Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sense of Self

I am a reformed trust tester. I would purposely share something relatively harmless—something that if my friends/test takers told someone else or didn't respond in a way that I deemed desirable wouldn't be soul crushing. While there is wisdom in being selective, I was testing people who had been in my life for more than a decade! I was testing people who had already proven that they were committed to the relationship. What I couldn't see was that my need to test revealed more about my inability to trust my own judgment and what I thought of myself than those I was testing.

Eventually, I transitioned and was no longer dropping pieces of my heart and seeing how those pieces were handled. I graduated to opening up and expectantly waiting for signs of abandonment. Any slight variation—and I didn't care how slight—in my interactions with others sent me heart first into an insecurity tailspin. My writer's imagination would go into hyperdrive. Scenarios filled my brain, all ending with me being deserted, explaining why our interactions changed. I expected others to walk away because that is what I felt I deserved. I expected them to be overwhelmed and exhausted with my pain because I was overwhelmed and exhausted with my pain. I expected others to treat me with the same impatience and harsh judgment that I reserved for myself. My relationships, no matter how strong or well-intentioned, could not grow until I dealt with the way that I related to myself.

It is vital to take a candid evaluation of your most important relationship. Elements of how you think of yourself are sprinkled throughout your life and your relationships with others are no exception. The health of all of your relationships is dependent on and intertwined with the health of your relationship with yourself. Essentially, your external relationships are a reflection and an extension of your internal health. When you have a healthy sense of self your relationships with others become stronger, genuine, and centered in authenticity and love because you are strong, genuine, and centered in authenticity and love.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Change Your Actions

One August afternoon, nearly twenty years ago, I was feeling happy and independent because my dad delivered a new-to-me car. I was leaving a church function when my car wouldn't start. My elation deflated. I went from feeling free to extremely dependent. My first thought was to keep trying and pray to the car gods to miraculously start it, but my dad's voice rang louder. I could hear him saying, "You'll flood it if you keep doing that!" Under normal circumstances turning the key in the ignition would start the car, but in this situation, turning the key would not give me my desired result. I needed to change my action in order to get the reaction I wanted.

We develop tactics to navigate through and cope with life. We may not be able to name or even identify our tactics, but we certainly have them. Some face challenges quickly and directly. Some use busyness and activities as distractions from reality. Others use laughter or a hard exterior as a means to convince people—including ourselves—that we are unaffected. Over time, our strategies require change. The strategies we've learned or chosen are no longer effective—and in some cases, never were—so we need to reevaluate. In order to get different reactions, we have to change our actions.

Have your days become filled with tiring repetition, leaving you disappointed and joyless? Change your actions. Have you lost the motivation to even hope for more or better or different? Change your actions. Have you convinced yourself that improvement is not possible? Change your actions. If what you've always done isn't working it is time to do something else. If what you've always said to yourself is no longer satisfying it is time to say something else. If the life you desire seems to grow more distant from where you are it is time to try something else. What do you have to lose besides what is no longer working for you? Stop turning a key in an ignition that isn't responding.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Accountability Partners

Accountability partners are essential to your personal development and growth.
Someone I trust asked me a series of questions that left me tense and emotional. Her questions demanded more of me than most. She did not allow me to get away with what others do. My trust in her gave her the freedom to ask more of me and my commitment to personal development led me to fully engage in the conversation rather than retreat. 

One of the greatest benefits of relationships is obtaining accountability partners. In addition to being sources of encouragement, accountability partners guide us through phases of introspection, personal development, and emotional growth. Sadly, we have been told by others, taught by past hurts, or a combination of the two that we should not or cannot be vulnerable enough for an accountability partner. When asked about our dreams we allow insecurity to answer for us. When asked about our hopes we provide shallow explanations. When given the chance to be vulnerable we shut down. When insecurity answers for us, we cannot be truthful. When we only provide shallow explanations, we don't explore the deepest, most authentic parts of ourselves. When we shut down, we don't experience the beauty of trust. We prevent ourselves from the most meaningful aspects of relationships and from discovering the most powerful parts of ourselves.

The conversation I mentioned was uncomfortable. I didn't like how I felt nor did I like feeling that way in front of someone else. Yet I needed to experience it. My undeniable discomfort provided me with an awareness that I would not have discovered on my own. It took someone else—someone that I trust and someone with the strength to hold me accountable—to illustrate an area of my life that requires more of me, more conversation, more attention, and more work. 

Accountability partners are essential to your personal development and emotional growth. If you have been told or taught that you can't be vulnerable, learn a new lesson. If your insecurities speak louder than you do, strengthen your voice. If you have been too afraid to move beyond shallow conversation, push yourself to discover the deep end. If you have always shut down, it's time to open up. Don't miss out on one of the greatest benefits of human connection because of habit, temporary discomfort, and fear.