Pain is not your identity

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Perhaps you have felt the paralyzing fear that you will be labeled for what you are struggling with. Your self-identified weakness will become your identity, your insecurities will become who you are, your addiction will be all that is ever remembered of you. While we certainly cannot control how other people see us, we CAN control what we believe to be our identity.

What consumes us is always at the front of our consciousness. Whether is is a physical ailment, a skill or talent, or a psychological struggle. There is something that is central to us, for some it changes with the seasons, for others it is a constant battle. Maybe you do not know any different, maybe you do but you cannot seem to remember what it felt like.

You might identify yourself as an athlete.
You might see yourself as a writer, intellectual, student, or mother.
Conversely, you might see yourself as everything you despise. You might see yourself as a failure, sub-par or an almost-made it.

I thought if I shared anything beyond the positive sides of me, that is what I would become. That by saying it I was releasing a part of my identity that would take over anything else I have managed to build for my self-image.

We seem to focus on the negative things that become our identity, but when did it become okay to label ourselves with our pain? In what context does it make sense to reduce our value to all of the things that keep us from being ourselves?

What if I said you are not your pain? What if I said you are not your struggles? What if I said those things are the complete opposite to the core of your being?

Could you even begin to believe that?

Maybe pain is simply a response to everything that defies who you are. Maybe it is your body telling you that things are not right, yet somewhere along the line we thought normality was this pain that we felt.

While sudden pain might have once shocked you and alerted you of danger, now it serves to create an identity of this person you never claimed to be. You befriend this pain, because you can’t see beyond it, and you accept the fact that it is who you are.

While it may not be immediately conquerable, understood or deserved, there is more to it.
We are fortunate enough to have a clear signal that tells us of an imbalance, yet it serves the opposite purpose when we latch onto the pain rather than trying to see beyond it.

Until we can separate the pain and the problem, the problem will just be the pain. We can learn to treat the pain all we want, but if we never try to treat the problem, we are stuck in a cycle of temporary relief.

We have made incredible progress treating many symptoms. But the problem is when we stop there. This goes beyond medical intercession, into all the ways in which we suppress or hide our imperfections to avoid becoming them.

Some are easier to hide than others.

I do not have an explanation for all the things that cause you strife, I simply want to propose the idea that it is not YOU.

It is just the opposite.

What if you looked at emotional pain the same as physical pain? What if you responded with asking for help?
What if you simply realized that something is not right, and knew you deserve to live in harmony, not conflict?

What if pain became a signal rather than a secret?
What if it was there to alert you rather than harm you?

What if you truly believed your identity lies in the person that you are in spite of everything you have been bound by?

Maybe it is our response to pain that creates the chaos, not the pain itself. Maybe it is all the ways we try to cover it up, instead of seeing it as important.

Maybe our chains come from letting pain become who we are. And maybe we can break them simply by seeing that there is more.

 

 

Photo Attribution: Matt Blaze

 

 

 

We Need Each Other

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I got this. I can do this.

Independence.

When I was a kid I longed for the days where I could be independent. Where I could make my own rules, follow my own way of life, and have my own responsibilities. As a stubborn kid I just wanted to be independent, it seemed so appealing.

Then I grew up – just a little, and started to believe the trend that success meant doing it on your own. That this idea of independence was an endearing trait, something people valued and looked for in a leader. There was something about rising above it all, being the one who can achieve anything that was so appealing.

I came to university, where independence is not encouraged, it’s expected. I started to take on any struggle as strictly my own problem, something I would figure out before I would approach people. It made me secretive, like I had to put on an act and only share with people who genuinely seemed interested in my life – criteria I was very strict on evaluating.

There’s a myth in our culture that associates needing people with weakness. Somewhere along the line achievement and success became self-focused, and the company of others became less enjoyable and real.

I believed that needing people was a negative thing. That people could need me, but I didn’t need them. The constant tension of “They have no idea what is going on with me” was a part of every relationship, because getting outside help or advice would just mean i’d failed.

Recently, this has been the single most important thing that is changing how I see my relationships.

Strength isn’t the ability to be independent, strength is recognizing that you need other people to be strong. My biggest mistake was thinking that I need to do it on my own, thinking that I’d be admired for my ability to need no one.

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help”
Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I started taking charge, not waiting for someone to approach me, instead believing that someone would listen if I talked, believing that other people can and would help. Not only does this radically change your view of yourself and what you need, but it adds tremendous substance to relationships. Not because you are being open and honest, but because connection with people means you do both. You cry, vent and confide, just as you laugh, play and joke.

When I only allowed myself to do just one, I wasn’t letting myself be fully me around anyone. I would laugh with some people, cry with a select few, or just completely avoid it altogether. You can’t avoid the authenticity and expect the laughter to come effortlessly. When you can be honest and dare I say it – needy, you can be silly as well. And the laughter becomes so much more real, because you aren’t using it to cover the pain, it’s simply a part of the experience of connection.

