Approval Seeking or Authentic Living?

(I started the first draft of this post on 4/18/18…since then I think Kanye may have taken a dark turn on his twitter…I will, however, stop time on April 18th for the purpose of this post, so if you will, bear with me and/or ignore any of his other cray shizz.)

N’er (I learned from my youngest this is acceptable in iambic pentameter) did I think I would reference Yeezy in my personal blog. I do, however, enjoy insightful reflection from unexpected sources. Hence, my Kanye tweet is the basis of today’s writing.

KWauthenticity

I spent many years of my life, most years in fact, seeking approval instead of authenticity.  I believed I had to act, speak, think and look certain ways in order to be worthy of love and acceptance. This is exhaustion defined. No peace. No present moment awareness. No true connection to self or others.

Authentic. Authenticity. These are words that apply to original works of art, famous family recipes. What does it mean in terms of a regular Joe trying to live a best life?

Well, Kanye purports authenticity over approval. And frankly, so do I. So let’s dissect:

In 2006, psychologists Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis defined authenticity as “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise.” The four components of authenticity contain the following:

  1. Self-awareness: Knowledge and trust in your own motives, emotions, traits, strengths, weaknesses, desires, etc.
  2. Unbiased processing: Objectively evaluating any self-relevant information (such as your strengths and weakness) regardless of the source (internal or external).
  3. Behavior: Acting in a way congruent with your own values and needs regardless of the circumstances and not as a consequence of external goals.
  4. Revealing one’s self in close relationships: Being open and actively disclosing both the good and bad parts of one’s self to close others.

Trading authenticity for approval then, keeps one disconnected from their truest core self.  So how do we move from approval seeking to authentic living?

Authenticity requires self-knowledge and self-awareness. People who are truly authentic accept their strengths and weaknesses and are accountable for their actions. Their actions and values are consistent with one another.

I used to think that my imperfections and fears were to be hidden from all. If I removed the mask and let people see the real me, rejection and judgement would accompany the revelation of my truest self. While hiding my truth, I also minimized my strengths by devaluing myself and my attributes. I erroneously believed that my contributions and presence were not noted, needed nor valued.

Understanding exactly what it is that YOU value is a major step toward living authentically.  If you are unclear about what you value and desire, it’s almost impossible to live authentically. This was an ah-ha moment for me.  At one of my lowest points over the last year, I literally sat with a clean slate – a blank piece of paper and drew/wrote what was important to me in order to become clear on my values so I could begin living authentically.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Value #1: Prioritizing my family- I could go into a shame spiral here but I will stop myself…I spent some years pushing my extended family (anyone outside my nucleus of 5) away from me in lieu of approval seeking behavior for those living in closest proximity to me (neighbors, kid’s school friends, endless activities that I thought I “should” do for acceptance, etc). I also wanted to keep my private pain away from my family.  I fancied myself as the familial caretaker, not the one who needed care. I was more comfortable in focusing on other’s problems than taking a hard look at myself. That felt too scary and vulnerable.

In clarifying my value system, I found that my “love tank” was filled up by my children, husband, sister, mother, step father, mother in law, sister/brothers in law, nieces and nephews. I had devalued my importance in these familial roles as well as their importance in my life. These family members love(d) me unconditionally, as I did them, and it was time for me to start acting in accordance with their high value in my life. And as I should have known all along, once I let them in on the challenges of my inner world, they were supporting, loving, and giving me lifelines.

  • Value #2: Connection & Compassion– I started believing and acting as if interactions I had with people were divinely inspired. That sounds crazy but it’s true. I would take a beat, a breath, each time I was one on one with someone. I wanted other people to feel that I truly cared about them in a shared heart/felt sense. I wanted them to feel safe to share their stories and for them to know they are truly cared for.  Taking a breath is also a grounding technique, which allows one to become fully present in the moment. Full presence creates a deepening connection between two people. Sharing my stories through this blog has brought me some of the most special interactions I have ever had in my life. These connections are absolutely sacred to me. They have have given me a clearer purpose, which is yet another step toward living authentically.

