I’m no Bible thumper, but I’ve read the book often enough to know there’s some pretty good stuff in there. And this verse got me thinking … “The Truth Will Set You Free”.
Last week I had a deep heart to heart with someone I care about deeply. It was a bit of a deal breaker because it’s a new relationship, and it was one of those pivotal moments when it could go one of two ways. I’m sure you know what I mean.
In the moment… I knew I had a choice. I could hide what was really going on for me, and continue an illusion. Or I could face the gut wrenching fear of my own truth and face possible rejection and the ending of what was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
I chose to face my fear. As I shared my deep insecurity about why people do what they do (all stemming from the past love relationships I’ve had) I knew it was the right thing to do.
I was breaking new ground.
Tears welled up in my eyes. My throat was constricted and my chest felt heavy and closed. As I looked at this person, I saw only confusion and bewilderment. He didn’t get it yet. Neither did I, yet. I was in the midst of discovering my own truth and saying it out loud.
How often do we not tell the people closest to us what’s really going on?
Instead, we “keep our cards close to our chest, don’t say how we really feel, and pretend it’s not what it is”.
But here’s the thing,
“our ability to trust depends not on the reaction of another to our truth, but rather, on our ability to handle our own truth and hold to it”.
People pleasing and approval seeking behavior keeps us shackled to a life of walking a tightrope; a tightrope where we are continually fearful to step off into our own truth. We fear there’s nothing to catch us, and blissfully, or painfully ignorant, we actually fear spiraling into an abyss of denial, disconnection and ultimately abandonment of the self or another or both.
Yes, being truthful is scary.
But instead, consider this! Who would we be, if we speak our truth, and we bring all of who we really are to the conversation with ourselves and those who matter to us?
I took the plunge.
I dug deep into my arsenal of communication skills. I remembered to use “I statements”. I focused on what was true for me. I didn’t make him wrong. I explained why I had done what I’d done, and why. My fear of repeating my past in love was front and center, and I loved myself now enough to risk losing what I’d just found. I loved myself to risk owning my own truth.
I wanted to be free to be me.
Can you do this?
Do you speak what is most true for you even if someone else might not like it? Do you take a chance that, to meet your own needs, you risk losing love, approval, or belonging in new or existing relationships or situations?
This is what it means to be free.
In life, we get more than one chance. You see, we repeat those same chances over and over in our lifetime until we learn what we came here to learn. Don’t think it won’t happen to you. I can guarantee it. Even if one situation ends, another one just the same will show up sooner or later. Watch your patterns and learn from them.
My journey is about vulnerability right now. I’m exploring how to open myself up to potential rejection by knowing and expressing my own truth. It’s a big step for me.
Part of our growing and learning means we become aware of who we really are. Many people never discover this. They lie to protect themselves. More people hide who they really are, or exaggerate about things just to look and feel better in front of others, and don’t consider this not telling the truth. Do you do this?
It might look like sending a text to tell someone you’ll be late. You write “I’m only 5 minutes away” when in reality you just left and won’t be there for 25 minutes. You don’t want the other person to think badly of you.
It might mean not standing up to someone who is treating you disrespectfully at work. We are afraid of conflict and we hide our truth by laughing at their sarcastic humor. We pretend we don’t feel hurt just as the passive aggressive insult hurls itself into our very core. Our truth is, it does hurt, but we keep quiet rather than make the other person feel uncomfortable, or risk taking a stand for ourselves.
Maybe it’s when you don’t speak up to your family as they make demands on you one more time, and you find yourself feeling resentful because instead of meeting your own needs first, you give in. Your truth is too scary to voice. You are afraid to own your truth and be heard. You believe you don’t matter.
As I shared my truth last night about what was bothering me, my heart split open for myself as I realized that my truth is mine and I need to respect it. I want to take the best care of me the best way I can. I risked being truthful.
There are often layers to our truth. The beginning of a disclosure can frequently lead to other painful truths, and emotion can well up like a tsunami within us. Holding it back is like drowning in our own unsaid truth. We die slowly inside.
