I was cyber-bullied recently.
By the grace of God, I did not go to school when social media or the internet were what they are today. Given how sensitive I am, I would have undoubtedly gotten tremendously hurt by it.
When I write this blog, I come from the heart. When I try to think of how I will be perceived, my words sound contrived and inauthentic. So I try to write without a filter. I definitely hesitate sometimes because putting myself out there definitely feels vulnerable. But I feel that part of my work personally and professionally is to be transparent. I don’t have all the answers. I have felt and sometimes still feel as anxious, sad, or lost as the next person. But I know that the more we share the truth that we are all of it- the good, the bad and the ugly- the less alone we all can feel.
So the recently, when someone reblogged and mocked a piece I wrote about my puppy, I was really hurt. When I wrote it, I was in such a space of love, the words flew from the keyboard. I was really shocked that someone could be so nasty. I saw who the person was who griped about it. And I saw the outpouring of sweetness from everybody else and I made a decision: Go where the love is.
“Go where the love is” is probably the best piece of advice I’ve ever received. So often, we’re inclined to fight to be seen, understood, or accepted by others who just don’t get it. Fighting is an option. But the more you are secure and accepting of yourself, the less inclined you will feel to convince others. Besides, trying to convince others of our worth is just another way in which we give away our power.
The initial insult had me second-guessing myself. Am I unrelatable? Am I a bad writer? Or worse yet, am I cheesy?! The answer to all of these questions is yes, sometimes I am all of those things. It is what it is. I couldn’t not be sappy about my dog if I tried, so it’s just one of those things where some people will understand and some people won’t. I’m following the love.
I’m a big advocate of emotional independence in relationships. I know personally, and I have seen, what neediness feels like in relationships (from both sides). It isn’t pretty. It isn’t fun. And it does nothing to promote passion and intimacy. Now, that’s not to say that having needs in relationships isn’t ok. There’s a difference between the two.
Needs are natural. You may have a need for intimacy, connection, playfulness, understanding, or soothing. If you are a whole person, you have these aspects within you already. So if your partner is unable to play/connect/or soothe you in any given moment, it may be frustrating, but you’ll be ok because you have yourself.
Example: You had a horrible day at work. Your boyfriend/husband always knows just the right thing to say to cheer you up. But he’s out with his friends and can’t be there for you until later. You wish he was there, but you’ll find other ways to cheer yourself up until he gets home. Your emotional needs do not depend on him because you know how to self-soothe. He’s free to enjoy the rest of his night out and you’re free of codependency.
Neediness implies a deficit. When you are needy in a relationship, you will be looking to your partner to fill that void. It is draining for your partner and risky for you because you are dependent on something outside of yourself for fulfillment.
Example: You are feeling extremely anxious. Your girlfriend/wife is great at calming you down. But she’s pre-occupied and not paying attention to you. You don’t know how to calm yourself down so you get on her for spending too much time working/socializing/doing anything other than helping you fulfill your need to be calm. All of a sudden, your issue becomes her fault and turns into a fight.
It is important for us to take emotional responsibility for ourselves. We risk getting very hurt, angry, and disappointed when we expect our spouses/friends/lovers to be the filling to our cake rather than the icing on top. If there is something lacking in your life, see where you can find within yourself the love, acceptance, fulfillment you seek from another. Not only does this type of emotional self-sufficiency feel good for you, it attracts and nourishes relationships with others who also value wholeness.
I was watching a National Geographic show about the ‘90s. In it, the man who captured the footage of the Reginald Denny attack by helicopter recalls that moment in history when, in response to the acquittal of the cops in the Rodney King beating, the LA Riots broke out. He captured six African American men beating Denny nearly to death. Powerless, horrified and disgusted, he acknowledged racist thoughts creeping up on him and distinctly remembers willing himself not to make that leap to absolutism where one powerful incident creates or changes your whole belief system.
