The Journey of Kind and Honest

Sometimes, to move forward we must look back and honor the lessons that shaped us.

As a lifelong student of personal growth and development, I have committed considerable time and energy to self-improvement. Along the way, there have been some profound experiences, but one was life-changing. I’d like to share what I learned with you here.

It was a Texas Summer day and I found myself in the middle of some new existential crisis, seeking answers about the mysteries of life. Staying stuck has always propelled my natural curiosity to unearth deeper truths and for me this work had always seemed clearer when guided by a therapist. child-1099770_960_720.jpg

The basis of this particular journey was tied to a history of being who I thought everyone expected me to be. Meanwhile, I was quietly yearning for a completely different life. By meeting everyone’s needs first, my own rarely came into focus or took priority.  This duplicitous approach left me feeling chronically stuck, misaligned, unfulfilled and confused. Until that day…

I recall my therapist’s Southern drawl vividly and she painted a new reality, saying “Jason, our only role in life is to be kind and honest.” 

My initial reaction was that couldn’t be true. Our role in life was not meant to be summarized into one simple statement.  Yet, something about those words felt magical and true. In perfect timing, new language had arrived just as I struggled with being caught in two worlds. I was at a crossroad, trying to craft a new future while reconciling a complicated and often painful past.

 

Kind and Honest felt like a life preserver.

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Initially, I was not really clear on the work ahead, but something told me to dig in. The words hung in the room. I started by honoring what had been said and feverishly attempting to wrap my head around their application. What I initially loved about this concept was the feeling that I might already doing it. Being a “polite” Texan had prepared me perfectly for this role, or so I thought.

Careful examination and a few thought provoking questions clarified many things. I would like to share what I uncovered.

What does being kind and honest actually mean?

The answer wasn’t immediately clear, but has revealed itself over time. The real work begins through the relationship you have with yourself.  To fully grasp this concept, one must approach the topic with kindness and honesty.  It is impossible to give something to others that you cannot yet give to yourself.   I quickly understood that I had been kind and honest to others, but not myself.

 Now that I knew better, so what?

 This new awareness was like a light coming on. lighting-2267227_960_720.jpg

It revealed a deeper understanding of my role in the process. By asking the question, I wholeheartedly knew I had really never been completely kind or honest with myself.  At first, I couldn’t grasp what kind and honest would look like, so I decided to start with what I thought it was not:

  • People pleasing…saying or doing what you think others need
  • Not setting healthy boundaries…saying NO, when appropriate
  • Compromising your integrity/beliefs to make others more comfortable

My understanding revealed that I often took the easy path to make others happy or keep the peace, which had literally kept me from connecting with my own self.  Most importantly though, it inspired me to get beneath the surface of my constant misalignment.

There is a quote I love: 006f4391aa36d8dfd40424559e70303a (1).jpg

 Doesn’t the same apply to the relationship we have with ourselves?

 Along the path, we can only meet ourselves and others from the place of our own experience. To that end, here is what I have learned about kindness and honesty.  For me, it boils down to three essential steps. 

  1. Showing up
  2. Being authentic
  3. Telling YOUR truth

 I realize none of these are particularly easy, in fact, often daunting. Each requires action that will likely catapult us from our comfort zone, potentially leaving us vulnerable and exposed.

Showing up is our willingness to say YES to pursuits that feed our soul.  You know those things that many scare you but can make you smile, regardless.

Being authentic is the alignment of our real truth.  The place where who we are meets who we are meant to be.

Telling YOUR truth, is sharing yourself with others from your own perspective, which is made from individual beliefs, experience and history.

I believe that the journey to kind and honest starts with a willingness to connect with ourselves in a deeper way. We will never be able to share with another from a truth that isn’t our own.  Trying to do so, is merely story-telling, which likely is not fully and authentically aligned with your own belief system. This work expands our own knowing and ultimately allows for a broader personal truth.

In the years since this awakening, being kind and honest has served me well.  In the times where I struggle to respond in a way that someone needs, I can call on my kind and honest.

I have chosen to let this approach become my true north.  What I have learned is that being kind and honest isn’t always the easiest path.  In fact, sometimes, it angers people. Which always reminds me of the old cliché, “the truth hurts.”

