(Hint: It’s Not What You Think)
The saying throughout life, heard time and again by well-meaning folk, “just be yourself.”
Is this easier said than done? I think so. From birth we are being conditioned, in every millisecond of relationship with our caregivers, our siblings, our peers and larger community, to behave in a way that works for the relationship. This is survival for a social being. We need others to survive, not just for food and shelter, but for love. Love is the most essential nutrient that we need. And love has many branches: security, belonging, acceptance, kindness, patience, confidence, support and companionship.
We are wired to turn towards these qualities, because our very survival depends on them. But for the most part, in our human reality, love comes with conditions. I daresay, we have all experienced an obstacle when it comes to being ourselves, or belonging to a peer or family group. This is deep stuff and of course we will most often sacrifice ourselves, and our own authenticity in order to belong. That pull to survive, to be part of the tribe, it runs deep and unconscious for most of us.
In fact, we need to conform to survive for the first part of our lives, and not conform to survive for the last part of our lives.
This suggests that we eventually reach a point in our trajectory, when we awaken to the knowledge that our conformity to the tribe is too small for us anymore, that we must grow beyond it. We feel a desire to explore new territory of ourselves and who we think we are, or could be. We become aware of how challenging the tribe, or confronting the status quo as we’ve known it, becomes the new necessity to our survival.
Perhaps it was a significant life event that caused us to look at things with fresh eyes.
Perhaps we encountered a person who, just by their presence, challenged core beliefs we had long held to be true.
Perhaps an illness humbled us.
Or perhaps it was the arts, a film, a song, or a poem, that knocked on the doorway of our hearts, awakening us to deeper truths about what love is, that in fact it might be grander than we ever realized.
This is exciting territory.And as thrilling as it is, it does come with anxiety, and awkwardness, and even shame. Those are the things of the conditional love of the past. The big question then is, will you continue to allow shame and fear to dominate your very being? Or will you, in the midst of that discomfort, choose into a larger you? A you, that can encompass your present challenges, be they relational, political, or physiological, and transcend them with acceptance and transformation.
The shame and the fear is not you.I recognize that within us, the voice of shame and fear sounds like your voice, but it is not you. We’ve all grown accustomed to believing these negative things about ourselves. The solution is not to fight those thoughts, or to argue them or debate them until you win. You will never win the argument with your negative thoughts. The solution is about remembering who you really are, and the shame and the fear, is not it.
The good news is that I cannot tell you who you really are.
That gets to be yours to discover and share with the world as you are ready. But each step you make, to listening beyond the shame and the fear to your real voice, and responding to that voice, the easier it does become to discern the truth. It may seem trite, but diet changes can be a way into this rich territory. Letting go of foods that really do not serve us, and choosing more nourishing options is a concrete way of choosing back into our vibrant self, which often is not the self that is highly managed by fear and shame and doubt. We make changes because we choose life. We choose our life. What works for another likely will not work for you. It can be a place to begin, to start where someone else has gained success, but then continue on from there. Keep going with fine tuning your daily practices (which includes eating!) so that your life feels ever more like your very own. Small changes lead to big changes, so take it one step at a time. And remember, you just have to be yourself. 😉
Inner approval: One Simple Strategy to Make Fear Irrelevant and Give You the Freedom To Be Your True Self
If you gave yourself the message that you wanted to hear from others, what would that message be?
Inner approval, as opposed to getting external approval or permission from others, can be one of the most radically empowering strategies one can make. Instead of wishing for them to understand you, love you, appreciate you, see how good you are, or see your value, why not do this for yourself? This, in a way, is the world of affirmations and positive thinking. What is the message that you long to hear from another? Is there someone in your life, or was there someone in your life, that you wished had said, “I love you,” or “I’m so proud of you,” or “You can be whatever you want to be. I believe in you” ? What if you started saying this to yourself? On a daily basis. Whenever you felt you needed to hear it. As often as you like.
Being willing to do this requires that we let go of controlling another person and needing somebody else to show up a certain way in order for us to be okay. We take back our power this way. And the good news is that we can realize, through doing this simple activity, that we really are in charge of how we feel. One of the biggest obstacles that people face when they make changes in their lives is the worry about what others might think or that they might be judged or rejected in some way. And this does and can happen. But if we are no longer tied to another’s approval, because we are consistently giving that to ourselves, then we are more free to move towards our own dreams regardless of what others think.
Sometimes making diet changes can feel this overwhelming. Especially if you live with a family that is used to a certain way of eating and your changes will automatically affect them and be seen by others. Privacy is a luxury, and rarely the case with food. Eating is a social experience and when we say “no” to certain foods that are prevalent in our culture and community it can feel like we are saying “no” to the person who made that food, or bought that food, or isn’t ready themselves to think about their own health changes they could make.
We don’t have to broadcast our decisions to the world, but we don’t have to ignore our own needs because some parts of the world will be uncomfortable with our decisions. As human beings we are hard-wired to maintain the status quo, and as evolutionary beings, we are hard-wired to change and grow and learn. Sustainable changes are based in compassion and love for ourselves. And when we give ourselves the inner approval we need to make our changes, then it becomes easier to allow others their reactions. Becoming more conscious and awake to our own patterns and choices does disturb the community. This can be why it feels so challenging to make changes, even though we know those changes would benefit us.
