Owning Your Truth, Part II

I have been steadily molting into truer versions of myself (for the most part) for the past seven years, and it started with my health and wellness social marketing business. I started on the self-development path because my mentor and coach advised me to, and I being the eager student, followed exactly what she told me to do and read. I consistently and steadily grew in my business and in my personal growth. For me, one of the most important moments of reflection was when people I had known for years, said (verbatim) “who are you, and what have you done with Alexis?” Before I started this often painful path of self-discovery, I couldn’t look anyone in the eye for more than a few seconds, and my head was constantly down when I entered a room. My goal in life until about six years ago was to be invisible in this world due to my perceived lack of self-worth. Breaking the perception of self-worth in my head was both uncomfortably painful, and even more incredibly rewarding and worth it every ounce of uncomfortableness to achieve. I am more “me” than I ever have been. And it’s been a hell of a journey. It’s a journey I choose to be never-ending because that is when one starts dying from the inside out. I know because when I stopped, that is exactly what happened. I was shrinking back into mediocrity because I felt I wasn’t equipped to deal with the issues in my life at the moment.

So as of today this is what my growth game looks like: my business is growing faster in the past three months than in the past two years; I am out and proud baby; I am in a relationship, and I feel comfortable in my own skin. I am actively putting my many talents and gifts back for the world to see and experience. If I am being completely honest, for most of the past two years I haven’t been allowing myself to be that vulnerable with my talents. I shrunk back into being trying to be invisible, but that wasn’t working either because I knew what it was like to be seen. My integrity was incongruous at best. I am purposefully seeking ways to bring my light into the world. I didn’t realize how much I had let it go out until now.

If you have struggled like I have with identity, self-worth; justifying your own bullshit story of mediocrity; validating yourself to your “peers”; trying to hide your emotions because to not do so hurts too much; the fallacy of being perfect (sorry not sorry), or trying to maintain an image that is not true to you- I am giving you permission to let all of it go. For those of you who don’t understand what I am referring to, that is AWESOME. I am both ecstatic for you and jealous. Because I thought needed permission to not be perfect. I thought I needed to wear a certain cape (e.g. persona) in order to belong. I thought I needed to be stoic because that meant being brave, courageous, and impenetrable to hurt. I thought I needed a certain job title and career to be accepted. ALL of it is bullshit if it does not serve you. And none of it serves you.

acceptance invisible

If I am being honest, I didn’t have much of an active personal growth game for almost two years. In my subconscious mind, my issues were too great. I didn’t know where to start, and I honestly didn’t realize how much of an issue it was until I started therapy. I was hiding. Again. And it was a shitty feeling to start to revert back to being invisible. I went back to being meek, apologizing, self-conscious, and my lack of self-confidence was back in full force. It started with a series of small decisions of not to do. My daily routine of gratitude, affirmations, and personal growth books became less routine, and then non-existent. I started listen to more audio trainings, which as a visual learner is not a good move of efficiency. It was a subconscious; “I don’t want to deal with any of these things right now in a deep way. So I’ll do superficial personal growth.”   There is a book called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, which is basically about making the decision to do the little things that are easy to do and not do. Both add up to big changes consistently over time. It is up to you whether they are positive or negative big changes. In my case, they were negative.

There were some attributing factors to why these things happened, but I allowed them to dictate my life instead of acknowledging their presence and figuring out what to do about it. Whether you know it or not, everything you do is an active choice. Most of the time the choice is determined by one’s threshold for how uncomfortable their lives become. I actively made a change in my behavior because the life I was living had become really uncomfortable, and not in the working through my shit kind of growth that will cause your life to get better at the end. This was the kind of uncomfortable where I wondered how the frak I got there, and how to climb out of the fire swamp that had become my life.

I am comfortable doing things today that I never thought I’d be comfortable doing. I have never been comfortable in my own skin, and had rebelled against finding out why until about seven years ago. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin unless it was canoeing or out in nature by myself.   Those were my churches. Those were the two communities I found myself accepted no matter how socially awkward I could be, and in those two communities became my refuge, they were my safe place to recharge and where I felt home. I used to say that I am a fundamentally different person than I was seven years ago. I don’t say that anymore. I say that I am the truest version of myself that I have ever been, and I will continue to evolve into being my best self.

come into your own

I feel comfortable enough to own my sexuality to be proud enough of it to be in a relationship, and believe I am worth of it. And unabashedly shout during Philly’s Pride Parade on behalf of my cousin’s church, “you are queer? We are here!” Did I ever think in my entire life I would feel comfortable marching in a parade at all? No. Let alone shouting for a mile with pride about my sexuality (a vulnerability that I used to hide behind), high fiving, and handing out a hundred stickers without feeling self-conscious at all? To have the courage to bond with complete strangers in a city I don’t know because we are really all there for the same reason? Hell no. But I grew to get there. I grew to be the person I am today. And I will grow to be person I am meant to be tomorrow. The growth doesn’t stop. It just evolves to destroy the next barrier inside yourself so you can become the truest version of you ever.

