I have spent the better part of this morning thinking about what it would be like to be a tree. I’m sure this is something most people do, right?
It all started after I read the quote:
Praise and blame,
gain and loss,
pleasure and sorrow
come and go like the wind.
To be happy,
rest like a great tree
in the midst of them all.
~ Buddha’s Little Instruction Book
Praise and blame. Praise feels good. Blame feels bad (in case you hadn’t noticed, says Ms. Obvious). And, like Buddha says, pleasures and sorrowscome and go just like the wind. But happiness, happiness is not found in the praise or the pleasures, it is found in our ability to be… to simply be… while these experiences, the good and the bad, come and go all around, in and out, through and around us.
The tree knows this well.
Then I saw this video (below) on blame from Brene Brown. If you are not familiar, she is an increasingly well-known researcher on the topic of shame. Trees, it seems, understand that there isn’t a whole lotta room for blame. You never hear a tree blaming the wind or the lightening for it’s fallen branches. Actually, you never hear trees complaining, “I wish I were as tall as you,” or boasting, “I’m too sexy for my leaves,” either. Okay, yes, I know, trees don’t talk – and they don’t have brains, either, but that doesn’t stop us from learning from them – or hugging them, for that matter.
I’m thinking we could learn a lot from trees.
How would your life be different if you allowed things to flow through you? If you soaked up all the beauty and joy that comes your way, appreciating, feeling grateful. And, what if you allowed the painful events, that bring sadness, hurt, fear or anger, to also flow through – without blaming someone, or something, else for that pain?
It is all, always, temporary. Things do not stay the same. The sun comes out. The rain pours down. We are surprised by a bonus check. The lightening strikes. A rainbow surfaces. We are surprised by a flat tire. A snowflake drops. A cloud floats by. We fall in love. The wind creates a gentle breeze. We get our heart broken. The sky is blue and the clouds are white. It’s always changing.
The tree knows. The tree allows the wind to blow because that’s what wind does. The tree allows the sun to shine, or even burn, because that’s what the sun does. The tree allows the rain to dampen all that it touches, because that’s what rain does. The tree allows the storm to rage through, because that’s what storms do.
Is there something in your life that does what it does, but you wish it didn’t? How would you feel differently if you just allowed it to be who it is, and do what it does?
Loving Her Without Losing Yourself: Navigating Identity, Boundaries and Power Struggles in Lesbian Relationships
A relationship is an investment that requires us to know ourselves well. If we don’t have a clear understanding of who we are, what we need, and where we want to go in life, we risk losing our sense of identity in the relationship and losing yourself. However, when we invest wisely, a relationship can be a source of strength and support that allows us to grow and thrive without losing yourself.
One of the biggest challenges in a relationship is the power struggle, which can make it difficult to navigate this stage while maintaining our independence and personal integrity without losing yourself.
In an outstanding relationship, both partners work to ensure that their needs are met without sacrificing the needs of the relationship or losing yourself. This requires us to evaluate the requests made of us by our partners and determine whether they are in our best interests or not.
Sometimes, we confuse our highest high with our highest good. Our highest high is what feels good in the moment, while our highest good is what moves us closer to being the person we want to be without losing yourself. It’s important to distinguish between these two things and prioritize our highest good over our highest high in order to maintain our sense of self and avoid losing yourself.
If your partner has made a request of you recently, take a moment to consider whether it aligns with your highest good and whether you can accommodate their request without losing yourself. If it does, then you should consider making changes to accommodate their request. If it doesn’t, then you need to communicate your boundaries and work with your partner to find a compromise that works for both of you without losing yourself.
Your challenge is to identify the top three requests that you commonly hear from your partner. Then, choose one thing from that list that you can start doing differently today without losing yourself. By prioritizing your highest good and communicating your boundaries, you can create a stronger and more fulfilling relationship without losing yourself.
Date nights have never been our thing. Nor are we much of a dinner and a movie kind of couple. Though, last night was an exception. We saw Where the Crawdads Sing – and it was a dinner-dinner-Witherspoon-winner! Go.
For some couples, there would be no date without incorporating it in your weekly schedule. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.