That disturbance to the system we are in (whether a family, a relationship, a work environment, a peer group, or otherwise) is uncomfortable. It just is. Altering the status quo disrupts things and that disruption is always an invitation for all involved to let go wherever they need to let go. Wherever we are gripping onto a person or a way of life, or what we have decided brings us security, we have the opportunity to let go of this internal gripping when we feel disturbed or discontent. This is a state of mind. We are always getting opportunities to move from a state of mind of control, to a state of mind of allowing. Giving ourselves the messages we long for about who we are and what we are capable of, is the road to allowing. Allowing ourselves to grow and change as we already know we need to, and allowing others to be exactly where they are on their own journey is freedom.
Change is exciting and new and it is also about letting go and moving onward. We don’t have to have this all figured out. We only need to listen to ourselves and be our own best friend, give ourselves the encouragement and support we truly want and need. As we do this, we gain momentum and clarity and purpose. These are the cornerstones of empowerment. And the beginning of leadership. So, lead the way. You know where to go, I know you do.
I invite you to consider the qualities of spirit as the most important of your dietary guidelines.
Peace is not a synonym for agreement. Peace is a quality of stillness and acceptance. When we can stop placing our mind’s conditions of peace onto the world, then we can be at peace. When we can let go of the grip we have on our own agenda and find a deeper trust in our lives that is bigger than anything we could have imagined, then we are entertaining peace. We don’t “fight” for peace. In peace, there is no againstness. Peace does not exist when something else stops existing. Peace is in the stillness that is already here. Are you listening for it? Are you able to let go when things don’t go the way you want? It’s hard, I know. We get so invested in our plans and our hopes for ourselves and for others. We get confused and we think that we are being loving. What if loving was much simpler? What if there was no effort in loving, as loving just…..is? Peace.
Orienting ourselves towards peace and loving helps us navigate from an empowered and uplifted state. Imagine, every morning, taking a moment to refocus on your loving nature. Imagine taking a breath, or two, or ten, that was only devoted to peace, to stillness. How might this small activity shift things for you? How might you choose differently in your morning routine? What would stay the same?
It’s simple. Not easy. There are many distractions. And the distractions are not going anywhere, and likely will become more compelling. Bringing down inflammation is very much about choosing healthy foods, and it is also about soothing what is inflamed within us. When we attend to the fight within than we are really making progress for our own wellness. So how do you do that?
We have to give up the luxury of thinking the problem lies outside of us. Catch yourself when you blame them, or him, or her, or anything external for being the problem. Instead, turn your gaze inward. The answer to your discontent does not lie outside of you. Peace is not about managing your reality into a fragile harmony. It is about soothing the conflict within.
Where is your inner conflict?
Where are you judging yourself?
Where are you pressuring yourself?
Where are you suppressing your feelings?
When are you telling yourself you are unsafe, unlovable, no good, a failure? How are you hard on yourself?
The willingness to explore this terrain is critical.
What is also critical is the willingness to let go of the inner conflict.The idea that letting go of all the ways you control and manage yourself with judgments, criticism and fear will most certainly lead to you being out of control and worse off than you are now is how fear maintains its grip on you. We must challenge this kind of thinking, and start to consider what it might be like to trust in yourself.
Trust is essential and many of us early on had reasons not to trust. I get it. Me too. And so the journey back into trust becomes all the more worthwhile. It is possible to stop living in fear. Fear of messing up, saying the wrong thing, getting fat, being rejected or abandoned. Yup, all that is there. For most of us. And it does not have to rule you. It does not have to be your boss. Consider that everything so far in your life has brought you right to this very moment. Right to the place where you are starting to consider that you are worth more than you thought you were. Consider that every hardship has been in service to your own awakening into a deeper understanding of yourself. You can trust yourself and you can trust your life.
Everything in your life, on the micro and macro levels, is working for you.Every disturbance, irritant, discontent, is grist for the mill. It is a stepping stone for you to reach deeper into yourself than ever before, past all the pressuring and judging and attachments. The world is for your own liberation. Liberation is the opposite of control. Beyond liberation lies peace.
Use your lifetime to find your own liberation. I believe this is what deeply serves the world. More so than our anger and our cynicism ever could. It is exciting to me to think of where your liberation might lead you. What might you create? How might you treat yourself and others? Ultimately we each have the opportunity to genuinely love our lives and love ourselves. So cultivate peace from the inside out. Do whatever it takes and then observe the changes in yourself and the world. Then tell us all about it.
What if every day of your life was a treasure hunt?
What would you be searching for? Money? Connections? Pleasure? Relief? Love? Beauty? Those are just a few ideas, but we are all wired to think of “treasure” as something worth getting and that something is different for everyone. But it is a set up isn’t it? Because if we have defined success, or getting the treasure, as something, like feeling happy for example, then what happens when we have a day that is full of grief? I mean, life happens right? So does that day of grief get labeled as a “bad” day in our minds? Often, it does. And we are socially conditioned to do this, to label our day as a “good” day or a “bad” day. And let’s be honest, but isn’t a “good” day just a day that happens to go our way?
