On the outside looking in...

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Have you ever experienced the feeling of being on the outside looking in?  It could have been at a party, a work meeting, when you were at school or even with your friends or family.  It feels as if you could just about be invisible, that somehow you are separate or different to everyone else.  You may have experienced it on the odd occasion, or it may be something that you feel on a regular basis.

If you say yes, then please know you are not alone.  I have had this feeling all my life but could never clearly articulate it or why I had felt that way for all these years until recently.  People probably look at me and would never guess.  I can make conversation with people I haven’t met.  I am not shy to speak up and address an audience.  I even get on video and feel totally comfortable but somehow, I have always felt different.  Then I stumbled across a concept recently which was like a lightbulb going off inside me - that it isn’t so much about the things that you experienced or that happened to you during childhood, but rather the things that you didn’t experience or receive that that you really, really needed at a formative time in your life.

The time that you were hurt or bullied at school but when you tried to share it with a parent or carer it was brushed aside or you were just told to ignore it or toughen up.   The time you needed guidance with a problem but they were too busy or not interested in what you had to share because their focus was on themselves.  It could have been as simple as wanting a hug or a kind word when you really needed it but showing affection was not something that your family did.

Emotional neglect is not abuse. It is an empty space, not a space filled with hurt, so it's therefore difficult to pinpoint what it is in our past that leaves us feeling lost and empty.  It's the unacknowledged parts of ourselves and our childhood that create the biggest holes within us.  It’s looking back at your past and thinking it wasn’t so horrible or traumatic but yet you still feel different.  It’s looking at other people and feeling separate somehow, not able to connect as easily.  Yes, it’s all about connection. 

So, we carry around this emptiness – this feeling that there is a hole inside us that can never be filled, because we may never have been taught how to feel the feelings that we needed to experience that make us who we are.  This can lead to depression, anxiety, lack of confidence and difficulties in personal relationships.  Don’t get me wrong, this is also not about shaming and blaming our parents and our upbringing.  People live what they learn and they also can’t give what they don’t have.  It’s about recognising why we feel like we do.  If we don’t we tend to carry on the pattern and hand it down to our children and the cycle continues.

I have found this absolutely life-changing as it helps me make sense of how I have felt and lived in the world.  Now I can recognize the things that may have been missing for me and start to give them to myself; start to identify and name what it is that I am feeling and allow myself to feel those feelings … and most of all to be kind to myself along the journey.

 

Are you playing the role of leading actor in your own story?

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How do you honestly know whether a belief you have is real or is actually just a story that you have told yourself for so long that you believe it to be true? 

You are probably thinking at this point, what on earth do I mean by that!?  Put simply, we are ALL made up of a series of stories.   The first volume is collected in your childhood gathered from the tales that you heard and absorbed growing up, relayed to you by your parents, caregivers, family members, friends, teachers or community.   You carry that volume with you into your adolescence, continually adding to it until you have a fully stocked library by your adulthood.  Some stories may get added to, some may get updated and some may get thrown out, but are these stories actually true or just something that you have accepted as true about yourself?

Some of these stories collected along the way may have been along the lines of:-

  •         I have to work hard to earn money
  •         I can’t afford that
  •         I have to be competitive and strive for perfection
  •         It matters what other people think of me
  •         I am not smart/interesting/pretty/thin enough to …. (fill in the blank)
  •         People like me can’t have success/love/money … (fill in the blank)

Not all stories are negative, however, and hopefully some of yours may have sounded more like:

  •          I CAN be abundant
  •          I CAN succeed at anything if I just try
  •          I AM lovable and special
  •          I CAN make a difference in the world
  •          I AM enough

The thing is that these “stories”, whether positive or negative can become your identity. 

What different genre of stories are there?  I have listed a couple below that I have observed but these are of course endless.

  • Victim story – something was done to you that you had no control over.  It could have been totally unexpected, rocked you to the core and it hurt like hell but you can’t move past it.  You replay the story like a broken record over and over to yourself and others, and by doing this you become mired down and stuck in the role of “victim”.  The trouble is, it’s an awful role to play; it makes you miserable, keeps you from enjoying the good things that are still in your life, and most of all it keeps you stuck stopping you from reclaiming your power and moving on with your life.  Another negative impact of the victim role is that if you play it for too long, people close to you may get very tired of hearing your “poor me” story and start avoiding you, at the very time you need your loved ones around you the most.
     
  • Health story – you may have had a series of illnesses or an unfortunate accident which has impacted on your life and held you back from the plans and goals you had for yourself.  You naturally can get immersed in the details, the treatment and the effects it has on you certainly if has majorly turned your life upside down.  It can also be a time when you may get extra attention from others which may be something that you are not used to, and it might feel kind of nice.  But there is a time limit for this sort of story too because if you focus solely on being ill/your injury in the long term you can take on that role and you can BECOME your illness - IT becomes your identity.  And as the victim story above, the people close to you don’t need to constantly hear a blow-by-blow description of what is going on with your health.  It doesn’t mean they don’t care but that they are just interested in more than one dimension of your life, they are interested in what else is going on in your world that they can be a part of with you. 
     
  • The good things in life aren’t available to someone like me –  this is similar to the victim role but relates more to relinquishing power over your circumstances.  Things just happen “to you”.  Success, love, happiness, money – they are for “other” people, not people like you.  So what benefits could playing this role possibly have?  Simple - it means you don’t have to put yourself out there in case you fail, in case you are judged.  If you don’t even try then you can stay safe and have nothing to lose.  But is living like this really living?  You can easily find yourself becoming very resentful and establishing a real “them and us” world, the “have and have nots” and life can look very miserable, as there is nothing to look forward to but more of the same. 

These various stories determine the lens you choose to view your world through, as well as measure your abilities, self-worth and how you approach your relationships and connections.  Some of those stories may inspire you to do better and strive to keep growing and explore.  Some of them, however, can keep you playing small, resisting or avoiding personal or professional growth, and possibly even sabotaging relationships and wonderful opportunities in your life.

The issue is you may have lived these stories for so long that they absolutely feel real for you.  So how can you measure if the stories you are living your life by are real, and what do you think the impact of believing these stories is having on your life?

You need to begin by asking yourself a series of questions and start to challenge your stories.  In doing this you need to be really honest and truthful with yourself.  Remember, this isn’t about other people, this is about YOU holding a mirror up to yourself and seeing the real truth of the situation.  It can be a confronting process but it can also be the most freeing experience you ever have! 

Some questions that may help you get started are:

  1. What are the actual FACTS of this story? This is where you need to get really real!!
     
  2. What PAY OFF am I getting from living this story?  Is it keeping me safe from even having to try?
     
  3.  How do I WANT to feel? If my story is one of internal pain, wouldn’t it be nice to free myself of this?
     
  4. What would be possible if I LET GO of this story?  Is my story stopping me from doing what I am truly capable of and what I really want in my life?

Remember, this process is not about shame, guilt or beating yourself up – no good ever comes from that and it is pointless.  It is to truly free yourself for once and for all from the misconceptions and untruths that may be keeping you stuck and holding you back from living your best life possible, one filled with joy, love, success and happiness.  Isn’t it time you rewrote your story?