The Gift of Flexibility in Relationships

I returned home this week to the United States; back to a country where we can flush our toilet paper down the toilet, drink water out of the tap, and choose to sleep past the sound of roosters.  Ha!

But oh there is already so much to miss about Nicaragua: sighting monkeys in forests, eating amazing food, sampling fruits I’ve never seen before, practicing my Spanglish with the locals, hiking to waterfalls, watching the “run with the bulls” in Granada, making tortillas on a wood oven, learning how to make tamales from a local family, walking through charming towns, and just learning about an amazing population of our brothers and sisters in another part of this world. It was all so very special.

If you’re familiar with our TravelCircles then you’ll know that all our trips are designed for women to come alone and get to know each other.  We start the trip as strangers; depart as friends. It’s one of the most magical parts of the trips.

Here we all are on top of our van waiting to watch the annual "Running with the Bulls" in Granada!

Here we all are on top of our van waiting to watch the annual “Running with the Bulls” in Granada!

Leaning Like the Bamboo

One story that emerged on our trip is so appropriate to friendship that I wanted to pop into your inbox this weekend with this little inspiration for you, trusting that there is a relationship in your life where this truth can serve as an invitation to, as well.

The chances of any two people wanting to do the exact same activities, with the same exact needs and energy levels, enjoying it in the same way, at the exact same time is the stuff of fairy tales.

In fact, in some ways it’s easier to travel with strangers than it is with friends or family– we’re all on our best behavior, more willing to try new things, and excited to get to know each other; but no matter who we travel beside on vacation or through life, the art of compromise is ever-present.

The lesson the bamboo is inspirational to all of us in our relationships.

The lesson the bamboo is inspirational to all of us in our relationships.

At one of our hotels, one “wall” of our eating area was bamboo.  And it was so loud– creaking and groaning and singing with the wind. For a city girl like me, to be sipping my morning Nicaraguan coffee and be serenaded by the bamboo was such a delight.

Bamboo is one of those trees that teaches lesson after lesson, but on that morning the one that popped into my head was:

Flexibility: Bamboo bends with the wind, never fighting against it. But it doesn’t blow away with the wind, it stays rooted. Its ability to bend without breaking or being uprooted is so beautiful.  It’s the perfect metaphor for flexibility– being able to go-with-the-flow without ever losing our center or our roots.

The Gift of Flexibility

Being flexible isn’t weak, rather it’s one of the strongest choices ever: leaving one standing straight even after the winds tire out.

We often think of being flexible as someone who compromises and rarely gets what they

While not everyone on our trip was as excited about wild monkeys as I was, they said that my enthusiasm was contagious. Ha! We were all pretty excited to see this guy down on the ground!

While not everyone on our trip was as excited about wild monkeys as I was, they said that my enthusiasm was contagious. Ha! We were all pretty excited to see this guy down on the ground!

really want.  But as our group shared our favorite moments of the trip on our last night together– I can attest that we all very much got what we wanted: Jennifer got in her nightlife, Erika her chocolate, Miriam her rain forest, Pamela her market photos, and me my monkeys.

Flexibility didn’t mean we didn’t get what we wanted, but rather that we helped each other get what was most important to each other!

And in so doing, we each received so much more than we were looking for!

There were activities on the itinerary that I would surely have skipped if I were traveling alone or with my husband.

 

What I might have missed:

  • I definitely would have skipped driving up to the rural village on dirt roads, but because we all had to go together, I went along. Fortunately! Because we ducked into a little home up there to learn how to make our own tortillas from grinding the corn to flipping it over on the wood-fire. And let me just say that there is hardly anything tastier than salt on a hot homemade tortilla!
  • I probably would have talked myself out of riding a horse in the rain, but because
    Riding Estelle through the most gorgeous rain forest ever was a magical experience!

    Riding Estelle through the most gorgeous rain forest ever was a magical experience!

    others were excited about it, I went along.  And it may have been my favorite day of the trip– we saw monkeys, took photos at gorgeous vistas, and laughed a lot!

  • I would have listened to my exhaustion and relaxed at the hotel, but because Jennifer was so excited to go to Salsa dance lessons, I decided to join her.  Good thing, otherwise I would have missed out on a lot of laughter! Ha!

It was so impressive to watch us practice hearing each others needs and doing what we could do make the trip amazing for everyone.  And it surprised me again how in so doing that for others– I was exposed to things I wouldn’t have chosen myself.