However, that doesn’t work for us.
It’s not that I’m opposed to schedules. In fact, I wrote about how we do that with our friends, just not our dates.
Playdates have one goal: enjoyment.
Last weekend, we took a 2-hour pottery class together. As it turns out, having an uncle who was a pottery professor bestowed no genetic advantage on my craft. Kristen, on the other hand, was a natural. The win, though, was in the adventure, the challenge, the discovery, and the fun of it all. The bowls, once they are glazed and fired, are a bonus!
When Kristen and I make time to play, moments of predictability become moments of possibility. There’s something about not knowing what’s next that creates a feeling of anticipation. That “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s gonna be good,” kind of feeling.
We had one of those days a couple of weeks ago. We cleared the whole day for playtime. When we awoke, it was a beautiful sunny day.
We knew we wanted to enjoy the weather outside. After tossing back and forth a few ideas, kayaking it was. Instead of going to our usual river, we picked a new spot two hours south of us. We hopped in the car, put the top down, and took off.
Like a couple of Huckleberry Finn’s, we floated the day away. It was perfect.
On the way home, our car broke down.
It was after-hours, and we were so remote that there was no cellular service. Even this became a part of our memorable playdate, as we turned our misfortune into a puzzle to be solved. We drove until we regained cell service, then navigated our way to the nearest town. Luckily, we found an auto parts store where they diagnosed the issue and sold us a serpentine belt. Next, we hit the internet for a mobile mechanic, and eventually, our car was back in action, and we were back on the road. The best part of this delay is that it put us on the road at just the right time to see the sun setting as we made our way home.
That’s our kind of playdate.
For the ultimate lesbian playdate, join us for a Lesbian Adventures in Love retreat. (click here for more information).
On the first Saturday of each month, my wife Kristen and I go to the same breakfast spot near the courthouse where we were married. We have a standing date with our friends at 8:00 am. The first couple to arrive grabs our usual table. After big hugs and hellos, we spend the next hour, sometimes two, sharing stories over breakfast. We cover it all the funny, serious, touching, frustrating,problematic, or sad experiences we’ve had in the last month.
Like strands of sturdy fiber that weave in and out of our day-to-day experiences, lesbian couple friends add color, support, texture, and depth to the tapestry of our lives.
Sometimes, our friendships lose momentum, or life moves us in different directions, and we grow apart. Other times, important people weave in and out of the pages of our life. Like the spine of a book, our friends hold the stories of who we were, who we are, and who we are becoming.
When we partner or marry, our spouse becomes our person, our best friend. For many lesbians, our relationship replaces our friendships altogether. When this happens, we rely on our spouse/partner to be everything. We are best friends, lovers, companions, supporters, playmates, hobby-mates, workout buddies, companions, a two-person-book club, housekeepers, co-parents, co-workers, co-people, and so on.
The weight of this pressure to be everything to one another is difficult to sustain, and it’s one of many reasons we need good lesbian couple friends.
Researchtells us thatfriends improve not only our life satisfaction but also our marriages.There are many reasons for this, and I’ve listed ten below.
Lesbian Couple Friends:
offset the impact of societal, work or family rejection and social isolation;
offer fun, warmth, enjoyment and camaraderie;
cheer our success and support us in times of need;
bear witnesses to, and keep safe the stories of our life;
encourage accountability and provide unconditional acceptance, relatability, and a sense of belonging;
give us new insight into the dynamic of our relationship, allowing us a different view of ourselves and each other;
let us see our partner independent of our relationship as we observe her interacting with others, appreciating her as an individual;
offer us a more comfortable and validating experience where we feel safe to drop our guard, feel less isolated, marginalized, and “different”;
illuminate our personalities by giving us the opportunity to tap into and bring to life different aspects of our personality in response to our unique interaction’s with lesbian couple friends
friends bear witness our importance to one another, which validates our unity and belongingness to one another
Number ten is extra important.
Without friends, some couples live in secrecy. Visibility as a same-sex couple in public spaces can feel unsafe, awkward, or uncomfortable instead of comforting, validating, or a source of pride.