In therapy, I had a big fear that we returned to periodically – I was afraid that I didn’t have any real friendships and often asked how a women pushing 50 was going to find real friends. My perspective was that relationships are pretty cemented by age 50. My therapist told me repeatedly, and without wavering, that I will find my people and that my people will find me. And she was right. The more I started living in accordance with my value system, true relationships began forming and authentic friendships started to regrow. It truly was a “If you build it, they will come” time period.

This did not mean that I needed to shun existing relationships, only that I needed to release those that felt toxic. Living with connection and compassion as a driving value meant that it was time to heed my own advice: “If someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Until this revelation, I had been willing to disregard otherwise unacceptable behavior because I thought that was the only way for the friendship to exist. It’s important to understand that each time we do this, it chips away at our sense of wholeness, our sense of self.  No, no, no, sister-self. You are worthy of so much more. 

  • Value #3: Willingness to learn and grow– Throughout this period of intensive therapy, I became a sponge. I explored, read, wrote, critiqued myself, journaled and went on retreats. I asked myself about my greatest shortcomings and my biggest attributes. What scary parts of my life am I willing to look at and decipher? When did I feel the most content in my life? How did the accumulation of traumatic events shape my thought processes and behaviors? Am I willing to “GO THERE?” Luckily,  99% of the time I said yes, even if it was only for a few minutes or even seconds.

This value, the willingness to learn and grow, was one of the greatest revelations in understanding my depression, anxiety and PTSD. Instead of feeling like a freak show of excessive, uncomfortable feelings and reactions, the pieces of the puzzle started to make sense. With time and care, it became clear that it would have been WEIRDER if I didn’t have these feelings and reactions after what I had been through. Through the core value of willingness to learn and grow, I was able to slowly give myself love, compassion and understanding.  I can assure you, this took the edge off my daily living, both for myself and my house hold.

  • Value #4: Invoke the Spirit of My Matriarchs–  In contrast to the traditional definition of matriarchy,  which is “a social system in which females hold the primary power positions in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property at the specific exclusion of male,” I created my own meaning.  My personal definition of Matriarchal Spirit is derived from the combination of attributes from my grandmother Althea, my grandmother Meta, my mother in law, Carol, and my mother, Annette.

While they passed away early in my adulthood, I have begun to revere the traits of my grandmothers and better understand their important influence in my life. My grandmother, Althea, my mom’s mom, was tall in stature, strong in physical presence and sometimes intimidating. She taught me to paint, took care of my itchy eczema when my parents were away, gave me a white bunny fur coat and muff (my most prized childhood possessions), was strong willed and a hard worker. She argued her points with my Pop-pop, which my husband can surely relate to. In contrast to my parents who, shockingly, never argued, I saw a woman who stood up for herself and her beliefs.

My grandmother, Meta, was a soft, smiling, laughing, bear-huggable soul. I would do anything to have had more time with her, yet I see/feel a lot of her in me.  When I force my hug-resistance nieces and sister to bear hug me, I feel as if I am invoking her matriarchal spirit. I think my silliness and quirkiness come from Grandmom Meta. When I picture her, I see her at her kitchen sink, laughing and smiling while she made snacks for my sister and I to eat under her massive Willow Tree. Her spirit was contagious and my soul smiles when I think of her. I hope to be that for someone one day.

My mother in law, Carol.  If you have seen her you know – beautiful inside and out. I think of her as an energizer bunny. She literally can run circles around me. But deeper than just being a “do-er” is the love for her family, her children, grandchildren and luckily for me, her daughter-in-law. She’s the person who provides help before the question is finished being asked, often without being asked.  There is never an expectation of something in return. She just gives. Let me be that willing.

Last but not least, my mother. Oh boy, my mother. Has she ever had her burdens to bear. And not just her own. She’s had to shoulder the burdens of others as well. She is unequivocally self-less, the most self-less person I’ve ever met.  She has shown my sister and I the meaning of faith and love, even when we have been prickly and not so easy to hold onto. In the face of adversity, she has been steadfastly strong, always knowing she is a child of one loving God. Always knowing she would be okay whatever comes her way, because of her faith. She is an incredible friend and deeply compassionate to everyone. She’s never met a stranger. I wish to live with a few ounces of my mother’s selfless steadfastness.