In my experience, the best and worst part of growth is you find out who your real friends are. Some people might not recognize and accept the new you, and fight against it. They might even try to tear the “new” you down with sometimes seemingly innocuous comments that sometimes hurt beyond measure. It is okay to feel that hurt, but don’t let it linger. I like to think of it like a paper cut. It hurts like a bitch when it happens, but is gone relatively quickly and forgotten. The fault is on them, not you. They are fighting against themselves because they are reminded what they could be, but chose not to fight for. Show them what you fought for. Even better, show yourself what you fought for. That is another thing the past few years have taught me. Proving others wrong is a great short-term motivator. Proving yourself right? That is when the magic happens, and when you start to discount the lies you have told yourself your whole life.

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Owning Your Truth, Part I

This is what people don’t tell you about Love and relationships. How unbelievably messy they are. The other thing people don’t tell you about life in general is how messy it is. If you are living life correctly, the messes and barriers to greatness never stop. There is always another layer, another battle to fight, and a demon to conquer. And all of it is hard, but the result is always worth it.

Risk failing

That is me when I was around 2.  Thanks Dad for always capturing the memories 😀

One of my biggest demons is the ability to believe I am worthy of love. The friendship niggle I defeated years ago. I am now on to romantic love, and that is way more complicated to defeat. It is insidious, as most demons are, because they know us so well. The self-talk that one tells yourself is of utmost importance, and I have failed at that for most of life. It took a lot of fantastic mentors (thanks to Maria, in particular), personal growth, and soul-searching to really beat down the naysaying niggle that was constantly in my brain.

When it came to love, and when I finally decided to own my truth of being a lesbian for the world to know; damn did that demon come out to play. Trusting another person with intimidate details of my life, and entering the weird world of online dating. Attempted to be scammed not once, but twice within a month tends to put a damper on your self-talk when it comes to dating. It makes you doubt your choices. It made me doubt whether I would ever find someone that I would let my heart love enough to trust. The scammers were amateurs and never got that far, and I know karma will bite them in the ass.

I have never in my entire life really let someone get all the way to the point where I let myself fully fall in love with another person. Subconsciously it was the scariest thing that I could let happen in my life, to be that vulnerable. To let someone fully in meant that I would have to drop most, if not all, of my many emotional barriers. I wasn’t ready to do that. So I didn’t. I kept any romantic interests at an emotional arms-length.

relationship detective

I thought I had fallen in love once when I was in college, and for that time in my immature life, I was as fully in love as I would let myself be. Which at the time was until it got hard and until it got real (I was about to graduate). We were not right for each other, and quite honestly we lasted far longer than we should have. When I ended it however, I was the definition of a frigid bitch. I was cold; I was calculated; I was mean, and I hated myself for years for how I broke it off with her. It was the right decision, but the wrong execution. I think subconsciously one of the reasons I avoided coming to terms of being a lesbian, and subsequently coming out, for so long was because of the shame I felt over how I handled the break up. I wanted to avoid a similar event at any cost. So I hid behind a wall of sarcasm, casual flings, and non-committal relationships. The desire to cover up this vulnerability flaw in myself was deep. This included hiding my own happiness and being true to myself because my priority to myself was usually the last on the list until the past five years.

The scary love I have found is thousands of miles away fighting a war in Syria for the  US Army. I didn’t expect it; I didn’t want it, and I fought my feelings until I couldn’t anymore.  It is excitedly terrifying for many reasons. I was fighting my own war of unworthiness, vulnerability, and trust. I have been waging those wars for as long as there has been water in the ocean. Sometimes, one has to own your truth. Own your vulnerability. Own your passion for someone else, and put it all on the line. I don’t know how it will work out. What I do know is that I deserve to know where I stand. Sometimes you have to risk failing to truly rise to the your truest self. And it will hurt every time.

The Root of Belonging, Pt 1

So I have been inconsistently trying to write about belonging for the better part of a year. I had “finished” an essay, and my friend and mentor told me to break into parts because each paragraph was just scratching the surface of the story buried beneath.  I bring you the first part of my story of belonging.