We often don’t learn communication tools which enable us to share clearly what matters to us. We need to begin to know and recognize our own way of communicating and find the best tools to help us share our own truth. Here are a few ideas:
- Be aware of projecting your pain on to another person by making them wrong. Any sentence that begins with “You …” is not owning your own experience.
- Ask the other person to simply listen before responding. As to be “heard out fully”. Tell them you will say “I’m done” when you have finished.
- Give yourself time to compose the words. Don’t rush. Write them down ahead of time if necessary.
- Be reflective in the process. Stop and let the words sink in.
- Stay on topic.
- Make sure you are clear and saying what really is true for you and without blame (it’s not about them).
- Breathe deeply and focus on what you are feeling. Describe these words to the person in front of you so they know the physical impact this is having on you.
- Ask for feedback in a way that is helpful to the other person (if you want feedback). Be direct if you need clarification. Make a clear request if necessary.
- Know you may not need them to respond. Other times we do.
Clarity, understanding, and resolution come with time, patience, tenderness and acceptance in any relationship. It takes an open heart to hear painful experiences. I can guarantee that if someone respects and/or loves you they will hear you with gentle understanding and not take it personally. And if they do take it personally, it’s not your problem. Remember it’s about you, not them.
I’m happy to say I was met with patience, love and understanding, both from myself and my partner. I moved through my truth and our relationship is better now than before.
Try it for yourself. The truth does indeed set us free.
When my kids were little we would sit in the front window surrounded by pillows and blankets and watch the thunderstorms raging outside. The rain would pour, running down the hill like someone trying to catch a bus, and the sky would be black as night, with lighting that flashed huge forks or wide sheets in the distance, just before we would hear the rumble and roar of the accompanying thunder. It was a magical time for the three of us. Huddled together, normally with at least one, if not both of them on my knee; watching the chaos of nature’s fight against the elements, and waiting for the calm order that follows a storm. And if we were early enough in the day when we still had daylight, we would often see an incredible rainbow out in the east. Every part of the experience felt like an incredible gift!
Isn’t life like that? In the same way that nature bring us storms to clear out energy, life too brings us storms to help us clear out our own debris and to bring us new energy. Sometimes we will find ourselves in the thick of it, and sometimes we are sitting on the sidelines just watching it happen.
What kind of storms show up in your life, and how do you get through them?
Here’s my experience of how some people manage the storms of life.
There are the “storm chasers“. These people want the storm. They are the storm; full of drama, and almost desperate to create chaos in their own lives and anyone else’s who gets caught in the spin. They persuade you to come on board even if you don’t want to. They avoid any kind of cleaning up, and will do anything they can to reinstate that storm situation. Never happy with calm, you can see them coming, a whirlwind surrounding them, as they appear to chomp at the bit. There’s always a great story, and frequently some kind of powerful argument.
There are the “storm keepers”. These people have a storm brewing inside but it’s always just below the surface, much like the kettle you keep brewing on the stove. Never coming to a head, they seldom come right out and face it. Instead they refuse it exists. When you ask them if something’s bothering them, they adamantly deny it, making you feel like you’re going crazy. But they use the energy of their inner storm to motivate them to get things done, even though nothing ever really changes. They find that their low level simmer gives them significance and safely keeps them from ever really dealing with anything.
There are the “storm sleepers”. They wouldn’t even know a storm was around them even if their life depended on it. They are unaware of any kind of energy, good or bad. They feel low level discontent or a general numbness and accept it as normal. Keeping their heads well behind the curtains of the storm they ignore themselves and everyone else, and exist almost on auto pilot.
Finally, there are the “storm troopers”. These individuals know what a storm looks like, and how to navigate their way around it. They know when to take cover, and when to muck right in. They know which storm is theirs, and which storm belongs to others. They can rationally evaluate the storm, use what is helpful, and come out the other side feeling the better for the experience. They get the gift.
- Next time there’s a storm coming, think about what you do? Are you the cause, or do you run and hide? Do you even notice, or do you face it head on?
- Watch the people around you and see what they do? Can you see which one of the above types they are, and if so, how does that affect you?
- Notice what kind of outcome you want to have as a result of the storm? Do you want it to continue, or are you happy for it to run its course, and then move on? How do you handle the aftermath?
