"Who would you be without the thought that happiness depends on someone else?" ~ Byron Katie.
Do you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders? Feel responsible for everyone else? If so, you are probably familiar with the exhaustion, frustration, and lack of satisfaction that can accompany it. Yes, its wonderful to be there for family and friends. However, if it's stopping you from stepping into your own life, then you and the meaningful people in your life are missing out.
A fulfilling life is not about taking responsibility for everyone else’s stuff, it’s taking responsibility for your own. Recognizing true happiness is in your hands, and always has been.
Interestingly, the number 'One' regret of the dying, identified by Bronnie Ware is, "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me".
Like many of us you may have learned in your childhood to seek validation and approval in-order to feel more securely attached to your caregiver. As an adult this can translate into the unconscious belief, "I need to please people to be happy." This means you will do whatever it takes to gain approval from the people in your world.
So what happens when you experience disapproval? Your brain recognizes it as as a threat to your well-being, and floods your system with stress hormones to prepare you for fight, flight or freeze. Of course there is no real threat, no tiger lurking in the shadows.
However, there is a very real fear of losing the love and / or approval of someone in your world. This overwhelming anxiety is part of a vicious cycle that keeps you seeking approval, and feeling trapped and powerless.
Lets look at what you can do take ownership of your life:
♥ IDENTIFY WHAT GIVES YOU MEANING AND PURPOSE
Here is a simple exercise to help you begin this process:
1. Allow yourself about 20 minutes to do this exercise. Find somewhere quiet, where you know you won't be disturbed. You will need paper and pen for this.
2. Take a few minutes to center yourself. You might like to shut your eyes or set your gaze on some thing in front of you. Take a few gentle breaths. Breath in slowly through the nose, and release any tension on the out breath. Do this until you start to feel a sense of calm.
3. When you are ready, imagine you are 90 years old, healthy, happy and content. You are sitting in your favorite chair looking back over your ideal life. There are no limitations, so let your imagination go. Create as much detail as you can. This is YOUR story.
4. Create a list of the meaningful people you have known in your lifetime or would like to know. (Family, friends, significant other, colleagues,etc.)
5. Ask yourself the following questions:
♦ What would you like each of them to say about you?
♦ What is it about you that people value?
♦ What have you achieved?
♦ What are you proud of?
♦ What added meaning to your life and gives you a sense of fulfillment?
♦ What did you learn?
♦ What did you do for fun and leisure?
♦ What gives you a sense of well-being?
♦ What have you done to maintain your health?
♦ What did you do in Service, Leadership or in your Community?.
♦ Finally. What can you see around you? What are you feeling? What can you hear? How do you know you’re truly happy?
TIP: The complete picture may not be instantly clear, just put pen to paper and see what happens!
If you own this story you get to write the ending. ~ Brené Brown
♥ START NOTICING THE PATTERNS KEEPING YOU STUCK
It takes courage to identify, and take steps towards what you want. Just the thought of it may generate anxiety and fear. You might be besieged with thoughts like, "What will people think?" What if I fail?", What if...?" What if...? ....
To cut through this pain, confusion and stress, and help you connect with your own strength and capacity Tara Burch created the mindfulness tool RAIN.
Let's take a look at how these steps can help you move towards what you want:
R – Recognize what is happening - Turn your attention inward with curiosity and kindness. Be receptive and open, without any perceived expectation of what you will find there. For example, you might notice excessive worried thoughts, and your heart pounding in your heart and throat area.
A – Allow life to be just as it is - Just pause to create a space to notice, to interrupt the patterning. You might want the unpleasant feeling to go away, but as you become more willing to be present with "what is", a different quality of attention will emerge. Allowing is key to healing. Tara suggests whispering "yes" or "I consent" with gentle patience, when you feel the grip of fear, shame or another distressing emotion. You may have to do this again and again before you feel your defences soften and relax.
I – Investigate your inner experience with kindness – Calling on your natural curiosity, begin to focus your attention on your present experience. How are you experiencing it in your body? What are you believing? What most wants attention? Are you clinging to something? Do you need something to be a certain way? What does this vulnerable place want from me? Get in touch with it.
To honestly connect with your hurts, fears and shame you need to put aside any judgments that come up and treat yourself with compassion and kindness. This is especially important if you are dealing with regrets from this past. You can read more about coping with regret in this article by my colleague Tim Hill, how to go on with too many regrets.
Imagine that your child comes home in tears after being bullied at school. In order to find out what happened and how your child is feeling, you have to offer a kind, receptive, gentle attention. Bringing that same kindness to your inner life makes inquiry, and ultimately healing, possible. ~ Tara Burch
N – Realize Non-identification – Rest in natural awareness. This means your sense of who you are isn’t fused with or defined by any stories, emotions or sensations. By loosening up around the limiting sense of self you can begin to live with more openness and love. Simply resting in awareness.
Allowing means “letting be” – the thoughts, emotions, feelings or sensations you discover. You may feel a natural sense of aversion, of wishing that unpleasant feelings would go away, but as you become more willing to be present with “what is,” a different quality of attention will emerge. Allowing is intrinsic to healing, and realizing this can give rise to a conscious intention to “let be.”
♥ TAKE BABY STEPS
As you become aware of your patterns, you will also be aware of the small daily opportunities you have to choose a different response, establish healthy boundaries, and take steps towards a more fulfilling life. This takes courage, but the benefits are worth it, for you, and the people in your world.
Move From Feeling Stuck:
Not good enough story
Fear of failure
Need to control
To Living Courageously:
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. ~ C.G. Jung
If you are anything like me, you want to look back on your life with satisfaction. Not because you got everything right. But because you were brave enough to keep learning, growing, and embracing the best version of YOU.
If you are feeling stuck, and need the help of a supportive counsellor, then please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.