I needed a break and be with myself. Reconnecting and unwind from all that was in the past months. Looking back, I am not sure how I survived. Resilience for sure helped.
One week with my son close to the beach enjoying the whispers of the ocean. His youthful bliss reminds me of what is left of love in my elusive world.
This week where I disconnected with technology and connected with life, revelations unfolded one after the other. I finally made sense of significant events in my life over the past years. I finally reflected without judgment, planning or pressure on what was, what is and what will be.
The biggest revelation of all was deeply rooted in my spirit: the fear of not belonging.
Fear of not belonging
Only God knows the inner suffering of those too proud to share. Of those too scarred to open up. And those whose self-worth depends on society’s perception of what they are supposed to be.
Fear has been deeply rooted as long as I remember. For the past few years, fear was preparing me for breaking free of a self-inflicted cage. Over the past years and months, fear was present in all facets of life. Overwhelmed by fear of what the medical verdict will be. Fear of the unknown as my social construct which lasted seven years is undone. Fear of flying solo as an institutional career of seventeen years is about the end.
Revolutionary revelations as I discover that fear is not what causes the inner suffering. My whole life I mastered fear by just doing. Mindfulness now helps me engage and embrace fear as part of our journey on earth.
Instead, what I discovered is our greatest fear in life is not to belong. A fear I have yet to learn how to master.
Reading The gifts of imperfections: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Dr. Brené Brown was perhaps the greatest gift I offered myself during my time off. Everything she wrote struck a chord in my entire being.
Perhaps the following passage was the most striking of all when she described the definitions of love and belonging and how they make up an intentional knot as a deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men, and children.
We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them — we can just love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.
Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which is not only hollow substitutes for belonging but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.
Hiding behind algorithms of social media
Technology gives us a false sense of love and belonging. We measure ourselves with how many followers we have, how many likes on our posts we gain and how much virtual engagement we attract. Our self-worth is entangled with social media algorithms, and if you are not a digital native, your self-esteem is likely to suffer from inactivity.
How does one belong to an era where technology dictates our lifestyle?
Plagued by this question I went on a social media detox for one week. In a separate series of articles, I share my journey and life lessons learned. Disconnecting with technology meant connecting with life. I discovered true belonging when not glued to screens of addiction. Surroundings and experiences became alive. Vivid moments and pure joy otherwise never felt when technology rules your life.
Disconnecting also meant connecting with my deepest emotions as escaping in the virtual reality was no longer an option. Who am I without my job title? Where do I belong after my divorce? What is my purpose in life?
My seven revelations on belonging in the digital age
While reading Dr. Brené Brown’s book, I connected with my inner-self and reflected over the past few years and months. A reflection which helped make sense of all what was unfolding in my life, the good and bad.
This piece is perhaps one of the most authentic and vulnerable written words I am sharing with the world.
It takes courage and bravery to open up and inspire others to escape the darkness and let the light enter. Even if my story touches one soul and helps shine light into their lives, I am blessed beyond imagination.
My seven revelations as I finished reading the gifts of imperfection, a book that will prove to be life-changing.
1. Authenticity means freedom
When we live out of sync with our baseline of self, we are in-prisoned. We are lost in life, and we lash out at or hide from those we love the most. We put up masks when with others and only when alone or with those special few, we shapeshift in our true selves. It is exhausting living life with a mask. We miss out on pure moments of joy, gratitude, and happiness.
As humans, we are designed for greatness and brilliance, each with our own unique mission on earth. Every person has unleashed talents because of the fear of not belonging. Fear of judging looks from society if we don’t conform. Fear of standing out and being discovered for the fraud we are. A type of fear that is holding us back instead of propelling us forward.
Dr. Brené Brown’s book helped me realize something I knew all along but was articulated in such a powerful and transformational way: when we stop caring what other people think, we set our selves free to be our most authentic selves.
When I look at my own life, only when I write, when I coach, when I create, when I innovate outside of institutional boundaries I become alive. I experience pure joy and happiness.
I finally understand that everything I went through and I am still going through is to help me live my highest and most authentic expression of myself in a world where superficial prevails.
2. Asking for help is a sign of humanity
Pride and fear of being seen as weak have kept everything cropped up inside. My fear of trusting and experiencing hurt has grown immensely over the past years.
Reading the gifts of imperfection, I realized that humanity craves social connection between human beings. We need to belong; otherwise, we become lost and depressed creatures. Asking for help is a sign of vulnerability, not weakness. Vulnerability is a sign of love not defeat. Asking for help allows us to unload, relief and trust others to hold space for our troubles in life.
And if you are blessed to have special people in your life, they will be honored and will feel blessed to hold space for you. You just have to ask without fear. You just have to ask without worry of perceptions. Just ask for help when you need and allow momentary relief to re-energize you for the tsunamis of life.
3. The opposite of happiness is uncertainty
When I analyzed my behavior inside out, I discovered the control freak in me which was disguised as a bright spirit who lives with the flow of life. Nothing less was true. Like many, I need to control what happens in the present and future as living with uncertainty is something I despise. When we scratch the surface and dive deep into our emotions and behaviours, we discover answers we never expected. Reading Dr. Brené Brown’s book helped me unravel a phenomenon I have yet to learn and master:
Letting go, surrender to the universe and embrace uncertainty as part of life.
