A 15 minute rapid-fire convo on human nature, our need for control and security, and how to navigate uncertainty-- in work, in relationships, and in life.
My mom is the kind of mom who receives messages from the Universe.
This sounds a little "woo woo", I know.
However, she speaks about it as Eastern philosophers speak of contemplation practices, or Judeo-Christians speak of prayer, holding a question or thought in mind until she receives a response, or spark of insight.
Often this happens spontaneously, when her mind is relaxed with other activities, and sometimes the messages are for me.
One evening during a very dark winter she called me up with just such a message. It was on the heels of botching something that was extremely important to me. I had planned it all month, certain I would receive accolades, praise, and tiny yellow tea roses thrown at my feet for being a quiet genius, revealed.
Instead, I had a panic attack. Full out. Breathless, body quakes, phlegmy tears rolling down my chin while a circle of my peers watched me unfold.
Aka: The worst.
In a fit of humiliation, I had self-quarantined in my bedroom for the remainder of the weekend, hoping my bedsheets would swallow me whole, cocoon and transform me, eventually releasing me reborn on the beaches of Bali in June.
This didn't happen.
Instead, my mom called.
"The Universe has a message for you... It's 'Humility.'"
I received this "offering" the same way as I would if the Universe had a message for me: "You've let yourself go since high school", or, if the Universe had a message for me: "Your face is too round for that new haircut."
It seemed like a celestial-padded jab from my mother.
NOT what I wanted to hear.
But as we know, our needs and our wants are distinctly different devices.
So I did what any wallowing word-nerd would do, which is find the definition of "Humility" on Wiki, looking for even more reasons to be injured by this insult.
Humility. (n) Close to the Earth, grounded, right sized.
It took a bit of contemplating (and a bit more wallowing), but eventually, I got it.
My expectations of myself and my performance had been so inflated, so dependent on grandiose standards, and my desire to be praised, that I collapsed when it didn't play out as desired.
Perfectionism in drag. Disproportionate thinking. The gap between expectation and a reality sandwich can be brutal.
One of the finest antidotes is staying right sized.
3 Practices for Staying Right Sized
1::Drop Expectations, Embrace Intentions.
Desire is the root of all action, but the intention we approach our desires with can be the linchpin difference between staying stuck, beating ourselves up afterwards, or shaking off slights and moving forward with personal permission.
Is our reason for acting dependent on the outcome? Is it because we expect to change someone, be received a certain way, or to get something in return?
Motivation that's dependent on outcomes that we can't control is the best recipe for staying in a perfectionist "freeze", or falling apart in the after wash.
Rather, ask yourself "How do I want to participate in this? With compassion? Honesty? Dedication? Humor?" We can control how we 'show up', and honoring our intentions vs expectations keeps us right sized, and confident in our abilities; regardless of how the situation plays out.
2:: When in doubt, Generosity trumps all.
Humility doesn't mean thinking less of yourself, it means thinking of yourself less.
The concern that I hear most often from clients is some variation of: "What if I look silly?" or "What if they think I'm a fraud/chump/total loser" or "What if I make the wrong decision?"
I've felt every one of these anxieties nestled in the pit of my stomach at some point, and the one thing that they all have in common, is that the anxiety lens is intently focused on ME.
As my teacher, Venerable Robina Courtin so divinely put it: "We're so wrapped up in what other people think of us. It's a fucking nightmare."
I really like ordained nuns that drop F* bombs. I also think she's spot on.
Peeling our attention off of ourselves and how we'll be perceived, while pinning it to what we want to contribute, offer, and create for the sake of others is the most effective way that I've found to navigate the tides of inflated/deflated thinking.
When we do something for others, we organically drop into our right size.
3. Revel in Enoughness
Abundance is sexy. I get it.
The idea of living the luxe life, and chasing the dream of "having more and being more" is super seductive and ingrained in our cultural mythology. However, it also leaves us unsatisfied and unaware of what we have sitting right in front of us.
When we're prone to inflating who we are in the world with every new compliment/promotion/win/shiny thing, and deflating with every disappointment/discouragement/challenge/loss, our sense of self worth is always in flux.
As Alice said to the Caterpillar in Wonderland, "I'm not myself, you see...being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.".
