I’ve been thinking so much lately about my incredible friends – my self-made family. And I’ve been thinking about how different my life became when I realized that I was not floating through life haphazardly, bumping up against people in ways that were beyond my control. Once I realized that every relationship in my life was intentional, I was able to learn to trust myself, and to trust that life could be as beautiful as I chose it to be.
Yes, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. But when we’ve cultivated relationships that are healthy, we will have the support we need to navigate the unexpected twists and turns with humor, grace, love, and even happiness in the midst of struggle.
As I reflected on that time in my life when when I first reorganized my relationships, I remembered that I’d written about it in my blog at the time. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I decided to republish that same post. Through the gift of hindsight, I can read this with fresh eyes and appreciation for the wisdom of my own healing journey.
Surround yourself with those going in your direction
Originally published March 17, 2019
I've always been a thinker of big thoughts
I’m not a fan of physical risk, like sky diving. I like to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. My thoughts, on the other hand… they go a mile a minute, and they are sky high. I like fantastical ideas, big dreams, and audacious creativity.
Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up in a family that encouraged that kind of thinking. My life was pre-planned for me from the moment I popped out of the womb, and it did not include big thoughts, or much thinking whatsoever really. I learned very early to be small. So small, in fact, that I almost disappeared.
It took me nearly 40 years to find my full voice again. If I’m honest, I’m still not sure I’ve found it. I still shrink sometimes to fit into other people’s spaces. I don’t mean to. It’s just a habit, formed over a lifetime of being ashamed of my bigness.
The truth is, I’m larger than life. I see color everywhere. I find humor in darkness. I see potential in wreckage and possibility in despair and loss. I never met a hopscotch I didn’t like. I dance when I don’t know the steps. When everyone else is walking in one direction, I feel an almost inescapable pull to walk the other way.
The rock of shame
How sad that I’ve always remained so curled up tight in a ball under a rock of shame placed on me by others when I was too small to realize that I was beautiful. How sad that even now, at 42 I still struggle to cast away this stone that I carry. I can’t blame it on anyone but myself anymore. My life is entirely my own. I know what I must do. But old habits die hard.
The greatest gift I’ve given myself in the past few years is the discipline of choice. I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but at some point it dawned on me that I’m not just floating around out here, bouncing around like a pinball from one interaction to the next. I get to choose with whom I spend my time.
Intention is a beautiful thing.
You can’t expect to improve your life if you are surrounding yourself with people who are miserable. You can’t expect to grow if you are surrounding yourself with people who are staying the same. You can’t expect to be kind if you are surrounding yourself with people who are cruel. You can’t expect to break your gossip habit if you are surrounding yourself with people who gossip.
It seems like common sense, but it was truly a revelation to me to realize that in order to reach any goal, I had to surround myself with people moving in the same direction.
I wanted to be better. I wanted to stop feeling stuck. I wanted to grow spiritually and emotionally. I wanted to take exciting new steps in my career.
So much of my childhood had been stolen from me, and here I had these two beautiful children. I wanted to be a child with them, but I didn’t know how to let go of my hang ups and just relax and enjoy life.
I wanted to raise my kids differently than I’d been raised. I wanted to give them a different sense of self and value, but before I could do that, I had to firmly establish for myself who I really was, what I believed, what I stood for. I realized that I did not like the person I’d become. I hated the gossip, the endless judgement, the shadow of perfectionism, and I hated thinking small.
I resolved myself to change. Except… I didn’t know how.
So I did what I’ve always done when I didn’t know how to do something. I went back to school. Sort of. There isn’t really a school for learning how to be a better person, or learning how to embrace your inner child, or learning how to relax, or learning how to stop gossiping, or learning to think big thoughts.
But there are books and articles. There’s this thing called the internet. I read books with amazing titles like Big Magic and All I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten and Stop Walking on Eggshells and One Thousand Gifts and Girl, Wash Your Face. And so many more. I gobbled them all up. And I’m still gobbling.
And woven throughout all of these books, through all this amazing advice, was the one thing I’d always been missing, the one thing that I’d been discouraged from my whole life, the one thing I’d been trained to avoid…
Success is won and lost in relationship with others. We need each other. Abusers know this. If they can keep you isolated, if they can make you feel pathetic and unworthy of love from anyone else, then they’ve got you right where they want you.
DON’T LET THE ABUSERS WIN!
Don’t let the bullies make you believe you don’t have value. Don’t hear them. They are lying. And if you’ve been listening, if you heard them over and over again until they started living inside you and the voice became your own telling you that you are worthless, then you are lying to yourself.
Get up. Go outside. Make new friends. Find people who see you for the fantastic creature that you are.
Decide what you want, big or small.
Do you want to start getting out of bed earlier every day? Then hang out with people who get out of bed earlier.
Do you want to quit smoking? Then hang out with people who don’t smoke.
Do you want to dance in the rain? Find yourself some goofy rain dancers.
Do you want to be a librarian? Go to the library, join a book club, embrace your inner nerd.
Do you want to climb a mountain? Well, you better start hanging out with mountain climbers.
Stop expecting to change your life doing the same things, with the same people. Because that’s the thing about change. You have to actually change something. If you want to reach any goal, you have to surround yourself with people headed in that direction.