Most of us have suffered absolutisms in our personal lives. If you have ever found yourself saying something along the lines of things never work out for me, I always get screwed over or nobody ever cares about how I feel, you have let repetitive experiences or one powerful experience become a part of your core belief system. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, you have become conditioned to repetitive stimuli. Or in non-psychological terms, you drank the Kool-Aid. You have bought into a dangerous idea that will undoubtedly skew your perception of your life’s experiences going forward.
Several deaths in a family can result in the absolute belief that everybody always leaves me. A few breakups from a guy or girl who didn’t connect with you can lead to the belief that nobody ever sticks around for me. A critical parent growing up can lead to the belief that I’m never good enough. It takes awareness to make the conscious decision to choose to keep potential in the game.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
Is it possible that this (belief) is not entirely true? You may conclude that it certainly feels true, but that is different from something being absolutely true. 1+1=2 is true always. People always betray me is not always true. This may have happened many times, but it is possible that this can change.
If it is possible that a belief can change, then where is the potential for it to change? If the belief that people always betray me may not always be true, then how could you participate in shifting that belief? Can you use better judgment in friendships? Can you learn to speak up for yourself? Can you see where your energy may be attracting disloyal friends?
What is this experience showing me? Repetitive situations or experiences are the universe’s way of giving us abundant opportunities for growth and healing. See where you are being challenged to step out of your conditioned beliefs to keep an open heart or to heal the wound that created the belief system in the first place.
Absolutisms are often our way of trying to make sense out of experiences that have hurt us. The idea is if we can predict how things are going to go, we feel more safe and secure. The reality is that we do ourselves a great disservice when we use absolute thinking as it inevitably feels less safe and secure because it limits potential and expansion in our lives.
In case you missed the National Geographic show or were just being born in the ‘90s, Reginald Denny survived the attack. Four African Americans- Bobby Green, Titus Murphy, Terri Barnett, and Lei Yuille- came to Denny’s aid that day, ultimately saving his life. When you hear a story like this, it seems blatantly ignorant to think that six people could represent an entire race, regardless of whether or not those four people had come to his rescue. Yet, we frequently make these absolute beliefs on many emotional or societal issues. If you find this kind of conditioning creeping up on you, see where you can regain your perspective with those check-in questions and enjoy the expansiveness that ensues.
Most of us spend the better part of our lives creating and validating our worthiness or our value in the world by what is outside of us. Often, when we speak about personal worth, the defining aspects that come to mind are about externals like career, education, income, luxury items, status, where we live, etc.
If I say, “I’m Lara, I live in New York, I am a therapist, and I own a car,” what does that tell you about who I am? It tells you I pay too much in rent, spend a lot of time finding parking, and had a high tolerance for long papers and four-hour exams. Now, if I say, “I’m Lara and I am compassionate, loving, sensitive, and loyal,” that gives you a more intimate view of who I am. I am defining myself by what is within me, not outside of me.
Internal validation is descriptive of our essence or soul. It defines who we are that is eternal. Income, status, degrees, and licenses can be stripped from us. But openness, passion, determination, truthfulness and other defining characteristics cannot be taken away.
Why then do we rarely describe the essence of who we are, rather than what we do or have? One reason may be that we feel that we are unworthy the way we are. We may think we are worthy, but logic and feelings are two widely different things. We may say, “I know I’m bright, talented, etc.” But when challenged with opportunities to step into our full power, all too often we hesitate. “Maybe I’m not talented enough. Maybe I’m not good enough.”
Many, if not most of us, carry the burden of believing that there is something inherently lacking in us- that we are not good enough as we are. This feeling is called shame. The antidote to shame is compassion and self-acceptance. Acceptance does not mean that you must love every aspect of yourself. It does not mean that you condone your flaws. It simply means that you are aware of them and consciously choose to withhold your judgments and criticisms of yourself.
Self-acceptance takes a little work and discipline. Maybe you learn self-acceptance through therapy or by allowing yourself child’s pose in yoga when you need it. Maybe you learn it through heartbreak or failure. However you do it, learning self-acceptance and validation is the one kind of work that cannot be taken from you.