In other words: my trip was BETTER because I was flexible. I lost little to nothing, but gained so much more.

In your relationships, I invite you to consider: What would it look like for you to let the wind blow you a little in a new direction? What might you do with someone or how might you respond differently if you knew you could bend and not break? What could you be open to even if it’s not what you would personally choose?  How might you and a friend do a better job of leaning into what makes each other happy?

With Lake Nicaragua behind us, we pose for a quick moment before the rain soaked us!  :)

With Lake Nicaragua behind us, we pose for a quick moment before the rain soaked us! :)

p.s.  Want to travel with us?  All women over the age of 21 are invited to come on any of our trips! Our next two trips with availability are to Cuba this November or Turkey next May! See info here.

 

Posted in Qualities of Friendship, Travel & Friends | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

To My Non-Posting Friends on Facebook

I’ve heard all your sweet excuses for not posting updates on Facebook…

  • “I don’t have time for it.”
  • “I’m just not someone who needs to tell everyone what I’m doing…I’m not one of those people.”
  • “Facebook’s privacy policy freaks me out.  That stuff stays up there forever.”
  • “The people who really care about me already know what’s happening in my life.”
  • “My life isn’t exciting… there’s nothing to really post about.”
  •  “It’s all so shallow and feels like one big place where everyone just tries to impress everyone else. I prefer deeper.”

And I’ve nodded my head many a time saying things like, “That’s okay.”

But the truth is: I wish you posted more on Facebook.

facebook screen shot of my friends

It’s a fact that I feel closer to my friends who post regularly on Facebook than I do to those who rely only on phone calls or visits for sharing their lives with me.

Please, please, please post more often

Here is what I really want to say to each of your reasons:

“I don’t have time for it.”

If you never log on to Facebook because you don’t have time, then this post isn’t for you (though I hope you don’t see connecting with others as a waste of time?); but if you log on and scroll through all our posts (and using your husband’s account counts, too!) then the truth is that you do have the time. You’re already taking the time to read, now just use 6 of those seconds to share.

Something in you enjoys connecting and finding out what others are doing. But you’re not sharing that gift with us by sharing what you’re doing. Instead, you’re lurking and stalking, not connecting. You’re eavesdropping and not offering anything to the conversation.

The truth is that Facebook doesn’t have to consume your life or take that much time.  In fact, it’s the easiest and fastest way to connect in little ways with a bunch of other busy people.

“I’m just not someone who needs to tell everyone what I’m doing…I’m not one of those people.”

Those people are the ones who are engaging and connecting with others.  Those people are the ones who are keeping up more of their friendships.  Those people are the ones whom I feel closer to because they are posting!

What if posting occasionally may not be as much for you as it is for us, your friends, the ones who love you and want to know what is happening in your life? What if you viewed it as a gift to let us see a few photos, interact with you about an article you found thought-provoking enough to share, or to cheer with you when you’re celebrating good news?

What if instead of viewing sharing as a need that others must have, you recognized that sharing is actually a need of relationships, in general? We don’t feel close to others without mutual sharing. It’s not a weakness, but a strength.

“Facebook’s privacy policy freaks me out.  That stuff stays up there forever.”

I remember as a small child occasionally calling my Nana who lived in Arkansas. It was so rare though because in addition to always being worried about the price of long-distance calls, she also fretted about the fact that her phone line was a shared line with neighbors. I recall her cautioning us: “Don’t say much because you never know who is listening.”  As a kid I remember thinking, “I don’t really care if your bored neighbor listens in to me telling you about how much I love swimming in the pool…” but I took her fear seriously and our phone calls were short and perfunctory.

She valued her privacy more than connecting.  The cost of this is that we grew up hardly ever talking with her.

It’s not for me to decide everyone’s comfort level, but surely not everything in your life needs to be Top Secret? My personal rule-of-thumb is “Don’t post anything I wouldn’t say on stage to a crowded room while I’m speaking.” Others abide by the “Don’t post anything that I’d be horrified if it were ever made public” rule.

I can stand by all my posts.  If Facebook wants to keep them, go for it. In the meantime, I’m engaging with people and building my relationships.

“The people who really care about me already know what’s happening in my life.”

Really? hmmm…  I’m skeptical if that’s true. You’re saying that if I went up to your closest friends and family and asked them “Do you hear from her as much as you want?” that they would all say yes?