How about just experiencing whatever day we are having and letting go of the label of good or bad?
What if, every single day, no matter what is happening, is a treasure hunt, and that treasure is simply, peace. In other words, how can we find the peace in every day?
Being at peace with what is happening does not mean we are passive about things that upset us or need changing.
It does mean being at peace with our own response to that particular day. If there is something upsetting in the news for you that day, then there is a choice. You can think its “bad” and therefore you will have a “bad” day, or you can accept what you are feeling (not so much thinking) and use it to get to know yourself more deeply, and build compassion for yourself. What are you feeling when you are upset by the news? Sadness? Disappointment? Anger? And then under the anger, is it fear? Powerlessness?
Empathy builds when we acknowledge the feeling that is present without judging it as bad or wrong or trying to fix or solve it.
First we allow the feeling to be present and recognize that it’s likely pretty normal to have such a response. Next we can ask ourselves the question, “what do I need today?”
Here are some ideas to help you find your way.
It could be the guidance you received from your self investigation, leading you in a new and enlivening direction. Or it could be the simple awareness that something does need to change, even if you don’t know what that is just yet. The good news is you are listening now, and not leaving yourself behind in your efforts to attain some idea of success (more money, cleaner fancier house) or someone else’s expectations of you. You are living your life and letting that deepen into something more enriching than before because every part of you matters and exists for a reason. Even the tired and irritable part. We need only be willing to listen and hear the underlying message.
Life becomes more complex and stressful when we don’t allow ourselves expression to be the full spectrum of who we are as human beings.
We simply cannot afford the luxury of suppression any longer. This doesn’t mean we can explode with abandon. In fact, emotional explosions tend to be the result of long term suppression.
It does mean we take stock on a daily basis, and work to surrender our agenda for our lives, or the day, and open up to the bigger picture of who we are and what life might have planned for us.
It’s not easy. But it can be magical to set aside all the ways we attempt to control ourselves and our day to day. What happens then? Well, go ahead and see. And share with me about it, if you want, in the comments.
Tuning in and listening to the way we relate to ourselves is a way to honor this relationship.
Responding to the messages of our mind, body, and emotions is a way to build trust and hope that we can meet our own needs and persevere through challenges with resilience. For the sake of this dialogue, let’s assume again that most of us have from time to time ignored the signals from ourself and continued with a behavior, or activity, or relationship that really wasn’t working for us.
Making the choice to become conscious and commit to our own wellness is making the choice to listen and do our best to respond appropriately to our own messages. As we do this more and more, we build the skill of listening and realize that the messages become subtler and subtler. The journey continues to evolve as we evolve. In other words, there is no static end or destination of finally getting it right. It is an ongoing practice of checking in with ourselves, taking the time to be in relationship with ourselves and being willing to hear our own feedback.
Sometimes this is difficult, I get it. Even as I am committed to listening to myself and do hear the feedback from my body and my moods, I don’t always necessarily want to hear it. Its at these times, when the temptation to override caring with wanting is strong, that we really have an opportunity to strengthen that inner muscle, so to speak, of choosing to value ourselves. Its when the idea of getting our way seems more important than our health, that we are most at risk of undermining our own worth. And this is the habit worth interrupting because no matter how delicious or “fun” or whatever, the thing or action is, let’s be honest, it comes with a price when it is not truly aligned with what we really need.
Another level of communication, or expression, is our feelings and emotions.
How do you respond to your feelings when you are feeling them?
Do you notice your feelings at all?
Can you name them?
Do they make sense to you?
Some feelings may be more comfortable to feel than others, such as happiness, or a feeling of love or being loved. I find it quite easy to feel content, for example. Other feelings, such as anger, sadness, or jealousy can often be harder to discern because we may believe that it isn’t ok to feel those things. This can lead to a more general sense of feeling “upset” and maybe not even knowing why. Paying attention to our feelings as they arise, by listening and honoring their message (their communication) to us can help guide us to getting to know ourselves better, from what we need, to what works for us, and what needs to be expressed.
The body has another level of communication that is more recently being understood and respected as a message of health.The aches and pains of our body can give us great insight into our physical needs. For example, if you spend a day traveling by air or car and sitting for a long period of time in one place, the next day you might notice feeling some aches and tightness in the body from that lack of mobility the day before. A natural response to this “information” would be to move around, maybe go for a walk or do some light stretching to give the body what it needs to feel good. Discomfort in the body is more often a sign to pay attention to something that needs tweaking, rather than a sign we need to take some pain relievers and continue doing what we’ve been doing.
Conscious Wellness supports the development of an inner locus of control for discerning and understanding the innate inner wisdom that guides each of us towards balance and health. Conscious Wellness aims to empower the individual through unconditional and reflective therapeutic regard combined with evidence-based nutritional and lifestyle knowledge. Autonomous, kind, curious, and informed individuals become conscious leaders of health in their own lives and in their communities.