I used to be an English professor. Every semester, I’d a lesson on thesis statements–what they are, what they must contain, and approaches to writing them.
At the beginning of the semester, students asked me if their thesis statements “looked okay.” I would give them feedback, offering suggestions. However–as the semester went on, at a certain point, students needed to become more independent . So, I’d start turning their questions around: “What part are you uncertain about? What do you think of this thesis statement? Does it work for you?”
I would learn a lot about each student when I saw their reactions. Some would rise to the challenge and start pushing themselves to answer questions. Others were annoyed, and I could practically hear them thinking, “Won’t she just tell me if this is ‘right’ or not so that I can get on with writing this paper?” Others really did get frustrated, and they’d tell me that clearly, I just didn’t care about them as students.
As a teacher, I couldn’t hold space for them, forever, because it wouldn’t teach them to hold their own space, evaluate their own work.
I could offer the process, the questions to ask, I could model, and I could give my honest feedback. But at some point, they’d need to become more independent , and here’s where this applies to your courageous life: almost no one really feels prepared for, or likes, that moment.
Will you “Fix it” for me?
We can spend lifetimes running around hoping that someone else will fix the things that ail us; our entire consumer culture is centered around buying fixes. It’s an easy trap to get caught in.
Religion? Therapy? That dynamic teacher at yoga? A Life Coach? A sage smudge? An energy clearing? Another self-help book? Will THIS be the answer? Surely, someone out there is going to have the answers and give them to us and do it in that loving, nurturing way that we’ve always craved, right?
In my own desire to become more independent and truly live a courageous life, I’ve got to be honest: it was a difficult day, the day that I realized that–holy shit–there was no coach, no workshop, no therapist, no book that I could buy that would make me feel whole.
That job, that work, that journey… was mine alone. (And thank goodness for that!)
No one to Blame
When we decide to become more independent we are essentially deciding that there is no one to blame. We take our lives, our matters and affairs, into our own hands.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t enlist help–a great therapist, life coach, program or support system is critical. But in enlisting that help, we all need to own the fact that there is no one to blame. The quality of the giver will only get you so far.
The true challenge is whether or not the receiver (you! me!) will truly surrender to their own process and get uncomfortable. To allow a “giver” into our lives often requires a bit more surrender to one’s unique process than most people are willing to give–frequently, we surf on over to the next website, book or therapist juuuuuuust when things start to get a little tricky, when the resistance comes up and things are getting uncomfortable. (And, unfortunately, there are also corrupt people out there who utilize self-help spaces to feed their own egos or take advantage of others, which is another blog post, entirely).
Bottom line: Assuming that you choose someone solid to support you, it’s probably not going to be very effective if you’re quitting when things get dicey, or setting up boundaries around how far you’ll go with the very person you’ve enlisted to take you past your boundaries, in the first place.
Ironically, this place sometimes be the place where a receiver experiences the most growing pains–reverting back to old fear routines, because fear routines are familiar.
As you become more independent this becomes the true test–will you use what you’ve learned to trust yourself, or will take two steps back, and insist on being rescued? Or blame the person who is trying to help, telling them they didn’t do enough?
It’s painful to realize that this job of becoming more independent is actually totally up to us. It’s difficult to surrender. But if we can sit with what we know about our fear routines and see that they are just like old habits that it’s time to let go of, that independence can emerge.