“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.
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.