I know for me that even with my closest friends whom I talk to pretty regularly– I can assure you that I learn a lot more on Facebook that doesn’t always come up during our conversations.

  • When a friend is on vacation, she’s not calling me while she travels so I’m thrilled that she’s posting on her trip and giving me a bird’s eye view into her experiences.
  • When a friend lives long distance, our phone calls may be filled with all the “big updates” but if she’s on Facebook then I’m also able to better picture her life in all the smaller ways that make up her every day.
  • When a friend comes over for dinner, we aren’t pulling out our phones and showing each other photos of our work events, kids lives, or time with our parents–fortunately, if she’s on Facebook then I get those too!
  • Even if I talk with my friends all the time– I’m usually hearing about events before or after they happen. But if she posts her excitement as she is getting ready to defend her PhD dissertation or her nerves before a doctor’s appointment then I also get to say a little prayer and feel more connected in real-time with what she’s going through.

I don’t want to rely on Facebook to share the things that matter most with the people who matter most, but giving them more context never hurts. You can keep your friend list as small as you want or share certain updates with only certain groups of people– but trust me when I say that even your closest friends would love more! Save your time together to then go deeper about all those events!

“My life isn’t exciting… there’s nothing to really post about.”

The less you post, the more pressure you’ll feel that they have to be “big” when you do.  Post a bit more regularly and you’ll find that we want to interact with you on all kinds of things– not just those rare exciting ones.

If you took that philosophy seriously– that we only want to hear from you when there is something exciting– then you’d walk around quietly all day long, never talking to anyone.

But the truth is that connecting and engaging with people– whether that’s around our real life water-coolers and in the parking lots waiting for the kids to get out of school OR around our virtual hang-out spots– means being there, making eye contact, contributing to the small talk, and looking for moments where deeper connection can happen.

I love your selfies with your kids (Remember I don’t see them often because we usually get together without them!), your thoughts on current events (How else will I be exposed to different ideas?), your favorite new Netflix series (Now I can put it on my list to watch!), or the latest health fad you’re experimenting with (I would have never tried green smoothies years ago if it weren’t for so many of you sharing how much you love them!).

I’m not asking you to wow me or impress me.  I’m just asking you to relate to me.

 “It’s all so shallow and feels like one big place where everyone just tries to impress everyone else. I prefer deeper.”

And that’s different from a dinner party, how? Seriously. You can’t hold that against Facebook. I mean that’s just human nature when we’re all trying to introduce ourselves and meet each other in new ways.

We can’t just refuse to ever be around people unless they’re willing to just go straight to vulnerable!

And “Small talk” isn’t all bad.  I mean, it doesn’t have to be about the weather (but let me just say how grateful I am when I do learn on FB about an upcoming eclipse to watch for!) but there are a lot of topics that are interesting, informative, and inspiring that may not qualify as deep. We are all shaped and influenced by the opinions of others– and I’d love to have your voice and thoughts in my life a wee bit more!

No one is saying Facebook should replace your visits, your nights out, or your phone calls, but in a world where most of us wish we felt closer to a few more people, it doesn’t hurt to use every tool at our disposal for creating connection.

So my dear sweet friends, I wanted you to hear from someone on the other side, who shares generously and often, that I wish you would share just a wee bit more.  We want to hear from you!  :)  Your fans are anxiously awaiting.

See you on Facebook, hopefully.

xoxo

Shasta

p.s.  Leave a comment! Anyone with me on this? Do you agree? Or am I overlooking a really good excuse anyone has? Better yet, any chance I inspired anyone to consider posting more often???  :)

p.s.s  Are you on other social media sites? Let’s connect! You can find me and GirlFriendCircles.com on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

Posted in Technology, Social Media, and Online Tools | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Question: How to “Fire” a Bridesmaid?

Today I am tackling a question that came in on Monday. We can all learn so much from each others questions, even if our circumstances are different.  Hope this is helpful!  (And if you ever have a question you’d like me to weigh in on, ask it here.)

Dear Shasta,

My relationship with one of my bridesmaids is feeling strained and I’m wondering if I need to fire her even if it causes a loss of the relationship completely? 