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Today, I laugh when my own kindness and honesty causes a reaction.  It makes me feel more alive and aligned with myself.  My sincere hope is that it creates a new light inside the dark places of others.

Are you ready to be kind and honest?

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Stigma: An Inside Job

 

We are constantly bombarded by messages that help shape our view on a variety of topics. Many elicit a response, which might be positive or negative. As the world has become more connected, our opportunity to learn has expanded and increased exponentially.  Today, we can easily connect with people across the globe, learn about world affairs and educate ourselves on unending subjects.

Photo: PixabayMedia channels have an impact on building awareness, even creating a movement. Think about the posts you react to on social media…cute cat videos, laughing babies, life events of people you know, national/world events.  Each has the ability to shape our own internal dialogue. This constant barrage of information comes from so many directions and can often have an effect on our own mood state. There are unlimited posts and rants on any number of topics, which can create joy and elation, but also anxiety, fear and depression about the future, regardless of your personal beliefs.  This can flood our senses, leaving us confused, irritated and questioning.

  • Do you remember that post or message that struck a cord or caused a noticeable reaction?
  •  You know the one that affected you negatively.  Maybe it left you angry, afraid or ashamed. 

Today’s media environment breeds fear through its messages, which can keep us on edge like a pot constantly about to boil over.

Photo: Pixabay

Stigma is today’s buzzword, used to describe the marginalization of people who struggle from a variety of conditions and/or differences. It is a powerful word, defined as a mark of shame or discredit. (Miriam-Webster) At the core, it characterizes someone as less than because they don’t meet or conform to accepted societal norms, usually in the form of damaging language and action by others.

Take your pick of stigmatized subjects…race, religion, gender identity, human rights, physical and mental health challenges, etc.  Frequently, each is portrayed in a negative light in the media and peer groups alike. Our culture fosters this judgment, bias and limiting perspective, but that only represents part of the equation. The real work of stigma is an inside job…

Yes, stigma starts within.

It is self-created from our own feelings and thoughts about certain topics, which become a framework made of individual experiences and beliefs. Of course, it can be directly impacted by the views of others, but the originating source requires some personal responsibility.

Let’s use one relevant example…MENTAL HEALTH

You know that taboo subject no one wants to discuss, until it hits their home. Statistics state 1 in 5 are or will be affected throughout the course of a lifetime.  Unfortunately, many are still misguided to believe mental health primarily looks like the tragic examples portrayed in the media, which is simply untrue. I do not mean to discount traumatizing events, but they grossly underestimate the broader context of people who quietly struggle with mental health conditions. Stigma perpetuates a silent majority who navigate their ups and downs privately.

For example, conditions like anxiety and/or depression affect a vast part of our population. Either can significantly impact daily life, making simple functions far more difficult. The biggest barrier between treatment and recovery is often steeped in our own beliefs about the struggle. The way we feel about it matters and can keep us from seeking the help we need.

The real truth is, directly or indirectly, we are all impacted by mental health.

 All of us. 

In fact, 100% of us have mental health.

Passing the buck has created the perfect storm; a struggling society that is more depressed, anxious and addicted than any other time in history.

Mental health is just one example but personal responsibility should be applied to any marginalized/stigmatized group. This reality surpasses personal and societal labels, placing each of us squarely in the face of our own relationship with stigma. We all have the power of choice when viewing differences in ourselves and others.

Blaming the media and others as the originating source of stigma is an easy path, but doing so excludes our side of the street and keeps us stuck in the story. If we really seek to address stigma straight on, we must first look within and acknowledge our own beliefs about certain topics.  Doing so honors our individual limitations and allows us to realign ourselves to a more inclusive focus.

That said, before dismissing another’s viewpoint as less than or making value based judgments about someone’s journey, remember that EVERYONE STRUGGLES WITH SOMETHING.

Photo: Pixabay

I, myself, have been guilty of doing this very thing and realize the negative effect of such behavior. I spent years buying into damaging propaganda about my own struggle. It was devastating and robbed me of many opportunities to connect with myself and others. Stigma can only live in the dark.  Through limiting beliefs and blaming others, we effectively are dimming our own light.

