A few weeks ago I went on the most amazing learning adventure! I belong to a kind of support group, a “tribe” of people who want to make healthy changes in their lives and help others do the same. The group was created by a licensed marriage and family therapist, but he is not your typical therapist and likes to approach things in new and innovative ways. About twenty of us did a 30 day video challenge. Others in the group who didn’t do the video challenge were also able to participate by watching, sharing their own experiences in relation to ours, and giving feedback. Therapists and life coaches were also involved and some of them participated in the video portion as well.
We were asked to do a 3-5 minute daily video and simply come to the table being completely authentic and genuine with whatever was going on that day or in our lives at that time. Happy, sad, mad, crying, excited, bored, sleepy, whatever was going on, the goal was to be completely authentic about it. Not as easy as it sounds. But…
It. Was. Amazing. Very scary at first. Unsettling. Emotional. Cathartic. Life altering. Empathy, sympathy, and compassion inducing. Ground breaking. Healing. Unbelievably rewarding. Eye opening. People were raw and funny and loving and depressed and happy and in incredible pain and lonely and hurting and best of all, real.
It has changed my own life and the way I view life, forever. We all started off a little nervous and guarded. All of us at one point or another had to struggle with, “Why am I putting myself through this?!” It didn’t take long though before we could all see that it was turning into something inspiring and amazing that I don’t think any of us expected. My goal was to get something positive out of it and to learn about myself and others. It was a bird’s eye view of people’s lives and how we all deal with our choices and life circumstances. In order to open myself up to learning and understanding, I had to step out of my comfort zone and allow myself to be raw and vulnerable. Something most people avoid like a swarm of killer bees.
As the challenge warmed up, many of us began to notice patterns in our own lives. Things we thought we might like to focus on. Watching other’s videos and the feedback and support we all gave to each other was monumental to the change we all experienced. It was healthy, thought provoking, challenging in positive ways, it involved tools, love, support, and the utmost of kindness and genuineness. We all had the same goal, to learn to understand what it really means to be truly authentic and genuine with who we are and to place less worry and focus on what other people think.
When we worry too much about what others think of us or fear their reactions when we are genuine, we stifle who we really are, what we really want, and it changes the outcome of situations that we’re in, relationships we have, and most of all, it doesn’t allow us to live life fully. Because everyone in the group shared the common goal of authenticity, there was zero drama or nasty judgement of any kind. In fact, there never is in this group, it’s really quite something. We agreed not to share anyone else’s stories outside of our group. This created what the founder of the group calls, a “safe container”. It allowed for vulnerability and honesty. It was incredible and I have made life long friendships.
Here’s just a few of the learning opportunities I came away with:
1. Many of us look to others and how they treat us as a barometer of our own self worth.
2. We worry about our value based on what we can or cannot do to help others.
3. We put others before our own self-care, which depletes us of energy and in the long run causes us to feel resentment.
4. If we aren’t used to self-care, the concept of it can be very uncomfortable, but it is imperative to our own health and the health of our relationships.
5. By not caring for ourselves and setting healthy boundaries, we become a doormat to others and invite narcissistic, overly needy, unhealthy, and manipulative people into our lives.
6. Feelings of guilt and not putting our emotional well-being first, stops us from feeling true joy and fulfillment when we do things for others.
7. Our self-worth is NOT defined by others. I read a quote by someone somewhere once that said, “Worthiness has no prerequisites.”
8. You can say “no” without guilt. It takes a lot of practice.
9. We can take time for ourselves and do things for ourselves on a regular basis without feeling guilty or selfish because in the long run, we are then healthier and ready to help others.
10. We need to realize without proper self-care and a “healthy container”, we are unable to give of ourselves fully, and unable to receive fully.
11. We have the power to form new and healthier habits, and break negative patterns. It can be done in a healthy way with the right tools.
12. We should strive to be aware of our wants and needs, to understand them and stick to firm boundaries for ourselves, and to care for ourselves so we can fully love others.
13. We are of value, just as we are. We all have gifts, talents, and qualities that add to our life and experience with others, but those gifts or the lack thereof, are not the barometer by which people should be loving us or the barometer by which we should be loving ourselves.What the world teaches is the complete opposite of that statement. Ignore it.