Personally, I worked a hell of a lot harder at accepting myself than I did writing papers in grad school. I’m much prouder of breaking through self-loathing than I am of any degrees or licenses I hold. So if someone asks me who I am, I’m going to say “I’m a wholly imperfect woman who has learned to accept her flaws and recognize that beauty dances with them.” That sounds so much truer than therapist.
“I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you’d want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for.” -Ellen DeGeneres
Me too! Happy Pride Week and much love to all the beautiful souls who have the courage to be the truth of who you are.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your existence is an act of rebellion.
Many years back, I was trekking in the north of Thailand with my best friend. We were having drinks when I noticed a guy we had met, fueled on opium and booze, having an argument with himself in a mirror. I remember thinking it was pretty crazy and wondered how he was possibly going to win that argument. Then when Otis was a little puppy, I saw him getting worked up at his reflection in a mirror. Again, I thought it was pretty silly that he didn’t know it was a reflection.
Recently, I found myself being wound up by someone in my life. I shared it with my teacher who asked me, “What was the mirror?” In other words, what behavior or characteristic was this person reflecting back to me that I might also present?
I groaned. I hate having to look at myself just as much as the next person. But I know that if I can see myself in another, I am much more likely to find peace within myself and with that person. If someone pushes our buttons, it isn’t the button pusher that’s the problem. It’s that there is a button in the first place.
A few quick questions to deactivate your buttons can go a long way.
1. Where have I behaved or felt like this person in my life?
2. If there are no similarities ask, where do I have the potential to be or behave this way?
3. What is my judgment about this other person and how do I judge this in myself?
If we’re truly being truthful with ourselves, one of these three questions will lead to some deeper self-reflection that can free you from getting triggered. When we see ourselves in others, we are much more likely to be compassionate rather than reactive.
Many of us as children have not had our needs met in the way that we wanted, needed or that suited our temperament. This may have shown up as physical lack (food, clothing, shelter), emotional lack (nurturance, affection, support, stability, attention), or spiritual (connection and presence from the parent). It would be only natural for a child to believe that a form of neglect or abuse was personal.
Children are innocently very self-centered and are quick to assume everything is about them or their fault. So if a child has been denied emotionally, physically, or otherwise, in order to cope, he may tell himself, “I don’t need this.” This is probably one of the earliest times we rationalize to ourselves. In reality, what we are really feeling is, “I don’t deserve this.” The next thing you know, we’re adults and we are still operating on the same belief system.
For example, if a woman has been denied the nurturing she needed as a child, she may believe that she is unworthy of being cared for or loved. This can play out in her relationship choices or possibly with eating (a very basic form of nurturing ourselves).
If a man grew up with an alcoholic parent who was abusive and not emotionally present for him, he may develop the belief that he is not worthy of being loved or protected. This is likely to be played out in his relationship choices or possibly his career (areas where he may be validating the old belief system of not being worthy of love/recognition/etc.).
We attract situations that reflect what we believe of ourselves. Remember, we attract what we believe we are, not what we want to be. This is our soul’s way of giving us opportunities to heal this wound. Often, however, we find a strange solace in validating our unhealthy belief systems. It is an odd consolation to be able to say, “Of course he left me/they gave me a bad review/this went wrong because I’m abandonable/not good enough/always wrong.” When we get attached to our old belief systems, we get stuck.
It is scary to step out of our comfort zones, even if our comfort zone is no longer serving us. Many people believe that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. If you have been living your life one way and it is no longer serving you, why not take a risk? By stepping out of your comfort zone and trying a new perspective, you at least have a chance at healing and happiness. At the end of the day, you may want to ask yourself, “Do I want to be right (validated for my old beliefs) or do I want to be happy?” Recognizing that you have a choice puts you in charge of your own life and is one of the first steps toward getting unstuck.