Who is your worst critic? No seriously, stop and think about it for a moment. Who is it that when they tell you you’re not good enough, you shrink just a little bit. Who says things keeping you in a mindset of shame about something, and you just want to cry? Who is it that seems to believe you just are not capable or deserving of the love of everyone around you? How does it feel to have someone like this in your life?
I know who my own worst critic is. It’s me and based on what I know about human nature I know there’s a really good chance your answer is the same. As humans, we have this beautiful gift of thought, of story telling, of being able to have morals, ethics, and differentiate between our sense of right or wrong. It’s this voice, this inner critic who I want to expose for the world to see as I know this critic will be exposed for the fraud he is. Simply put in almost every case … he’s full of crap!
Holding me back
I have learned a lot about vulnerability and shame recently. For a very long time I’ve held things in me, and through this have without knowing it built a great deal of shame towards them. They range in size from little concerns to life altering things. What’s consistent about all of them is how I’ve gone into a place of shame and made myself comfortable. I believed for a very long time, I was strong enough to hold so many things in my heart, and keep them deeply buried from even those I’m closest to. These were all things in the past so how on earth could they impact me today, right?
The truth is in holding on to these things I developed unseen patterns in myself. For example, not wanting Rosie (my wife) to know some things, meant I developed a behaviour of ‘protecting her’. I was afraid of the impact they could have in our relationship. This meant when other controversial things came along, I wouldn’t share them with her. In not sharing, it meant I would spend lots of time in my head churning on the topic debating what I can do about them, should I tell her, I’m strong enough to deal with this myself, and so much more.
The truth is in the name of trying to protect her, I was robbing both of us from the opportunity to be fully intimate with each other. The type of intimacy which has our hearts so fully connected there are no barriers. Intimacy where I know no matter what happens she has me and she knows I have her. Intimacy which has become so deep and alive that when we’re apart we cannot wait to be back in each other’s arms again. Intimacy I used to think only existed in fairy tales.
I am using the strength and warmth I find in my heart to work on healing myself. More importantly, I am also opening my heart to the healing power of those who love me. I don’t have to do this alone anymore. I’ve experienced what it truly means to lean into and trust another, and create something bigger than the two of us could do individually. To connect, and allow them to give me strength as much as I give them strength.
Recently, I’ve learned so much about leaning into another person. There are so many words I could use here like partnering, pairing, connecting, working together and so much more. None of these other words really express for me the level of connection I’m talking about. It’s the difference between two people walking quietly and independently beside each other, and two people who are in deep conversation as they walk to help give each other strength. It’s not really easy to describe the depth of connection I’m talking about, but what I do know is it’s rooted in vulnerability.
I used to see vulnerability as a sign of weakness, but I know how wrong I was in those days. In being vulnerable so much, my world has changed completely. I love more, get upset less, stress out less, feel more alive and am able to live more fully than I have ever imagined was possible. The truth is my fears around being vulnerable was my own messiness. Even today, there are times it’s difficult to be vulnerable, and yet when I confront it and step into the vulnerability incredible things start happening. I’ve yet to see something bad happen as a result.
I’ve spent my life being concerned about what other people think of me. I have a really strong value around having a positive impact on those around me. This has meant I’ve spent a lifetime trying to please others at all costs, even if it means sacrificing some part of me, or taking action to be seen. What I’ve learned is this does not help me at all. In fact, I’ve learned in order to heal I have to let go of what other people think of me. Don’t get me wrong, I want to have a positive impact on people, and I want them to be happy. However, I’m not going to base my life and my actions based on what other people think of me.
Love. Need I say more? Regardless of who the other person is, when I open my heart and love them for who they are, and what they bring to our relationship something magical starts happening. It’s by opening my heart to another something great starts happening for both of us. Loving another enough to truly lean in to create an intimate relationship is truly a magical thing.
There’s so much more, and it’s really difficult to explain how to lean in. However, open your heart, look after yourself and love the other person and you might just be surprised by what happens.
I won’t carry these burdens alone anymore … it’s time to heal
I’ve buried things for too many years with the belief they were behind me. I’ve believed for a very long time I was strong enough to do this. The truth is they became my burden. They impacted my career, they impacted my marriage, and they impacted how much I was able to trust others. Brene Brown talks about how when we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, what we in fact do is to build and reinforce shame. Stepping into vulnerability is how we can clear the burden of shame. When I clear my shame, I can tell you with certainty I find freedom.
It’s time. Stop carrying the things which only weigh you down. The bumps, bruises, skinned knees and dirt on your face are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign you are choosing to live, to take risks, to want nothing but the best life possible for yourself. All those bumps and bruises are a sign of strength as you choose to allow others in, and to allow the strength of what’s possible together.
Please join me with a strong resolve to put down the burdens you are carrying. It will take strength to put them down, coupled with a healthy dose of self-compassion. However, it’s worth the effort as I can tell you from experience you will find so much freedom on the other side.
I know the world will be a better place if only we all do this.