and didn’t make her father go with her. You should have seen us at the Toga Party the next night, dancing in the dance competition. I was so into just having fun that the guy beside me asked if I knew the dance! Picture me dancing in Mexico on the beach at night, following the Mexican teacher in front of me. Is that enough information for you to get the picture of how much hip movement I was doing in front of all those people?
This is living! This is participating in my own life. This is freedom. This is my life today, and I love it!
It is good to be home from vacation. I’m really looking forward to the plans that Carla and I have for our blog, and to interacting with all of you!
Life is Living!
“Nothing can give it to you because you already have it… And not only do you have it- you are it, you are what you’re looking for already… the ‘I am’ that is stripped of all this and that, the pure experiencing of knowing yourself as… life itself; I don’t have a life, I am life.” – Eckhart Tolle
When I relate to others from a hungry heart, there is this feeling of intense neediness, of strong reliance on them to keep me “together”. This is why I’m so passionate about being whole in and of myself, of valuing myself as I am, for who I am. It’s not self-centered. I want to be whole in relationships too, and that all starts with the sense of my unique and worthy self.
I used to react to others who treated me poorly. There was always things “stringing along” feeling… this anxiety that I had to be just the right way around them in order to be treated well. For the subtlest reasons I would cower inside or adjust my behavior in order to win their favor. Sometimes I would get very quiet. Or other times I would be verbal and defensive, spilling all my emotions and putting myself in a very vulnerable place. For me, the heart of my reactivity was to try to correct their behavior so that they would treat me as valuable. I was trying to correct the “mirrors” to keep telling me I was “okay”. I relied on their treatment of me to define my worthiness. By attempting to correct their treatment of me, I was attempting to keep my small sense of worthiness intact. I gave a lot of my power away and opened myself up to be hurt time and again.
Building on a new foundation of beliefs about who I really am sets me up for a different kind of relating. I don’t need to depend on others to define me anymore. Inside, there is this growing sense of my own value. Just as I am, now. I exist in this moment with all my strengths and weaknesses, my personality, my hopes and quirks, my unique perspectives. I’m not defined by other people; my past reactions and hungry heart behaviours don’t define the real me either. It’s just a simple unalterable fact that I exist as a valuable part of this world. When I enter interactions with others from this truth, everything changes. I don’t have to hop around inside, adjusting myself to someone else’s requirements. Most importantly, to summarize Eckhart Tolle, I’m not relying on someone else to give to me what only I can give myself.
*Special Note!: My article Contexting Geese (click to visit) was published recently on the multi-author blog, Wisdom a la Carte. I found this blog via facebook, and it’s another great resource for thought-provoking insight! I’ll be writing more on that theme here, in coming weeks!*
Here are seven differences from my life between living in brokeness and living whole:
-Always on high alert
-Happiness came and went depending on circumstances
-Close my eyes and just push through…
-Threatened by other people’s success and unique qualities
-Giving because I felt guilty or obligated
-Determining my value based on how I compared to others
-Deep feelings of happiness and real joy come naturally the more I believe the truth about who I really am
-Believing I have the ability to…
-Freedom in relationships to appreciate other people’s unique qualities without being threatened by them
-Knowing I am not ultimately responsible for someone else’s happiness
-Pursing the kind of life I ultimately want, because I now believe I am worthy of it
-Having limits and allowing myself to fail without beating myself up; engaging in my own personal process of growing and moving forward with compassion and celebration
-Giving to others because I genuinely want to and with no strings attached
I grew up striving to find proof outside of myself that I truly was okay. This was my addiction. It was 2 fold: one part of it was constantly trying to figure out what other people thought of me, and the other part involved modifying my “outsides,” morphing myself, to try and fulfill what I believed other people’s expectations of me were. Like all addictions, it was extremely burdensome, but I did it to help myself survive.
My family life created the vacuum, let the big question “am I okay?” go unanswered. The church that I grew up in contributed to my dis-ease, creating bars that held me back from finding the answer. Church introduced me to self-examination. I fully value being self-aware, but the purpose of this examination was to create guilt and shame.“Examine your heart before doing this or that… Make sure your motives are right… Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the inside [so make sure your insides are good]…” Constant, heavy, suspicious examination. This became one of my biggest slave masters and I became a master at doing it. I was striving desperately for the answer to my question, but if an answer felt “too good to be true” I doubted it. I doubted myself all the time, because how could I know whether my “insides” were good or bad, whether I was on the right track? This self-doubt was the root of my depression and angst.
At age 26 I was so weary. A friend recommended a counsellor to me and I was willing to try whatever it took to find relief. This counsellor was able to help me discover the real truth about myself, for myself. He was a light, already fired up, someone I could spend some time with to get my own light burning again. He was a master not at “fixing me”, but at fanning into flame the truth that was still burning deep down inside myself. The truth he helped me to discover was that my heart is good. Fully and completely good. No questions asked, no proof required, in all its ramifications and outward actions, uniquely beautiful and good intentioned. It was the kind of truth-discovering that’s hard to explain. It just feels really good, like Christmas morning… Deep down, unabashed, grinning ear to ear truth. For someone like me, it was easy to doubt at first, to be suspicious of. But after awhile, my hungry heart couldn’t get enough. For a time, I needed this source outside of myself and outside of the church to tell me this truth, over and over again. Now that my own light is burning brighter, I’m getting the hang of it for myself. I’m rebuilding my foundation, setting myself up for a life of living as my true self, fulfilled and excited to be alive.
There’s this phenomenon in nature that happens with baby ducks and geese called imprinting. The gist of it is that the very first thing the baby bird sees when it first hatches is what the baby bird thinks it is. So, if it sees a human first after being hatched, it truly believes that that is what it is too. Ideally, the baby duck will imprint to its mother, so that it can learn to live as a duck, learn to fly, mate, migrate and flourish.
My parents have their own stories, and what they did not receive or find in their own lifetimes they did not to pass on to me. They raised me to be a good girl, to be well-behaved, to not talk back or fight or be angry. I was smart, and was applauded for being smart, at church and in school. But the hunger and depression that I experienced in later years was proof that something was missing.
I was once asked, “When you were a little girl, did your mom or dad hold you on their lap and just talk with you and say, ‘So, what’s Carla thinking about today? What’s going on inside? What do you think or feel about this or that?'” The question hit me deep and the tears sprang to my eyes; no, I had no memory of that kind of interaction with my parents.
One of the biggest things we need to know as children in order to flourish as people is that who we are, just as we are, is valuable. What we think, what we feel, is important. What I knew as a child was that I was valuable if I was “good”; I failed to learn that who I was, who I am, IS good enough, no questions asked, no proof required. That “imprinting” didn’t happen. And so the outside world became my “parent”, so to speak. I began the painful and addictive habit of constantly looking outside of myself, to everyone else, to tell me that I was okay.