For a lot of us, doing things for others is relatively easy. The difficult part for those of us who are big “feelers” and “givers” is that twist of guilt every time loving ourselves comes into play. Isn’t it selfish? Shouldn’t I always put others first? Isn’t this where the treasure is? In self sacrifice for the greater good? There’s nothing wrong with loving people and taking care of others, but we need to make sure that the cost isn’t so high, that it ends up being an unhealthy type of love and care.
The ins and outs of life tend to get in the way of how we love ourselves and how we love others. Relationships can be confusing and painful. They can start off great and then all the sudden something raises your red flags. How you deal with those red flags, makes all the difference. Our tendency is often to ignore and overlook our feelings on a regular basis. We don’t like to face uncomfortable truths about ourselves or others. Issues grow like weeds and over time if they aren’t dealt with properly, they choke out anything good. Your gut instinct is important. The action you take can make a life changing difference in your happiness.
Issues over the years that aren’t worked out properly, family dynamics and dysfunction, trauma, making unhealthy choices for ourselves, and pairing ourselves in friendships, family relationships, and romantic relationships with people who don’t know how to love or can’t love in a healthy way, cause our own life containers to be cracked. So does not taking the time to care for ourselves and not setting healthy boundaries.
Life with a cracked container doesn’t work because no matter how much or how often we try to fill our container with peace and joy and people and stuff…it all just leaks right out eventually. So what then? Find perfect people to surround ourselves with? Protect ourselves by not having relationships at all? Always strive to do the “right thing”? Strive to be perfect? Strive to pretend that we are infallible? Pretend we aren’t in pain when we are?
Do we think that is the key to loving others and ourselves? Pretending? Living an inauthentic life? Not being genuine in our feelings, words, and actions? Or maybe the key is being a doormat? If I’m a doormat, surely people will see how loving I am and how much I sacrifice…surely they will love me for that sacrifice. Right?
We all have cracks in our containers. It’s a fact. The key is to take some time to get to know ourselves enough to want to fix those cracks so that we can love others properly, receive love properly, and embrace life fully. What if we could stop wondering why we are surrounded with dysfunctional people and circumstances, and start figuring out what functional looks like and how we can get more of it? Choosing functional over dysfunctional means we work to be fully aware of our choices and patterns and how significantly they alter and change our overall happiness. We must be willing to ask ourselves all the really tough questions and then do the hard work to map out a plan to break the unhealthy patterns in our lives.
Why have I been complacent? Maybe I’m just now more aware? Sometimes things in life stir this awareness. Is it fear? Is it anger? Am I being lazy in my relationships and sticking my head in the sand? What makes me truly happy? Why am I willing to live with the status quo? What are my healthy life tools? Am I being genuine with myself? Am I being genuine with others? Who is in my “tribe” and are they adding or only taking away? Am I afraid people won’t like or love me if I’m genuine? Am I afraid of disappointing people? What does loving myself look like? What does loving others look like to me and is it a healthy picture?
Is my life balanced properly? Am I relying on others to fix and fill my container? What ARE the cracks in my container and what can I do to repair those cracks and fill my container with fantastic life experiences, love, and peace, and joy? Why do I think I can give in a healthy way to the people I love if my own container is leaking? Do I have unhealthy relationships/experiences that I am still relying on to fill my container?
Do I have a solid vision of what my healthy, filled, container looks like?
Pretending that we are happy with certain situations, relationships, friendships, and circumstances, when we really aren’t, only creates more cracks. Healing comes with authenticity. With looking at ourselves and our environment clearly. Pretending may feel comfortable initially because inviting change can be unsettling and difficult.
Unfortunately over time, pretending steals our joy.
Some people cling to their cracked container. Maybe it’s because it’s what they’re used to and they’ve become comfortable, maybe it brings them the attention they crave, maybe it gives them a good excuse not to work on their own life stuff. Sometimes it seems the more damaged their container, the better they like it. The same negative life choices are made over and over again. They cling to it like it’s a trophy. An unhealthy, personal memento of past pains and grievances. I deserve these cracks! People have hurt me! Experiences have hurt me! I OWN these cracks! They make me who I am!
