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Awhile ago, I was seeing some craziness unfold, in real-time. Someone had sent me what is, officially, the Nastiest Email I’ve Ever Been Sent. It was an email loaded with the clear intention of cruelty and unkindness, so much so that within only a paragraph, I was clear that I didn’t want to read the rest of it (and to this day, I never have).
That day, I connected to something that had been hinting of its own existence, for some time: “This is not mine.”
You might be like I was: Earnest. Committed. Willing to own the mistakes and Do The Work.
And then crazy shit happens in your life, and you start with the questions: “How can I take radical responsibility for that?” or “How did I manifest that?” or “What are the choices that I should be making differently?”
These are great questions to ask. The path from victimhood to self-efficacy is paved on those questions.
But then there’s this question, which I hope will land with a ker-thunk in your soul:
What if sometimes that crazy shit that happens isn’t…yours?
The Co-Existence of the Universe
Again: questions that ask you to assess your own responsibility and to account for your own poor choices are excellent questions to ask. I wish more of the world asked them, instead of trying to lay fault for things at someone else’s feet.
Also, I’m willing to say that a majority of the time, the crazy stuff of life probably is yours.
Or perhaps I’ll speak for myself—the majority of the time, when my life isn’t working? It is straight-up, no-question, without-a-doubt, me.
But we’re all bouncing around in the Universe together, here. It is inevitable that you will inadvertently suck someone’s chaotic tail wind, without even realizing it. There’s a lot going on in the cosmos that can’t be explained, and—dare I say it?—there’s even a certain amount of narcissism in assuming that each of us as individuals is some kind of epicenter of the manifestation of the Universe.
In other words, maybe sometimes we try to make the crazy shit that happens about us as individuals, because then we feel like we have a little corner of control.
Personal Responsibility: This Isn’t Mine
Sometimes, hustling to take personal responsibility isn’t so very…responsible.
Sometimes, the most powerful thing you can do is accurately identify when someone else’s brand of crazy has nothing to do with you.
Bottom line? Do all the self-help you want, but understand that you aren’t going to self-help yourself out of dealing with people who are behaving in a way that’s kinda nuts.
There is no amount of goodness that you could ever be, to save someone else from their own wounds.
That doesn’t mean write them off, forego compassion, or stop your personal work. Please, do live in the light! Please, do heal your stuff and take personal responsibility for your own integrity.
Just be conscious of those times when you’re simply bumping up against someone else’s stuff, and taking it on, and it’s just not yours.
Try whispering it, three times: This isn’t mine. This isn’t mine. This isn’t mine.
Your body will tell you the truth. If you’re trying to run away from taking responsibility, chances are you’ll feel that low-grade, kinda-guilty, emmmmm maybe I’m trying to squirm out of something kind of a feeling.
But if you notice that you feel relief, and that the words feel like an arrow aimed true, then you know: it isn’t yours, it never was, and it’s not your responsibility to fix.
You do you.
I once said in an interview:
“The more that you deal with fear, the less often fear will show up at the beginning of the journey. Instead of “I don’t even think I can start this,” it becomes, “What if I don’t finish this?” When you deal with fear, it morphs and changes how it shows up; you encounter it at a different point in the process.”
When you’re new to dealing with fear (or self-doubt, hesitation, whatever you call it), those feelings of fear can be what stops you from even starting.
Later, as you start to see that fear is full of capital-S Stories (fancy cognitive-behavioral term: “Cognitive distortions”), and as you see that really, you ultimately call the shots, how you deal with fear changes.
As you learn about your fear/self-doubt/hesitation, it suddenly does an about-face and changes. for instance, once it’s no longer stopping you at the outset, you’ll probably start to see big fear come up later in the process, perhaps after you’ve made the first significant investment towards what you want.
Then you start practicing courage with fear in its new form, but then perhaps the fear changes again–maybe it shows up as sudden doldrums and boredom. You might suddenly feel as if all the gas has left you. The resistance can be huge.