I have struggled with belonging my entire life, and as a consequence, it contributed in undermining my self-confidence into virtually nothing over time. Growing up, there was nothing I wanted more than to belong. Even if it was just a little bit. That didn’t happen. I had a much better relationship with my teachers than students my own age. Kids are cruel, manipulative, and traitorous as we grow into our skin. And it can cut deep, and those cuts can last inflict a lifetime of psychological damage, if we let it. Once we recognize the hurt and identify some the reasons we hide ourselves; it is up to us to alleviate that pain and grow into our best selves. It is no longer our role to be a victim. It is our role and responsibility to be a badass survivor.

two-options

The myth of the society we live in is that vulnerability and emotion are to be avoided at all costs, especially in public. I have adhered to that rule for most of my life, until about five years ago when I started to realize my own self-worth. I am not sure where the idea of being emotional and vulnerable equated to being weak, but that is the point of view I adopted early on in my life. I do not remember any specific conversations, either directly or indirectly, taking place in my house growing up. It could be that I thought with all the added stress of growing up with a special needs sister that my social difficulties at school were of secondary importance in my mind. I do not know. This is what I do know; I used my distain for vulnerability to create an armor around myself, because not doing so made middle and high school indescribably painful. I had been hurt too many times by letting people know me. I wasn’t about to let anyone else penetrate my armor of protection. I would never let myself be vulnerable again. It simply led to being hurt.

For the rest of my middle school and high school life, to say I was withdrawn and introverted, would be an understatement. For the majority of my middle and high school life, I went to school, later work, and I came home. I would hibernate to my room to escape into the world of sports, music, reading, and writing poetry. I had two after-school activities I participated in, one in middle school and one in high school. I was baseball card club, which is just what it sounds like. Yes that was the actual name of the club, and I had started following sports obsessively to fill a void in my life. Baseball card club especially was a refuge to the self-imposed isolation of my life in middle school. I could just truly be me there, because it was a bunch of other displaced kids who loved baseball cards and sports as much as I did. I think many of us were outcasts. It was an escape from the cruelty that can be middle school, and allowed us to bond in a non-judgmental way that eluded many of us. I loved it, and I was truly devastated when I graduated middle school because it was my one tether to other kids who didn’t judge me for being socially awkward and shy.

teenage hero jolie

In high school, I joined an environmental group called Students for the Environment (SFE). It was a club comprised of like-minded students who were environmentally conscious that organized and promoted environmental causes. Until sophomore year of high school, I still felt pretty isolated and awkward in the group. I had a few friends a grade below me join the group, and I almost developed real friendship there for the first time in years. I felt relatively comfortable, and this bizarrely scared me back into my shell, when I became aware of the connection that was occurring. I realized I could get hurt again, and I pulled back my real self. We were still friends, but I hid my real self behind self-deprecation humor and put my vulnerability armor on. This ended up sabotaging the friendship to one of superficial nature. Ironically, the detachment hurt. Except it was my fault this time, and that was the first time that I realized maybe this armor wasn’t as effective as I had constructed it to be. I didn’t understand what had happened to the friendship until many years later. I didn’t understand it was ultimately my fault that my ever-present armor caused the friendship to collapse. That is how apprehensive I was about connection, and vulnerability. I sacrificed my first connection in years due to my fear of rejection, vulnerability, and to let people see and know me for whom I was.

The concept of finding a place and people where I could feel comfortable just being me was elusive until I was in my 30’s.   My beloved Garden Elite being the exception to that rule at Union County College. I owe that group more than I could ever explain because of their immediate acceptance of me. I struggled to find my tribe of belonging, and it hurt until I turned off the emotional intelligence part of my brain. These revelations have taken place over the past few years due to a wonderful therapist, self-reflection, and finally realizing that I am worth knowing all aspects of myself, and others do as well. I became to understand more of why I acted the way I do, and the underlining why. And it was and is not easy.  The proverbial cliche of peeling of an onion is really apropos, and I’ve been digging deep into a lot of issues resulting in a lot of layers being peeled.  None of this is easy, but it is worth it. That is for another essay that is forthcoming.

shall pass kidney stone

I discovered more of the equation of belonging in high school while discussing it with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a few years. Every time we see each other, I realize how alike we are in many aspects. It is one of the those rare friendships that deepens over time, and it doesn’t matter how often we see each other. She has also struggled with belonging. We are both smart, definitely high on the nerd scale, had similar childhood backgrounds, and can be socially awkward. We tried clubs, activities, and eventually I gave up in high school except for SFE. I ended up working a lot. She was much braver than I was, and did a variety of after school activities that I am still in awe of. I didn’t know much about this until recently, and our friendship has been evolving in the best way as I become more vulnerable and trusting. It seems the more vulnerable I become; the deeper the friendship goes. Vulnerability and trust go together like thunderstorm and a rainbow. It is sometimes volatile, but a beautiful thing to watch as the light comes shining through illuminating the invisible beauty within. It’s been a hard concept to grasp, and grudgingly accept as truth. Since I have an exceptionally hard time practicing both vulnerability and trust. Both are worth risking in order finding your true belonging, and your true self.