We are not our cracks. Our cracks hold us back. They steal our peace and our happiness. Our cracks are not who we are but are an indication of what needs to change so we can live happily, peacefully, and healthfully. Authentically us. The way we were created to be as unique individuals. Practicing self awareness is achieved by looking at the negative and positive patterns in our own lives. We aren’t stuck with a cracked container. It CAN be fixed and filled with the most amazing tools, experiences, and healthy forms of love.
A good place to start? Stop trying to fix other people’s cracked containers. We need this tattooed in our subconscious. We can only do the work to fix our own container. Stop focusing on what everyone else is doing wrong. Oh believe me, there’s plenty of people doing wrong…but it won’t do you any good to focus on them. They have their own unhealthy patterns that only they can work out. If you have someone willing to work with you, then great. If not, don’t let that stop you from working on your cracks!
Once our cracked containers are able to hold great things without leaking, amazing change begins to happen. Our perspective changes. Do you really know what that feels like? To really and truly have your perspective change? To have the realization that nothing has changed except YOU and in that process your entire outlook on everything changed in a positive way even though…everything and everyone else stayed the same?
It will rock your world.
Just by changing yourself, working on you and I don’t mean “self help” crap, I mean truly getting down to the nitty gritty of patterns (relationships, choices, issues) and directing them in a different way …just by changing the pattern, you and your environment will change. You may think, “Well, that’s easier said than done!” And you would be right.
Changing our environment whether it be ourselves, the relationships we’re in, our health, our jobs, our social circle…is not an easy task. But it can be done and it is worth the hard work.
A healthy, fulfilling, life takes awareness and elbow grease and here’s a newsflash:
Nothing. About. Life. Is. Simple. The actual act of changing your perspective and letting go of the past, your mistakes, other people’s mistakes, and patterns that hold you back… takes work and insight, and a lot of uncomfortable self evaluation.
When true perspective change hits you, it’s all at once an unsettling, wonderful, peaceful, mind boggling, awareness, that will change how you look at yourself and others forever in the very best of ways.
A changed perspective brings new experiences instead of the old scratched record playing over and over again. A repaired container allows us to fill up with healthy, soul fulfilling, experiences and relationships and enables us to receive and give love and support to ourselves and others, properly.
What does your container look like? How will you begin mending the cracks?
We repeat what we don’t repair.
The vision behind the “tribe” mentality is that we were not meant to do life alone without other humans. That we can repair and heal with the help of others in a non-traditional “therapeutic” environment. A tribe is a group of people who you can relate to. No one has the exact same story, but a tribe is there to support and everyone learns from each other’s experiences and tools. People are heard without judgement and when there is no judgement, and people are given support, tools, and healthy, logical, feedback, people feel free to share and it deepens connection and builds strength. This is possible because there is the understanding and acceptance that everyone struggles with life’s ups and downs. With a firm focus on being authentic and transparent, it opens up a new and refreshing level of support.
John Kim, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and life coach. He will have a book available in the beginning of 2017. It’s called “Transparency”. I’ve read the short version. It will open your eyes to the relationships around you and the choices you make. Keep your eye out, it will be well worth the read.
Homemade Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream
*This recipe is best when the cream mixture is made a day ahead and allowed to chill over the night in the refrigerator before churning.
1 Pound of Ripe Organic Strawberries, sliced
1/4 Cup of Organic Coconut Sugar
3 1/2 Cups (27oz) of Full Fat Coconut Milk
8 Organic Egg Yolks
2/3 Cup Organic Coconut Sugar
Scrapings From 2 Vanilla Beans
Place the sliced strawberries and the 1/4 cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat until sugar is melted and simmer for 20-3o minutes until strawberries are soft and sauce has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large saucepan, add the coconut milk, egg yolks, 2/3 cup of sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Turn the burner on medium-medium low and stir constantly until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. Do not overcook or cook on too high of heat or the eggs will scramble and the ice cream batter will be clumpy and taste “off”.
Add the strawberry mixture to the cream mixture and pour into a container and refrigerate over night.
Pour into ice cream maker of choice. I use the ice cream attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. Churn according to directions and freeze to set.