Authenticity. Having the vulnerability to be true to ourselves and knowing who can we trust with that is important to be clear about. When we have lost our identity to some extent through say, being co-dependent, or a major life change, or not having boundaries, etc… finding it again can be confusing and knowing that not everyone can be trusted with your vulnerability is a painful lesson. I’ve learned a powerful lesson recently in sorting this out.
Brene’ Brown refers to “Marble jar friends”. She says that trust is not created through grand gestures, but instead through very small moments. It’s those seemingly small moments where we choose to support someone, stick up for them, be there for them, honor them in ways that aren’t necessarily huge and obvious – that is where trust is built. Those moments where instead we choose to be mean, disrespectful, share secrets - are where trust is reduced. If you reflect on your own life, I'm sure you feel a certain way about certain people due to some small gesture - either positive or negative, that meant something to you, that stuck.
Dr. Brown says that your list of people whose opinions matter to you needs to be a very short list. To be on that list for her, you have to love her for both her strengths and her struggles. Her belief is that no one should have more than two people on this list and the important thing is to not discount these friends on that short list, to gain the approval of those who are not on the list.
Who would be on your list? Who accepts you for both your strengths and your struggles? Who, when someone tries to gossip about you to them, shuts it down? Stands up for you? You can see why this list is short! The quote at the start of this Chat by Jay-Z is a great one because it takes a huge amount of strength to stand solid for someone rather than hot-wire a connection with the person gossiping. When you aren't confident or secure or don't have good boundaries, it's unlikely that you will stand up for someone when you aren't clear about what you stand for.
I am currently studying a really eye opening course on boundaries with powerhouse Terri Cole, LCSW. Her version of the marble jar is what she calls your “V.I.P. section”. This has been a VERY eye opening course and I highly recommend it to pretty much all humans. Boundaries are something it seems we all struggle with. One of the exercises I have been giving a lot of thought to this week is the idea of gaining clarity on who are the most important people in my life.
As part of this work, we are asked to list also those people who are non-VIP’s who feel entitled to take up space in our VIP sections. When I really drill down into this, it’s clear that those I have the most drama with, the most confrontations with, the most angst about are in THIS section or feeling entitled, but not actually important in my life! They seem to feel that they should be considered most important, yet are not. This sense of entitlement is not the part I can do anything about. It’s my own boundaries with these folks that I have power over.
How often do you go out of your way for, try to manage the experience for, accommodate, give the benefit of the doubt to people who, in the end, won’t ever feel like it’s enough? How often do you find yourself EXPLAINING yourself to the people in this category? Hoping they will understand you or your motives, or your reasons for what you did or didn’t do? Here’s what I am going to do about this in my own life… STOP EXPLAINING MYSELF!
What we are really doing with these attempts is defending, being insecure and hoping like hell they will understand, love and accept us. Here’s the thing… they very likely will never, ever love and accept us as we are. And that’s okay.
I’ve started thinking about this like the rings on a tree. The inner core are those that you value their opinions, they are important in your life, maybe two or three people. They have shown through multiple small acts that they honor you, support you – even when you are uncool. The next ring on the tree are those you love and care about, you value them and you don’t expect them to be like those in the inner circle. They might not get to hear ALL your deepest, darkest stuff yet they are important in your life. Perhaps there is a third ring, acquaintances, co-workers, people you care about and love – but it’s not like the first two rings. Then outside the tree, beyond the bark of the tree, that’s where those who feel entitled to be in the inner circle need to be.
What we tend to do, is neglect those in the inner circles and get distracted by those who feel entitled. That’s because the entitled crew tends to be loud. Loud with victim mentality, drama, making you responsible for their feelings, blaming you, pointing out your errors and mis-steps. They may even try to build a case against you with others – aligning people on their side to say you are “wrong” in some way. These folks need to get NONE of your time and attention because these people are UNSAFE for your emotional health. This kind of person can drain you of your energy in seconds. Not to mention your self-confidence… if you allow them to.