Hiding, Settling, and Pushing

For the past year I have been hiding behind my circumstances of injury, PTSD, hurt, depression, and the worst one is self-deceit. I have always been quite open to criticism, so I could power forward and learn. Last year is all of my inner circle was going through heavy shit just like I was. They were not in a position to offer constructive criticism because they were trying to survive. Which I understood because we were all struggling in different, but very challenging obstacles. As my friend put it, we ALL went south for a period of time. I have written about hitting my wall here. Anytime I had hit a wall I went into survival mode, which meant I went into a ball. I was talking with a friend of mine about childhood bullying in general, and snowball fights came up. She said that she hated them. I said, I always thought they were fun. She retorted, “I was always the one being pelted and worried my glasses would break”. I said, “oh I just always went into a ball.” She said, “I just stood there”. I had an epiphany that day about my reaction to internal struggle, and about how when things really get tough I would go into a ball. She said, “it’s time to unfurl. And I’ve been watching you slowly unfurl for 6 years now. It’s time to unfurl and become fully you”.

believeinyourself

From that moment on, I have been steadily and more consciously unfurling myself from the past year of pain, heartache, and being utterly lost. Being lost sucks. Either metaphorically or physically. My life that I had taken so much effort and time to create was slowly being dismantled. The worst part is I was the one who was unconsciously administrating the dismantling. The biggest bitch of it was, I truly didn’t realize how bad it was. Or how much I had internalized my pain that was externalized into confusion. All of these realizations have come about today, and things are starting to click.

For my social marketing business, we are doing a 90 day bootcamp with a training call every Sunday with some of the top leaders in the company. The trainer on the call on Sunday asked, what do you fear the most? I instantly wrote disappointment. And then wrote in big letters FUCK under it. My instant  reaction and consistent fear is not being disappointed, but in disappointing others. It is then when the epiphanies started infiltrating my brain.  Disclaimer:  if you cursing bothers you, I would suggest skipping this entry entirely.

The internal dialogue went something like this:

Me: I thought I conquered that
Inner me (referenced as the niggle from now on): apparently not
Me: Well frak. What am I supposed to do about that?! There’s no book for that. Because I have tackled a lot of things, and I bet that is the underlying cause of a lot of it.
This was later exposed as doubt in therapy, it’s been a heavy week.

When I encounter a problem I can’t solve, I text my coach to ask for guidance. I said something like, “I have an answer to the trainers question and it’s fraking disappointment. I am not sure what to do about it.”

catepillar

My coach says, “It’s a legit fear, and to lean into it and do it.”

I was confused by this and responded, “lean into disappointment?”

My infinitely patient coach says, “no. Lean into the FEAR of disappointment and do it anyway.” After that I got it, and have proceeded to not only kick ass but KILL the niggle. My therapist was resistant to the word kill (she wanted it to have a permanent vacation). I know how insidious that little bastard is, and it needs to die before it infects another human being with its nonsense.

I hit what I call the frak it button, but only part way.  Like a safety on a gun. To clarify, my version of the frak it button is I don’t care WTF people think of me. I do it anyway. This is how I went to the second level of leadership the first time with my social marketing business, and am doing it again now. And it feels SO GOOD to be me again. But that’s a different entry all together.  I am ready to pull the trigger on the frak it button.  Be all in.

After today, I went through something called EFT (look it up of you’re curious) or otherwise called tapping. I went FAR back to where the niggling (saboteur) came from. The emotional imprint originated from an incident so long ago. Except after processing the memory, I discovered that it morphed into disappointment others not so much myself.

THIS is when the epiphany occurred. If you believe that you have disappointed others, especially if you are viewing it from a leadership role, GIVE IT UP. Two reasons, 1) you haven’t and your life’s purpose is bigger than you; 2) any mentor or coach who feels that way isn’t worth your time. Because if your mentors/coaches feel that way, they are making it about them. My experience is that people eventually make themselves known. Carletta Nelson says, “time either exposes you or establishes you.” Which is dead true. I have spent the past year or more trying to figure out my place in this world.   I do apologize for all clichés in this articles, but sometimes there is no other better substitute. They are clichés for a reason.

self-love train

It has been awhile, which is a huge red flag for me, where the lesson caused me utter terror. Because it means I am ready to be the leader so many others leaders believe I am, but more importantly I Believe that to be true.

This entry has been a long time coming. I went into a ball to protect myself last spring (literally and figuratively), hit an emotion wall in September, and have been slowly unfurling myself ever since.

It is about trying to have the courage to fulfill my greater purpose. I always knew I would have courage to fill it. I was unsure of the timeframe. I ready to embrace the reality and responsibility of being the leader of this company now.

My greater and life purpose is to teach other people how to build a better life of their own through empowerment, as well as expressing my love of arts while being able to make a bitchin’ income at the same time. My greater purpose is about fulfilling lives, and I am READY to fill that purpose. Bring it on life. I am ready.

Ambition and Small-Minded People

To be successful you must have a few things as your core beliefs to achieve long-lasting success. I believe those things to be integrity, ambition, and stickability to never quit. I am lucky to have a reservoir of all those traits, and admittedly sometimes those traits get buried underneath stories that no longer served me. The more dangerous aspect of being successful, though is you become a target. Often it is those closest to you. They tend to be jealous, narcissistic, and fear-based human beings who only know how to deal with success-minded people by hurting them. I am calling it the small-minded syndrome.

