Recently, I texted my friend Valerie. “Can you talk for ten minutes?”
When she called me up, I got straight into it: “I need to ‘out’ myself. My inner critic voices are going nuts.” Then I shared what they were saying and why they were saying it. Ten or fifteen minutes later, we found ourselves laughing together.
It’s possible that this anecdote might surprise you, a bit. Haven’t I, like, “mastered” those inner critic voices, by now, making them go away, forever?
Answer: Nope. Furthermore, I no longer “want” to.
“Fearless” is bullshit (and just more perfectionism)
“Fearless” is so often touted as the end result of all of that hard, personal growth work. When you’re finally “fearless” you’ll feel confident, at peace with yourself, in touch with your shakti.
The problem is that “fearless” is just used to fuel more perfectionism. Someone starts something. They feel fear, inner critic voices, and the like. Instead of embracing and accepting fear, they work harder–to numb out, to not feel the fear, to over-achieve so as to dismiss the fear, or they outright tell the fear to go away.
It’s all intended to lead to the same end-point: feeling “fearless,” which people associate with feeling confident and put together, like you know what you’re doing.
This is a parallel cycle to that of perfectionism. Someone starts something. They decide they need to do it perfectly. Instead of embracing and accepting mistakes, when those “mistakes” inevitably arise, the perfectionist just works harder–trying ever-more to feel confident and put together, like she knows what she’s doing.
It’s important to understand that this process is not conscious, at least not at first. It’s a process that is only revealed once you start paying attention to it, and once you start paying attention to it, with some horror, you’ll see it all over your life. Most of us go through several rounds of practicing the courage to pay attention, seeing something about ourselves that is hard to accept, recoiling, and turning back to the old patterns of not paying attention.
That’s part of the journey of all this, of course–and it only changes once you decide that you will pay attention in a sustained and deliberate way.
“Fearless” is a dead-end. It’s a lifeless goal. It’s the path of the person who stops taking risks. It’s the way of the person who does not want to lead, voice an unpopular opinion, or try something new.
Being confident and put together, and knowing what you’re doing? These are comfort-orientation states. They certainly aren’t “bad,” and we all like those states when we feel them.
It’s just not realistic to feel them, all of the time–and, more importantly–when your experience of fear is to reject it so entirely that you don’t feel it at all, you miss out on fear’s enlivening aspects, the pieces of stepping into a great unknown that are kind of…sizzling, juicy, sexy, risky, provocative.
The Happiest Choice
The happiest choice I’ve made is one that has arisen slowly, organically, over time, feeling less like a conscious choice and more like the natural progression to sanity: I simply do not try to “get rid of” the inner critic voices.
When I stopped trying to get rid of a part of me that was wounded, I ended the war with myself.
When you choose to do this work, the shift is into that of unconditional love: We will work on this together, you tell those voices. I won’t tolerate disrespect, but I’ll stop disrespecting you by hating you for being afraid.
Click to tweet: You don’t need to be perfect; you need to be whole. http://ctt.ec/vCGD1.
When you choose this path, your life certainly won’t be “perfect,” but it will be more whole, more all-encompassing of all of the truth of your life’s experiences. That’s what really makes happiness possible, authenticity possible, and the truest connection with other people possible.
You don’t need to be “fearless,” and certainly you don’t need to be “perfect.” When you choose this path, you get something whole-heartedly better: being you.
I have waited awhile to tell people that I am pregnant, both friends and family alike, and have waited even longer to open up to the online community. This was for several reasons, many of them having to do with just wanting time to be with my husband in the privacy of our shared experience of all of this.
But also? I’ve waited because I haven’t wanted to deal with negativity and nay-saying–the “negative parenting narrative” about how children drain your energy and finances and everything else; the unsolicited advice-giving; graphic birth stories. I’ve been consciously choosing to put up some boundaries.
And, after announcing the pregnancy, pretty much what I anticipated would happen, has happened–most people have been so incredibly, heart-bursting-ly (!) lovely.
Other people have not always been respectful of boundaries, even those that have been explicitly stated.
It can take so much courage just to clarify what your boundaries are, and then to muster up more courage to actually speak into them. What do you do when that isn’t quite enough?
Boundaries: Start Here
When it comes to talking boundaries, your “content” at the moment might be different than mine. Maybe it’s not pregnancy you want to practice boundaries around–maybe it’s the creation of a big new dream, a desire to stop participating in gossip within your family, or a resonance with the work of Dr. Brene Brown and a fervent desire to practice more vulnerability.
Important thing to understand, #1: There is a difference between the people who make assumptions about what’s okay, versus those who know exactly what your boundary is, yet roll right over it.
The former are people who are either being thoughtless (hey, we’ve all done it) or arrogant (hey, we’ve all done it).
The latter are people who are making a choice to be straight-up unkind. We’ve all done that, too (oy vey!).