This is where boundaries come in. Knowing what is and isn’t o.k. for you. You don’t have to be mean, nasty, or even yell to set a boundary – although at first you might. Simply stating your request of what you WANT can be polite, kind and clear as well as said with love. The catch is you must first get clear on what is and isn’t o.k. for you.
My big trap is that I am hell-bent to get the other person to understand me, to accept me. The likelihood of this is minuscule at best. I jump so quickly into explaining myself when someone comes at me with drama or victim-mentality it would make your head spin. This is exactly what they want. To engage you in a conversation where you are on the defensive and embolden their victim position on the drama triangle. This may not be intentional on their part, just a bad emotional habit pattern. It is unlikely though, that they will be the one to try and change that pattern. They are perfectly happy with the way it works.
Superiority, the need to be “right”, competitiveness, all take over and in an instant I am charged with negative emotion and determined to “win” the conversation. Brother.
Well, I’m going to try a new road. I know I will still fall into the explanation pattern as I practice a new pattern – and that’s okay! What’s important is that I stay aware that I’d rather feel empowered than defensive and that will require me to remember who is in my VIP section or a “marble jar friend” and who is not. Those whose opinion matters to me and who is important in my life is who I want to give my energy to. Wasting my energies to try and make it okay for those who are determined for to NOT be okay – is a waste of time for both of us.
Being Authentic does NOT mean EVERYONE gets to know your story, your truth. That’s something that is earned through trust, love and showing up for you. The only person who must OWN your story… is you. Once you do that, boundaries, VIP’s, and a release of the need to explain yourself all fall into place with ease. Who is taking up space in YOUR "V.I.P section" due to THEIR feeling of entitlement and YOUR lack of boundaries? The answer can change your freakin' life!! Thank you Terri Cole Boundary Boot Camp!!!!
This picture is Taz (the dog) in what I guess you could say is his T.A.O. pose… Transparent, Authentic, and Open. It’s a Martha Beck term for living in integrity with yourself and it means to "know what you know, feel what you feel, say what you mean and do no harm". It’s a philosophy I have attempted to live even more in my role as a leader in 2017.
Whether you find yourself in a position of being a leader through a chain of events or by your own drive, or both… there are many lessons within that can show you a great deal about yourself. My own path to leadership is not unlike others in that I didn’t get there alone. Without a support system of some type it is really difficult to fully show up in a way that will make it clear that you can lead others. No one arrives to their current point in their life without the help (either intentional or through opposition) of other people.
A really interesting lesson I have had the opportunity to experience is having the majority of my main support system... removed. Death, terminations, endings leave you with a lot of choices to make on your own that you may have come to rely on your support system for back-up to insure you were either on the right path or that even if you screw up, someone would tell you “it will be okay!” The Divine has a funny way of showing up disguised as your life as they say. These huge challenges come along and you have to decide if it will make you, or break you. With a big shift in the dynamic of your support system – the challenges throw you some major curve balls.
The deaths of family members and my main mentor – all happened within a short period. When I found myself with a choice – step up or run away and join the circus… I had to make that choice pretty much moment to moment, most days, for a couple of YEARS! My confidence was in hiding. I’d pony up each day, go to the office and do my best impression of a confident woman. For half my life, I had relied on my support system – people I could bounce things off of, get perspective from, check-in with to see if I was on track. When that is suddenly removed you realize that you had been gaining a good percentage of your confidence from that support. It is that knowing there is another human on your side who accepts and understands you that we all probably take for granted. None of us becomes who we are on our own. Pretty much every person who touches our lives has a part in who we choose to become. Ultimately, we each have to determine for ourselves who we will be – yet that road is lined with hundreds if not thousands of people who contribute in some way to that sum total of who we become.
This need to be understood and accepted is probably a part of what blogs like this one are about! No wonder there are over 3 MILLION blog posts per day on the web!!! We all have a need and desire to be understood, heard and accepted. To perhaps know we are okay in some way. It's interesting too because to put your story out there, is vulnerable and there is certainly the chance that there will be those who disagree, oppose or want to hurt you because of it. A paradox!!!