Despite the legalization of marriage, many lesbians continue to conceal their relationship from public view. Grabbing her hand in public or greeting her with a hug and a kiss in a public venue can be an act of bravery. This is not a natural occurrence like it is for our heterosexual peers.
One thing (there are many) Kristen and I love about our Lesbian Adventures in Love Retreats are the friendships that develop. One of our Portland couples traveled with their two children to visit retreat-mates and new friends in Utah. A couple from Washington State signed up for a bike race in Iowa where they will be joining their retreat-mates and new friends from Illinois. Two couples from our Utah retreat enjoyed dinner together in their home state, Texas. These stories of friendship light our fire! 🔥
As we continue to grow this beautiful tribe of lesbian couples, we are discovering more and more about the healing power of lesbian couple friendship and the positive impact they have on our life satisfaction and relationship success. If you are interested in growing your relationship, expanding your circle of friendship and support, and having a vacation you will never forget – we’d love to have you join us in a Adventures in Love retreat.
To join us for a live Q&A session about our next retreat, reach out to us or join us on zoom for a casual, live Q&A session. (click here for that schedule).
In the words of Matthew Kelly,
“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the best version of ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves.”
This is true for your relationship, too. If you want to cultivate the best version of your relationship, spend time with us.
We know some fantastic couples you’ll be happy to call friends
Disappointment: The One Thing That Every Couple Experiences
Disappointment is one thing that every couple experiences who falls deeply in love. It is inevitable. Inescapable.
How you respond will make or break your relationship.
Falling in love is easy. Rising in love takes effort; the right effort.
Falling in love unlocks the door to your internal love-drug lab. Falling in love is easy because we are literally on drugs. Every amorous thought of her is rewarded with another generous dose of self-produced love drugs like dopamine, norepinephrine, and PEA. You are lovestruck and intoxicated.
This love cocktail creates a euphoric feeling and creates an increase in energy, motivation, and mood. Everything looks a little brighter, feels better, tastes better, looks better, and sounds better.
This is your wake-up call. You have found the one. You notice everything you have in common with her, and all of the ways that she completes you. She is THE ONE you’ve been searching for.
This feeling is so good that eventually, you want to secure it with a commitment. Once you feel committed, often this occurs when you move in together, the door to your love-drug lab begins to close. The lab’s work is done. Another couple has been made.
Now for the plot twist.
Once the love cocktail recedes, the one thing every couple experiences is disappointment.
Though it is natural, expected, and even necessary, the decline in your initial feeling of euphoria transforms into a feeling of disappointment. For some, the change is so drastic, you might question if you are still in love. For others, the change is more subtle, less noticeable.
Despite the fact that every couple experiences this, sometimes it takes having multiple relationships before you are convinced that this is natural, expected.
You discover the person you have fallen in love with is flawed. She cannot meet your every need. She cannot read your mind. She cannot erase all of the pain you’ve experienced in your life. She cannot right the wrongs you’ve experienced with others.
She can only make you feel as loveable as you believe you are.
Adding insult, she has needs too. She is disappointed. She is longing for more than you have to offer. She is needing you to be things you are not.
If falling in love is your first wake-up call, disappointment is your second.
You have a choice. How you respond will make or break your relationship. But only always.
When you think about times you have felt disappointed in your relationship, did you respond in ways that moved you closer to what you want, or further from what you want?
The answer to this question will determine whether your love story is coming to a close or if it will keep getting better and better. It’s never too late to write, rewrite, and edit your love story.
You can live several love stories with the same person. Whatever you do, stay open to love, noticing whether your choices move you closer to how you wish to feel or further from how you wish to feel.
Even though every couple experiences the inevitable feeling of disappointment, you have significantly more power to influence your love story than you might imagine.
I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and she shared with me news that a mutual acquaintance of ours was in the process of a messy divorce. I didn’t know them well. Certainly not well enough to know what their struggles are, or have been.
However, she shared a very detailed account of their relationship – who did what, how each responded, etc. As I listened, I thought to myself, this is not my business, and, only this couple really knows the truth of what is happening (and even they may not be perceiving it correctly!).