- Understand yourself and your reaction to situations and others. This is the only way to change an outcome. If you discover you are the storm, get help. No one wants to be around this. If you know you carry the storm and want to let it go, there are many ways to deal with this. Find something that works. If you are immune to any storm know that this is not great either. As emotionally healthy beings we naturally flow through all emotions.
- I have a myriad of tools available to use with clients to help them with these kinds of situations. The process can be calm before, during and after the storm.
- If you are lucky enough to be someone who can handle storms with calm and order, know what’s yours and what’s theirs, see the gift in the experience, and congratulate yourself!
When we have the ability to recognize our own feelings, and the ways in which we deal with the things that happen in our lives we have a level of emotionally maturity. Anything we do, can and does, affect those around us, and impacts the level of satisfaction in our relationships, especially at work and in our personal life. If you recognize yourself here, and think you need help with this don’t hesitate. Get help now.
Sometimes thunderstorms can be scary. They are very powerful, and this is true of the storms we face in our daily life. I know being there for my kids provided a foundation and a safety for them to experience and live through those thunderstorms in a way that has set them up for their future. Neither of them are afraid of thunderstorms, that’s for sure!
It’s your responsibility to do the same for yourself, as a leader and even more if you are a parent. Don’t forget that any of the above “storm life roles” affect your health and those around you, now and in the future.
I have always loved thunderstorms and maybe it’s the power of the energy or the fact that I too felt safe wrapped up in my children’s arms! We need each other when things get scary. A coach can help you when it seems that your landscape is a little stormy.
Let me know if I can help, although I can guarantee that you’ll be too big to sit on my knee!!!
Do people do things just to annoy us?
How many people at work do you wish were different? And if they were different, wouldn’t life be much easier?
Why limit it to the workplace … let’s get real, and include family members, lovers and children too?
Stress comes in many forms, and the biggest place we experience stress is in relationships. When the people we work and live with don’t meet our expectations we get frustrated, angry and disappointed. And don’t think the feeling isn’t mutual …it is.
What if, instead of judging someone about what they do, we thought “I bet that person has a very good reason for doing what they do. I just don’t know what that reason is?” Because we don’t know their reason (and I can assure they have one), we make one up. The problem is the reason we make up is often highly inaccurate.
What should we do?
- Ask them their reason why they do what they do? It may seem simple. The trick is to ask from a place of curiosity. If we ask from judgment, believing we know best or better, they will get defensive. Imagine you really don’t know, and get curious.
- Listen to their answer. They may not know themselves. Notice what they say. Do they get defensive? Are they aware of their behavior? Do they care that it affects you?
- Explain as neutrally as you can how this is impacting you. Use phrases such as…
”I notice when you (are late for our meetings), I feel (frustrated) and (afraid I won’t be able to meet my deadlines).
“When you (check your cell phone during our conversation), the impact on me is I get (distracted from my train of thought) and lose my focus.
The more you can be neutral in your dialogue the more relaxed you and the other person will be. Do not come from a place of blame. Make your statements as matter of fact as you can.
- Make a request to get agreement on what is possible moving forward. Use empowered statements such as “I need or I want” to help the other person understand what you really want. Eg I want (you to be on time). I need (you to put your phone away during our conversations). Ask them “Will you do this?”
- Be prepared to negotiate. For every request, expect a “yes, no or counteroffer”.
- Expect it not to work all the time. Human beings behave from well ingrained and practiced patterns. The trick is to notice your pattern and to change YOUR behavior to create a different result that works for you.
This strategy is great for work, and home. Stating our needs, wants and expectations with our loved ones means we may not always get things to go exactly the way we want, but we can begin to slowly shift some ingrained habits and improve existing relationships.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a person in your life, or your latest business problem, sometimes the best course of action is just letting go. There is only so much we can control.
Trust that you are doing the best you can. Trust that others can take care of themselves? Trust yourself first and do what you can.
And know when it’s worth having the difficult conversations?
Ask for help. Set boundaries. Communicate with those who need to know what’s going on. Don’t make the other person wrong (or you right). Instead just state the facts in a way that expresses what you need. Watch and learn and always be curious.