Most of my life I’ve had my antenna out and on high alert. I’ve always found it exhausting to be around people, it can take me days to recover from a weekend visitor. I find I can swing from being worried incase I am considered too exuberant, talking too much, overstaying or overplaying my social welcome, to worrying I’m too quiet; perhaps my friend is feeling lonely, bored or is thinking I’m dull company. At work I can swing from concern that I am acting the bulldozer and taking over to concern that I’m lazy and letting others take too much of the workload. I have been trying to negotiate a path whereby I am available to people exactly when and how much that is needed but not overdo it when I was not wanted. Reading this today I can see how impossible that path was to tread.
In long periods of my life I’ve been so uncentered I have been tormented by the anxiety of being sure I had struck the ‘wrong’ balance. Sometimes haunting my mind for hours and days at a time, I would find memories would stack up one on top of another and I just felt horrible – I guess on closer examination this is the epitome of self hatred. Fortunately that intensity of horrible-ness is just memory now. Today I can see this behaviour has nearly destroyed me. Exhaustion, depression, confusion.
One key question that comes to mind is: “Where was I in all this?”
Then a whole load of other questions swiftly follow:
“What capacity did I have to give without damaging my own wellbeing?”
“How much was I willing to give of my time and energy?”
“What did I want to spend my time and energy on to be authentic to myself?”
“How long did I want to stay to be good to myself and my needs?”
“How much do I want to engage in social interaction to fulfil my needs?”
I see that I posed all those questions regularly in regard to the people around me. I would actually ask to try to find out if I was indeed talking too much, taking over or if my exhaustion made me bad company. But the rest of the time and a very significant amount of my energy, went to interpreting the subtle actions and reactions of people around me so I could intuit what I needed to do or be to make it feel most comfortable for them (= for them to like and accept me).
Today I can see where and how I developed such crazy making patterns. How I learned as a child that people around me couldn’t cope with my deeper, darker feelings, I became ashamed for my depth of tears, fears and needs, so I learned not to show them. I received a strong message that I was like a bulldozer or bull in a china shop and was shamed for my enthusiasm and high energy; energy bouts that subsequently got the blame for my troughs of depression and exhaustion, so I tried to suffocate them. Although this strategy has seen me though a few decades of life, it is not sustainable, I’m exhausted, confused as to what I want or need and without the communicative strategies with which to express them.
“What doesn’t kill you gives you a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms” Unknown
Sometimes I still struggle with finding the balanced path but in most situations I am finding a good path to tread. What is most characteristic of my new and successful path is an ‘antenna in’ approach. We can’t ever second guess others so that we can act perfectly for them all the time. And we don’t need to. Keeping our antenna in means checking in with ourselves to find the right answer for us. We need to land ‘at home’; with that i mean grounded and aware in our body (I’m aiming for another blog here with ‘how-to’ description). We need to be first and foremost asking the above questions to ourselves. Being authentic to our own needs is also being truthful to others.
It is a gift to others to set boundaries and say no when we are not able or willing to be there, otherwise it is a lie and is bound to be oozing with subtle or not so subtle negative energy. It is a gift to send a message of trust to the other person that we believe them capable to take responsibility for themselves, either in a practical, social or emotional way. Many times setting boundaries and saying no leaves a void for the other person; this can initially feel uncomfortable but often turns into growing ground for other things, capabilities or people to enter their lives. Always being alert to another is stealing their opportunity to show up for themselves. Asking for help or for your own needs to be met gives others the opportunity to show up for you, refraining from asking others to step up gives only a message that you do not trust in their capabilities.
Some people, used to our former behaviour, protest when we start to say no, to set boundaries or ask for needs to be met. Some may step up and change the relationship dynamics in response to the new behaviours, others might not, or only partially. It is a difficult and sad task to see those people who will not support our change and gradually let them go, or at least let go of the idea that they have the capacity to show up for us in the way we need.
Since becoming more true to myself I have naturally started to attract people on my life who behave differently to people I previously had surrounding me. I have noticed a shift in the type of people who are crossing my path (for anyone interested I’m gently speaking about the law of attraction in this statement, we attract what we are). The people in our lives are like a mirror we hold up to ourselves. I’m so happy to se the reflection of myself changing in the people I meet. Spending time now with people who actively and beautifully take care of my needs, who refuse to let me hide when I’m sad and instead hold me unquestioningly. Those who see the allure of my enthusiasm, the charm of my childishness, and the beauty in the depth of my soul. I no longer have one mask hiding a host of vulnerabilities I dare not admit to myself let alone show the world. I am gradually emerging as a colourful, complex person daring to explore and be true to every part of my being. Currently I’m but a fledgling, but I hope with time and practice I will become more mature in my capability to keep my antenna in and trust that being staying centred and true to myself is the greatest gift I can give the world and all those around me.
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