I knew that what I was hearing was:
Not my business;
Probably not the whole story, or entirely accurate;
Going to be different, depending on whether it was told by partner A or partner B;
The source of a lot of pain for this couple; and
Not going to benefit anyone for me to know their business
So, I simply said, “It sounds like their family is really hurting, and I am sure they both have a story that makes their choices make sense. I am certainly not one to judge!”
Years ago, I could have just as easily been the topic of this conversation, and likely was for some people.
In 2014, I got divorced. My very own lesbian divorce.
Divorce is a juicy subject. But a lesbian divorce for a lesbian relationship expert, that’s extra!
I understand the compelling desire to talk about what’s going on in another’s marriage. In fact, my mom who was a part of this conversation with my friend and I, chimed in with the comment, “I think a lot of people get anxious about their own marriages when they hear about someone else divorcing.”
By focusing on how “wrong” someone else has behaved, and how it “ruined” their relationship, we seek affirmation that we are not like them, and that our marriage is safe.
I wanted to write a newsletter about my lesbian divorce for a long time before I actually did. Each time I thought about sitting down to my computer to write this newsletter, I heard a knock on my door. So, I would get up, walk down the hall, open the door and in stormed Fear. Fear would say to me, “If you share this information, the world will think you are a failure, and who would want to work with you if they knew you were divorced?”
A divorced relationship therapist.
Fear convinced me this was an oxymoron, that these two concepts were contradictory. How could I possibly help couples make their relationships work, and also be be divorced?
Fear told me that I was like a car mechanic with an automobile that wouldn’t run, or a financial investor filing for bankruptcy, or a realtor with her own house on the market for a year and counting.
Fear was convincing and persistent, and I let her plant her seeds of shame and then I watered them with my silence. Each time she came knocking at my door, I invited her in. Fear convinced me I was a failure.
Finally, I did what I would advise others to do in a situation like this. I got myself a coach.
Ironically, it never occurred to me to ask her if she has ever been divorced. That didn’t matter to me, (isn’t that interesting, I thought to myself). We met regularly (and actually still do), and she challenged me to question what Fear was telling me. She gently nudged me to find my own voice, my deepest truth, the part of me that is real.
Imagine that, this coaching stuff works!
As a side-note to all of you who believe that being a therapist means you can do the work of a therapist on yourself… well, that is not actually true. You can not force self-awareness. That is the power of having a coach or therapist to assist you – you are offered a new mirror in which to see your reflection. Ideally, a nonjudgmental mirror, and one that is framed with compassion and a desire to truly understand. It is what I wish to offer everyone with whom I work, and I am so grateful to have found a mirror like this for myself.
As time passed, Fear continued to visit. I stopped inviting her in, but I still opened the door, said “hello,” and offered her a seat on my porch. Until one day, I went to my door, and standing beside Fear, I noticed Freedom.
Freedom said, “Can you see me?” And, I said, “Yes, why do you ask?” She replied, “Because I’ve been here all along, waiting for you to notice me.”
Freedom said, “I am here to remind you that you always have a choice. You can continue to focus on Fear, I will not take her away from you. She will always be available to you.” Then she continued, “However, you also have the choice to turn your attention toward me. We will both always be here. It is up to you to decide which voice you will choose to hear.”
As I listened to Freedom, I began to feel lighter in spirit, and a sense of peace wash over me. Freedom explained to me, “Fear has encouraged you to judge and berate yourself for the failure of your relationship.” She continued, “I am not here to convince you that you didn’t fail, I am simply here to help you see your truth.”
She asked me, “Can you be at peace with your divorce?” And, she asked me, “What have you learned from this failure?”
Freedom then inquired, “What good has come from feeling ashamed, and from believing you have failed?” Lastly, she wondered, “Can you fail at something without being a failure?”
I sat with these questions for a long while. Months and months, in fact. Over time, I noticed that Fear was no longer in sight. I opened my door, and I no longer saw her on my porch, or even in my driveway, or down the street. Occasionally, I saw her drive by, but she kept on going.
What I know today is that my lesbiandivorce was the right choice for me.
I should have divorced. I needed to divorce. And, I did divorce.
