Each Month, I Answer the Call to Speak from Someplace Deeper in Me,
To Someplace Deeper in You.
I have this one friend and every time I get around her, I feel like I lose myself and become someone small and stifled. Basically, I get so busy trying to please my friend that I forget who I am. What’s happening and what can I do about it?
a response from someplace deeper
You are, without question, someone rare and special.
I know this because we are ALL someone rare and special.
And each of us can feel the wonderment of who we are–the fullness of the magic within us——–sometimes.
Other times we just freaking can’t. Now why is that? What shifts and changes that makes us feel alive and vibrant and filled with our own power in some situations, and then small and voiceless and meekly and weakly following along in others?
I believe it comes down to the level of beauty that exists in your relationship with yourself.
And I believe that is something that is directly addressable.
In fact, I believe, Sarah, that when you get around this certain friend, the way their energy mixes with the energy inside you actually creates a shut-down in you. A shut-down that makes it hard, if not impossible, to hear the parts of you–the voices in you–that are the most wise, playful, creative, vibrant, and self-enjoying.
It’s gonna sound like I’m about to digress, while simultaneously taking about me (and I AM about to digress, AND talk about me, but I promise it’s on purpose and it will all circle back).
I recently learned something about my book (wahoo!) that I just recently (brag brag, brag) wrote . My book is doing way better than I expected on good old Amazon. So, I started paying close attention to who is reading it. I learned that the book appeals to therapists, and to people, like individuals in therapy, who are oriented toward personal growth. No big surprise there. But I also learned that it has turned out to be a very clarifying and helpful book for a group I never would have predicted: former cult members.
Esther Friedman is a very candid recovering cult member and an activist in the field. She has created a powerful one-woman musical show about her experience of being drawn into and then exiting a slippery and ultimately quite deceitful group referred to as “School.” She also has a blog, “Cult Confessions,” through which she has blogged about my book three times now (Blog 1, Blog 2, Blog 3). Each time, in yet a different way, she shares (to my utter delight) about how this book’s central message is basically an antidote to all the “mind-washing” or “mind-wiping” and loss-of-self that goes on when someone finds themselves turning themselves over to a group with a powerful leader and losing themselves in the process.
I don’t in any way mean to imply that your friend is a cult leader. There is a seven zillion percent chance that she is not. But I feel like I know somethign that could be helpful to you here, all the same.
All of us are practicing being Who We Truly Are–the finest, truest version of ourselves–all the time. We know what it feels like when we are deeply resonating on the inside and the outside with what feels rightful and good.
That said, we can’t always tell what it is that allows us to activate that wonderful, loving, knowing, expansive place within us. But one great clue is the energy of the people we surround ourselves with.
My rule of thumb has become this: When I find myself shrinking in the presence of someone – losing my sense of self, strength, beauty, center, etc., (not just on occasion but in a predictable, regular way, whenever that person shows up on the scene), it’s time for me to make an important choice. It’s time to either create some space between me and that person (so I can tune in more deeply to myself and find my center again) or to speak up to them about what is happening inside me when I get around them. It doesn’t matter all that much which choice I make, because both of these choices are about honoring what is happening inside me. What’s important is that I find those “six seconds of courage” to break the cycle and take care of the places inside me that are starting to shut down. Life is so beautiful, and shutting down on the inside is such a sad re-routing of the experience of life, and joy.
The solutions that don’t really allow me to honor my insides are the ones that have me continuing to “suck it up” with my friend without getting some space or sharing what is happening to me, or trying to “numb myself out” (another form of sucking it up) with distractions like acting interested or happy or centered when I am not, burying myself in my cell phone, or alcohol or computer games; turning around and getting angry at other people in my life after I have been near this problematic friend, etc., etc. [insert your own little sneaky version of hiding or shrinking or shutting down here].
Your question is, “What’s happening when I get around this friend?” and I’d say, “You are allowing yourself to fall out of love with yourself in their presence. And you’re working hard to keep them ‘in love’ with a version of you that is not even fully authentically you.”
We are all so precious. And time on this earth is relatively short. You deserve better treatment–not from your friend, per se. (They are probably just being who they are and taking at face value that you are showing up fully, even when you aren’t). You deserve better treatment from you. And I don’t mean that in a judgmental or preachy way. I mean it this way: No one can speak up for the voices inside you that are hurting or needing love or attention if you don’t. And you can’t easily do that if you are busy gravitating toward people and environments that keep you small.
Look around. There are loving people everywhere–people who want to know the real you. That “difficult friend” might even be one of them, if you dare to speak up and get curious together about what it means that you are finding yourself shrinking in their presence. Or, hey, maybe that problematic friend WON’T be amazing when you start getting more real with them. That’s hard, but that’s okay too, because it’s DATA. As you get bigger and truer, some friends will fall by the wayside. You can love them from afar, or love the memories of the moments you recall as valuable. And you know what? New friends will fill in the spaces. The more you evolve, the more evolved souls you will begin to attract into your world. In my line of work, I see that all the time.
Esther, the cult-exit-er, lost some friends when she left the cult. But to look at her now, I think you’d be blown away by what you see. I am. I am watching her shine from the inside, from a deeply resonant place. I am watching her send out messages of encouragement to those struggling, from a place within her that is so gorgeous and clear and brave and strong and true. She is moving at the speed of light and at the pacing of love: slow enough to check in with herself at regular and loving intervals (“how is everybody doing in there? is this okay?) and bright enough to act as a beacon and a reminder to all of us:
We are worthy of love, from all around us, and, first and foremost, from ourselves.
— Anna Huckabee Tull
a song for you
“Beauty in Me” is one of the songs I most love to perform–and one of the songs I most love watching audiences react to. I think it’s because it’s a song about remembering and reclaiming our own inner beauty. Enjoy!
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