Originally posted June 2018
Growing up, we are taught not to make waves. Think back, picturing your kindergarten and early elementary years. Going to school, there was a system. The teachers were given a curriculum and they had to follow it. There was a system for everything. The teachers were given the task of teaching. There was not a lot of room for creativity in a class of 20-30 kids. I commend all teachers for their dedication and ability to create a space for learning. I can appreciate how challenging it is to work within a system that doesn’t work for every child. I learn differently. My mind works in a way that made sitting and learning in a classroom a jail for me. The experience left lasting scars. For me, the experience of learning was like boot camp. My memories are of being punished for speaking out of turn; Punished for thinking differently; Punished for my personality; Punished for laughing.
I heard the teacher saying “Ok class, sit still like good boys and girls and pay attention.” I felt I was trained to sit silently, listen and only speak when spoken to. I felt trained to repeat what I was told. I felt like I was discouraged from thinking for myself and forced to follow a system of conformity. Be good and do what I say or else! Or else what? Or else you will be punished! Punished for being me. That ‘or else’ landed me in a lot of trouble. First, I had to move my desk to the corner, then into the hall, then the principal’s office, and eventually I ended up in a ‘gifted’ program. After a while, I just stopped trying. I feel like I gave up on myself. I felt so misunderstood that I just stopped showing up. I would get lost in my mind and not be present. I became a robot that went through the motions to get through as quickly as possible. I am still uncovering the damage it did to my psyche. I am releasing myself from the bondage of all the lies and the people pleasing behavior. It’s deep and it’s painful.
I turned into a huge people pleaser. My actions were guided by what was expected of me. I was terrified of disappointing anyone. I was fearful of being seen. If you can’t see me, you can’t judge me or punish me. I attempted to blend in and not be noticed. I walked through life anticipating other’s needs, or what would make someone else happy. I put their happiness and wellbeing before my own. I mastered blending in and giving people what they wanted. I mastered putting everyone else first. I did what I ‘thought’ I ‘should’ do. I had no identity, no actual ability to process a sense of my true myself. I did as I was told, even if it didn’t resonate with me. I surrendered to a system and did my best to adhere to the ‘rules’. I dated people I thought would make my parents happy. I surrounded myself with people. People that I gave my power to by believing their opinion of me was more valuable than my own. I listened to what everyone else said. I was so scared of rejection, failure, or creating a scene that is sometimes paralyzed me. I did all this because I wanted to be liked! I wanted to fit in. Liked by who? People that don’t care about me, because I didn’t care about myself! How could I? I had no sense of self. I got to the point that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I was so lost that I chose to escape through drugs and alcohol. I self-destructed for years to the point that I even attempted suicide. It’s insane!!!
This is crazy behavior, yet I know I am not alone. I have worked with many people who are afraid to say what they really want. They don’t use their voice for fear of ‘upsetting’ someone. I see them self-sacrifice. I see the pattern I lived, of sacrificing happiness, freedom, and identity out of fear. And does this really make someone love us? NO. It actually creates even more pain and suffering, not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us.
When not equipped with the proper tools and outlets, emotions get suppressed. Suppression leads to feeling powerless. Our powerlessness quickly turns inward and builds resentment. Resentment lead to passive/aggressive behavior. The emotions get trapped inside us. The only way to release the buildup of pressure is to release it. If we do not find a healthy way to release it, it will emerge in unhealthy ways. It will be an explosion of anger or rage. If we have mastered suppression, it will first arise as tension, anxiety, and later to dis-ease. It’s important to our health that we honor ourselves and speak our truth.
I will give a really clear example of this behavior that I experienced during my internship with Susun Weed. Susun is one of my guides, an amazing shaman, and the woman from whom I learn the most. Susun opens her home to women who choose to face their shadow. She provides a safe place to uncover our deepest truths. I lived with Susun in 2015 and completed a shamanic herbal apprenticeship. Because of the experience and all I gained, I returned to go to the next level. I came back as an intern. As an intern, my role is much different. I have more responsibility and am expected to set an example for the apprentices. My role is to be of service. I am responsible for everything. I showed up I wanting to ‘make her happy’. I wanted her to ‘like’ me. I wanted her to ‘accept’ me. I wanted her to ‘love’ me. I wanted her to see how much I have grown since my apprenticeship two and a half years ago. I wanted her to be ‘proud’ of me. Are you noticing all the ‘I want’ statements? I showed up, with a commitment to be of service!
So, when Susun asked me to pick salad, my heart skipped a beat. One of the things I liked the least when I was apprenticing was picking salad. I never told Susun how much I disliked it. I avoided it as much as possible and then just did it when my normal tactics couldn’t get me out of it. Now I am in the same situation again, only this time it’s worse, I am the example. I chose not to be honest. I chose not to tell Susun my truth. Instead, I swallowed and suppressed the anxiety I had, creating a knot in my stomach. I told myself, ‘You are doing this, because it makes Susun happy. Susun loves salad, you don’t want to upset her.’ I sucked it up and picked salad. When I served the salad at dinner, I would get reprimanded. Why? Because I would screw something up. I was so distracted by my resentment, that I wasn’t paying attention to what I was actually doing. When picking wild greens, detail to what we are doing is essential.