It has become that simple (not to be confused with easy or painless) for me. By staying, I would have failed myself.
I had a choice. Fail my marriage, or fail myself? I choose to fail my marriage. (And, unfortunately, in the process I failed myself in some ways, too). It’s just that today, I accept my failures. I choose to learn from my failures.
I made a decision that was right for me. It took me two years to accept that it doesn’t matter who judges me as long as I cease to judge myself.
If it weren’t for my lesbian divorce, I may not have found Freedom hanging out on my front porch.
I wonder if Fear has been knocking on your door? If so, be sure to keep an eye out for Freedom. She is much, much better company.
Last Sunday was nearly perfect. I’m talking, the kind of day that felt like the universe was handing out free hugs in the form of a sunlit breezy zippety-do-da day.
Except for one thing.
One big, unbelievable thing.
It was early afternoon, and the sky was full of cotton-ball clouds that floated effortlessly against the crystal-clear blue sky. The day was calling us out to play. We hopped in the convertible and headed to the country where the cornfields began and the hustle of life faded into the background.
Days like this are my favorite. We get lost (literally and figuratively) on an adventure to exactly nowhere, and by the end of the day, we’ve been everywhere.
We always make a discovery. That’s the fun part, experiencing something unexpected, except last Sunday our unexpected discovery was anything but fun.
After a beautiful country drive, we stopped for dinner at Rick’s Cafe Boatyard. This popular westside eatery sits on the bank of Eagle Creek, with outdoor seating where the sun kisses you goodnight as it sets over the water.
We pulled into the parking lot just as another car pulled out. Life is good.
There was a 25-minute wait for a table. Not bad. We snapped a quick selfie (see below), then headed toward the water for a short walk.
As we started out, we passed a bearded man in jeans and a t-shirt, standing by a motorcycle with his arm around a woman. The woman was leaning against his body with one arm wrapped all the way around his waist and she held a drink in her other hand.
Here’s where things took a very unfortunate turn.
As we walked past the bearded man, he said, loud enough for us and the other’s nearby to hear, “I cannot talk with these f*cking dykes here.”
Shocked at the sound of these unsolicited words piercing my ears, I instinctively turned around and calmly said, “Now, that was pretty rude.” To which he responded, “It’s true, isn’t it?”
Is this really happening?
Seeking to minimize my interaction with him, I said matter-of-factly, “That’s just not nice,” and we kept walking.
With several onlookers who silently surrounded us, he then shouted, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” And followed up with, “You should read the bible.” Kristen stopped and turned around to inform him, “I have.” And she continued, “What I learned from the Bible is to not judge. The bible has more scripture about judgment than anything else.”
We started walking again and he continued with his hate-filled slurs. Fed up with the irony of this interaction, Kristen turned and asked him, “Is she your wife?” To which he shouted back, “No.” Then, after a slight delay, he must have registered her suggestion of premarital sex (a Bible-based sin) and he yelled back, “But we are not having sex.”
I think to myself, maybe that’s why he’s so mad.
We walked far enough that he was out of sight. Speechless, we walked silently while we tried to make sense of the toxic exchange that lingered in the air like the smell of a skunk. Eventually, we heard the roar of his motorcycle startup, and as they drove away we exhaled a sigh of relief.
It’s not what he feels about gay people, or even about us specifically, that I find most concerning. I believe he has the right to think and feel anything he wants. What concerns me is the unabashed sense of entitlement he feels that allows him to say to us, and about us, whatever he wants in a hostile, hate-filled way.
There was also an alarming unpredictability to this outburst. We had no eye contact with our harasser, no interaction, no words, nothing. Aside from the quick selfie, we took, (see above) we had no physical contact or public displays of affection to trigger a reaction. Not that it would have justified his behaviors if we had.
I count myself among the lucky to have lived this long without ever having an experience like this. Though it was a first for us, there was nothing special or unique about the harassment we experienced. In fact, it is very mild, compared to what many people go through. This type of harassment creates a feeling of separateness and more specifically, a feeling of less-than-ness, for those being harassed.
