Standing your Sacred Ground

“Don’t Shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand your sacred ground.” ~Brene Brown

Brene Brown reminds me to be brave, to take risks, to be assured that perfection will only deter me from attaining my dreams. I don’t know about you, but these are things I need to remember daily as I go about my business.


When I was young, I used to shrink. It was the path of least resistance. Heaven forbid I might do something to make people potentially dislike me. You see, being liked was supreme for me. It was a primary motivating force in my young life. I didn’t know it at the time, not consciously at least; it was just what I did. I let other people’s agendas trump my own. I went with the flow. I was sweet and friendly. I apologized often. I smiled and laughed a lot. People liked me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love to laugh and smile and get along with people. The problem wasn’t in how I related to others, it was how much I didn’t relate to myself. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. Often, I was so busy people-pleasing that I didn’t even know how I felt about anything enough to know what I should stand up for.

What I know now is that I wasn’t being fully myself, and when we aren’t ourselves, we aren’t honest. I never thought of myself as dishonest, but the reality is that I was hiding parts of me that I thought seemed unacceptable. Now I see that my “nice” behavior was actually a weak and obsequious assault on my own true nature. But it was how I learned to survive and get along in the world. It felt safe to stay in the comfortable dwelling of “likability,” so there I stayed for many years. Shrinking to feel safe and comfortable.

Puffing up

Fast forward a few years – add in marriage, a couple of kids and a little life experience and you get mama bear for whom protection trumps “nice.” I allowed these feisty bits to come forward, but they were usually on behalf of my children. I was baby stepping toward empowerment, but it generally had that visceral sort of “Don’t mess with my kid” vibe. When my child struggled in school, I would march in to meetings with teachers and administrators, guns blazing. I also had a few personal encounters here and there where I burst into a situation on the offensive, ready to fight… likability be damned!  I knew I was right and there was no way to convince me otherwise.

As I reflect on these incidents I understand why they were necessary. The pendulum took its swing to the “puffed-up” side after spending so much time in hiding – shrinking and denying the part of me that wanted to stand up and be heard. All that pent up energy needed to express itself now and then. And it felt good. It felt powerful to stand up for something that mattered to me. And it was easier to stand up for my children than for myself, but I had to start somewhere. Getting to the next step would take a little more courage and time.

Standing my Sacred Ground

I’ve always had a sassy side, mostly hidden away, only to sneak out and surprise people – sometimes even me – on occasion. Invariably, I enjoy people who are outlandishly funny and audacious. Anyone who unapologetically stands her ground has always had a tremendous appeal. I now understand that I’ve secretly wanted the courage to be just that. Unapologetically myself.

With age comes wisdom, and the ability to be more fully ourselves. What a relief. It’s taken years of hard work as I continue to work on overcoming my shrinking pattern with intermittent, angry moments of self-righteous puffing up, to find the happy medium of I’m-okay-exactly-as-I-am. I don’t have to shrink and reduce who I am, nor do I have to puff up to be seen, heard and validated. I now work hard daily to find what my sacred ground is and how to stand it, thanks to years of commitment to becoming more fully me. I came to understand that by denying my true nature and aiming primarily to please others, I compromised not only who I was for myself, but who I might be to others, or even to the world.

In what ways do you shrink? When do you notice yourself puffing up? Have you found a good method of coming back to center and standing your sacred ground? Please share your responses – I’d love to hear from you.

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10 Responses to Standing your Sacred Ground

  1. January 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    Love this! I’ve experienced all three phases, but find myself in the Puffing Up phase most often:) By the way, I really like the person you’ve become (I’m sure I would’ve liked the shrinking you as well).

    • January 21, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

      Cindy, You’ve always seemed so comfortable in your own skin – audacious, bold, and funny, just the qualities that I’ve always admired and thought “I want what she’s having!” And now I’m learning how to do just that and it’s downright freeing. Thanks for weighing in. Every interaction with you leaves me with a smile.

  2. January 21, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

    Ummm….”Shrinking” is not a word I would use to describe you! “Sassy”…maybe ,
    Feisty- definitely! :). Great article. You’ve given a lot of people the wisdom, courage and strength to become the people they should be. Blessed to be your friend…and probably your guinea pig for life coaching!

    • January 21, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

      What can I say? I’ve always been my *true* self around you. You bring out the feisty, sassy, real me 🙂 Thanks to you for that and for being just all-around awesome. <3

  3. January 21, 2015 at 11:32 pm #

    Beautifully written & insightful!!! I think everyone has their struggle to be true to themselves while remaining acceptable to everyone else – maybe it takes all of us some “years” and practice to get the balance right!

    • January 22, 2015 at 10:34 am #

      You are so right, Jill – finding that balance is a challenge. For me it takes daily practice and continually asking myself “Who do I want to be?” and “How can I take care of myself while remaining respectful to others?” Thanks for your feedback!

  4. January 22, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    wow, Amy. Yes, beautifully written! And I so relate to this! Thank you for your honesty and courage. The shrinking was such a part of survival for me and I remember coming out of it with a vengeance which threw the pendulum to the other side and the people who were used to me being small did not like it. That was the beginning of accepting that not everyone would be happy with me. You have helped me find the courage to be me despite what others think. I so appreciate you. xo

    • January 22, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

      You are one brave woman, Margret and a true shining light in my life. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you more than words can express. xo

  5. January 22, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    Wow..I can so relate to your article! I too am a mixture of sassy and always depended on the situation and my audience. I was more “shrinking” around my friends and “puffy” at work where impressing a boss and colleagues was vital. Now that I have a catastrophic experience under my belt, and have been blessed to write about our situation, I definitely feel at peace with who I am–a mixture of both. Thank you so much for articulating what a lot of us feel!
    XXXOOO Denise Stephens

    • January 22, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

      Denise, Thank you so much for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts. I have also read your blog about your husband’s accident and the amazing recovery and healing that has ensued. You two are a true inspiration and a brilliant reminder that love heals. You both are brave beyond compare and a beacon of light for those with spinal cord injuries. xo

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