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.

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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?