Either way, when it comes to boundaries, sometimes the choice is not about negotiating limits between two people.
Sometimes, the boundary is a solid line, and sometimes it means that you need to release the relationship, in its current form.
If I peel back the layers, when people are naysayers or when they only bring up negativity and challenges, there’s a tender part of me that feels a profound sadness.
I feel sadness when a client of mine is so, so (SO!) excited one week about her latest big victory, only to have a friend shrug or treat her like she needs to “calm down, omg, you’re acting like this is such a big deal, whatever.” Doesn’t that friend see how amazing it is that my client is up to something big? Why not support her? What earthly harm would that do?
I feel sadness when I hear stories of someone being told to “be realistic.” We live in a world that defines what it’s capable of through every choice we make. I’m not talking about the Law of Attraction. I’m talking about a sincere belief that if we want to stop domestic violence, world-wide hunger, human trafficking, or any other social ill, we can truly put our collective hearts and minds together to stop it. Yet someone is perpetually piping up with how that’ll “never happen.” Why? What good does that person think they’re causing with such sentiments?
I feel sadness when someone is insistent on telling me about all of the hard, painful, or awful things that might befall me through pregnancy or motherhood, even when well-intentioned. Doesn’t that person see how all that creates is stress, frustration, and worry? Doesn’t that person realize that they are, in essence, throwing negativity onto a fundamental part of being human…being born? Would it really be so hard to offer up acknowledgments, affirmations of the positive, or hopes and well-wishing?
Behind self-righteous bravado, there always hides pain. When other women talk about child-rearing as more burden than choosing to step into celebration or focus on the positive, there must be pain, somewhere. I can’t know these women’s daily struggles, or know how well-regarded their own entrance into the world was, nor whether their mothers taught them they were burdens. I can’t know how they might have suffered.
When other people downplay your dream, treat you like you’re crazy for dreaming, or want to warn you about all the challenges and pitfalls that they’re “sure” you’re going to encounter, there’s some kind of pain. You can’t always know why they’ve got that lens on life.
You can only do two things: understand that what they do/say is only ever their experience, and become fiercely protective of consciously creating your experience.
Important thing to understand, #2: Whatever it is that you want to create in your life, it is like a newborn coming into the world. It is defenseless and as you are meeting the challenges of what’s before you, you’re going to feel vulnerable and on some level defenseless, too. It’s hard to feel these things. It’s hard to have naysayers coming at you, none of them thinking about the other five or ten people who might have chimed in with their same negativity.
Don’t move away from that point, too quickly, to get to the “fix” or the “solution.”
Stop to really acknowledge that when you deeply desire something, and when it feels really tender to be creating it, and when the future is uncertain, it’s really, really hard when people don’t stop to think about what they’re saying or doing, before they do it.
And, by the way, what we suffer from is our call to stop thoughtlessly creating suffering for others. I continually remind myself that if I don’t like being on the receiving end of this behavior, it’s my call to be extra-conscious about not doling it out.
Many Ways to Release
It gets easy, especially if you’d done just a wee bit of personal growth work, to get “hooked” around the idea that compassion is an ever-extending tolerance for the behavior of others, even if it puts you and your dream on the line, or just generally takes down your mood or sense of confidence.
Let’s be real: our lives are always dictated by our inner landscape. The more work we can do to not let external influences cloud our experience, the better.
And, yes–what people say and do can have an effect. There is that additional challenge.
I only ever do hurtful things from the places within me that have been hurting. Thus, other people only ever do hurtful things from their places where they are hurting. Meeting hurt with more intentional hurt is not the answer.
Nor is hurting myself, so that someone else need not experience the consequences of their behavior.
Compassion is not putting yourself, willingly, in front of a firing squad. That’s you hurting you, to avoid speaking up or taking action. That’s acting from fear.
If you see that someone is exhibiting poor behavior in a chronic way, it’s time to…well, release the current incarnation of the relationship.
The good news
There are many ways to release relationships.
There’s “releasing” by limiting contact on social media or in social situations, especially when it comes to people you know only tangentially or not really at all. There’s enough drama in most inter-personal relationships, without feeling the need to do battle with randoms on Facebook.
There’s “releasing” by limiting the information you’ll give someone. If every time you tell someone about where you’re at with starting your new business, they respond with all the ways in which new businesses aren’t likely to succeed…stop telling them about your new business. Interact on other topics, if they demonstrate that they simply are incapable in this moment of meeting you where you’re at.
Same goes with pregnancy–if someone has a history of hearing the slightest little tidbit of my discomfort and blowing that up into how terrible it must be to be pregnant, it’s easier for me to say “Everything’s great!” the next time they ask how I’m feeling. I’d do this not because I’m afraid of what they’ll say, but because diverting away from a landmine is more peaceful than walking right up to it, setting it off, and then trying to sort through the damage.