So, I felt I was kind of out there, unprotected, vulnerable and while there were still a handful of people who made it clear they supported me – it was a new set of VIPs to a certain extent. I set out to be even more “T.A.O.”… Transparent, Authentic and Open in my life, especially at work. I wanted to uplift others, help people be their best selves, facilitate growth and be transparent. What I have learned about this - is that everyone is not able or willing to handle that framework.
In Spiral Dynamics it is indicated that about 80% of people want to avoid conflict at all cost, and want to be told what to do, how to do it and follow rules or guidelines. So not everyone is ready or capable of a more open, empowered structure obviously. One thing I feel I missed in my attempt to be more T.A.O., was that it doesn’t mean you show up as everyone’s "buddy". T.A.O. can potentially be seen by some as a license to take shots at you, think you are weak, and can actually ENABLE poor behavior in those who think T.A.O. means they get to know every detail of your life. But I also know why I went this route… my main support system was gone who had supplied me with the knowing that I was accepted, understood, loved – so I thought if I made friends with everyone, I could regain some of that component that I now realize, only I can ultimately supply for myself.
I used to make the statement which was taught to me by my trainer for Jazzercise instructor training… “When you start teaching – you are at about 20% comfort level and in the training program, we stretch you out of your comfort zone by 80 - 90%. Our plan is that when you leave the training, you will settle back somewhere higher the 20% and less than the 90%.” Difficult lessons stretch us and if we are open to them and have a desire to learn and grown, we won’t stay in that difficult part forever – yet we will be more afterward. Stretched. But you gotta do some work in order for that to happen.
My new mantra!
The combination of my efforts to be T.A.O. and the temporary demise of my confidence was a perfect storm that lead to some painful lessons that I am very, very grateful for now. My lessons are many, here are a few on my list right now…
So now for the expectations part of the lesson. My expectations of myself include: personal growth, transparent, honest, solution focused communications, doing what I can to help others who want help, self-love, self-respect, self-compassion and to own my own emotional shit - a.k.a...responsible for my own feelings and experience.
I feel that we really can’t expect from others, anything we aren’t expecting of ourselves. So I guess knowing what I expect of myself makes it clear what I expect from others:
Knowing what you expect of yourself, makes it really clear what you expect from others. Once you know this – boundaries, confidence, love AND leadership happen pretty much automatically. I’m not saying that I meet my own expectations 100% of the time! That’s what being human is all about for God’s sake! But knowing what I’m aiming at and what I expect from others sure makes it possible and likely that I will rise higher to a new set point each time I slip. Others in your life will slip too. It's what we all do AFTER the slip that determines who we are. Period.
So… what do YOU expect of yourself? We must all BE what it is we want to see in the world. Do you find that you don’t enjoy what you are noticing is showing up in your life???? Time to check-in with yourself. You are creating your experience with the focus of your thoughts, 1000% of the time. I recently heard Esther Hicks say “You have to unscramble your own energy before you know what to do.” Figure out what you appreciate, what’s working well, what you want to experience. Then BE those things, yourself.
Being understood, accepted, appreciated by others – all contribute to our confidence. If you don’t believe me, try going through a day or two without it. Many people in our world feel this way every single day. They feel rejected, misunderstood, judged – simply for being who they are. My experience at finding my way through those feelings certainly gives me empathy for those who live much of their lives feeling this way.
When it feels like that rug of being accepted and understood gets ripped out from under you, you get to learn to give those things to yourself. Then… you are FREE because you no longer are dependent on another to supply you with what we all must give to ourselves. You are free, and so is everyone else in your life. I am honored to get a chance to try and learn this for myself.
Drama. Ugh. It’s a life sucker. Is it the full moon last night? Is it something I’m doing that seems to be drawing it into my experience? Did I somehow get tele-ported back in time and I’m in Jr. High again???
