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Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

I am reading a book I highly recommend, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown.  Brown is a researcher and educator that lives in Houston, Texas and her work on shame and vulnerability is both needed and valuable.  View it for yourself in her TED presentation (definitely worth watching!) or begin stepping your way through her words.

As we wrap up Let Me Be Me and transition into our new, punchy website (out in September!), this August Tidbit focuses on what it means to Be Me.  Only certain types of friendships offer us safe places for “me to be me”,  to say what I really think, be afraid, try new things, to disagree, cry, or admit things I am ashamed about…to be authentic.

What does that mean: be authentic?  Brown makes these statements about authenticity:

…in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. (TED)

…authenticity is not something we have or don’t have.  It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live.  Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.  It’s about the choice to show up and be real.  The choice to be honest.  The choice to let our true selves be seen.

The idea that we can choose authenticity makes most of us feel both hopeful and exhausted.  We feel hopeful because being real is something we value…We feel exhausted because without even giving it too much thought, most of us know that choosing authenticity in a culture that dictates everything from how much we’re supposed to weigh to what our houses are supposed to look like is a huge undertaking.

As many of us hope for friendships that are safe and accepting, Brown’s words are an encouraging reminder that we all struggle with authenticity, with vulnerability, with showing our true heart, with allowing someone else to see.  And she’s definitely right about one thing –  it is a choice.

photo credit: Sally H. Falwell

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We are in the middle of a series on tough cookies, those friends who snap and crumble and hurt. So far we’ve talked about the Demanding Friend, the Unaware Friend, the Disappearing Friend. This week, get ready to hear about the Unforgiving Friend.

If you’ve ever been close friends with an unforgiving person you will know. Unforgiveness cannot hide.

Unforgiveness is like a bee sting, it hurts much longer than the initial zinger. It swells and festers and, like a bee sting, hurts the unforgiving one the worst.

Unforgiveness, ironically, turns the hurt person into the initiator of more hurt.

Imagine that Cindy forgot to invite her type A friend, Rilla, to her wedding. Rilla is understandably distraught, hurt, angry. When Cindy apologizes, Rilla refuses to forgive.

Years go by, Rilla carries her offense into their twenties and thirties.

She was the stung, but she’s become the bee, stinging with her unforgiveness. Which woman do you relate to? Cindy or Rilla?

Chances are we’re both.

Imagine if Rilla and Cindy both shared what it was like to be unforgiven and to be unforgiving…

Dear Rilla,

I know I’ve messed up. I can’t believe I failed to invite you to my wedding… but do you know the phrase a bee in your bonnet?

That is exactly how I feel being your friend.  You have simmered and waited and then, zap. You sting.

You haven’t forgiven me and I realize now you probably never will.  It makes me wonder about what sort of privileged pedestal you think you live on.

You are not above the rest of us. Your record isn’t spotless, either.

We both need forgiveness from each other.

I know, you’ve said you’ve forgiven me. But the way you shared it was like a ringed hand to a groveling peasant.

I don’t want to genuflect in your presence, I want to sit at your table.

I hurt you awhile ago, but forgiveness isn’t something you poured out, it’s something you’re hoarding.  How can I be free around Scrouge? How can I laugh with a bee in my bonnet?

Wondering when I’ll be hit again,

Cindy

<>

Dear Cindy,

You hurt me. You didn’t act like a friend should. I was supposed to be at your wedding, enjoying that important day. But you’ve proven you didn’t want me at that special event.

And I don’t think you get it. You haven’t really felt the thing you did wrong.

I can’t move on until you get that. I can’t move forward until you show me you really understand how awful you’ve been.  You can show me with a couple of things

1- tell me you’re sorry whenever I bring it up.

2- accept that I don’t trust you when you say you want to hang out with me unless you prove it.

3- remember to remember me.

Until these are met, I can’t believe you really want to be my friend.