As I rose in the levels of leadership, I had wonderful mentors who offered council on how to grow and implement strategies to continue the platform of success. Along my journey of self-discovery and greatness, I had various and sometimes close members of my family say very hurtful and occasionally devastating proclamations. Such as, “this will never work”; “you are never here when we need you”, and my personal favorite, “you’ll never move out” with a sneer and scoff. They wanted to keep me “small” because their life is small. They were unable to make the commitment to make their small, unfulfilling existence into something they could truly be proud of. They resented not being able to be courageous in their life; therefore aimed to keep me small in mine.

The little jabs that are seemingly innocent at first, when reflected upon become a glaringly obvious lever of manipulation and belittling. It took me a long time to realize that what my friends and family were saying was not only debilitating to me, but indirectly to them. It is a direct reflection of how they value their lives and themselves when they bring people down with sometimes seemingly innocuous comments. They might even perceive themselves as being funny, which I have written about here. I am realizing that the people verbalizing to inflict wounds are not usually bad people. I believe that most people love and express themselves in the best way they know how, and sometimes that way is royally fraked.

There are people in society who do not have a life of their own, so they must tear down others to feel better about their small life. This is not to say that it doesn’t hurt just as deep. Because It Does. Holy hell it does. There are some people who know just what buttons and emotions to press to sustain massive internal damage that can leave us wrecked for days. It can continue to hurt for some time after the initial barrage after you process the hell you’ve endured, and the effects can last for years. They say forgiveness is really a gift to yourself, but I have a hard time forgiving those who have deeply hurt the ones closest to me. To be honest, I do not think I’ve ever fully processed the people who have hurt me the most. I am not sure I want to.

There are times in my life where I felt untouchable and kicked ass in every aspect of my life. When anyone tells me I can’t do something, I take that as a personal affront and avenge to prove them wrong. And I do, almost every time. It often comes at a cost, though.  Everything worthwhile has a cost, and it’s a cost I will gladly pay. You find out who really loves you and wants you to succeed. And who wants to keep you small and on their level of comfort. This is when small-minded people feel threatened the most, when you are ready to have a mindset shift. It is also the time when the disparaging and denigration is at a peak. I have come to the conclusion that this is a defense mechanism, and it saddens me. It still hurts like hell when someone close to you assaults you with words. The person who wrote, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was an idiot of epic proportions. I would much rather have someone throw a stone at me than words that penetrate and sometimes break my soul open. Cuts bleed, scab, then heal and fall off. Words though? They penetrate and can become a black hole of self-doubt, pain, and anger. They can fracture families and leave a permanent rift that will never be healed. Words become thoughts, thoughts become actions, and actions can have devastating results. Verbal abuse leaves a much longer affect on the soul and harder to remedy on one’s psyche than physical.

that is pain

Any kind of abuse obviously is traumatic, but one is more sinister because it is much easier to hide from a physical and psychological aspect.   It often takes place through self-delusion and denial brought on by low self-esteem from being broken in the past. These pieces are often buried deep, and sometimes we think we have gotten past them. This is where small-minded people are so insidious. Because they are usually weaved into your life, and sometimes pretty intricately. And they know us. The clinically narcissistic ones use that knowledge to inflict the worst kind of psychological pain.  Some even take glee in it.

Everyone is a work in progress. I have hurt those I love, and some of them deeply. The difference is I am willing to apologize, and learn how to corrective action so I don’t hurt them again. Small-minded people have no desire to better themselves because that would take effort and a commitment to go outside their comfort zone. They would much rather tear others down instead. I am working towards accepting and almost feeling pity for those with small-minded syndrome. Except the hurt goes deep, and I’ve got a long way to go for that mindset switch to occur.

Myth of Self-Depreciation Humor

I am from Jersey, which means a few things. I know what a jughandle is; we understand how to navigate a traffic circle, and we not only talk sarcasm we breed it. I get it. I have done it. I lived it, been proud of it. We wear sarcasm like armor.  There is sarcasm which can be witty, and then there is self-depreciation “humor”.