So you recognize that that resistance and loss of motivation is just more fear–so you start practicing courage with that fear. You start to parse out when it’s truly boredom because the project no longer interests you, versus when it’s the boredom-as-resistance.
How you deal with fear shape shifts and morphs. When you’re put into similar circumstances next time, it’ll move and show up at a different point in the timeline. When you encounter something wholly new and unfamiliar, maybe the fear starts right at the beginning again, at that familiar place of feeling like it’s hard to get started–and again, the more you deal with fear, the more it changes.
The good news? The more you deal with fear, the less intimidating it gets every time it shows up.
Bottom line? If you’re savvy about how fear shape shifts and morphs, then you can deal with fear when it arises. You’ve got this.
The fear will continue to show up. Just let it. Again, if you can recognize what it’s doing, then you’ve got this.
How you deal with fear will change, but as you get more and more equipped to recognize when it’s showing up, you’ll deal with fear better–and start stepping into being your most courageous self.
There was a session when my coach/counselor/mentor Matthew looked at me really directly, straight in the eye, and said:
“You realize that if you embrace this kind of work, you’re stepping into a whole different way of being in the world.”
The power of that statement was full body sizzling resonance.
At at the same time, Fear said, “No. Absolutely not.”
Yes–something in me deeply wanted change.
Yes–something else in me sincerely wanted to stick with what I’d grown comfortable and accustomed to doing, even as I knew that it wasn’t serving me.
What No One Tells You
Here’s the thing–if you truly take it to the core, 99% of personal growth work absolutely sucks.
It’s not uncommon for me to be on the phone with a client who clearly articulates what she wants–and then as soon as we start to really dismantle the old belief structure, she’s angry. Pissed. She’s either turning her fear inward, or she’s projecting it outward (sometimes, onto me).
When clients are in that space, I get it. We’re just human, and at the end of the day, we prefer our routines over something new. Do enough deep personal growth work–go full-on with courage–and you’ll eventually get cornered.
There won’t be anywhere to hide out when you’re into the truth-truth-truth.
The Question We Fear
There’s a question that we fear asking, buried in all of this:
“Who would you ‘have to’ be in order to step into living the kind of courageous life that you actually want to live?”
It’s a potentially terrifying question if you have a long-standing way of being, and a lot of belief systems that you’re incapable, and suddenly you’re contemplating this idea that you actually can–and have no idea who that person is who “can,” or what her life is like.
Also, change is hard and you might have good reasons for doing all that you’ve spent years doing. For example:
Are you a Yeller? Well, then–you probably have some great reasons for yelling. You want to stop yelling, but–what would you put in its place? How else would you handle anger when it courses through your veins?
Are you an Avoider? You also have great reasons for Avoiding, reasons that have to do with how you survived your childhood, or how you make it through your job or your marriage, how you handle stress or fear. You can know that you want to change it–but until you know what you’ll replace it with, until you know who you would “have to” be and are comfortable with that, it’s hard to give up Avoiding and become pro-active.
When Matthew told me that I’d walk the world differently, here’s who I was afraid I would “have to” be if I stepped up my game:
d.) having all the answers,
e.) someone who would be made fun of because she was “too happy”,
f.) someone who would be isolated from others because they’d be intimidated by her happiness.
I believed that I would “have to” become a walking posterboard for empowerment and holding space and always being 100% being nice. I was intimidated by that vision.
The way it actually turned out was that courageous living wasn’t going to be perfectionism. It was going to be integration and acceptance of all the parts that weren’t perfect.
So Ask Yourself
One of the reasons that we don’t make the shifts that we know we need to make is because our behavior is habituated and we don’t know what habits we’d replace the old stuff with.
Your most courageous self knows who you’d be if you stepped up your game. That’s part of what’s so intimidating. Swap “have to” for “get to” and there’s an even more exciting question:
Who would you get to be if you lived a full-on courageous life?
Yes, that’s the question that sparks movements, innovates industries, and brings leaders into the limelight–but more importantly, that’s a question that can be life-changing for the likes of you and me, the ordinary women who are living our lives, wanting good things for the people we love, and hoping that we can impact our small corners of the world.