Feeling like you don’t get what you’ve done,

Rilla

<>

Unforgiving people are often unaware. But those who befriend them are not.

Most unforgiving people cannot share how deeply hurt and how deeply bitter they are…toward you. But when they do, WaHATCH out. Their list of demands will snowball into a serf/lord relationship.

That some mistakes damage trust, that some mistakes irrevocably alter friendship is undeniable.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means we refuse to punish, to stand as judge and look down upon our offender.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you will be chummy again, but forgiveness does not socially shun, it doesn’t turn cold when you begin a conversation.

We can learn to cultivate the distance between us and unforgiveness, because it’s a vice that’s tempting to all of us.

Have you noticed how easy it is to nurse unforgiveness, to feed unforgiveness morsels of self-righteousness, to raise it up into a monster, until the unforgiveness is all you have left when you remember that one friend?

Yesterday I locked my keys and my phone in my car. When I walked, humbled, into the coffee shop and asked to use their phone the barrister exclaimed, “Oh, I’ve totally been there.”

She was full of grace.

Later that day our babysitter got stuck in Silverthorne, her car broken down. Since I had endured a full weekend of nursing my family through a horrible bout of fever, I really needed some time off.

Our babysitter had to cancel and I wanted to be bitter.

But my tired and unwell husband piped up, “It’s like locking your keys in your car. These things just happen.”

Jesus said it well, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

It seems our ability to forgive is directly related to our depth of awareness that we have been forgiven.

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Spider-y Women

I saw the 2009 movie Coraline last night. Claymation alone the movie was beautiful, but the main character’s hope to escape her biting and over-worked parents lead her into an alternate reality where her “other mother” is a lot nicer.

She cooks, too. And decorates her room and sings her sleep. Her “other mother” also has buttons for eyes.

And in the end this other mother is a pretty freaky Cruella de Ville character with a skeleton of Shelob. The movie is Stepford Wives meets fairy tale. The ending is terrific.

Both Dale and I agreed the “other mother” reminded us of people, ahem women, we’ve known.

Do you know women who use their feminine skills (cultivation, sensitivity, nurturing) to spin a web and trap you?

Women who feed on other people like they were a trapped beetle in their web rather than a human made in God’s image.

For instance, the woman whose children feed her sense of worth by succeeding, their awards she seizes as her own, their strengths she takes full credit for creating.

Or the woman whose home is immaculate and who can throw a party like nobody’s business, but who cannot admit to needing anyone.

Or think of the woman whose need to be needed makes you pretend you need help when you’re actually fine.

Or the woman who can only befriend those who agree with her on every point, but stand up to her, disagree with her and she stonewalls you or talks behind your back.

Or the woman who collects friends for the way it makes her look on Facebook albums.

The Other Mother’s transformation Photo credit: darkinthedark.com/other-mother/

Know any spider-y women, spinning a web to get what they need, to trap people.

To feed on people.

Why do women become modern day Ariadnes?

Well, if Coraline taught me anything its because women believe they will die without using people for themselves. And worse, they believe they must trap people to make them stay with them.

What is to be done about spider-y women?

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The trend of #liesgirlstell came up on twitter last weekend. I found a lot of retweets of this lie:

“Upload pics to Facebook, comment ‘I look so bad in this picture.'”

Made me think of why Samantha Brick was condemned. She took “bad” pictures and still liked herself.

How dare she!

When I see pictures of myself with other friends on Facebook, I usually look at myself first.  How do I look? Did those clothes work?  Whey didn’t someone tell me my hair looked like that?

Do I look okay?

A good photo can give me a feeling of security, while a bad photo can make me wonder about how well I really come across?

I know I’m not the only one. How many of us have photos in our Facebook albums that we know look better than we really look?

I do.

Right now I have this wallpaper pic on my cellphone background. It’s of me and my son. I’m smiling a typical, non-photo op smile which means the dent in my cheek is obvious and my eyes are crinkled.

