It is natural as humans to be in a perpetual striving for growth. Given this, I want to take this 6-part series to talk about tools that will help you in your healing journey. We will talk about knowing your limitations, connecting with your authentic self, expressing your voice, moving through feelings, tempering expectations and healing communication.
Knowing Our Limitations (White Flag)
Let’s start today with knowing our limitations, knowing when to hold up that white flag. Knowing your own capacity and drawing on it realistically, is important to maintaining your own balance in life, not overextending yourself and burning out or crashing and disappointing yourself and others who are depending on you. We all have our limitations, and sometimes we don’t like to admit them because we get our ability to do things tangled up in our own self-worth or we are vying for acceptance from others. If you reflect on this though you will likely agree that people who admit their shortcomings, own them and work around them, are admirable. We tend to respect people with a high level of self-awareness and authenticity. So take the opportunity to look at yourself and what your limitations are. Respect and grow from them. Accepting reality is the first step in changing it.
Connecting with Your Authentic Self
Knowing your limitations is one aspect of connecting with your authentic self. By saying ‘no’ to things we are helping to define ourselves, such as “I do not like watching scary movies, so I am not going to”. But connecting to your authentic self takes saying ‘yes’ too. The more you can connect to and listen to your inner felt yes, the more self-aware you become and the better able you are to follow your own unique path. One of the main similarities between the men who come to SCHC is that they do not know themselves very well, what are their unique values? Aspirations? This lack of self-knowledge can lead to all kinds of consequences such as feeling uncomfortable in your own skin, choosing the wrong career or mate, or going through life feeling like you are not living. Building self-knowledge and connecting with your authentic self helps you to assume personal responsibility, finding your unique passion and living a life of purpose, productivity and happiness. Take some time to reflect on your likes and dislikes, what is important to you, what do you value, what kind of person are you or do you want to be?
Now it is important to talk about Our Voice. It is not enough to know your limitations or develop your self-knowledge, you must speak up and share it with others. If you do not develop your voice and speak up for yourself effectively your self-confidence and trust in yourself begins to erode. It is so important to express who we are and our true feelings, to stand up for ourselves or resentment can build. The key is to express ourselves effectively. For example, do not let things build up by not saying anything and then explode when you become overwhelmed. You may feel like yelling is the only way you can get anyone to listen to you, but I assure you this is not effective long-term. The best way to get someone to listen is to speak to them respectfully, listen to them and be open to their perspective, be assertive and also give explanations where appropriate. Remember your goal is for others to hear your message, so be the best advocate you can for yourself.
Moving Through Feelings
Once we understand our limitations and connecting with our authentic self through expressing our voice, then we must know that moving through feelings is also important for this journey. Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to get away from our more difficult feelings. We try to go around them, or we distract from them by keeping ourselves overly busy or going on the internet or using substances. Learning to accept and move through our feelings is an incredibly valuable tool for us humans. We all know that avoiding our feelings makes things worse, so why do we do it? Often we make things bigger than they are, so getting some perspective can help. Why are feelings so scary to us sometimes, not feeling ever killed someone directly, but people have killed themselves to stop feeling! Feelings are powerful and so learning to accept and move through yours will help you build your self-confidence and ability to deal with anything that life throws at you.
The Tyranny of Should
We often use the word ‘should’ to denote our expectations. What is wrong with having expectations you say, well it depends on how realistic they are and how you use them. Many of us place unrealistic expectations on ourselves and then berate ourselves when we do not measure up to them. Many a quippy therapist now deplore their clients to “stop shoulding all over yourself!”.
Many of us also place unrealistic expectations on life and are upset when life doesn’t cooperate. We say things like “that’s not fair, it shouldn’t be that way”. In life pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. How we frame a situation or position ourselves determines how much we suffer. If you are constantly feeling victim to life, take a look at your expectations. Making demands on life will leave you disappointed, answering for your life will help you lead a fulfilling life.
Healing with Communication
Lastly, I want to talk about the key to any good relationship: healthy communication. What does this really look like? It takes each of the skills we discussed in this series: knowing your limitations, connecting with your authentic self, finding and expressing your voice, moving through feelings, and avoiding “shoulds”. But its more than that too.
You need to know yourself to be able to express yourself authentically, you need to know your limitations to not take on other people’s emotions. This is often the biggest obstacle to honest communication is the fear of hurting the other person, and thereby damaging or losing the relationship. We must acknowledge that we cannot control other people’s feelings (heck, we can’t control our own!) and we can only be responsible for our own actions. As the authors of our own lives, it is up to us to connect with others through honest and authentic communication. It is up to us to stand in our own truth, take the risk, be vulnerable and share it. The rewards are high. Don’t let fear get in the way of your communication, connection and love.