We’ve been friends for over 6 years and celebrated all kinds of things together, but since I was in her wedding in June, our relationship has felt strained.  I felt pushed out on a few of her wedding events (only bridesmaid not asked to give a speech at the rehearsal dinner, the last bridesmaid to find out a lot of important information about some of the parties, etc.) and she had a falling out with a mutual friend of mine who happens to also be one of my bridesmaids. Drama!

A few weeks ago I went to see her face-to-face and asked what was wrong and she basically said, “The wedding is over so I’m over it.” I finally got her to admit that she was upset about overhearing me talk about my upcoming wedding at her wedding. (But it was her mom who asked me questions about it! Ugh!) We were interrupted and never finished the conversation. We’ve hardly talked for two months except for her texting me to find out about what dress she needs to wear, etc.

Do I fire her? How do I do that? Help me!

Thanks,

Bride Not Feeling the Bridesmaid Love

 

We all know how painful it is to fight with a friend... and the stakes go up when it comes to our weddings.

We all know how painful it is to fight with a friend… and the stakes go up when it comes to our weddings.

Dearest Bride Not Feeling the Bridesmaid Love,

Oh I am so sorry that you’re feeling such angst! None of us like dealing with this stuff at any time in our friendships, least of all during a season of life where we really want our friends loving us up!

I’m so proud of you for dealing with this and deciding to not just take the easy way out by putting up with it. She sounds like she’s willing to just go through the motions, but you both deserve way more than that. What we don’t want is for things to just stay the same– we want this to either get obviously better or blatantly not.

Why It Might Be Fixable

To that end, I wrote an entire blog post today with the 4-steps I’d recommend in firing a bridesmaid, but I had a knot in my stomach the whole time. While I think that advice might be helpful to someone who does in fact need to end things, my intuition says that for you: this is a relationship you can salvage, dear Bride.

    • Your willingness: You have proven by going to her house already that you have the skills necessary for healing this rift.
    • Your history: You have been friends for quite a while and it has been meaningful and fulfilling.  This fight doesn’t sound like a chronic issue as much as one that is connected to specific circumstances and events. The fact that she is close enough to you to have been invited to be in the wedding says that this is a friendship that has mattered.  If people matter that much– then they’re worth any level of awkward conversation first as we do our dogged best to repair that which is wounded.
    • Her response: The fact that she tried to brush it off isn’t healthy, but it’s common and usually done out of her guilt for feeling the way she feels. My guess is that she wishes she weren’t bothered by what bothered her. So while I wish she were more practiced at owning her feelings and sharing them with you… the truth is that she’s probably trying to protect you from them.  Which isn’t a crime.
    • The crime: Also, from what I can see, there was nothing malicious done, no screaming red flags saying that she’s an awful person or that you have to protect yourself. She hasn’t willfully or repetitively tried to hurt you. Rather, it appears that the relationship has suffered from hurt feelings on both sides (during an event that often comes with high emotions on both sides) and some miscommunication.  Those are fixable issues.

Lean In, First

So, I’m taking the time to re-write this blog post, without trying to think of all the possible scenarios in which a bride and bridesmaid can fight (and I’ve heard the gammut!), and instead praying for the wisdom to write just for you.  I’ll have to trust that others will find their own truth.

I’ll say it again that I find it so impressive that you went to her house and initiated a conversation, even willing to help push it past the niceties to hear hints at what the real issue was. Unfortunately, that step is all too rare in female friendships.  I admire that you did it.  But it doesn’t sound like you were able to get far enough in that conversation to really bring peace to either of you… and in my opinion, it’s worth you trying again.

We often make up a story about how “if they cared for us” then they would come to us or initiate. That’s simply not true. The truth is that a lot of caring people out there hate conflict, aren’t comfortable with their own feelings, or are so unpracticed at engaging in it that they avoid the awkwardness.  They don’t yet understand that intimacy isn’t developed between two people because they avoid what might feel awkward, but because they lean into it. Many people don’t yet know this secret… but more important than knowing it right now is whether they are willing to learn it by showing up with you and engaging when you hold the loving space for it.

So my advice: if you’re willing to risk losing the relationship anyway, you might as well risk it for honesty and hope first, before risking it to simply walk away.

You used the word “firing” her as a bridesmaid which helps us recognize that if we were managers firing an employee, we’d hopefully have several conversations with the failing team member about what they could do to improve their performance before we booted them. If we’d face up to tough conversations with employees, detailing what we need to see, and asking how we can better support them– then don’t our closest friends deserve at least the same amount of willingness?