It’s a smile of pleasure, not a smile of perfection. But it’s me, that is how I look when I’m happy.

I put it up because it helps me work on the reality of what I look like when I’m not posing.

Each time I pick at my cell phone I get a little reminder that I’m neither glorious or hideous. THAT this is what I look like.

Quick, I tell myself, now look inside, what is bubbling up.

When I’m feeling insecure, the picture bothers me. I don’t want to look like THAT. When I’m feeling relatively stable I think, “Hmm, that girl looks really open and happy. I like her.”

Sometimes I want to change my wallpaper to a picture of my son. It would be easier.

When we post up a picture when we have strawberries on our teeth or one eye closed then it’s fine to say, “I look funny in this picture.” Last night during our family photos I wound up with half-closed eyes for a photo. It looked really funny.

But when we scroll through pictures of ourselves and we’re looking

like we look and our friends think it looks

great

and we don’t like it.

Well, if it’s an honest picture,

wonder for a bit about why you don’t like that picture of yourself.

Do we judge ourselves for looking just plain?

Do we think we deserve less love for looking less than glossy?

“Bad” pictures are interesting for what they reveal about our own tendency to hate the working body and soul God gave us.  

Take a second and try to observe without criticizing your face.

Or try to giggle at your own photo for second, then notice the soul within.

You might find your insecurity melting into affection.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb …
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

The Message, Psalm 139:13-14


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In third grade the most popular girl in school invited me to go to Disneyland with her.

We got to take off school. We were in heaven.

Photo credit: socal.catholic.org

I wore a pair of flowered pants that I thought were pretty. My friend wore spandex pants that looked really good on her legs. A long slouchyT-shirt came over the top, tied at her hip.

Then entire day she kept looking at me and saying things like, “Can you pull your pants up, they’re so baggy.”

I tried, but seriously, baggy pants are hard to find.

I couldn’t tell her my mom wouldn’t let me out of the house in spandex.

I couldn’t very well defend my choice as the best pair of pants for the occasion.

I just sort of slunk around in my bagginess.

On the way home I felt pretty ambivalent toward my friend. Why did she invite me if she was going to spend the whole day telling me how embarrassing I looked to her?

I guess she didn’t realize my behind-the-times wardrobe since we, mercifully, wore uniforms to school.

Disneyland wasn’t as fun as I had hoped it would be.  And our friendship sort of fizzled after that.

She took someone else with her to Disneyland the next year.

Photo credit: stylehive.com

I never convinced my mom to buy spandex.

Thank goodness for the uniforms.

The times a friend has corrected me live eternal in my memory.

There were my closest friends who once all told me to stop being so bossy.

They were right.

There was my third grade friend who wanted me to get with the spandex fashion.

She was wrong.

There was my husband, yesterday, who told me he felt like my voice was too stern for the situation.

He was right.

How to give your opinion?

A few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Do not . . . 

– offer advice or correction when you’re not invested in the friendship long-term.

– ask your friend to change something she cannot currently change whether because of finances, family upbringing or personal courage.

– require your friend to take your advice after offering it.

– assume you know what it’s like for her before speaking into her life. For example take time to investigate the feelings of a stay-at-home-mother before critiquing or broadly summarizing their lives in public or in private.

Do

– share if an outfit looks unflattering with your friends who are safe and long-term, with whom you have both received and given suggestions and advice on fashion.  This is especially true if they ask you for your honest opinion about their clothes.

– explain the thing that bothers you about a friend when it personally tramples you. For instance, if a friend has hurt you it is appropriate to share this with them, most particularly if they have indicated their openness and safety to listen.

– pray about the things that bother you to determine if it’s your issue or theirs. Consider using these phrases to share if you’re not certain, “I have a problem, I feel confused, left out, etc. . . ” or “I’m not sure what to do right now, I feel (fill in emotion word here). . .”