It’s like Maya Angelou says: “When people show you who they are–believe them.”
There’s “releasing” by being conscious of your part in all of this and choosing how you’ll spend your time. How much time are you spending, ruminating on what they said and why it was wrong and…? It’s a conscious choice to just drop it and let go. This is about taking personal responsibility for how you’re buying into the creation of a negative experience.
There’s “releasing” by speaking into how you feel, without justification. The script goes something like this: “I’m sure you’re trying to be helpful, which I appreciate. I notice that when you share _______, I feel _________. I gave it some thought, and I’d prefer it if you didn’t share that information with me.” Simple. To the point.
There’s “releasing” by speaking clearly and directly when behavior is disrespectful or inappropriate. Staying quiet and not speaking up only perpetuates the dynamic at work. Sometimes, when something has seriously crossed a line, it’s time to step straight-up and make no bones about it: this behavior is not cool, and will not be tolerated. End of story.
Sometimes, painfully, there’s “releasing” by limiting contact. When you’ve tried looking at your part, owning how you feel, and there’s just more drama and debate? That’s when it’s time to understand that you do not have to choose between your desire for the dream and their desire to tell you how difficult or impossible it will be. Sometimes, a literal release of the relationship is the most compassionate step for everyone involved.
All of these forms of “releasing” involve releasing what the relationship was, so that the relationship can become something new.
You, me, all of us–we are creating our lives as we go.
This is your life experience, and it’s being shaped wholly by you. There’s just as much to be gained from cultivating the experiences you allow into your life, as there is from choosing to release those that don’t support what you’re trying to give birth to.
The news has been coming out in bits and pieces over the past few months: I’m pregnant! As I sit here typing this, Kid Courage is squirming and kicking around, as she always does after I have breakfast.
Yep, she. When we found out the gender, I told my husband that I was thrilled that the world would be getting another mouthy, compassionate female rabble-rouser (in other words, she can take after me, in that regard).
Truth? It’s scary to tell you
I’ll also offer a rare personal note: It is beyond weird to be telling the internet that I am pregnant. For all of the personal things that I have disclosed via the web over the years, 99.9% of them are things that, while they might feel intensely personal, are things that I had the time and opportunity to work through with my coach, and that afforded them a certain distance.
But of course, there is no distance from this. This is personal, and very right-here-right-now vulnerable. Also, there’s more to this story.
It’s scary because some people who find out I’m pregnant start either suggesting things or sharing opinions, and it can get overwhelming to hear about this or that thing that I should buy, or try, or need, or to have someone automatically launch into their friend’s traumatic birth story, or to hear jokes about how I’ll never sleep/lose the baby weight etc., again.
So–I’m requesting that you not send me those types of emails (please). Sharing in the joy of it all–the congrats part!–is so loving of you and totally fine if you are inclined to email me. But as a self-care measure, please don’t send the suggestions/advice/personal stories, etc.
It’s also scary because in early 2013, I was diagnosed with infertility. They did lots and lots and lots and lots of blood draws and tests and every single thing they shared was bad news. It was very hard, and that is an under-statement. I feel super-super-super conscious of how it might feel for someone who is walking through that, to read this news. I want anyone who does feel a response to this news to know…I. So. Get. It. Seeing other people’s baby announcements on Facebook felt like a land-mind for me, for awhile. It was a huge teacher. I wrote this ( http://www.yourcourageouslife.com/2012/10/25/love-personal-tragedy/ ) when I was really in the thick of it.
Through this experience I am walking through practicing courage–and being reminded of how courage is choosing to celebrate what you’ve got, right here and right now, even when it feels super-crazy-nuts vulnerable.
I am reminding myself of my own lessons, the lessons that I teach others about their fearful edges–lessons about not buying into the illusion of control, lessons about staying in the present and acknowledging the power of learning how to do that. I feel so blessed to have such a supportive community of friends.
Those are the lessons that I think of as being True Courage. It’s never about the stuff we “do.” It’s about how we be, how we dance with life.
Click to tweet: http://ctt.ec/7Cd9q Courage isn’t about what we do; it’s about how we choose to be and how we dance with life.
At some point, I do plan to share, joyfully, the background of my own story with this. It’s kind of an amazing story, because like I shared, the specialists were not giving me any good news, and in the vein of not letting people tell you to “be realistic,” I want you to remember that there’s power in asserting that what other people say/diagnose you with/tell you, is NOT the end story.
For now, though, I’ll leave you with my love, and my excitement, and if it happens to feel right for you to close your eyes and send up a little wish that Kid Courage arrives healthy and happy a few months from now, that’s so appreciated.
I love the idea that for as nuts as the internet/social media/newsletters can seem, sometimes, there’s this place where we can all wish each other well across space and time and broadband connections…our well-being wishes for each other, all overlapping.