Each of us is a collection of stories that shape how we show up in the world. Our differences make us unique and should be something to celebrate, not hide or diminish.  If you can stand tall and proud in your own beliefs, then you will find your unshakable truth.  The rest of the worlds view just becomes background noise. By taking this approach, we gain self confidence, esteem and love for our own journey.  In doing so, we can embrace struggle and finally honor what makes us uniquely individual.

What is one step you can take now to face your own stigma?

Photo: Pixabay

Isn’t it time to be kind to ourselves and one another?

The Stories that Shape Us

Who did you want to be, before the world told you who you should be?

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Photo Credit: Montse Serrano (Pinterest)

Each of us is a collection of stories that have their own narrative.  They play out in our daily life, binding us to ourselves and others. Imagine them as the soundtrack of your life.

As the keeper of our stories, we all have the power to create connection to our heart’s desire. These stories that shape us can have a powerful effect on the action we take toward getting the life we imagine.

I encourage you to stop for a moment and consider the first thing that comes to mind as you answer the following two questions:

  1. What is one thing you desire?
  2. What keeps you from getting it?

For many of us these questions and their answers are centered on some self-improvement or manifesting a reality different from current circumstances. It could be taking on a new job search, reconnecting with someone from your past, or maybe (put your desire here). By not taking action, we can end up afraid, depressed, anxious or just misaligned.

Regardless of that aspiration, getting what we want takes inspired action. Usually, the thing(s) that hold us back are used tied to those very stories that shape us. More importantly, the place we hold for them in our daily life, through thought and action/inaction.

We have all gotten caught in this trap before. Each of us desires something we don’t have. Haven’t you played the “not good enough, not smart enough, people don’t understand me” tapes before? You are not alone… EVERYONE STRUGGLES WITH SOMETHING.

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Photo Credit: Creative Green Living (Pinterest)

Having achieved a fair amount professionally had given me many success defining stories, but there was a time in recent years where things didn’t go so well. Through some unfortunate setbacks, I showed up in ways that weren’t my proudest moments.  My wheels came completely off.

The universe met me head on and brought me to my knees. I felt ashamed, judged and cast aside. More specifically, I wholeheartedly believed this new tape, which sounded like: “You are a failure; You are not worthy; You are unlovable; And you deserve what you get.”

I allowed these powerful words to become stumbling blocks, giving them more volume than a lifetime of successful experiences, which resulted in a vastly different present and future than past success stories dictated. Every day, I was pressing play on the tapes that validated all the awful things I chose to believe about myself. Doing so, kept me stuck in a loop of life defining paralysis.

All of us have tapes from our history that hold limiting beliefs, which keep us from the life we truly desire.  The good news is that, like tapes, they can be unraveled, rewritten or just thrown away.  The power to press play is a choice you don’t have to make.

What tape do you need to stop playing?

By connecting with our heart’s desire and what stands in the way allows us a conscious opportunity to disconnect from the negative stories. Self reflection reveals the narratives that no longer serve us. By embracing the stories that shape us, we approach our humanness, which is a direct path to authenticity. _45984325_scott_466 (1).jpg

I nearly allowed a few short events to become life defining.  Fortunately, at some point the struggle revealed an opportunity for sustainable growth and healing. I made a decision to grieve what was gone and open my heart to the possibility of what could be.  Through sheer faith and determination, I took each next right step, which always revealed itself in perfect timing. By approaching them with committed courage and action, I began to put those tapes in their appropriate place.

Perhaps you are reading this thinking it sounds too easy.  I understand those feelings completely.  In truth, there were days where this work was more than I could bear.  In those times, I had to remind myself I was taking the next step, not the whole staircase.  Remember, the next step is forward movement and necessary to getting the places you want to be.

There are times I still stumble, getting caught in an old loop.  The difference now is the tape plays for minutes, not days on end.  Also, by giving up your tapes, you can turn them into a new DIY opportunity.

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Photo Credit: Creative Green Living (Pinterest)

…And doesn’t a cassette tape planter seem like a better way to use old unwanted tapes?