Overall, it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid fixer-uper friendships.

I do not feel flattered or loved when I find out my friends have taken me under their wing to fix my fashion or my habits or my career choice.

I want friends who see me and say, “Oooh, I like that girl” (Thanks, Molly Aley) because of someone I already am.

When I’m believed in and loved, and know it, I can hear almost any correction.

Do you agree?

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Last year I wrote about stitching the cloth of friendship. I want to re-visit some of these threads and push them a little deeper.

For the full conversation, take a moment to re-visit The Recipe for a Good Friendship.

In the comments one reader asked about self-aware-ness, how was it valuable to friendship and what exactly made it good.

Good Self-Awareness

How is self-awareness richer than deep breathing and mat work at a gym?

Photo credit:yogaworldtours.com

Self-awareness is actually a vital ingredient in authentic friendships. Self-awareness is the fuel that powers humble people, those women we’re all drawn to because of their ability to be simply, themselves, no more, no less.

Self-awareness begins with an accurate assessment of who we are, what we can offer, what we can be and what we cannot be.

Self-awareness is precisely the reason most friendships don’t last a lifetime. The more we know about ourselves the more we come to realize our current friends simply don’t know or don’t want to know us.

Not Who I Was

Bee and I used to connect over mocking feminism, now I’m a feminist. What do I do?

In high school Lauren and I played sports together, now we don’t even live in the same town. How can we connect when we don’t have much to connect about anymore?

Ana has kids my age and lives in my town, but we don’t have more to talk about than our kids. Is our friendship worth pursuing?

If friendship requires connection points, and the more points we connect the more close we can be (for more see The Recipe for a Good Friendship), then how are you connecting with your friends?

Are these authentic connections?

Or do you long for more?

If I’ve been faking (so as not to hurt feelings) my interest in knitting club, but then I grow to realize I’d rather watch The Office and make cookies during that time, my knitting friends don’t really know me.

Photo credit:unappreciatedknitter.blogspot.com

By skipping knitting club I’m being more Jonalyn, than by going and making everyone happy. Of course, skipping out on groups that expect you bring up another barrel of issues.

What about hurting their feelings?

Faithfulness

And isn’t friendship about working hard when then going gets tough?

Sally and I are big proponents of sticking it out when friendship is hard. We recently got a chance to practice this with each other.

We all want to be faithful friends, but faithful to what?

Faithful to each other

and

faithful to who we really are.

With a masters degree in ethics, and a firm knowledge of Scripture, I think doing the right things is very important. But as my therapist once said, “Most of life isn’t black and white, right or wrong. We know a few moral commands (think 10 Commandments), but most of life we make decisions with complete freedom from God.”

God says, “You get to choose and remain faithful not to what others expect out of you, but to what I put in you.”

Self-Aware of God’s Ingredients

What did God put in you? What if you were free to find out?

If you want to go or not go to knitting (or any other) club?

To forego the playmate when I really don’t connect with her.

To leave the church because I am more fake than known.

To stop attending that group because I simply bores or exhausts me.

We do too many things because we think they’re “moral issues” when God has said, “You are free.”

So what could you do that would make you more the person God created?

What do you need to stop doing?

What friendships do you know won’t last a lifetime? and for good reason?

Sally writes well on how making changes with our friends involves both kindness and compassion, not simply dropping off the face of the earth. For more about transitioning check out her P.S. What I Haven’t Said.

Regardless, being self-aware in order to become more of who you are will require more work, but it will make you more free.

And this world needs you, the faithful you, the one God made.

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“Love” is a word we throw around and use often.  We know what it means, but have a hard time describing it.  A sticky “love” topic that is often not discussed is whether it is selfish to love yourself.  For exactly who you are.