The Conversation

The value of another conversation is that it will force one of two outcomes: increased intimacy and bonding OR increased friction and disconnection.  And it will do so in such a way that it is hopefully obvious to both of you. In this way, you’re not so much firing her “out of the blue” as you are stating what is obvious to you both: “I need people surrounding me that day who are happy for me and excited with me; if you can’t do that right now then it’s not fair to either of us to pretend otherwise.”

1)  Open a conversation, again: If possible, you should do it in person; if not, then definitely on the phone because the goal is a conversation (back-and-forth) as opposed to the two separate monologues that emails create.

I always encourage starting with the hope, being honest, and then leaving an open-ended question. So that could look like: “I was hoping we could talk some more about what has happened between us so that we can hopefully get back to the place where we feel ease and joy between us. Last time we talked you said you had felt hurt because you overheard me answering questions about my wedding while we were at yours. I so didn’t mean to upset you… is there anything we, or I, can do to help make that feel better? What do we need to do to fix this?”

Then be quiet and listen.

2)  Keep leaning in.  If she brushes it off and acts like everything is fine, then come right out and ask, “So you feel like everything is good between us? You don’t feel like anything has changed?”  Many of us feel guilty for feeling angry or disappointed so we’re prone to try to swallow it rather than to talk about it. We can understand that fear and gently probe, assuring her that we’d prefer her honesty and that it’s completely okay for her to have feelings.

If, on the other hand,  she shares what she thinks will help, then listen and see if you’re willing to do what she’s asking.  In most cases, she probably just wants to be validated and heard, so let go of worrying about whether you did anything wrong or not, and instead just try to hear her feelings.  The more she can share, the less angst she’ll feel with you. And it’s okay for you to share what hurt your feelings, too.  Just try not to dump that all at the beginning in a big opening monologue and instead share it only if the conversation gets off to a good start where you’re both sharing and hearing.

Try to not cut this conversation short just because it’s uncomfortable, but rather trust that greater intimacy could be on the other side of this conflict. (My book next April is all about the relationship between conflict and intimacy so I can’t wait to share it with you!!!) Most of us aren’t super practiced at tough conversations so we’re anxious to pull away, but staying in this space (and trying to stay as loving as possible while there) is soul-growing and relationship-bonding!

3)  End well.  If you feel like you both shared honestly and have been able to answer the question, “What do we do now to rebuild the love?” then hallelujah!!! Schedule fun time together as soon as possible and intentionally add more positivity back into your friendship to off-balance the weariness.

If not, then ask the tough question: “Do you see us getting past this to a place where you sincerely feel like you can be excited for me and cheer for me at my wedding?”

Her answer will give you a lot of information and hopefully call her to either help offer a solution or agree with you that this isn’t going to be repaired in time to stand up beside you in celebration.

If she expresses doubt then you’re able to follow it up with, “I hope we can at some point, I really do.  I have so valued our friendship.  But unfortunately I want bridesmaids who are all in… excited for me and confident in our friendship. It’s not fair to either of us to have you go through all the trouble of being a bridesmaid just to have us going through the motions.”

Depending on how the conversation went, it may not feel super good right away since you likely both stretched beyond your comfort zones. (Like how we might feel sore the day after exercising!) But whether it fixes the issue at hand, or not, rest assured that you practiced a super crucial skill that this world needs more of– the ability to show up with tenderness and be seen, even when hurt.

It is not wasted time or energy; it is not to no avail. No matter the outcome, this process will invite you both to increased growth, which whether it’s the last gift you give each other as friends, or the next step to greater closeness with each other– it is good.

And my gut says that you two can pull this off. She doesn’t have to be perfect and all the other bridesmaids don’t have to be close to her, she just has to be able to step back into loving you in a way that assures you that she’s standing up there saying, “I’ve got your back.” May it be so.

I hope that you are soon “Bride Who Is Feeling Lots of Love”– you deserve it.

xoxo

Shasta

p.s.  Write me an update if you can! And congratulations on your wedding day!

Posted in Break Ups, Difficulty & Challenges, Forgiveness | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Top Three Tips for Making New Friends

In nearly every media interview I am asked, “What are your tips for making new friends?” and the reporters often are looking for specific ideas like joining clubs, hanging out at the dog park, or volunteering.

