Once you answer all of the questions from the previous blogposts, and start to realize that you have more work to do than you thought (and don’t worry, I’ll give you some suggestions at the end on how and where to get that help!), it’s time to turn the focus outward. You’ve already done the inner, hard work. Now, you get to share the love with others. I mean, what good is making those internal changes, improvements, and discoveries if you can’t share with everyone else. After all, “sharing is caring!”
This leads to our next letter, O. O is for a level of openness, or as I like to term it, “we-ness.” We-ness is about a connection with others. As we all know, we are not islands all living separately and distinctly from each other. We all depend on other people to provide at least one thing to and for us. Whether it’s our clothing, our food, our medication, our paychecks, we all rely on someone else. Even if you’re reading this completely off the grid right now, you still had to rely on; a) me to write this book so you could even gain access to it; b) some means of getting the book, whether through a vendor in person, online, or your local library; c) the means to get paid by someone to then purchase the book; and d) your mom to give birth to you so you could be here actually able to read this book (and not including those who taught you to read!)… I think you get the point. Though we sometimes would like to be as detached and far removed from others, we are all interrelated and thus interdependent. We truly do not exist in a vacuum, though I’m sure there are those of you out there who wish that was or could be the case!
So why do I say all this? It’s because we all rely on each other for our sustainment, our life. In the Buddhist tradition, they talk a lot about how we all are “inter-are;” that we as people are connected with each other and are connected with the earth and nature, and none of us could exist without the other. We’ve taken a dive internally. Now it’s time to spread that new found awareness and knowledge.
I learned about the importance of sharing my story and being vulnerable when attending a seminar that discussed the fact that our stories are the only things that connect us and keep us alive. It was with this recognition that I began to write my first book, From Mourning To Knight: Overcoming Loss. You see, I didn’t start to write any of it as a book or as something that would become public. It was truthfully just supposed to be a journal, an extended diary entry, a personal memoir that I would forever keep to myself. But the more I spoke about the simple idea of having a manuscript of a book to others, the more they encouraged me to publish this book. Without telling others and thus making myself accountable for this action, I would not have a book still. It would be sitting on my computer as a word document, waiting to be discovered long after I pass away. And truth be told, at some point, that was my hope – that I could avoid the hard work of actually publishing the book and that someone one day would magically find it on my computer and thus complete the job that I started. What a cop out! Good thing that was not the case!
I was initially worried about how people would respond to the book. I mean, it was about the personal losses I have experienced, some of which others I knew definitely wouldn’t be able to relate to. But with their encouragement and positive words, I found a publishing company that was willing and able to help me put this bad boy in motion. And despite that feeling of dread, of “what did I just do??” when I finally hit submit on my manuscript, there was no taking it back at that point. I couldn’t get a refund on the money I had spent or stop them dead in their tracks in the publishing process. It was scary. And vulnerable. All of those things that far too often keep people locked within their own personal prisons; keep them slaves to their own emotional states, especially fear of how they will be seen and judged by others. Somehow I knew and realized that it was much bigger than me, and that, much like in my work as a psychologist, if I could help one person with my messages of hope and forgiveness, then it would be well worth it.
You have something to say. We all have something to say. Sometimes we just don’t have the means to do so, the courage to do so, or the support to do so. But many times, people find that once they are able to get those things off of their chest, not only does it feel as though a weight was lifted off of their shoulders, but that in some way, whether precisely or similarly, that other person can relate to what they’re going through. And by sharing, by opening up, by being vulnerable, they now have opened the door for the receiver of that information to be free and open with themselves. It creates a ripple effect…”single seeds only grow the trees,” as Oddisee (in my opinion, one of the most thought-provoking and prolific musicians out there) once said. It’s time to start sowing those seeds – the seeds of hope, of vulnerability, and growth.
It makes me think of one of the most popular TED talks out there, or more precisely one of the most watched. It is by Brene Brown, who also happens to be the author of Daring Greatly. I was turned on to Brene Brown from a friend of mine with whom I was having a conversation one day. We were discussing the power of being open, honest, and vulnerable. She stated that I would love this book, and so trusting her word, I immediately downloaded it and read it. Probably within 2 days. It was intriguing, fascinating, and I could relate to everything she was saying on so many levels. Her work has taken her on a journey to discover what vulnerability is about, and this book is the product of that work. She discusses the differences between a shame culture and one where you are lifted up when opening yourself up. It really is a powerful testament to putting yourself in a position you may otherwise not have due to fear of rejection, shame, embarrassment, and the like.
Do yourself a favor and put yourself in a vulnerable position. Practice it. As with all things, practice makes permanent. The more you practice, it’s not that it becomes perfect (as all things in each moment are perfect exactly as they are); rather, it makes it a permanent way of life and of being for you. So I encourage you to choose a moment today to be vulnerable and open to sharing a part of yourself with someone else that you otherwise would have kept to yourself. Now, keep in mind to not be what my friend once dubbed “an oversharer.” You don’t want to just walk up to someone and begin to spill your guts about your life in its entirety. People don’t want that, and that is not the aim of this. Rather, it’s about connecting with someone on a level where you will know when you’re holding back and when it’s time to simply let them into a part of yourself that you otherwise would have closed off. You would have closed that part off for numerous reasons, including fear of being judged, fear of being embarrassed by what that person thinks about what you say, or fear of being rejected by that person in one way or another. Courage is really about fighting through that fear, or doing something despite that fear. It is not about getting rid of fear. That’s impossible and defeats the purpose of being a human being with a full range of feelings.
Try it and see how you feel. Notice how you fought through those tough feelings to reveal something you otherwise would have kept hidden. Do you feel liberated, as though a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders or chest? Notice the self-criticism you may now have, doubting whether or not you should have said those things. That’s just your internal gremlin giving you a hard time because you went against what you normally do. Don’t pay much attention to him. His job has been to protect you from further hurt, but that is not needed in every situation. Acknowledge and show him appreciation, while also acknowledging the part of you that did something out of your comfort zone. Guess what? You survived! You lived to tell about it! Did that person you opened up to respond the way you thought? Differently? Regardless of how they received the information, the point is that you shared. Pat yourself on the back.
You may have even noticed that that person was in that moment ready and willing to share a part of themselves that they had kept hidden, internal. Just by virtue of you opening up, you allowed them a space to do the same, resulting in not one, but two people who are now a little freer, a little lighter. Congratulations! The world is instantly a better place because two people no longer have to carry around the burden of shame as heavily as they, as you, once did. As we are all inter-connected, you have now created a different world and energy within our world that will reverberate onward in a positive direction. Thank you for doing that. I am grateful for you doing that for yourself and others around you. For the greater good and at the highest level of what is intended for you.