If you’re anything like me you’re a bit of a sucker for thinking the approval of others will make you happy.
You see for some reason I was born with an extra helping of tender heart. My parents tell me when I was a girl I rarely got in trouble because they would look at me crossly and I would cry.
Unfortunately my three little boys didn’t inherit that particular gene!
I’ve come to know it is both a blessing and a curse to feel things so deeply. When the pain of rejection, fear or loss not only scares or saddens you, but cuts straight to the heart.
If you’ve been here long enough I think it safe to say you relate. You and me, we’re the same.
And as I journey through writing and sharing my thoughts with all of you – I’m so thankful for your presence and your response. For all that you share in comments here on the blog, in private emails, and in comments and conversations on my Facebook page.
It’s proved to me that community is not only possible, it’s happening.
Here we are, women with the same hearts, the same hurts, the same hopes and dreams and longings to live deeper than a superficial life.
And yet, it is the world and the stark reality in which we live. So we have to figure out how to live with our whole hearts in a place that is sometimes hostile to that very thing. A world that sometimes makes us want to put our walls back up and turn in against the darkness.
Our lives are really not that different after all. Some things might look a little different but beneath the surface they’re all the same. We all long to be seen, known and loved…and we all struggle with rejection, abandonment and betrayal. We all want to live our lives well and with intention, with our eyes fixed ahead of us…and we all struggle with selfishness and judgment and focus far more closely on our critics.
But as I deliberately walk through the same volatile life as you, I am learning that there is so much to let go.
Here are a few ideas to help you find a more peaceful life:
1. Make peace with your past
Each of us carry a story written on the walls of our heart and we carry the burden on our back. For some it’s an abusive childhood or relationship, addiction, betrayal, or abandonment. Perhaps it’s a decision we made that we wish we could take back, but can’t. We all carry a story from our past into our future, and the truth is we can’t change what happened to us. As much as we like to try or hide or pretend it doesn’t matter, we can’t do that well either. What we can do is make peace with it. It may not be the story we wish we would have had, or the story we would choose if we could do it again differently, but it’s our story and we get to decide what we will do with it now. Unchecked, the past has the power to keep us small. But if we will turn around and face it, we harness the power to let it magnify and reflect the goodness of grace and redemption’s song. Our story is our testimony and there is none too small or too terrible that aren’t needed by someone else alone and hurting in this world. Embrace your past and feel what it means to be free.
2. Find something to believe in
Faith is the belief in something for which you cannot see. For me, spirituality will always be connected to a personal faith in God. Others find spirituality in nature, in the way the horizon meets the sea and the wind moves the sand, or the practice of mindfulness. For some, their spirit and faith is tested in an activity that requires all of themselves – surfing, rock climbing, where their bodies are in tune with their mind and something bigger than themselves. Some find it in the tender faces of children, yet unhindered by the ways of this world. Wherever you find God, nurture that space. Carve out time for practicing faith because we’re going to need it. This life is hard and I believe this practice is where we learn to trust that there are things working around us, and in us, that are far bigger than us. Ways that are moving and reasons for being that we can’t understand until it’s time. Whenever that time is. Faith gives us the ability to believe when we cannot see.
3. Letting go what other people think of you
What other people think of us is none of our business. If you are living in line with your beliefs and at peace with who you are, there is nothing you can do to change what someone thinks of you. I read one time you could be the ripest, juiciest peach on the tree and there will always be someone who hates peaches! If someone comes to you with a grievance, of course, do your best to make amends. But if all that exist are gossip, critical spiritedness and rumor, let it go. Eventually people figure things out on their own. I read a quote one time that sums this up perfectly: “The rumors you hear about me, are about as true as the ones I hear about you.” Make it your practice to make your own opinion of someone and let go of trying to figure out what people are saying or thinking of you. It’s not your business. The people you want in your life will be in your life regardless of what your critics might say.
4. Let time be your friend
I wrote one time that time is not a frequent liar. It’s not. No matter what situation you find yourself in, time will teach you something, if you let it. It will either prove what you thought to be true, or it might prove you wrong. It might provide a new chance, a fresh start or a different opportunity. It might change your heart completely and make you wonder why you ever wanted that thing to begin with. Perhaps it might make a hurt less painful, or go away altogether. It might reveal a lesson you could have never learned had you not walked through that blazing fire, step after painful step as long as it took to get there. It’s okay to not know the answers or where you’re headed or how you’re going to get there. Let time reveal the truth of your situation or direction, whatever that may be, and trust in the knowledge that it hardly ever lies.
5. You’re in charge
No one is in charge of your happiness or your behavior. In my life I have found that when I’m not trusting myself I’m the most open to influence from others. This can be a good thing – we need each other to lean on and share our hearts when times are hard or we’re not sure what to do. That’s healthy. It can also be a bad thing – if we give away what we believe in our hearts is the right response or action and instead try it someone else’s way. In my life, this has prolonged painful situations far longer than they would have been had I just trusted myself – my gut – my intuition from the start. Your intuition isn’t just random feelings. Your intuition is made up of past experiences that have taught you lessons through time. They are yours, and they are meant to inform you in your future. And when you rely on someone who has not had your life experience to guide your decisions in life, I can almost guarantee you’ll be headed in the wrong direction. Trust yourself.
6. Don’t compare yourself with others
This is the toughest job we have as women. Every day, every moment we are faced with the opportunity to compare our life, our clothes, our hair, our makeup, our gifts, our talents, our kids, our husbands, ourselves — with another woman. Every day. Every day we are presented with the opportunity to have a bitter or critical spirit. To fall prey to envy, pride, jealousy, criticism, judgment and gossip. Comparing yourself with someone else will guarantee your direction down that long, lonely road. If we’re not fighting it, we’re doing it. It’s just that simple because we’re driven by our flesh. You, me, my neighbor and best friend, all of us face this decision every single day and have to fight it if we want peace. If we desire true, deep connection and relationship we must check it at the door and choose to love, encourage, accept and praise one another for our strengths and abilities. The things that make us, us. The alternative is disastrous. And lonely. And really not fun to live with. Love yourself for who you are and celebrate others for who they are.
Why? It makes people wonder what you’re up to. And since now we know we’re all facing the same heartaches and heartbreaks, that person you see walking down the grocery aisle – or in the school hallway – or in the drive through window – they just might need it more than you will ever know. And that makes it worth it.