Our country celebrated its independence this week. It is exciting and humbling to remember the people and events that created a new nation founded on freedom.
I am celebrating a bit of an Independence Day myself.
Most of you know by now that I have been seeing a life coach to help me with the anxiety and other issues that rob me of joy and keep me from being the person God created me to be.
I have reported that the coaching has proven to be effective in dealing with my anxiety. It is difficult for me to really explain how significant the impact has been for me. Last week, I talked about the pervasive fear with which I have grappled most of my life. I have always been afraid of pretty much everything. Being a reasonably courageous person and being a person who puts a high value on having a rich life, I spend a lot of energy trying to overcome fear in order to do the things I want to do… or feel that God has called me to do.
With the help of my life coach Todd Payne, I have been able to fundamentally change the way I manage my fear. I am not going to say that I am no longer afraid. I am, certainly, much LESS afraid that I was. I am also learning not to dread fear so much. Fear is like a rumor. It is information, but it may not be totally true. Sometimes, fear tells me something that is completely false, and I am learning to think critically about that. Sometimes, fear tells me that there is something important underneath the fear that I should explore. I am just trying things out now. I feel a little like a newborn colt. I know how to walk in this new way with fear, but my legs are still pretty wobbly. Most colts do learn to steady their legs and run at some point.
The other huge issue that has haunted me all my life and seriously impeded my life is my image of myself. I have shared some of this with you all before- my certainty that I am unattractive, unsexy, and unlovable because of my appearance. Part of that is body image, but it is more pervasive than that. It is really about virtually every aspect of my appearance, although the weight is the most obvious. I did not think I was ever going to be able to slay this particular dragon. It felt way too entrenched and vicious to ever evict from my spirit.
Todd uses the enneagram model as a basis for his coaching. I am a type six. I had a tough time figuring out that I am a type six. This is hardly surprising because the hallmark of unhealthy type sixes is self-doubt. The way to health for type sixes is to develop the quality of self-determination. In other words, my goal has been to see and assess my worth based on my own sense of self… and then to decide what I want and take steps to make it happen. In the past few weeks, I have started to experience a true shift in my mind and heart. I am saying this very quietly, as I don’t want the feeling to get scared and go away.
It started with a couple of very rough sessions where I came face-to-face with some fairly mind-blowing truths about the way I think about myself. For instance, based on the enneagram, only about 33% of all people even acknowledge any external standard of beauty. In other words, 66% of people do not even think about the vision of acceptable appearance that I grew up with in my head- the beautiful people in the magazines and on tv. About half those people do not expect to be attracted or not attracted to any particular type or standard- they just get attracted based on what appeals to them specifically. The other half are more likely to be attracted to someone based on how that person reflects an appealing place in the grand scheme of things. Theoretically, about 67% of people could be attracted to me, even though I look nothing like the industry standard of beauty by which I have condemned myself my whole life.
In another revelation, I found out that nearly 70% of American women wear a size 16 or above. What size do I wear? A size 16.
The hardest session had to do with my compulsion of looking for external validation for my wants. I never thought I could ask for what I wanted because I did not deserve to want anything. I was barely entitled to my needs, much less any wants. I wanted so badly for my coach to comfort me by telling me I was beautiful and lovable and valuable- in general, but also in his opinion. The compulsion was so strong that I was in physical pain. I knew he was not going to give me the assurance I wanted in that moment because it would not help me to develop what I really needed to develop… a sense of self-determination. He has always been supportive, and it is not like he has never gives me any positive feedback. He does. I think we both knew we had reached the point in the coaching process where I had to find that support within myself if I was ever going to crack the ceiling of our progress. I would like to explain how Todd led me through the process that day, but it just feels too private and too complicated and too unique to me. I still do not really understand how a conversation could make me feel so rejected and also so supported. I certainly was not able to explain it that day. I could not even articulate what I felt that day. My brain knew he was doing his job. My brain knew it was the right thing. What my heart felt was an ugly, disoriented, knotty mess of uck.
It was a pretty horrendous fifty minutes that day. We were able to mop up a little before we ended. I was not out on a ledge or anything. I did not feel hopeless. Todd did not leave me distraught, but he did leave me emotionally addled and in deep thought. A few hours later, I began to feel so much better… actually, better than I have in years. My mind opened up and thoughts came trickling merrily through my brain. The fruit of my thoughts seemed so much clearer than they had. I felt such a sense of relief. I decided to live in that relief and rest a bit- not try to motivate myself to do anything I did not want to do, not try to push the revelations any further. I just let my head, heart, and body rest from the workout they received during the session. A surge of excitement flowed through me, getting bigger and bigger with each moment.
A couple of days later, I was sitting in church, and it struck me. I am as appealing and cute as anyone else there. While part of me thought this idea was madness, most of me was actually embracing it. For some people, this may seem like a relatively minor realization. For me, it was HUGE. I have NEVER thought I was as attractive as anyone else. In fact, I always think I am distractingly unattractive. That I can sit there and believe, at any level, that I am attractive is a miracle. I wondered if it was sacrilegious or disrespectful to be thinking such things at church. But what better place than church to suddenly become aware of a miracle?
A few days later, I attended a meeting that did not go the way I expected it to go. It was challenging. There were a lot of people there who clearly did not agree with my perspective. They were people whom I have been trying very hard to please. I felt their displeasure viscerally at the meeting. A few months ago, I would have shrunk from the encounter and gone into hiding. Now, I could simply say what I wanted to say, understanding that I am entitled to my perspective and there is no catastrophe if others disagree. Just because someone disagrees with me does not make me wrong. I was able to sit in the moment, listen, be curious, and respond productively. It honestly did not bother me that people were annoyed with me.
Today, I was thinking about what I might want to pursue in my life. The thought came to my head that I am appealing, attractive, and desirable. I have not completely integrated that notion into my sense of self, but I am no longer dismissing it. For now, the notion is blanketing the top of my psyche. I am hoping it will start to sink in.
So, this is the story of my own personal Independence Day. I am declaring myself independent from the fears and insecurities and pain that have had tyranny over the best parts of me all these years. Just like with our nation’s independence, I know that I can declare it on a specific day but that it will take a lot more than just saying it to make it so. I know it will be a life’s work. And I am okay with that. I honestly cannot think of a better way to spend the rest of my life.
Have any of you come to an important realization later in life that you wish you had known much earlier? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a miraculous day!