Finding a way to our Truth
I recently watched a video that popped up on my social media feed of a cute toddler having a tantrum after being told NO. As I watched him try with all the minimal skills and vocabulary he had to be heard about what he felt he needed at that moment — I found it compelling that while I don’t imagine a toddler knows better than his parents what is best — there may have been a better way to at least listen to what he was trying to tell them.
After watching that video and reflecting on the many times, I have worked closely with my coaching clients to support them in making difficult decisions in their life from their authentic, more truthful place — I realized something. Perhaps we are conditioned as children to listen to others about what we need – to rely on others to know what is right or wrong for us. Perhaps it was easier when we were kids because we depended upon others to teach us what was “right” and what was “wrong” at that stage of life. Too often, our parents told us when we were behaving right — or if our answers or thoughts were right or wrong.
While this is necessary, of course, the very reason we have laws in our society (with consequences if we don’t follow them) — underlying this is the fact we do need boundaries and to know what they are. For any society to operate, we must clearly know what is acceptable and what isn’t. It’s when the boundaries are cloudy that all hell breaks loose.
This is true for us to live our own authentic lives. Knowing our boundaries is equally critical to know what is best for ourselves.
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” Buddha
We can also apply this to thinking about the concept of “right” and “wrong”. I’ve realized that it’s taken me decades to begin to understand how to recognize what is right and wrong for ME. To truly know myself enough to be able to discern if something is good or bad for me.
As a parent it was easy for me to discern what was right or wrong for my children. That was my job. Now that my daughters are adults finding their way in life — it’s harder for me to shut up and let them make their own decisions. It’s up to them now. This is a shifted boundary I must recognize.
There are plenty of people and places where we can continue to be told what is right or wrong. Check your social media feed or YouTube, and you’ll find many folks telling us the right way to eat, exercise or even think. Sometimes it is good to learn from others — but in the end, it all comes down to checking in with yourself and clarifying what is right for YOU. Just because a friend feels so much better on their gluten-free diet or following a strict fasting regimen, or doing that 30-day exercise challenge – doesn’t mean you will too. You may — but it may not be what works for you.
It takes time to unhook from the voices of others that attempt to tell us what is right for us.
And it’s not easy to find a way to our truth. To be able to make decisions from your true self. This requires that you slow things down. To make “space and time” to find your voice, let it speak to you – and then for you to listen with an open heart.
I’m still learning that.
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” Galileo Galilei
I’m learning how to quiet my mind — to find the space to check in with myself to know what I need. Like many of us — I’ve spent my life putting others’ needs above my own — convincing myself that what others need is also what I need. Being married to my husband for 35 years requires a balance to know when his needs take priority – when we have the same needs – and when it’s time to put my needs first.
It’s a dance that I am constantly adjusting and learning the steps to. Sometimes I do it gracefully — other times – not so much.
So, if you don’t know what is right or wrong for you – THAT IS OK.
A place to start is to learn how to quiet your mind – and all those voices outside telling you what to do. One way I find that helps is to sit for a moment – and clear my mind.
Perhaps you don’t watch those YouTube or Instagram videos 24/7. Use that time to sit in a bit of silence. My friends, at the risk of sounding like a mindful maniac, the truth I’ve found is that it is in the silence that I can begin to hear – and listen to –my intuition, my unique voice.
In the silence, I can hear the voice of my truth… or at least begin to have a dialogue with it so I can discover my truth.
I help clients do this using a variety of methods. Most find visualizations very helpful. One that I use is where I guide my clients via a visualization to meet their wise selves. We learn to ask them questions as if they were another person. For some reason, it is easier for clients to “ask someone else” what they want or need to do about a particular situation — and easier to listen to that voice — even when the conversation is happening within themselves during the visualization or Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) session.
Others can find their voice walking in nature — exercising — meditating, or practicing mindfulness.
“Perhaps the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.” Wallace Stevens
What I know to be true is that when I slow down and take a breath – ok, a few breaths – I come to a place where I can ask myself the questions I need answers to. By getting in touch with this bigger part of me, I can more easily discern what is right or not right for me. I bet you’ve had similar experiences where you didn’t listen to your inner self and did something you weren’t quite sure of — later to find that it wasn’t right for you.
That’s learning to listen; perhaps next time, that inner voice may be louder, or you’ll stop long enough to listen genuinely.
It’s trial and error, my friends. Baby steps. Just like that toddler : )
One reason I’m writing this today is that I believe that this is something our society – our culture – desperately needs to practice. I know it is hard to listen and follow our own truth because our cultural norms don’t make it easy to say no.
We can start exercising this muscle in small but impactful ways.
The next time a friend wants you to go out for a coffee or a night out when you truly need a night to hang inside and recharge because you’ve had a heck of a day or week – pause before you answer. Tell them you’ll think about it. Then, during that pause, check-in and ask – What is it that I need? I know it’s hard to say NO. That video of the toddler tantrum is an excellent example of the emotional turmoil that can happen when we are told no. But setting a boundary with grace can also be a gift.
To make this easier, I try to shift this for my clients and myself by asking, “Who are you saying NO to in this situation (and who are we saying YES to)? Too often, when we say YES to something based on prioritizing someone else’s needs, we say NO to ourselves. If you are OK with that – then OK. Sometimes it is OK to put another’s needs before our own. This is often part of being a good friend and having empathy and compassion for others. However, do this with clarity because if you aren’t OK with that answer, it’s best to be honest, and bow out with grace. Thank them for the offer and say that you’d love to do it but tonight isn’t a good night for you. Risk modeling what you hope they would do for themselves. Tell them that as much as you’d like to, you need a night to recharge.
If you live by your truth – your life will feel more accessible, easier, and perhaps even more fulfilling.
With every decision we make, we need to understand to whom we are saying YES and to and whom we are then saying NO.
I don’t know if it is that I’ve reached a point in my life (in my 60’s) where I am finally getting the message to listen to what MY needs are — but I am slowly able to stop and listen so I can discover what is suitable for me at that moment. The more I do this, the more I touch my truth. But, of course, that doesn’t mean what is suitable for me is right for others. So I need to be open and respectful of others’ choices too.
When was the last time you made a decision and checked in with yourself first? How did that go when you did that? How is that different when you don’t do that?
Some of you may be thinking this is selfish. I would challenge you to say there is a big difference between being selfish and practicing self-love — self-kindness.
Clarity is kindness, my friends.
I wish you clarity, love, and peace — and that you can connect to your inner self and listen to them more often as we move forward in this new year.