The more time I have spent with my family recently, whom I love dearly, it is readily apparent how frequently some of them use the latter as a deflection tactic in the aim of humor that I used for years. No one likes a person who takes themselves too seriously, but there is a line between light-hearted banter and consistently put yourself down.  It is not funny to actively break your own self down. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because your brain doesn’t know what is true and what isn’t.  If you say it enough times, even if it was jokingly at first, it becomes a reality in your mind.  A reality that is incredibly challenging to break.  I did this for years. And there’s a reason people do it.

day stop self-destruction

Depending on your life experiences, it can be easy to make fun of yourself. You may say, “easy?”  If this is your reaction, I am epically happy for you.  If you come from a background of belittling, bullying or abuse it becomes is a defense mechanism. In one’s mind they think, “what must this person be thinking about me? I’ll short circuit their thinking and prevent their verbal strike by making myself smaller.” What is the one thing above anything else that human beings protect themselves against from an evolutionary perspective? Being hurt and pain. It’s instinctual and biological, and fighting instinct is a formidable task. Eventually when you experience that much emotional pain, the self-depreciation humor becomes like Captain American’s protective shield. I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now, and it became crystal clear today when I heard it multiple times from multiple people I care about. These are smart and successful people who have no business saying they are a loser or lazy.

goal bullshit story

On the opposite side of all this are the people who have hurt you in the past. I am not saying whatever they did was justified because it most likely wasn’t.  I have come to the conclusion that most people do not mean to be hurtful in their actions. Most people love and act the best way they know how, and sometimes it’s incredible destructive because that’s all they have been taught. It sucks on both ends of the interaction.

One of the most painful parts of this discovery is how real this reality has been for me.  I am certain I did this on a daily basis. It is the self-worth onion that is continually evolving. It literally pains me to hear the ones I love say these things about themselves. Because I know it’s not true.  It also makes things so much clearer as to why I did it for so long.  It’s what I knew.

permission

I don’t have a solution to this. The armor is kind of like the Emperor’s new clothes. It is not real. And eventually that armor actually ends up being more of a self-penetrating device because it punctures your self-confidence every time you use your self-imposed ammunition of protection.

Empathy and Vulnerability

I had dinner at my apartment with one of my best friends, who has gone through a lot lately. We were talking and she said, “we tend to hide from the people who know us best. Because they can see us.” And all of a sudden, the pain and the hurt over the past few months made sense. I have been her, and I have written about it. Because being seen when you have been through so much shit feels so fraking painful. It is so much safer to hide yourself than be vulnerable, and it is often with the ones who love you that you hide from. It is so much easier to put on a front of antipathy when you are feeling like your world is collapsing.

judgment self-destruction

Except it really isn’t easier. This has taken a lot of time and self-reflection to get this perspective.  For further explanation, I wrote about it here. It was before I understood that I am worthy of sharing my emotion with people. That by shutting off my emotion to those who love me the most, I could (and have) end up with fractured and untimely-ended relationships. Trust is deserved to go both ways. It wasn’t until the past six months that I understood how much I potentially and unknowingly hurt my friends in the past. I wouldn’t let them in. I thought it would hurt too much based on prior experience. I thought I had to be the strong one.  It was all very wrong in every aspect. Learned behavior is such a bitch to change. It was an epiphany of epic portions.

point in life

There is something about being empathetic that engenders compassion, obviously. In the past couple of years, I have somehow been able to create an emotional block where the physical pain of empathy is no longer felt, but the energy of soul releasing it remains available for reception and interpretation.  This has allowed me to be able to control how the energy of empathy is interpreted and transformed into an emotional energy I can interpret without it being crippling to me.  It is a welcome development to both myself and those around me.  For my entire life empathy has been a crippling sense of duty and painful burden.  “The Block” as I call it, has been a freeing and glorious development.  I can use my empathy to problem solve the best way to help the pain, and now it feels like a gift I am meant to share with the world instead of being a martyr to it.

This might not make any sense unless you are an empath, and I apologize if you feel confused.  When I explain this to empaths, they ask me “how did I do that”?  I wish I knew how.   I know believe that people have specific gifts they are meant to share with the world to fulfill their greater purpose.  Empathy is one of my true gifts to the world, and most of the time it felt like a curse to me.  I wake up most days grateful to have it, and can sense and then ease pain in a friend.  Sometimes all it takes is a “that really sucks and I’m sorry” or a really funny meme.

life is all the feels

I think it was when I made an unconscious decision to be seen and my presence known that this mindset shifted. It was no longer about me. It never truly was. It was my decision to step up to my value as a human being and a person when things started to shift in my life. I am gifted with a variety of leaders in my life, but I am stepping up to the Viper, taking flight, and starting to become my own leader. It’s not a role I ever thought I’d be playing, but here it is. It is time to step up. Step up to leadership and responsibility, in spite of how terrifying it is. It is time to be me. Whole-heartedly and with passion. Fear be damned because it’s my time to be bold. It’s my time to grow into myself, again.

Adulting – Lonely and Worth It

Since I talked about this with a friend of mine, I have been meaning to write it. I just didn’t yet. Because that means it’s real. It means I am becoming an adult. I will be the first to admit it is damned lonely and scary being an adult as a xennial. That is the weird generation in between Generation Y and Millennial. I am by definition a millennial (the last year), but I don’t define myself as one.