These are the kinds of experiences that breed inauthenticity. As if it isn’t difficult enough to find our truth, and to live authentically. As poet e.e. cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Being true to yourself in the face of ridicule and harassment increases the challenge exponentially.
Fortunately, I am good with being a lesbian. Though, I wasn’t always. I imagine if I had had experiences like last Sunday, it would have greatly delayed and further complicated my journey. I do not work to hide my sexual orientation. I mean, I was wearing my visor and no makeup, after all. 😜
When you are publicly singled out as the subject of someone’s uninvited expression of hate, and vitriol, in front of an audience, the message is clear: you are not worthy; I am better than you, and everyone here agrees.
Luckily for us, two of the observers of our harassment did not agree. As we returned from our walk, a man and a woman approached us, expressing their apologies for not speaking up. The man stated that he wanted to say something, but he feared the bearded man had a gun. Wow, I thought to myself, that never crossed my mind.
They got it. They saw it. They understood what happened. And they were angry. Each of them shared with us that they also had a gay adult child. I was grateful for their words and for this interaction. It quickly restored my faith in humanity.
As for the bearded man and his lady, I wish them love. I can think of no better remedy for his behavior. Where there is that much hate, it’s hard to imagine there’s much love.
Everyone makes sense if you have the time and opportunity to understand their whole story. I am sure he has a story and I am sure it makes sense. While I don’t wish to get caught up in the crosshairs of his woundedness again, I do wish him love.
On a brighter note, I am starting my latest 12-week live video online class for Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and Non-binary folx next week. This is class is Designing My Life Radically Authentic and will start Wednesday, August 26th. For more information, registration is available here.
How many times have you heard the phrase “love hurts?”
There’s even a song by this title that became an international hit in the mid-’70s. Like so many falsehoods perpetuated as truths, we blindly assume that which is common, familiar, or is regularly repeated, is also true.
Reality check: loving someone does not hurt. Ever.
Does being happy hurt? It makes no sense.Yet, the idea that love hurts is so prevalent that masses of people unconsciously swallow this logic as truth. I challenge you to give me one example of how loving someone has been a painful experience.
“That’s easy, Michele, my ex cheated on me, and I never stopped loving her so that love turned to pain.” Maybe you are thinking about someone special who died, and how loving them now feels painful? Or, you who are thinking about how you love someone who keeps making hurtful choices (drugs, overspending, infidelity, physically abusive behavior toward you, etc.) and how that feels painful.
The way I see it, we are not talking about the same thing. Love is the energy of kindness, positivity, caring, positive regard, and appreciation.When you consider this, what exactly is painful about any of these things?
Loving is not responsible for your pain. The betrayal, misjudgment in where you placed your trust, believing one thing, and experiencing another are the pieces behind your pain. Who you thought she was, what you thought you could count on, what you had hoped you could expect is not what you got.Loving herdidn’t hurt you. Something else did. Maybe it was trusting her more than trusting your gut. Perhaps it is a lack of insight or understanding about how your behaviors have negatively impacted your relationship.
You cannot solve a problem that you have not accurately identified. To blame love for your broken heart and then conclude that you will never love again only guarantees that you will not heal your broken heart. Because, not only is love NOT the problem, love is the only cure for hurt. When you blame the cure for what ails you, you block yourself from ever learning, healing and growing.
Here are four prompts that will help you look more deeply into what
What hurts me is ________________________ (focus on the facts)
This hurts because _______________________(identify your stories about these facts)
What I see now that I didn’t then is ____________ (notice what you see now that you didn’t before)
How I contributed to getting hurt is ____________(look for how you participated in what didn’t work)
What I can do differently moving forward is ______(name your lessons/insights)
When you experience the loss of a loved one, it isn’t that you love them that hurts; it’s that they are no longer here, no longer accessible. Loving is the part that feels good. Missing them, grieving them, and wishing they were here; that is what hurts.
Loving is unrelated to betrayal.
Love and betrayal are not even distant cousins. Holding love responsible for your pain is like holding money responsible for being poor. Money has no plan, no purpose or cause. People give it meaning, value, and purpose. Money just is. The same is true of love. Love has no agenda. It is defined, valued, brought to life, experienced, and expressed by people. It is a thing we do and an experience that creates emotions and feelings.Love, by definition, is a good thing. It is not ever a bad thing.
