Another corner feels like it’s been turned recently, as I find myself working back on the boats, starting to feel like my old self again. For bad or for worse, this person I’m getting back to is cheeky, speaks her truth and acts out her free will with conviction. I’ve always been told that I’m a strong character. ‘Intense’ is a word that’s often used to describe me. Mostly with a negative connotation, as though to be fully expressive is a bad thing. However, as I feel more and more confident becoming the person that I truly am, I realise that these comments say more about another person’s fear than it does about my personality. I remember that I didn’t used to see it this way. I used to feel ashamed for being ‘too much’, for speaking ‘too honestly’ and especially for acting with integrity in a world where it seems so uncommon.
I’m not alone in this, and I find myself constantly reminding my friends, colleagues and good people in my life to embrace their unique differences completely. To be the best, fullest, strongest version of themselves that they can be. No matter what judgements they face. The thing is that in a world full of systems where most of us have been moulded into conformity, it’s difficult to break free from this. To do so creates a fear in others because it highlights the change that they are avoiding in themselves. This fear is what creates the judgements, the negative connotations, the knockdowns and then the shame.
After years of listening to these comments, we can take them on as our own internal voice, and use them to beat our self-worth into a pulp with the stick we were so often handed. As I finally stop doing this myself, I see the effects of this action all around me. I see colleagues who create the most exquisite and dynamic food you’ve ever seen, yet beat themselves down with words of ‘it can be better’. I see friends who continue to hit impossible sales targets, against all odds, yet tell themselves that it wasn’t good enough, and stay in situations where they’re not valued. I see family members who shine out creative talents, yet tell themselves that they’ll never make it because that’s what they’re being led to believe by others who didn’t have the courage to follow their own dreams.
To all of these people, I’ve found myself stopping them in their tracks and asking them to have a look at what they’ve created. To value their effort, their creativity, their grit and determination. To congratulate themselves, and bask in the glory of their achievement. To add credit to a self-worth that is so often starved of this positive feedback in a world where judgements outweigh compliments at a rate of 10 to 1.
I’ve also found myself putting in firm boundaries when I’m called to validate the worst behaviour in those around me. The drink drivers who off load their problems on strangers. The ‘friends’ who act without integrity and consume friendships with drama. The acquaintances in my life who act without accountability and in a way that is disrespectful towards others because they’re not willing to own the pain that they hold within. Firm boundaries because I don’t want to keep quiet and pretend like I’m okay with that kind of destructive behaviour. I’m not. So I won’t validate it with a silent smile while it continues on, spreading out further waves of negativity while a lack of personal responsibility takes place.
It’s not as though there is a group of ‘good’ people beaten down, and a group of ‘bad’ people beating them. There is no ‘them vs us’, and to see it that way only engages you in the internal battle that you keep firing up within yourself. The ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ lies in every one of us, and it’s up to us to decide in every moment which one we choose to fuel our behaviour.
For me, this whole journey has been about that and I haven’t found this easy. It’s been a constant exercise of stop, reflect and question. It’s been exercises of feeling into my body senses and my intuition to feel what feels good and what doesn’t. To reflect and ask myself, do my actions serve my values right now? To create the honesty in my friendships for feedback that isn’t nice to receive but will help me become the best version of myself. To tell people what I value about them, even if it makes me feel vulnerable. To call them out authentically, even if it means that I get caught up in the cross fire.
I wonder how the world would change if all of us tried to do this, or even if we do it just once, today. To ask a friend not to beat themselves up, and instead to tell them the value that you see in them and ask them to see it too? Or to call out a friend when they’re acting in a way which is hurting others? Isn’t it about time we started validating the best of each other and calling out our worst behaviour so we can all get on our way to being the best versions of ourselves?