This is not because of the stereotype that incorrectly states they are lazy, bored, or entitled. They do not want to be stuck like Gen Xers, with a mountain of debt and for the first time ever worse than their parents. I don’t define myself as Millennial because I knew what the world was like before readily access to the internet, cell phones, texting, and constant social media presence. All of those things came later. It was glorious and free time to grow up.

mud

I will take the mud any day 🙂

Xennials have a different issue that might have real world implications later on. They are stuck between wanting to stay in the mindset of it’ll all workout and actually becoming an adult.  They have created a verb – Adulting. I will be the first to admit that being an adult can suck. Having to choose being participating in one of my passions and paying the bills for the first time was a big wake up call. In that moment, I want to run screaming and say “no, I can’t help you. I’ve got the Tohickon this weekend”. My adult brain says, “this your craft that you deserve to learn. The Tohickon will be there, and you can do it Saturday.” It literally hurts, but I know it’s the right decision.

There are people I know who choose to not be an adult, and I have no judgment for this.  It took me a long time to decide to be an adult. What I do not understand is their inability to see how painful it is for other people who are trying to grow up, and they ask unknowingly to join them in their life choice. It is not noble. It is not bold. It is a life choice. And it is okay to do so.  Sometimes I kick loose and do the same.

I never thought that being a 36 year old striving to be an adult would be lonely. But it is. More than I would like to admit my friends (and sometimes I) stay out too late and drink too much. There is no judgment in this, because I have also done those activities in excess. I am over that part of my life, though. My old self sometimes like to claw its way back, and say “you are this lifestyle. You don’t deserve better.” It is my job to say, “no, I’m choosing something better. Something that is going to enrich life”.  And sometimes I fail at that job, which is okay, too. You can live your life, have fun, and be responsible, too. They are not mutually exclusively.

The goal of life is to become an adult and own your life. Instead of your life owning you. I am striving towards that goal every day, but doing so does require becoming an adult in not only income but mentality. In the past six months. I have had to choose between a lot of things I love to do, and making sure I can cover my expenses. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, and make choices you don’t want to make out of necessity. They suck every time. The most painful is limiting time with people in your life that just don’t serve your lifestyle anymore.  I miss them for a variety of reasons, and it’s a choice.

Personally that is the hardest part. When I realized my circle of friends, many I would consider family, do not have the same aspirations as you do. What do you do then? You love them where they are at, and this is crucial with NO judgment. You love them, but you end up spending less time with them because they are not in the same place emotionally you are. I still struggle with this. A lot actually. When my old-self and doubt come knocking, I usually response lately with “I’ve got this. I am growing into myself, which does not include you [former self].” I stay in, and am working on developing more friends who want to grow as much as I do. You choose. It’s rather sobering when you think about it. Expect judgment and criticism, and you’ll figure out what boundaries you want to draw.

Five years: Choices, Gauntlets, and Life

My life can be awesome and hard at the same time. It might be counterintuitive, but they are not mutually exclusive. I absolutely love my life more than I ever thought I could, but it is often hard. Social media is the highlight reel. Real life is almost always different and more complicated.

Five and half years ago I was an environmental consultant. Steady job, decent salary, and it could be quite rewarding. I paid my bills, had money in my savings, and I could splurge now and then on something I really wanted. Sounds great right? A crucial part was missing. I wasn’t happy. I had minimal emotional connection to anyone; smiling was a rarity, and was apparently quite intimidating to people.

courage to grow up

You might be thinking, here it comes. The ode to Arbonne, which has been the catalyst to change my life.  It changed me, it’s always present, and I’m not here to convince you. This essay is more about the ode to my journey to self-worth, acceptance, and getting the fuck out of my own way.

In that time, my self-worth grew and I started to blossom. I went from someone who literally couldn’t look anyone in the eye while speaking to them, to becoming a leader in my business known for my perseverance and gratitude.

There are precious few in my life who know the full truth. Numerous events big and small have taken me from an unfocused mass of metal and forged into platinum that has yet to be cast.  I have been fired, twice. I have had to choose between paying my credit card bill and paying my car insurance. I have had family members die, and have had other family members have serious and almost fatal medical issues. My uncle had a series of strokes that left him with brain damage that he had to retire from dentistry. My friend and I called it “The Gauntlet.”  The medical issues were all at the same time.  It sucked, and our family fought through it.  I made sure to talk to all the doctors and ask the important questions when necessary.  I am so thankful that it didn’t become more serious in one of the cases.

Those times were hard, but manageable. I could do certain things to fix it, and I knew how to tackle the problems. I steadily grew my leadership and myself. Throughout all of that I tackled personal growth and development, and despite all of the shit that was happening I became a much happier and positive person. I developed a core group of friends and I would consider many of them family. I realized I never really had a group of friends like that before. I have deconstructed some of my trust and vulnerability barriers.  I started this blog, and have used it as an outlet that has been powerful for myself and others.  I promoted in my business twice.