Time Magazine Recent Cover

A fabulous edition of Time Magazine hit stands last week:  The Power of Shyness.  The issue had a number of articles on extroversion and introversion, two personality characteristics that help us understand who we are and what we are like.  In my work as  a psychologist, I find many people struggle with “self” questions on a personal, relational and particularly, a spiritual level.  Common questions are:

  • Is it selfish to love myself?
  • Is it okay that I am different from other people?
  • Am I okay how I am?  Do I need to change?
  • How do I embrace my personality, my life experiences, my past, my mistakes, my strengths and weakness?
  • How can I love myself and not be seen as selfish or self-absorbed in relationships and friendships?

Relationship With Myself

Just as we have relationships with others, we have a relationship with ourselves.  Think about that for a minute – how do you treat yourself?

DO YOU:

  • pay attention to how you are feeling?
  • speak to yourself with words of encouragement and hope?
  • follow your own instincts?
  • punish yourself when you make a mistake?
  • ask for help when you need it?

Putting The Cart Before The Horse
In friendships we often put the cart before the horse, so to speak.  We skip over practicing loving ourselves, and put ourselves in the position to love another person.

We make better friends when we begin by loving and accepting ourselves the way we were made.  When we do not first love ourselves, which is often misinterpreted as being selfish, we put other people in the position to respect us, support us and soothe us, when we will not do that for ourselves.  We put the cart before the horse.

The reciprocal is true, a friend that does not first love and accept herself puts you in the position for being responsible for “holding her together”. Her well-being is in your hands.  A friend like this is often experienced as someone that might be regularly needy, demanding, controlling, self-berating, emotionally reactive and has a low self-esteem.

In a sense, this is saying, “Take care of me, because I am not willing to do it myself.”

Examples: Can You Relate?

I don't want to make waves...

I polled a few friends before writing this post, asking their thoughts on this topic.  Here are a few responses I got:

  • I am a people pleaser so I often feel people won’t love me if I don’t help/please/fix them. Even if it something isn’t what I want to do or I don’t agree with it, I would generally rather experience the emotions associated with my own discomfort than to feel like I disappointed one of my friends.
  • I have a lot of needy friends who I feel like I hold together… one in particular who sent me a text yesterday to “check on me”  – my word!!!
  • Often my need to be in control is an attempt to relieve anxiety and feel secure, yet often results in frustration or regret. If I was much more secure with myself and at peace with myself, this urge would be less. This bleeds into my relationship with my boyfriend sometimes and recently affected a relationship with one of my best friends as I wanted to feel okay so attempted to control her behavior.
  • I don’t follow my instincts a lot of the time because I just want to keep the peace, not hurt feelings, or stir the pot. It’s a lot easier to sacrifice myself than have to manage other peoples’ disappointment in me.
  •  In an attempt to feel good about who I am, I am starting on a dangerous path when I compare what my friend’s look like, how much they weigh, what kind of job they have, or how big their social circle is. If I really think about it and got honest, it is revealing that by comparing upwards or downwards, something is off with my personal level of acceptance.
  • I get jealous of my best friend’s personality, looks and even success of her husband!  Not only am I not loving myself well when I listen to the messages of jealousy, but I’m bringing tension an resentment into a friendship that was otherwise ok.

Mole Hills Into Mountains

photo credit: Sally H. Falwell

We often deny our own wants, desires and needs so that we do not hurt feelings, make waves, cause ourselves or others discomfort.  This leads to small instances of not being who we really are, small instances of not speaking the truth right away, small instances of doing something I do not really want to do, small instances of swallowing the anger and resentment I feel at myself for not speaking up, and my friend for not being aware or asking.

Not What I Want, When I Want.  

When we do not represent ourselves out of fear of what will happen or what the response will be, we deny who we are.  This does not mean you speak unkindly, spit nails, act passive-agressively, or demean the other person.  It means you are willing to be honest and uncomfortable to get what you really want and value – to be known and valued in a relationship where there is room to be yourself and room to love, know and value the other person.

Part of loving someone else well IS loving yourself first.

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