Love is never wasted.
Love is the good guy here. Love doesn’t hurt anyone. It is shortsighted and unhelpful to blame love for your pain. Love deserves better from us. Love heals. Love uplifts, encourages, cheers and celebrates.
To say “love hurts” is a lie. It is the absence of love that hurts.Give love the credit love deserves.
On a recent walk, I rounded the corner in a neighboring hood, and to my surprise, I came across the most beautiful sight. Amazing landscaping? No. Gorgeous new house? Nope. A fancy car? Uhn uh. Don’t worry if that’s where your mind went. We are taught by our peers, our culture, the media, and eventually our friends and family what is beautiful.
We learn early to find the norm and strive for it so that we can feel a sense of belonging so that we do not feel alone. I call this norm-seeking.
The pressure to fit in starts early. The challenge to be yourself starts early in life. Earlier than you might think.
The beautiful sight I saw was a woman playing basketball. Not just any woman. A woman I would never have imagined. I would guess she was in her forties, maybe older. She also appeared to be in her pajamas. This put a huge smile on my face. And, she was alone on a community basketball court. There was nothing remotely athletic-looking about her. She was shorter and carried a little extra weight.
From the big smile on her face to the bounce in her step to the rather dramatic back kick of her right leg and twist of her whole body when she put her shot up to the basket, the whole experience oozed joy. There was nothing familiar about what I saw. This woman, I thought, got the memo to be yourself, and she put it into action.
Having walked this path many times before, I anticipated seeing a group of kids shooting around, probably boys. Instead, I found this mid-40’s, un-athletic woman, alone. I do not associate pajamas with basketball. In fact, I am guessing that being in a public space while wearing your pajamas is still only socially acceptable (for whatever that’s worth) at Wal-Mart. Clearly, this was what she wanted to do, how she wanted to do it, and she was hurting no one, yet experiencing enormous joy.
That is my kind of beautiful sight.
I look for these things in my day. They make me happy. Just like the lady that ordered a salad for breakfast. (I didn’t even know it was an option – go to Panera if this appeals to you).
Another beautiful sight was the owner of a custom home company who pulled up in his Jaguar to show me a house, only to pop out of his car in work boots, with his un-fancy jeans tucked inside of them, and a white t-shirt which was actually inside out. I loved the irony, and more so his comfort in being real. He had me at the inside-out t-shirt.
When we are true to who we really are, we are most likable. Think about the one person with whom you feel the most comfortable to be yourself. This person adores you, don’t they? Or, they are indifferent, non-judgmental, accepting. We are most likely to be most genuine when we anticipate acceptance, and do not fear judgment.
When we seek the norm, we endanger our greatest strength: our truth and authenticity.
What takes us away from our truth so easily? Brene’ Brown, a popular shame researcher would say it is our fear of disconnection.
We all seek love and approval to feel safe.
The power of feeling rejected, feeling foolish, or not fitting in are great forces that work to maintain social norms. We want to be connected. In fact, norm-seekers will trade their truth for acceptance. Unfortunately, there’s no amount of acceptance for who you are NOT, that will provide you with a feeling of connection.
To remedy this norm-seeking condition, we must know ourselves deeply, and be in touch with who we are and what we want. This requires that we stop, look and listen – just like we were taught all those years ago to do before crossing a street. Only now, we are looking for joy, not moving vehicles.
Look around and notice what brings you joy. Joy doesn’t lie. (List 100 things that bring you joy – it’s a great exercise and will reintroduce you to yourself).
Then listen to how you feel.
Make choices that are consistent with who you are and that support your highest good. When you know yourself, and you are true to yourself, you cannot go wrong.
I think my dad said it best. When I was about 13 and very self-conscious about fitting in. He said to me, “Just be yourself, and if you do that, everyone will love you as I do.” Now I pass his wise words on to you.
Be fearless in your quest to be the truest version of yourself possible. The whole world will love you. And should our paths cross, I for one will be looking for that thing that makes you, you.