You said it, sister. And it's exhausting. Being right sized means being able to inhabit what we have right here right now, appreciate that it's not perfect, and admire that it's "enough".
When I was 14, I was in love with Heath Pozorski. He was tall, goofy, wore Cool Water cologne and had a bowl cut that rivaled any 90's teen heart-throb.
One day during 5th period lunch we were seated across from eachother at the lunch table. I remember every detail of that moment: flicking errant peas around the table after the trays had been cleared, the rabid butterflies that were multiplying in my stomach, the deep breath I took to conjure my gumption, the words "Will you be my boyfriend?" that dropped in front of me, and the specific way his nose wrinkled as he said "No."
I died a hundred tiny deaths of shame between "No" and the sound of the recess bell.
This was the first time I felt the gravity that is characteristic to "The Things I Said and Can't Take Back."
I was crushed, broken open, and tied into knots of embarrassment.
Until I wasn't anymore.
I went through puberty. Learned to drive. Graduated High School. No fatal scarring, though I wouldn't have believed that at the time. In retrospect I want to give my little self a high-five for her moxie. She meant it and she said it-- even if the repercussions hurt. The Things I Said at the lunch table only served to make me bolder. If I lived through that...
Two decades later, the list of Things I Can't Take Back resembles a tiny library. There are things that we say and things that we do that are irrevocable. This comes with the territory of living. They change things. Break things.
Sometimes open and sometimes apart.
In it's finest form, it's Wisdom form, these moments have taught me to be skillful in my speech. Like everything else, there's a practice for that:
Do they need to hear it?
Do they need to hear it now?
Do they need to hear it from me?
Am I sharing from the truth of my experience?
If all of these questions check out, then I'm cleared to say that really tough thing. It might be embarrassing, vulnerable, gnarly and uncomfortable, and I might not enjoy the result, but I know for certain I'll be able to stand by my words, and respect myself more for saying them.
This is when The Things We Say and Can't Take Back have the power to break things open. Courage, tenderness, and perhaps even a window overlooking a less toxic path ahead. These are the moments I look back and high-five myself for.
And then there are those that I don't.
In it's Neurotic form, the Things I Can't Take Back have taught me to censor, to stay silent.
The shitty job I swallowed for too long, until "I quit!" in a surge of indignation, followed by the cold remorse of no backup up plan. The insults I've spit at those who've loved me as a way of pushing them back. Confessions of cheating that came too late and with half hearted truths attached. Lies I've told that can't be resealed. Admissions of "I don't love you anymore and here are the hurtful reasons why."
It's often when I'm embarrassed to share, not ready to deal with the fallout, or even trust that I can. Remember what happened when Pandora opened the box? Hazzari. Destruction. Irrevocable damage. Just keep the status cool.
Eventually, though, my geyser blows, and the drill is always the same.
Hidden emotions and opinions are bloated, exaggerated, sharp, and when they're released they break things apart. Everything repressed becomes shrapnel.
These are the Things that hurt and haunt. Despite their bases in truth.
I'm having one of those moments now which is why this distinction is fresh on my mind. And not the skillful "broken open" kind.
A day after the fallout, it seems that the Things I Said only cracked the container--words can't go back in their box, afterall--but it could have very well broken it apart. An uncomfortably close reminder to pay attention to my speech. Artfully spoken honesty is an investment that never fails.
We are complete, comprehensive and complex.
We don't come with an instruction manual.
We come with Instinct. Trust it.
We are plenty, we are full, we are exquisitely elegant by virtue of being alive.
We don't need fixing. We don't need "more".
We have everything we need.
WE ARE SUFFICIENT.
Our Sufficiency is our birthright.
Instinct is our inborn wisdom.
Intuition, the golden thread that connects us all to the greater whole and details we cannot yet see...
There are moments when we've forgotten our nature and scrunched ourselves in tiny boxes to Fit In when all we wanted was to Belong.
Our messy parts: whitewashed,
Our vulnerability: armored
Our voices: edited, silenced, subdued.
Perhaps we found our wildest wishes unsightly or just beyond our grasp.
Perhaps we've just forgotten who we are.
Perhaps we just need a little practice Trusting Ourselves...