Isn’t it time to connect with your purpose?  Are you ready to take the next step toward the life you imagine?

 

Finding Connection through Struggle

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Did you ever have a time where you didn’t quite show up in a situation the way you wanted to?

Perhaps, it was the interview that didn’t go well, or a conversation with a loved one where you chose every word but the ones that made the situation better.

Did those times leaving you feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, maybe even depressed or anxious?

Each of us has moments of brilliance when we might feel unstoppable, which can be  counterbalanced with times where nothing goes as planned. These ups and downs are something every person on the planet faces. Of course, some navigate the challenges with greater ease, while many stumble over the same lessons time and again.

The good news is that you are not alone…EVERYONE struggles with something.

My own struggle took some time to come into focus. By 37, I had built a life that many spend a lifetime aspiring to. I’d achieved the “American Dream.” Professionally, I had been to the mountain top with the expected hallmarks of success…houses, cars, world-class experiences, growing retirement fund, and numerous other trappings. Yet, just beneath the surface I was nearly paralyzed. The roller coaster of self-imposed expectations left me feeling perpetually insecure, unworthy and trapped in a world that wasn’t meant for me.

My ascent to the mountain top had been swift and steady, but my stewardship of those vast resources wasn’t built to last. Like many, I was not well prepared for the downturn in a failing economy. I told myself that riding things out a while longer would ensure safe harbor, but the anchor never materialized. My life didn’t unravel all at once, rather through a beautiful and unfortunate series of events. I had failed spectacularly and what came next was beyond comprehension.

Think about that idea for a minute… Everyone Struggles with Something.

No one is immune. As humans, 100% of us desire something different or better than what we have. It could be as simple as losing a few pounds or trying something new. Maybe it’s more significant, such as pursuing that degree, manifesting a new job or the right relationship. Regardless of the desire, the roadblocks that stop us, real or perceived, is struggle.

What do you desire most and what stands in your way of getting it?

I like to imagine struggle as the obstacle that stands between where we are and what we want. It is like a glaring stop sign that can keep us from moving forward and most often is wrapped up as our good friend fear.

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Ironically, most fears are derived from our focus on an outcome that we cannot control or dictate. You know, the what if’s…what if I don’t get that job, or accepted into that program, or what if they don’t like me?

I will let you in on a secret.  The “what if’s” aren’t real and most likely will never actually happen. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you anticipated an outcome…Did it happen exactly like you imagined?

For most, the answer is no. In fact, usually not even close.  The dangerous thing about predicting the outcome is that it robs us of the very moment we are in. Literally through our own mind action, we are focusing our energy on an outcome that will NEVER happen. Further, it often blocks us from an outcome that may, in fact, serve us much better.

What if the fear that holds you back is really the universe’s sign telling you to move forward?

courage.jpgUsually, it is fear of the first step keeps us stuck in concrete shoes. Maybe fear is only a caution sign warning us proceed with courage? Remember that time you tried something new and different and ended up loving it? Imagine if you took the same kind of inspired action in other areas of your life.

Benjamin said it best in the movie We Bought a Zoo“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

By connecting with our struggle, we get more of what we seek: Connection! Isn’t that what every one of us want more of? The benefits are two -fold; it invites an opportunity for growth and allows us to approach our humanness with self-love and compassion. It also serves as an opportunity to better examine and understand our role in each story, learning how can we do better next time.

My own struggle forced me to connect with myself wholeheartedly. To rebuild a life from rock bottom revealed that I had become trapped in a story that was based solely on how things looked. Through this work, I can now see the costly pitfalls, which nearly cost me everything.

Remember, you are NOT alone. Everyone Struggles with Something. The key steps to overcoming struggle are:

  • Identify your desire- that one thing you want most
  • What is the first step you can take to getting what you want?
  • Commit 20 seconds of insane courage to that step
  • Celebrate yourself with the next right step

It really can be that straightforward. It starts with the power of choice and just taking the next right committed action. With each step, it will become more natural.  Instinctively, you will see where to go next, which leads to an easier path leaving struggle at your back.

It is time to get the life you desire!  What is YOUR NEXT RIGHT STEP?