But those aren’t tips for making friends; they are just places to meet people. And there is a vast difference between meeting people and making friends.  Truth be told, most of us probably know enough people, we just don’t feel close to enough of them. Even if we don’t yet know people in a certain location, it’s not because we don’t know where people work, live, or hang out that we aren’t meeting them, but rather because we don’t know what to do once we meet them.

new friends

The real secret to making new friends? Gotta spend time with them!

So as a friendship expert who has been thinking all things friendship for nearly seven years, here are the real tips.  You do these, assuming you’re a decently nice and healthy person, you will have friends. Promise.

1)  Be Open.

Be mindful that research shows that we aren’t all that good at predicting who we will bond with so be open to the possibility that your new friends don’t need to be your same age, same relationship status, or a certain horoscope sign.

Let yourself be surprised by staying open and hopeful about women you’re used to dismissing as not your type. My rule of thumb is to delay deciding whether someone is BFF material and just move the friendship as far as one can, as long as there are no big red flags (i.e. stealing from you).

I’ve matched up complete strangers and turned them into friends in my workshops and research bears out that bonding has less to do with being matched up with a certain person and more to do with how those two people interact– so you can assume that most of the people you meet could be a good friend even if they have kids and you don’t, even if they are single and you aren’t, and even if their personality is opposite yours.

If this one tip were taken seriously, we would have a far less lonely world. (See also: The Myth that Keeps You Lonely for more on this)

2) Initiate.

Most of us are meeting people. Everywhere. Work especially. But also everywhere else you go in life.  And most of the people you are meeting could potentially add great meaning and joy to you life if you two really knew each other and spent time together.

To do that, you have two choices: get to know them in a setting where you both automatically are present (like work, church, a club–all the places that reporters want us to list as tips) OR you have to initiate with them in order to get that time logged.

Initiating means to be the catalyst to making the time together happen: striking up conversation, suggesting time together, and following up with specific ideas and dates.

Yes, it can feel awkward. Yes, it’s hard if you’re shy. But honestly, there is no way to build friendships without spending time together so someone has to make that happen. You’re the one who sees the need so it’s your job to do what you need to do to start the friendships you ultimately want to enjoy.

3) Repeat.

Falling for the myth that “if she likes me then she’ll initiate next time” will kill the potential of many relationships. Instead, believe, “If she likes me then she’ll say yes and try to get together when I invite her.”

We all have stories of meeting someone we liked who didn’t become a friend for no other reason than neither woman really followed up to make the time together happen repeatedly.

When it comes to romantic dating we intuitively understand that meeting for lunch once a month isn’t going to be enough time together to really get to know one another, and yet that’s all the time we often give to new friends! It will take a loooong time to feel close and supported in a friendship with someone we only connect with occasionally. Our goal is to eventually more toward familiarity– becoming more of a regularity in each other’s lives than a rare exception.

It takes most of us about 6-8 interactions with someone before we will usually start feeling like friends so the sooner we get those 6-8 times scheduled, the sooner we will be able to reap the rewards of our time!

Of course there are countless tips I could give in explaining each of these tips, but suffice it to say: every friendship you have ever formed has followed these three steps.

Don’t be someone who just keeps meeting people; be someone who knows what actions to take to develop those people into friends.

——-

p.s.  And remember, GirlFriendCircles.com is a great way to meet new friends in your city since everyone who is a member is a friendly woman who values making new friends!

Posted in Consistency, Making Friends | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Guilt & Pride: How They Often Show Up Together

This morning as I was sipping my Chai tea, talking with one friend after another on the phone, and coloring in my adult coloring book (a trend I’m happily jumping into!)–two all-too-familiar feelings emerged, again, together: Pride and Guilt.

Why do things that are good for me often come with feelings of guilt?

Why do things that are good for me often come with feelings of guilt?

Pride, or a sense of gratification, because I was taking a slow morning since I wasn’t feeling super energetic, because I was coloring which has to be good for my creativity on some level, and because I was catching up with people I love. All good things, all meaningful to me, and all restorative.

But with it, like a Siamese Twin, was the feeling of Guilt. Guilt because I took a relaxing day yesterday and should be more productive today, because I really needed to shower, because it’s almost noon and what respected and accomplished women just color in the middle of the day?!

