Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
Years ago while in leadership training, I had a phone conversation with a person who called me out. “Laura, you realize you interrupt people when they are talking. I know this might be uncomfortable to hear.”
My cheeks turned crimson. My heart pounded. My toes curled. I remember stammering and feeling a surge of defensiveness rise up inside my throat forming words I knew I couldn’t take back once spoken. I took some gulping breaths before I meekly asked, “Really?” in a squeaky little girl’s voice.
“Yes. You do.”
“Ok. I’ll take a look at that.”
I began to pay attention. I interrupted people. I noticed it didn’t matter who, what, where, or why. I 100 percent did this behavior. And here’s the thing, I saw myself as a good listener because many people shared open-hearted stories often beginning with “I have not told anyone else this…” I vividly remembered their stories.
I uncomfortably owned the tension of two seemingly conflicting realities. Yes, people shared stories and I remembered the details and I interrupted people. Words often formed in my head like hot potatoes needing immediate release by way of exiting my mouth.
Becoming aware of behavior blind spots can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if perfection or pretending to be perfect happens to be your jam.
Until these experiences of requesting honest feedback, I had been perfecting my impersonations of being a really good person in every possible way. Half of my life I spent sprinting from poisonous words significant people used to describe me. During this time I felt my life depended on being the absolute opposite, at least on the outside, in my demeanor and behaviors. I carried ugly shamefear that I fiercely attempted to hide from myself and unsuccessfully hid from others.
The ability to become a witness to my worst behaviors became a different mission, one that awakened me to a lasting humility. The depths of my dark places became the rich, fertile soil for my most profound transformations.
One of the toughest, yet life-changing feedback moments regarding my behavior blind spots arrived when I was a full-time parent of our two small children. My then-husband let me know that my anger episodes scared him and terrified our children. I flared with immediate defensiveness. “Well, they must learn what anger looks like!” Yet, as I reflected on his feedback, I realized that only cowards or hurting, emotionally immature, previously wounded, and exhausted people lose themselves inside rage storms in front of small children.
My body contained unresolved traumas that my mind, no matter how many affirmations I spoke out loud or chanted internally to myself, could ever overcome. Terrified living permeated the nooks and crannies, the in-between, the inside, the outsides of my life. I had utterly failed to contain terror’s viral nature. This blind, not blind way of living had been called out in love and light. My then-husband had been bravely honest.
As one wise healthcare professional stated, “Laura, trauma lives in the entire body, in the nervous system, in your heart, body memories. You must go to the body to resolve it. Shocks to the human nervous system-whole body-won’t ever get resolved in the mind’s melodrama or even conscious mental affirmation practice.”
I realized the truth of this as I could brilliantly describe my anger episodes with words and even imagine myself as a hot-headed cartoon character. Yet, at that juncture, I had no capacity to interrupt, let alone end my emotional meltdowns. I committed to no longer being someone who terrified her own children and lived petrified of being abused. The rage covered my fear, which masked and often suffocated my ability to be loving, to respond with patience, kindness, or clear, dignified boundaries. This became a life-altering all of it moment. Rarely do blind-spot reveals binary. These sacred moments often show themselves as complicated, multi-dimensional-heart, mind, body, soul- experiences.
I continue to engage in lifelong practices of pausing before speaking, of movement, and meditation that quiets my mind and allows me to access an Inner Quiet Charlotte Witness Self. Personal growth allows me to become a person with whom I’d enjoy spending time. I’m healthier than I used to be. I’m more self-aware and wiser than I used to be. I live human and humane.
What have you been learning about yourself?
Shamefear can have a powerful grip on your ability to tell the truth about yourself, to look in the mirror, and own your less than flattering behaviors or unworkable emotional dynamics.
Many people probably would rather have a year-long public speaking tour than pierce through their blind spots to reveal the raw, real truths to themselves and other trusted people.
To face your worst moments as a human being in word and deed means coming to grips with your humanity, that you are no worse or better than any human being that walks the planet. Staring at your humanity-that you most likely have experienced a loneliness, a rejection, a betrayal, and/or abandonment that takes your breath away in its fierce pain and that you have rejected, betrayed, and abandoned yourself and other people in small, medium, or large ways in word and/or deed becomes an incredibly brave witnessing of your life without makeup, gloves, sunglasses, deflector shield, or photoshopping.
Experiencing the emotional pain of remorse and the full impact your behaviors and words have had on other people becomes an opening to new, healthy practices, thoughtful responses aligned with your deepest values, and even greater courage to heal. You can become the midwife of your own internal transformations that can inspire other individuals on their path. The soul and joy liberation becomes worth every moment of discomfort. You see that you are not alone and that you have come home to your awareness. You can become someone who humbly and bravely lives humane and compassionate with yourself and other people.
The depths of your pain reveal your humanity and touch the depths of other people’s pain and humanity. Your ability to rise strong in love, with love, to choose new ways allows other people to see that this can be possible for them. Life becomes about integration, wholeness, a multi-dimensional, diverse experience of being alive, and an ever-expanding capacity to see through eyes of love.