I was talking with a client a few weeks back who can honestly and confidently state that she is strong and powerful and capable and competent. She’s 100% right about this!
Still, she is dealing with some things that have her feeling weak and wobbly and incapable and incompetent. She knows better AND she feels what she feels. It’s a conundrum, a paradox, a truth, a lie. And much like me, this has her spiraling a bit, feeling bad, berating herself, acknowledging her own ridiculous shame spiral.
I could attempt to talk her out of what she’s feeling. I could tell her what we’ve all heard a gazillion times: talk to yourself like you would someone you love. I could encourage her to see that she’s being overly critical, that self-compassion is deserved. (And of course, I could do all of this with and for myself, as well.)
Here’s the thing:
Our doubts and insecurities, our wounds and seen-patterns, even the negative thoughts that are completely contradictory to who we KNOW ourselves to be, are very, VERY good news! They point us to what matters, to what we care about most, to what we know-that-we-know-that-we-know.
IT’S OUR VERY FRUSTRATION THAT SERVES AS A COMPASS, A FORM OF DISCERNMENT, A MARKER OF TRUTH.
When my client tells me she feels weak and wobbly and incapable and incompetent, these very pains and irritants serve as irrefutable evidence of what matters to her, what she cares about most, and what she most definitely knows is true about her.
It’s uncomfortable to feel and name the contradiction, but it serves as a generous reminder of what is more true.
- If we don’t allow for the fact that we feel heartbroken and hopeless, we won’t see that compassion and hope are, in fact, qualities and characteristics that we hold dear and do, in fact, have…in spades.
- If we don’t allow for the fact that we feel lonely, we won’t recognize just how much we value relationship…and that we are more-than worthy of such, no compromising or compliance allowed.
- If we don’t allow for the fact that we care about how we are perceived by our co-workers, our boss, our kids, our significant other, then we won’t see (sometimes with excruciating clarity) that we must speak our mind, stand up for ourselves, and unswervingly value all that we offer and bring.
Our most uncomfortable feelings are often profound gift and grace.
I once heard someone explain the idea of a “south star.”
We know what a north star is: a concept, belief, or inherent truth by which we set our course, that keeps us focused, that points us in the right direction. A south star is just as powerful. It shows us where NOT to go and what is NOT true.
- What are your south stars?
- Think about some recent situation in which your internal response was almost immediate self-contempt or irritation.
- Write out what you felt, the self-talk that poured forth.
- Now, for each of those things you just wrote down, name their exact opposite. An example: I am so lazy. It’s opposite: Intentional. Contributing. Present.
- So, “lazy” is the south star that points you toward and reminds you that, in fact, what matters to you is being intentional, making a contribution, being fully present. And I’d be willing to bet that you already ARE all these things!
Worth stating again:
Our doubts and insecurities, our wounds and seen-patterns, even the negative thoughts that are completely contradictory to who we KNOW ourselves to be, are actually very, VERY good news!
They point us to what matters, to what we care about most, to what we know-that-we-know-that-we-know.
As my client talked to me about feeling the opposite of who she knows herself to be, she was able to use those emotions to name the exact conditions that often lead her down that path. She could see how those circumstances a) almost always bring about the same result, and b) are actually possible to avoid and eliminate. Honestly naming what she felt (her south star), even though hard, guided her back to remembering who she truly is.
I hope the same for you!
As caveat, let me say that not every painful or frustrating emotion can be *simply* converted into a south star that leaves us feeling better about ourselves. I do not mean to paint some kind of patina over the hard and excruciating things that happen in our lives. And believe me, though I am a profoundly hopeful person, I am not one who looks for the bright side or seeks out silver linings.
I am, however, a woman who believes deeply in the wisdom inherent in every emotion we have — admitted, expressed, or held tenderly within. Sometimes they are south stars. And sometimes they are veritable craters into which we fall. Either way (and everything in between), I am committed to allowing them in myself and others, to giving them ample and generous spaciousness and grace, to trusting that they will not overwhelm, but will, eventually and at last, walk us home to ourselves.
May it be so.
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