I spent July 4th rereading old journals. I can guess what you might be thinking: "Omg! I'm so jealous of Colleen's amazingly exciting life filled with such incredible adventures!" All I can say is, yes, it is amazing and just keep doing the work- you'll get there. But I digress.
There's nothing like reading teen/young adult angst to drop you face to face with your old stories! It's fascinating to see the connection between these old stories and the places you find yourself in the present moment. For example, an old story of mine is that I wasn't deserving of deep, soulful love, that I was damaged, broken, only good for a casual encounter or a brief bit of fun. So I was constantly searching for it, for love and affection, attention... someone that wanted more than just the physical encounter. Because I thought if I could find that, well then I would be fulfilled and happy and all would be right with the world. This story played out in a first marriage that I knew was never going to work for me, but couldn't admit to myself. You can guess how that story ended. (Yeah, divorce.)
Another past story of mine has to do with authority figures- people in our lives who are automatically granted authority in our culture: parents, teachers, politicians, etc. As a kid, it's normal to look to these people as a source of guidance in the ways of the world. Growing up, I was incredibly trusting of authority figures while at the same time having a strong rebellious streak. I questioned the rules, both written and unwritten. I saw the world differently. I wanted to live a free life, free from societal constraints and traditions. I wanted to make my own way in the world. I felt like a black sheep. From the outside, I probably seemed perfectly comfortable in this "bucking the system" role, but on the inside? Shame. Fear. Doubt.
Because it was clear that I was being seen as difficult, crazy, wild, naive. And those well-meaning authority figures were often criticizing my choices, thoughts, feelings, and values. I would talk tough and seemingly brush it off, but that disapproval cut me to my core. Because as insubordinate as I was, I was also a young woman brought up in a people-pleaser culture. (I'm also a 9 on the Enneagram... peace-keeper to the max.) I was wanting to live my life by my rules, but I felt a deep shame about wanting it, let alone doing it. And? This led my younger self down the path of suppressing my own wants and desires in order to gain approval and feel like I fit in. Again, you might be able to guess how this ended. (Complete stereotypical identity crisis in my early 40s.)
What was I doing? I was internalizing all the disapproval and criticism, accepting it as truth. My internal critic voice, in its attempt to keep me safe and loved, went overboard. Self-hatred was the norm as was a deep inner shame. And the older I got, the louder the voice became, until eventually I was living a life that I never intended to live. Essentially, I was accepting criticism from the very people that I would never go to for advice.
As much as we Gen Xers and beyond reminisce about the good ole days before internet and social media, I have an immense appreciation for how much these tools have opened us up to the world. My daughter can connect with a youtuber, or an online friend worlds away. She hears different people, different ideas, different values and she can find a tribe to support her on her journey. She doesn't have to be limited by the authority figures in her everyday life. I think of the kind of difference this might have made in my life growing up and I'm actually a little jealous.
It's insane to unquestioningly accept judgment and disapproval from those who don't quite see the world the same way as you regardless of how well-meaning they may be. Instead listen intently, breathe in what they have to say, ask yourself if it resonates with you and then just sit and listen. Meditate. Hike. Swim. Something to quiet your mind and ego so that your inner child has a chance to speak. Then, if it's clear that the criticism doesn't fit? Let. It. Go.
Trust yourself. Love yourself. And breathe easy. You are the creator of your own life. Create the one you want. Because in the end, you are the only one you'll be answering to.
Jack & Colleen
our post-meditation realizations and early morning ramblings