Where Pride & Guilt Lurk

I’ve observed recently how these two feelings seem to act like best friends in my life lately– always wanting to hang out near each other. Whether it’s the rescheduling of an early morning phone call even when I know my sleep is more important or the guilt I feel leaving my husband at home to go on another TravelCircle even when I know that traveling in this way is invigorating to me in an important way.  It seems weird to me that the very things I am proud of myself for doing are the areas where I feel the most guilt.

I hear it in my friends, too:

  • They feel proud of themselves for making the time to go out with friends while feeling guilty for leaving their kids in the evening.
  • They feel feel proud of themselves for practicing their independence and meeting their desire for adventure by traveling or going on a girls weekend while they struggle with guilt for spending money.
  • They feel proud of themselves for having great friends even while they feel guilty leaving their husbands/partners without them for the night.
  • They feel proud of themselves for saying no to attending another meaningless event even while they feel guilty for letting someone down.
  • They feel proud of themselves for saying yes and going outside their comfort zone even while they feel guilty for how that yes might impact others.
  • They feel proud of their amazing promotion, accomplishment, fulfilling marriage, or amazing kids while they feel guilty for how that might make others feel who don’t have that same pride.

Why does guilt come on the heels of pride so very often? Is that the way it has to be? Do we just shrug our shoulders and say, “Such is life?” Is one feeling more real than the other? Are they both equally valid? Am I supposed to ignore one of them?

What My Pride & Guilt are Telling Me

If the definition of being an Emotionally Intelligent (High EQ) person is contingent on my being able to accurately identify what I am feeling and know how to move myself back to a place of peace, then it is crucial that I listen to my feelings. But what does a girl do when her feelings seem to conflict with each other?

  1. Examine each feeling, starting with pride. Starting with pride, I close my eyes and ask, “Does this feel nourishing to me? Good for me? In alignment with my values?” My head nods.  “Do I believe deep down that this is what I need? That I’m in fact proud of  myself for listening to my inner wisdom?” I know I do.
  2. Next, examine guilt. I then turn to examine guilt. Guilt is the healthy response to wrong behavior, it’s our indicator that we’ve acted outside of our values so the last thing I want to do is just shoo it away without checking in.  So I close my eyes and ask, “Have I done something wrong? Am I acting outside of my values or code of ethics? Am I hurting someone willfully? Do I owe anyone an apology?”  While I might feel bad that someone feels disappointed or inconvenienced, I know to my core that I have done nothing wrong.
  3. Explore the origins of my guilt. Rather than just tell Guilt that it doesn’t belong here, I wish to understand why it’s here in the first place.  And the answer comes to me almost instantly: I think I’m supposed to feel guilty! For me, the sense of gratification for doing something good for me is a natural byproduct of my choice for self-care, for nourishment, for connection. But the guilt is a learned feeling– a feeling that emerges when I sense that others might or could judge me.  It’s not guilt from messing up, but fear that I’m not doing something “perfectly.” In the exploring, I realize that one feeling (pride) is what I am really feeling and the other (guilt) is what I have generated based on my comparisons to my ideal or that of others.
  4. Moving back to peace.  Just running through this process this morning while I was coloring gave me so much more freedom. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, just something unconventional.  But the coloring and talking to friends was actually more in alignment with my values and who I want to be than feeling pressure to “work” because it’s the middle of a certain weekday. I felt a peace come over me as I released the need to hold the guilt and instead embraced the gratification I felt that I was doing exactly what was best for me today.

If we don’t articulate our feelings and manage them to return us to peace then we risk living with these unprocessed conflicting and disorienting feelings all the time.

And if we name them but don’t choose which one we want to give precedence, then we’re at risk of simply saying no to that which is good for us because we give in to our unexamined or fake guilt.  But how sad would it be if we didn’t go out with friends, travel to amazing places, say yes to big things, say no to meaningless things, or spend time coloring in the morning all because we didn’t realize that the guilt wasn’t really ours? It’s not authentic guilt. How tragic would it be to live our lives more in alignment with this crazy picture of what others (or ourselves) think we should be instead of what our hearts and inner wisdom tell us we need?

Next time you feel guilt… I hope you’ll ask yourself “Is this authentic guilt or is this fake guilt?” And follow in the direction of the choice that makes you most proud of yourself; you know, that feeling of maturity, gratification, and real connection to yourself. We need a lot more women doing that which is good for them instead of complying with their fake guilt.

To all of us celebrating the choices we make that support our lives,

Shasta

 

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