The more I kept myself from needing other people, the more weight it seemed to carry. The bigger everything seemed to get, and those who didn’t appear to have their own struggles became out of reach. The more I believed that needing others was weakness, the more I relied on others needing me as a temporary confidence boost.

So I’ve been trying to be intentional. To not pick and choose who can safely hold my story because sharing it is a sign of weakness, but instead recognizing how all of it is important. I’m trying to ask for things when I need them, and not feel bad for desiring the company of others. I’m letting myself laugh even when I’m having a tough day, because there’s a time for both. It doesn’t always need to be about the struggle, just as it won’t always be laughter that fills the room.

You can have your independence and still need people. You can be your own person but still need others. Your ability to be independent will weigh heavily on recognizing when other people are a necessary part of your life. You are not better than the person who is asking for your help, just as they aren’t better than you when you need it.

Ask for help, need other people. We all need others just as much as we need to be needed. We just have to get better at saying it.

The Mountaintop – A Poem

This poem is about those moments of joy, however long or short they might be, and how important it is to let them be your reality. That you may feel comfortable, secure and free in knowing you are entitled to pure joy, and you deserve to enjoy the presence of it. So when you come down from the mountain, know that you are invited back up anytime.

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When you’re happy, BE happy

because it isn’t always there.

Don’t discount the joy you feel, 

right now

in this moment 

it’s good, it’s freedom

all is fair.

 

Though you don’t live on the mountain

it’s okay to build a home.

You can rest in it for now,

let it be a reality, all that you know.

 

Don’t leave because you need to

leave because you can

The freedom of your own decisions 

is so much bigger than…

 

those times you feel

the times you don’t 

the times when there is nothing

When you’re alone, in a crowded room

‘i swear i’m fine, i’m good’

it’s not true, there is something

 

you don’t need to see the end

to stay in the race

you don’t need to beat what’s broken

so that music can play.

 

I can hear it loud and clear

it’s ringing in my ears

you can still be afraid 

yet not be conquered by your fears.

 

Listen as I say

it WILL be okay

 

before

during

after it all.

 

Before you know what’s to come

during storms, rain and sun.

After you come out of the tunnel

you can walk, sure,

but you can also run.

 

Time it doesn’t stop,

neither will your life.

Don’t pause and let

what hasn’t happened yet

be dawn after the night.

 

If you were saved from any darkness,

would you really know the light?

If you knew only what is good,

would the goodness bring you life?

 

Let this mountain be your refuge,

Let yourself feel joy

Even if you’re leaving soon,

for now it’s yours to enjoy

 

Let your time be now,

to dwell above the clouds

and this beauty that you see

can still be beautiful from the ground.

Delight In The Process… Even When It’s Not Awesome

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Life is about the journey, not the destination…

Heard that one before.

But what if you never feel ready for the destination? Like you’re not ready until you…

Just lose one more pound…

Just be a little more generous…

Just get that one promotion…

Happiness always seems so close yet so untouchable. And the process we have to go through to be who we want to be is long, arduous and neverending. And until we’re there we can’t experience true contentment…

I believe that’s a lie.

I’ll be the first to say I set ridiculously high standards for myself. There’s always something I need to learn, improve, change or get rid of. It’s easy to think that if i JUST do this ONE thing, my life will be where I want it to be. But that never really happens.

During one of my long but much-needed vent sessions, my friend Anne said to me:

He delights in the process even when it’s not awesome” 

(one of her many wise statements)

To me that meant, God is happy with who I am now, even as I grow and change and strive to be other things.

I’m often afraid to approach certain people or situations until I’ve conquered my struggles. It will be easier to talk about them as something of the past, rather than dealing with them at present, right? wrong.

If we are always afraid to take the next step, to start the next journey because of something about ourselves that isn’t fixed, we’ll never get anywhere.

It can be painful and difficult to work through your struggles, and i’m not here to say that they aren’t incredibly tough. But you need to know that wherever you are at, you are just as valuable as you will be at the other end of the tunnel.

If you lose that weight or not, you are still loved.

If you make the team or not, you are still loved.

If you conquer your addiction or not, you are still loved.

If you save the world or not, you are still loved.

(okay that last one is a little extreme, but it’s true!)

I think it’s important to never stop developing yourself as a person, and striving to be the best that you can be, but when that becomes the difference between you accepting yourself or not, your standards can take a break. Don’t give up striving to be who you want to be, but don’t let it hold you back from being who you are.

You are never going to fix everything, and you are never going to achieve something that satisfies your every desire forever, because then you would have no further purpose, and if you did that at 14, well then you’d have a lot of free time on your hands.

So whatever it is you think you need to change about yourself, just know that it’s not the solution, it’s simply part of your journey.

And it’s okay to not have it all together. Because no one does.

And the process is just as beautiful as the finish.

So delight in the process, because it’s yours.

 

What is it that you feel you need to beat, achieve or conquer to be where you want to be?