For me, Invoking the Spirit of my Matriarchs, is a melding the strengths of these women into my core values. I seek to be a woman that my children, husband, family and friends love in the same way that I love my female role models. .

So those are my Core Four Values: Prioritizing family; Connection & Compassion; Willingness to Learn & Grow; and Invoking the Spirit of My Matriarchs.  These four guide me down the path of authenticity and away from approval seeking behaviors.

Your Core Four will most likely be different than mine. Excavating your personal values will lead you towards the path of authenticity, and will hopefully guide you to the lifelong freedom of authentic living.

Thanks for the thoughts, Crazy Kanye.

Rise

This post is for those of us who may have wanted to do something differently this weekend and are perhaps feeling some regret; maybe wanting to take back certain words or change some actions. It’s for those who feel they have let themselves or others down. For those who strive to be a positive example to their children, friends and families, but may have been tripped up by personal struggles. And for those who have been challenged by their physical or mental health.

We will Rise Up. A thousand times again.

This is for the thousands of students who Rose Up to their feet, who walked it out, in the March for Their Lives. You will move mountains.

In spite of the ache, we will Rise Up again, today and everyday.

“Just like moons and like suns

with the certainty of tides. Just like

hopes springing high,

Still I rise.” – Maya Angelou

I am with you. We are all connected. You are not alone.

Jane

Rise Up
You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round
And you can’t find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousands times again
For you
For you
For you
For you
When the silence isn’t quiet
And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
We’ll take it to its feet
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you
For you
For you
For you
All we need, all we need is hope
And for that we have each other
And for that we have each other
We will rise
We will rise
We’ll rise, oh oh
We’ll rise
I’ll rise up
Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousands times again
And we’ll rise up
Rise like the waves
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up
And we’ll do it a thousands times again
For you oh oh oh oh oh
For you oh oh oh oh oh
For you oh oh oh oh oh
For you
Songwriters: Cassandra Monique Batie / Jennifer Decilveo
Rise Up lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Butterfly Kisses

I can’t remember exactly what chain of events lead me to the book E-Squared by Pam Grout in my early days of self discovery.  Whenever I sat down to read or write, it was a completely organic process. One word or phrase would lead me to another, and before I knew it, my Amazon Prime account was activated yet again.

I credit E-Squared with kicking off my next phase of higher education. The subtitle of E-Squared is “9 Do It Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.” The theory is that each of us can affect an invisible energy source with our thoughts and actions. Revolutionary. At least to me.

Esqauredbook

The idea behind the book is that in conducting the nine fairly simple experiments the reader would have proof in the existence of this higher energy field and how thoughts and actions effect the results. Pam Grout calls this energy the FP or Field of Potentiality.

Experiment #2: The Volkswagen Jetta Principle: You Impact the Field and Draw from it According to Your Beliefs and Expectations, rocked my world.  At the end of each experiment there is is a “lab report” where the the principle and theory are explained and the reader documents his or her approach, application and result of the theory. Each experiment has a defined time limit to produce the result. For #2, I had 48 hours.

The theory of this experiment is that you impact the field of potentiality and draw from it according to your beliefs and expectations. The question to answer is, “Do I really expect to see what I want to see?” Pam’s direction was to see an unusual color of color of cars (specifically sunset beige) and butterflies. I read through the experiment and documented the time: 12:19 am.

I made notes in the lab report and affirmed that I would see butterflies and sunset beige cars in the next 48 hours. I went to sleep repeating these thoughts in my mind. Not, “I HOPE I will see…” but “I WILL see…” apparently there is a very different energy to those two statements. HOPE insinuates lack or scarcity, while WILL is an affirmation of what already is. In order to draw towards you what you want, it was important to be operating only in this positive space, or vibration.