If you are like me, you want to set expectations on how others should act in a way that makes sense to you. Often this is not how life works and disappointment kicks in every single time when things don’t go the way you want them. Or when an experience is about to unfold, the need to have a “what if” scenario outlined in its finest granularity of details helps us to replace uncertainty and be in control. When in reality, we will never be in control of what the universe is responsible for.
Learning to embrace uncertainty and accept what is beyond our locus of control creates true moments of happiness. I only just now started to practice this every day, and I can feel freedom and inner-peace whispering me back to life.
4. Holding people accountable instead of shame and blame
In her Ted Talk viewed over 35million times worldwide, Dr. Brené Brown talks about the transformational power of vulnerability. We open up to our core for others to feel our heartbeat, and so we are vulnerable. Inevitably, we also allow others to hurt us often without them knowing the suffering they inflict upon us.
It is because the actual suffering is inflicted through our own mind. When others act in ways, not in line with our expectations, feelings of hurt and shame triumph and blaming externally commences.
We refuse to take responsibility for our own emotions and behavior as we continue to attach expectations to outcomes so we can beat uncertainty.
What I learned from reading the gifts of imperfection is how to hold others accountable when they don’t treat you the way you demand for yourself. Demonstrating the consequences of their behavior instead of shaming and blaming will give them a chance to either correct or remain. And if they remain, you always have a choice to be part of what is and what will not change.
A revelation indeed as now I am learning to clearly communicate what I want and expect for myself and illustrate the consequences if my boundaries are not respected.
This is not easy, especially if you lack self-love and self-acceptance. Think hard and long about what you want for yourself to live happiness and joy through moments and experience in your renewed reality.
5. Engage with your darkest and intense emotions
Through a momentary action or event, our emotional being can go drama queen crazy on us. Anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, doubt and other intense feelings when someone says or does something that questions our core. Whether it is true or not, whether the person knows you or not, their words or behavior hit you like a tsunami of self-doubt, anger, and shame throwing you off balance. Shame is perhaps at the core of what keeps you off balance. Developing shame resilience is a new concept unknown to me before I learned about it in Dr. Brené Brown’s book:
Shame resilience is the ability to recognize shame, to move through it constructively while maintaining worthiness and authenticity, and to ultimately develop more courage, compassion, and connection as a result of our experience.
This practice helps tap into your rational part of the brain and enhances your judgment and decision making. Not easy and as I am by far not a spiritual guru, it takes patience and awareness. But like everything in life, this is a journey, not an end-state.
The other day I got overwhelmed by anxiety and hurt when my mind went off in the Wild-West. I had just finished reading her book and immediately applied one of the critical lessons from her book:
Engage by delving deep into your emotions through the written word.
I wrote down how I felt, then I looked at what I know to be true and what I don’t know and what are merely subjective assumptions. Listing these on paper was transformational as anxiety disappeared and I became rational again.
For the first time in my life, my anxiety lasted for a few minutes only. I found out what works for me in staying connected with reality, a life lesson so hard to learn yet invaluable for navigating life.
6. Practice happiness and joy, every day
What Is Joy? Joy seems to be a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love. — ADELA ROGERS ST. JOHNS
We too often believe that happiness is an end-state, given to us on a golden plate or we need to work hard and suffer immensely to deserve it. What I learned from the gifts of imperfection is happiness and joy are two different, yet interrelated concepts which are attained through practice. We are not happy; we practice happiness. We are not joyful, we practice joyfulness.
Experiencing joy and happiness as much as you can is an intentional and deliberate effort.
You work so hard to build your business, achieve your organizational goals and objectives, deliver on those milestones so you can get promoted. You put so much energy into achieving material wealth to advance your status and title. Rarely though do you experience joy and happiness if you are not intentional about practicing it every single moment.
7. Connect with what is instead of what should be
My final revelation is by disconnecting from virtual reality fueled by the technology, we connect with life. This is not a new concept to me but by undergoing a social media detox and reading the gifts of imperfection, everything made sense, and everything became alive. I swear, I am not on drugs or hallucinating. By disconnecting I stopped contemplating what should be and appreciate what is. There is so much we possess of intrinsic value we are oblivious too.
The most significant revelation of all was perhaps that I took the time and reflect on major happenings over the past few months, and even years. Everything is making sense all of a sudden. I saw patterns I was incognizant of before tapping into what is deep inside of me. A sense of inner peace and freedom emerged.
Disconnecting entirely from technology is not what I want nor what is feasible. What is possible is to pause myself and reflect from the inside out by applying my own life lessons and those of others who have been there before us.
Dr. Brené Brown’s authenticity and inspirational stories of her own experiences have without a doubt transformed many lives across the globe. Through her research and experiences, we now can renew our datasets and adjust our GPS navigating life from our inner and most authentic self in the digital age.
Originally published on P.S I Love you 21 July 2018.
Stories from the heart
Thank you for taking the time and reading my stories, stories written to inspire you. Your time means the world to me! Follow me for more inspiring and motivational blogs & videos on www.inspireshareact.com.