I always wonder when it’s going on in a kind of steady pattern around me – “How did I get here? How did I attract THIS into my experience?”
Sometimes drama is just choosing to see things in a painful way. It's a pattern of behavior that happens when you don't pay attention to your emotions when they first come up and then they mushroom through overactive thinking. Drama is making someone else responsible for your own feelings and it doesn't express REAL feelings. That's why they call it drama - it's an act.
I've felt on the receiving end of drama recently and my strong guess is that it is showing up to help me learn how to have and honor my own boundaries because I am letting someone else put the responsibility on me for how they feel AND I am then doing the same thing back to them in return as a result of the drama they laid on me. Crazy eight.
It’s not the conditions or the person who creates the drama in our lives. It’s our own choice of focus that fans the drama embers into the flames of Jr. High bullshit. What if instead of amping ourselves up about a person’s behavior, choices, or conditions – we looked a little closer and asked “What’s REALLY going on here???”
My favorite system or sort of how-to for questioning my own drama is The Work, by Byron Katie….
Usually, just the first question will be enough to slow down my high speed drama thoughts and the story I am making up in my head. It’s really the MEANINGS we put on things that causes our suffering.
Here is a super simple way to figure what's really going on... state out loud "I feel ____________". Name what it is you are feeling because we humans often have no idea how we actually feel. Sounds overly simply, but just naming the emotion is a drama reducer because it forces us to dig down and get real.
Follow up the answer to how you feel with another question: “What am I REALLY seeking with this story I’m telling myself?” Might be acceptance, being seen, being understood, being recognized, being included/loved.
Once I answer this question with brutal honesty, with this drama/victim story I am telling myself… I am FREE! Because once I know the answer, I can give it to MYSELF. Whatever it is I am trying to get from someone or something else, I can just give it to me and now everyone is free. When I think someone needs to give/do/understand/change in order for me to be happy, well, I am screwed. Prepare for BIG drama if this is the mental outlook you choose.
So let’s go even one step deeper… What is REALLY going on here? What am I seeking? Now notice... what are you are expecting or wanting someone to do or be a certain way or give you a certain something. Are they actually CAPABLE of giving you what it is you are expecting??? For example, let’s say I tell my friend that I need them to understand me. What I’m REALLY seeking in their APPROVAL. This is not actually something we need and the person may not be able to give it. If I can take that info and realize that I can give MYSELF approval of me – not only am I then free, so are they.
So often we are seeking something deeper than what it appears on the surface. Usually what we are looking for is what we are refusing to give to ourselves. We often replicate this inner refusal by seeking something from a person who can’t or won’t give it to us – we play out our relationship that we have with ourselves in every other relationship we are in with others. Often what we are seeking is approval, because we don't approve of ourselves.
This is why that even when we get the approval of someone, it's not sustainable. What we must do to really be happy in life is to fill OURSELVES up to overflow and then spill out into others with that fullness. When we don't, we have to go back to that same well of other people over and over again because we aren't filling the void ourselves first.
So! Once you see the REAL deal on what you are looking for or from another, the next step is to just love. Love yourself, love the other person, love the situation or condition. Love, not as a way to GET something, but because it feels good to love. Do it because it’s who you are.
Love & place your focus on what you appreciate. It's really human and easy to focus on the people and things in your life that are drama filled or skewed to the negative. Gently pull your focus back to the people and things that are solid, feel good, and make you feel SANE! Even if it seems 80% of the people in your life are trying to stir up drama or even making YOU the villain in their drama... focus on the 20% that aren't. Be gentle with yourself and breathe.
Drama can feel like energy, like your making something happen - but your energy can be used in a way that feels a whooooole lot better! Remember that you are a spark of the Divine and you don’t need anyone or anything to be different in order to fan that spark in to a flame. When we use our energy to fan our own spark, now you've gotten down to the core of what is REALLY going on here.
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!