I fell asleep late and was awoken the next morning by my youngest daughter. She jumped on my bed and laid right on top of me. “Wake up, Mommy! Wake up! I’m going to give you BUTTERFLY KISSES to wake you up!” Butterfly. Kisses.  She said it over and over as her soft eyelashes brushed against my eyes.

I was so blown away by this example of the FP that I actually wrote and shared it with Pam Grout. I was also shocked when she wrote me back and asked if she could share the story in one of her next books.

E-Squared introduced me to a new realm I had been completely unfamiliar with until then. The more experiments I performed, the more the results solidified my belief in this universal energy. Pam’s book lead me to study more about the Law of Attraction and the work of Abraham-Hicks, among others.

As exciting and profound as this new-to-me energy source was, I get a pang of discomfort when I read through my notebooks at the time.  After a couple months of writing, I can see a sense of frustration setting in.  A sense of “I’m not happy enough, vibrating highly enough, just not good enough” to draw to me those things that I thought I wanted. The initial excitement of the experiments had worn off and old anxieties started creeping back into my life.

I didn’t know then what I know now: I needed a softer side of manifesting. I really didn’t want things. I wanted deep healing of the hollow in my heart. Finding 3 dimes on my walk through the neighborhood wasn’t quite going to fulfill that longing. Universal energy, I learned, was an essential piece of the puzzle towards healing, but not the whole enchilada.

Desperately Seeking…Self?

While this won’t necessarily always be a linear story, I want to address how the Badass article further launched my inner curiosities. I had never been a free-thinking, curious child. Growing up, my sister and I were taught that the world operated in one fundamentalist Christian fashion, no questions asked. For most of my life, it never occurred to me to veer from that narrative.

I envied women who questioned authority and challenged norms, even though I was simultaneously perplexed by them. Where did this source of strength come from, to show up and be seen?

From an early age, safety for me was only felt in hiding behind my mother, in her pant leg or skirt. Over the years, the hiding evolved from my mother’s pants leg to the chamelon-esque persona I embodied.  Essentially, I didn’t want to be seen and I didn’t feel safe in the world.

I had spent my late 20’s and 30’s as a dutiful wife and mother while climbing the ladder of traditional success. Beautiful home and family, yet there was also an ongoing emptiness. For many years, I looked the part of societal perfection, but along with my emptiness came the gnawing need for more. Something greater than myself and greater than what I could see with my own eyes. I longed for more, whatever that more was.

The traditional fire and brimstone Christianity I had been raised with no longer filled my soul. I believed God to be a loving God. I wasn’t looking to replace Jesus. Or God. But I was seeking an inner peace and fulfillment that wasn’t being met within the constraints of my religious upbringing.

“Badass” posed existential inquiry, which I had never before attempted.  “Let yourself be seen…deep inside where you feel your breath, that is where you will find yourself.” Some more curiosity triggers from the article:

  • maintain the faith that an energy greater than you has your back
  • fear is the language of the ego that leads you away from where you want to go
  • forget your imperfections
  • what do you need in this moment – let it out, accept yourself & LET OTHERS IN
  • acceptance, forgiveness, letting go
  • every moment is fleeting – do not cling
  • love, care and compassion allow you to operate at an optimal state

Early stages of studying the concepts contained within the article, helped me realize that fear had kept me contracted and closed off from my highest, truest self, my soul. Fear had also disconnected me from others by not allowing them to see my authentic self.

My inner and outer worlds were completely misaligned. No wonder the struggle.was.so.real.  The two selves battled each other every day, which was contributing to my general state of anxiety and discontent.

“Badass” launched me into the study of meditation, mindfulness, gratitude practice, the law of attraction, higher power and energy work. Some kind of next level shizz.  These new-age buzzwords can turn some people off immediately, but it was unexpectedly working for me and I was all in. The article lead to books, websites, more articles and more books. With each inquiry, I recorded my thoughts and feelings and slowly began to put theories into action.

A picture of my inner self was becoming clearer. The practices were making me feel grounded and in closer touch with my higher self, which allowed me to feel safe enough to start to reaching out to others.  I was tightening the Spiritus Link by feeding my hungry soul. I was even beginning to like a little of what I saw on the inside.