After about a week of destroying everyone’s dinner with my lies, I finally chose to be honest. It was liberating. I moved through my ‘fear of disappointing Susun’ and I spoke my truth.
I told Susun, “I hate being in charge of salad. I hate picking salad. The lie I told myself is that I am doing it for you. I see that I am not doing anything for you. My lie is actually making dinner miserable for everyone. Instead of you being able to enjoy your salad, I am forcing you to teach me. Not only am I ruining it for you, I am ruining it for everyone who is being forced to witness the result of my lie.”
Susun smiled and replied, “Ok, I will not put you in charge of salad this weekend.” It was that easy.
All I had to do was be honest, not just with Susun, but myself! My lies were creating pain and suffering for everyone. The magical part is the clarity that came next. After my anxiety left and I released myself from the pressure I had put on myself, I discovered that I actually don’t ‘hate’ picking salad at all. I actually ‘feared’ picking salad. Susun had pointed out that I pick slowly and the ratio to work vs intake would not be sustainable. If I were feeding my family or community, they would die at the rate I was going. Susun was teaching me, however the story I made up was, I hate picking salad. Why? I felt like I wasn’t good enough! I was intimidated by the experience. I wasn’t always clear on which plant was which. I mixed up the botanical names. I made beginner mistakes that all herbalists make. I was a student learning a new language essentially. So instead of stepping up and doing it every day to improve, I made up a story. I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t do it well and that I hate failing. I wanted to be the best and I wasn’t. I would rather not do it than not be good enough. My fear of thinking I was failing was robbing me of mastering a new skill.
Looking at my lies makes me laugh. Think about it…. I am living with an herbalist, who allowed me into her home to live and learn. I chose Susun because of my experience as an apprentice. I chose her because I trust her 100%. I chose her because she creates space for failure and learning. I chose her because I value the honesty and the way she teaches. I chose her, because no matter what I think, she always knows what is happening. She can be mid-sentence teaching, pause, point out the poison ivy I am heading for, makes sure I am safe, and then pick up where she left off without missing a beat. My safety and making sure I was completely nourished always comes first. I have never felt safer and more nourished in my life than when I am here. I have also never cried as much. It’s a place designed to make mistakes. I know this and it’s why I returned. Yet, I still showed up with this insane fear. I created a story and expectation for myself that ‘I should’ know more or will be ‘judged’ for not being good enough. I wanted to be a ‘good student’ and not need help understanding. It’s a beautiful spiral as I continue to wind through my stories, uncovering the truth behind the words. I see the pain those lies have caused me. The deeper I go, the more I discover my truth. And the truth always sets us free.
Choosing to unmask our truth is an extremely vulnerable self-discovery process. It’s hard to own the lies. It’s even harder to see how they shaped our life. Learning how much suffering is caused by behavior believed to be protecting us is a heart wrenching experience. It is also completely liberating. The truth relieves tension, headaches, anxiety, depression, and many other symptoms. It’s amazing how much we hold in the body. More benefits include clear thinking, laughter, and joy. It’s amazing how creative and productive one can be when the mind is free.
I have had the privilege of witnessing others expose their lies, discover their truths and set themselves free! The bonds formed doing this work are sacred. Thank you to those who have trusted me to hold that space. I am honored and could not do my work without your willingness to do yours. I appreciate all who show up and open up.
Here are examples of what I see to be the most common lies… Followed by our TRUTHS.
I did it for you.
Translation: I did it to please you. I did it because I want you to like me.
I am doing this because I love you.
Translation: I am doing this because I want you to love me.
I did it because I care.
Translation: I did it because I want you to care.
I am not good enough.
Translation: I’m scared you won’t think I’m good enough.
I’m scared of failing.
Translation: I’m scared you won’t like me if I fail.
I can’t do what I want.
Translation: I’m scared that if I do what I want, you will be mad at me.
Whatever you want.
Translation: Scared of telling you what I want, for fear that you will take your love away.
I would do anything for you, I love you.
Translation: I am desperate to be seen and heard. I don’t love myself at all and need you to love me. HELP!
We are so trained to put others first. Worry about what “they” may think. Who are “they” anyway? It’s amazing to know longer be “the good girl” or “the people pleaser”. The more I use my voice and honor myself, the more respect I gain. I have learned that I would rather you hate me for my honesty than love me for my lies. As long as I act from a place of love, respect and honor for all, opinions of me are really none of my business. I have to live with me. I have to be able to sleep at night. I am responsible for me, my actions, and loving myself. That’s it.
The more I love myself, the more love I receive.
We teach others how to treat us by:
How we treat ourselves.
What we accept.
What we allow.
My example was of something as simple of making a salad. It’s amazing how I allowed something so simple to impact my life to the degree I can write about it. It shows the depth that emotional programming runs and how it unconsciously effects our daily choices.
I would love to hear from you. Is there a part of you that you fear showing the world?
What do you fear?
Are you willing to own your truth?
Do you even know what your truth is?
Please comment and share. Please feel free to ask me questions. If any part of my journey can help others, I am open to exploring and answering anything. I appreciate your feedback.
If you would like help, working through some of what comes up, please schedule an appointment. I would love working with you to discover your deepest truth.