All of that progress came to a screeching halt within the last year. It has sucked with a capital S, and the challenge consisted of personal struggle.

Periodically crises are like a ninja where it creeps and builds slowly in the background, and then WHAM! It becomes like whac-a-mole. One problem seems to be resolved, and another one appeared.

fb car pic

My car after the accident

Breaking my codependency, wage loss (partly my fault), traumatic car accident, finding a replacement car, ongoing months of physical therapy (very grateful for), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Good times. The car accident, which caused another layer of PTSD. You can read the details of each by clicking the links. I have broken through on a lot of barriers, but I couldn’t seem to get through these on my own. I started therapy last month because it wasn’t getting any better. I have trust issues, and despite that it’s going surprisingly well.

I thought I had put the issues of self-worth in a time capsule to be revealed 20 years from now and opened up to be like YOU caused all that trouble? Not so much. It decided to resettle in with nagging doubt, frustration and increased the fear. Once I figured out that this was still the underlying issue, it all started to make illogical sense. I didn’t think I deserved success, the apartment, leadership status, or living among the successful.

It’s all bullshit. I have fought on every level to achieve the life I was growing, and I’ll be damned if I let it get taken away. Even if caused by me. Everyone deserves success. Everyone deserves to live a life they love. It should not be a luxury of the rich.

unbecoming

When things got tight financially, I became innovative. In the past year, I started my photography business that I absolutely love. There is nothing like capturing a moment in time for people or a moment in the outside world to live forever. It’s another form of self-expression.

My life is messy, complicated, remarkable, and sometimes painful. I wouldn’t trade it for the life of mediocrity and safety I was living in over five years ago. The difference between my life before and today is choices and a path for something better. I am on my way towards sustainability in life, passions, love, and finances. The true American dream.

 

Family

My definition of family has expanded quite a bit the past several years. Anyone who truly knows me, I will do anything for my family, both blood and chosen. I am blessed to have developed many friends who have turned into family. And sometimes those people come from the most unexpected of circumstances.

I would say I have four types of family: blood, Arbonne, paddling, and everything in between. They have different places in my life, and I do not discriminate with whom I love. They span all genres, sexuality, and age.  I give readily, but rarely do I give myself.   I do not trust easily, and I readily hide myself because I thought it was easier that way. This is an error in judgment, and it’s a constant battle I fight with myself.  To be worthy of giving that trust.

genetically related

In truth, it is easier that way. It is much easier to show façade rather than to tell the whole truth. To pretend everything is perfect. Be the highlight reel for people.   One of my best friends says that “he has barely scratched the surface of me” after being friends for more than a decade. But it’s a lie. I love my life, and it’s not perfect. They are not mutually exclusive.

One of my consistent challenges is to be vulnerable. I am certainly not unique in this aspect. I would go even further to say a majority of people when they broke down to the basis of their fears that it would rank very highly. We seek perfection in our society. I have written about this, and I am going to extrapolate further. It is much easier to portray the lie of perfection, then to tell the actual truth behind the mask. The truth is almost without exception, messy and multi-layered. There is no easy “fix.”

My closest family members are the ones I trust without question. The ones who ask and push the questions that no one else wants to ask when necessary. They push us out of our comfort zone into a whole new reality and space. Which is often terrifying, because we have often lived and believed our own lie for far too long. They help us confront the truth, which is often deeply buried and disturbing.

being broken

Blood family doesn’t often push that boundary for some reason, at least not in my family as of late. I am still puzzling all this out, and everything is becoming clearer.  Not crystal yet, but it’s getting there. Our own minds are often our biggest obstacles. As one friend of mine put it, “Stop using your big, beautiful brain and just do it.” Put your faith in trust, as terrifying as that may be.

I am working towards putting my trust in consistent vulnerability, and making myself known to everyone I love. It is scary. It is messy. And the effort and pain is worth it. I am worth it. It is one of the hardest aspects of personal growth I am pushing through. It’s another step towards my progress to being the best me.

I am the vault for people. People tell me things that they don’t tell anyone else, and I value that trust as sacred. I have rarely put that amount of trust into other people. And that is where one aspect of my self-worth breakdown is. When people trust you enough to tell you their innermost thoughts and feelings, you are worthy of doing the same for them. You not only deserve that amount of trust that people place in you, but they also deserve the same from you. It is not a burden to them. I will repeat because I have felt this way my entire life: it is not a burden to them. It is a comfort of reciprocity.   If there is not the same amount of trust, they will pull back from you. And it hurts. I have only now just realized why the pull back happened. Loyalty and trust must go both ways.

relationship detective

Thanks to those who haven’t moved on, and I understand the ones that did.  🙂

I have lived most of my life in fear of being hurt by trusting the wrong people. It is a path I am striving to banish. If you find this true about yourself as I have, and you realize the pedestal you place yourself on both undervalues your needs as a human being and the gift of your truest self to others.