That is until the “T word” confronted me. Trauma. I wanted to be living in this happy, higher plane that I had discovered, which at times felt almost euphoric. But Trauma wouldn’t let me stay there too long. Trauma kept pulling at my pants leg.

Top Ten Lists

Five years ago (2013) I came across an article on the wholistic living website, Mind Body Green, that changed my life because it caused me to examine how I looked at the world, the way I lived in the world and how I understood myself. The article took up residence in my psyche and planted a seed that snowballed into years of reading, research and intensive therapy.  Sometimes the message was in the forefront of my brain affecting all of my decisions. At other times, it was deeper and harder to access but it never was far from my consciousness. The truth of that article resonated so deeply within me that I knew my life’s work was somehow centered around the information contained within the 500+- word post. I had no idea how,or what my “life’s work” looked like, only that the content activated within me a need to know and understand more of the topic.

I was drawn to the article because of the title, “10 Ways to Become Your Most Badass Self.” Who couldn’t use more bad-assness in their life?? Immediately I was sucked in, as a good title should do. At the time, I was feeling anything other than badass; more like fearful, anxious, lonely, disconnected, unworthy and borderline depressed.

Just like any “Top 10 Tips to X, Y, Z,” article, the headline conveyed that it had the answer – all the answers. A few tweaks here or there and I’d be “fixed.” Fine-tuned, Bad-ass-Jane, at your service! Super-sized, please! I’m in.

But, alas, the information that followed the headline was much deeper than any 10 step, quick fix program. Damn it. Sold me a bill a goods.

What I wanted:

  1. Wake Up at 7:30 am.
  2. Do 20 sit ups.
  3. Walk a mile.
  4. Make a to-do list.
  5. Less Netflix.
  6. More healthy foods.
  7. Go to bed by 11 pm.
  8. 9. 10. More of the same: clear cut, unambiguous steps.

What I read:

To become our most badass, we must live the most authentic version of ourselves in order to transcend states of anxiety, stress, fear, loneliness or unhappiness. W-T-H. Then more: The balanced center between our inner and outer worlds is found in our Spiritus, which is Latin for spirit, breath, soul, courage, and vigor. When feeling sad, confused, uninspired, tighten the S-Link.  “Tear down the wall that fear built inside you which clogs your passageways to reach The Spiritus.” Spiritus, then, is the truest expression of who we are.

Balanced center of inner and outer worlds. Balanced center of inner and outer worlds. The phrase repeated over and over in my brain. What does that mean? What does that look like for me? Where are my easy and actionable 10 steps!? Instead, this seemingly rag-mag style headline asked me to:

  1. Figure out who I am.
  2. Go slow and steady.
  3. Trust my path.
  4. Be fearless.
  5. Tell my truth.
  6. Move and sweat (finally, a step I understood!)
  7. Look with love.
  8. Practice patience.
  9. Remain in the moment.
  10. Practice gratitude.

Item number one threw me. The writer suggested I “peel back the layers and let yourself be seen…Behind the body, behind the spiral of your overactive mind, deep inside where you feel your breath, that is where you will find yourself.”

I realized for the first time, I truly had no idea what an authentic version of myself looked or felt like. I had lived as a chameleon, changing myself to match whatever was presented to me externally.  For 40+ years, I allowed the outside world to dictate who I was and how I felt about myself. Faced with this reality, it was no wonder I felt like I was spinning out of control, drowning, and miserable.

These daunting 10 steps were not what I was looking for when I pulled up the article, they were, however, exactly what I needed.

This is my story of a deep, deep dive into the truth of my life story; excavating all the way down to my most authentic self and finding worthiness. Finding a woman who has value in all her cracks and flaws. Finding a woman who loves to love and loves to laugh. Finding a woman who forgives. And finally finding FREEDOM through the balanced center of my inner and outer worlds.

*******

Inside the cover of my first major writing notebook – 9/23/13. Drawing and doodling concepts I read helped me process the information.

dipictionofspiritus

First page of notes – 9/28/13. Top line references the article referred to in post above.

first spiritus link notes