Life recently handed me a big growth opportunity (Latin name: Shit sandwich). I believe that in the process, I sadly may have lost a friend, but I do know that I’ve found a once-missing part of myself. This situation was a direct result of my recent work on strengthening my boundaries and releasing codependent patterns in my relationships, so if you struggle with people pleasing when you really wish you could speak your mind, this post is for you.
The context: I’d come to realize that I’d been suppressing anger and frustration in a friendship, and rather than being honest about those feelings, I had chosen to behave passive-aggressively. When I was able to see my behavior, I knew that something needed to change if I wanted to put an end to hurting my friend and myself, and that change required me to be honest about those bottled-up feelings, rather than relying on my go-to passive-aggressive tactics.
While things seemed to be heading in a positive direction after I came clean about my feelings (which involved being honest with my friend about the ways in which their choices had been affecting me) and I apologized for my half of the equation, this week, things took a sideways turn.
The process involved a lot of waiting with no response, and this gave me an opportunity to examine the feelings that came up. I discovered that I was equating a lack of response with low self-worth. As in, my friend choosing not to respond means I’m not worth responding to. Wow, no wonder I felt like crap! And it had nothing to do with the other person; this entire drama was unfolding in my head.
This, then, led to a huge lightbulb going off. As a child, I was surrounded by adults who:
- Were very uncomfortable around emotional expression.
- Were typically uncomfortable with open communication.
A passage I read recently by Danielle LaPorte speaks to this well: “We hold on to our bad habits of relating. I’ll be weak so you can feel strong. I’ll be strong so you won’t see me weak. I’ll do it so you don’t have to. I’ll confuse things because if clarity happens, things will have to change.” [Emphasis mine]
When I expressed my natural emotions as a child, and the adults around me were uncomfortable with that, they taught me that I was doing something shameful. They showed me that if I chose to experience my emotions and communicate what I was feeling in an honest, open manner, people would no longer love me, and my punishment for my “bad behavior” would be abandonment.
Throughout my life, I chose friends and partners who could help me affirm this truth by entering into an unconscious agreement that said we were not allowed to express what was really going on under the surface, and if I chose to speak up, they would leave me. I’ll admit that I’m disappointed in myself for having entered into that agreement again with my friend (really? I thought I was done with this!), but I also recognize that there is great strength in the fact that I didn’t force myself to maintain the status quo this time around.
Last night, I hit a rough patch, and I found myself doubting how I handled my end of things. I wondered whether I had been too open, too honest, too everything. And that old familiar shame around expressing myself and asserting my needs sat down on the couch next to me. But this time, I decided to call in some reinforcements. Rather than hanging out with Shame, I chose to meditate and ask my Guides.
This is what happened.
I pulled a tarot card to focus my meditation with the question: What lesson is being given to me in this situation with my friend?
The Guide who appeared was Selene. She was clearly in Get Shit Done mode, because she answered a number of questions all in one session.
First, she told me that I had permission to heal her. In the meditation, we were linked together with handcuffs, and she released us both.
Second, she spoke to my worries of “did I open up too much?” “should I have toned down my truth?” Her words wrapped me in a deep state of calm. She reminded me of the first part of her original lesson for me (again, you can read about it here), which was, in order to heal, I had to come into right relationship with myself.
She said, “This is not about perfection. This is about loving yourself as fully and as deeply as you can. Do not judge a situation by the outcome; evaluate it based on whether or not you loved yourself as fully as possible.”
She went on to show me that, instead of asking, “Should I not have sent that last email–was it too much?” to which I could not come up with a satisfactory answer because it was dependent on how the other person responded (which is out of my control), I needed to ask, “When I sent that email, was I loving myself?” Wow. I immediately knew the answer to that: “HELL YES.”
But then I had another question, because my friend’s response to that email was pretty abysmal. “Selene, what if loving myself isn’t good for the other person? Is it possible that self-love conflicts with loving others, and if it does, how do I choose?”
She replied, “When you are truly acting from a place of self-love, and you are making decisions based on loving yourself, it is impossible to act toward another in any way but love. By acting from love, you are serving the Highest Good of the situation, and your Highest Self and the other person’s Highest Self will recognize and honor that. Your lower egoic selves, on the other hand, might put up a great deal of resistance, and you may get feedback from the other person’s egoic self (or your own) that you’re being anything but loving. Let it go, and focus all of your attention on finding that place of self-love, and continue to make your decisions from this space.”
What a gift.
I came out of the meditation feeling clear and light, equipped with a powerful compass to help me navigate future decisions. As I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was the tarot card in my lap, the Five of Coins from the Alice Tarot deck.
From the deck’s author, Karen Mahoney’s, description of the card: “The scene in which Alice walks with the Fawn through ‘the wood where things have no names’ is one of the oldest and most touching in the whole of Through the Looking-Glass. It’s also one of the most frightening, because Alice…actually loses her identity completely and can’t even remember her own name. It’s a rather chilling idea, though there is at least one good aspect to the wood–it makes the Fawn forget that he should be afraid of people and so he walks happily beside Alice.”
Selene’s voice sounded in my mind again, and she explained how, just like Alice and the Fawn, when we enter this place of self-love, we forget the illusion that says we are all separate and our personal needs and wants are mutually exclusive from another’s.
Instead, we enter our true state of being, which is to say, we forget all that “separates us” and we recall our Oneness. It is only when confronted with the world around us that we find it hard to remember this lesson. We often revert to me vs. them, and we feel like loving ourself is a selfish endeavor that must equate with hogging up love that could be spent on someone else, when this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I challenge you to join me in experimenting with this approach. The next time you’re faced with a decision, ask yourself, how can I best love myself right now? If I was choosing self-love, and I wasn’t worried about what other people might think or how they might respond, what would I do? And then…do it.