“They” say self-improvement is like peeling an onion — always layers to go, and there will be tears.
From personal experience I can tell you that is definitely a true statement. I’m tearful, delighted, and surprised whenever I realize I’ve peeled away yet another hidden layer of the proverbial self-improvement onion. And, as for actual onions: I learned how to peel and dice 50 pound bags of them while working mornings at Chipotle — I cried every time.
And then there are those layers of onion that pop up and surprise you, like the time I went in for a haircut and walked out *FINALLY* appreciating what people mean when they say, “I figured out who my real friends are.” Because for 33-plus years that statement just never made sense to me, until it did. Case in point: I shared with my stylist about clubbing in South Beach this spring and she was excited for me and like, “Add me to SnapChat and send me those pics!” Then she busted out some moves from behind the check-out desk. It was AWESOME! Now, if I had told that same thing to another friend, I would have been waaaay judged and made to feel humiliated or like I wasn’t good enough to possibly get in. And THERE’S the AH HA moment… the “Ohhhhhh your ‘real friends’ are going to respond to you in an encouraging/happy/awesome way and ‘non-friends’ are going to be insecure and judgmental and shame you for going after what you want in the world.
Friend: a person who YOU like and enjoy being with; one that is not hostile
I definitely gathered some encouraging/happy/awesome-sauce friends while starting up my Get More Nourished.com Mastermind Group on Facebook this past week. After all, they had known me for decades, years, or months, and showed up because someone in their lives (ahem — me) said that she was moving her coaching practice online and there would be plenty of opportunities to contribute their opinions, at which point they promptly gave me their permission and joined the group, because as it turns out, sometimes people who go after what they want in the world are more supported, not less. That, or all of those friends are gathering to virtually focus their inner critic on one target, which could get really Mean Girl really fast. (I’m being dramatic.) These people are sweethearts with an edge, my absolute favorite personality style. And you should definitely join us right HERE.
But, you know, input is what I asked for, isn’t it? And one person’s criticism is another’s path forward, which is one of the things we talked about a lot as I was inviting friends into the mastermind: Being heard. Because you’re always defending your reasoning, aren’t you? And that habit is enough to make strong people with strong ideas push support away. And I hate that. I hate that because those strong people with strong ideas have had to be strong (for too long already) and misunderstood that they had to earn love by always being perfect and being sure to please everyone else. So they’ve already thought long and hard and analyzed how to be the best, so that they can fit in, and belong, and be worthy of love, and be good enough to exist that when they receive ANY kind of feedback (aka support, in most cases), they go on the defense, explaining why they did what they did or didn’t do, instead of actually giving the other person the GIFT of being heard. Because when you can actually hear someone supporting you, and consider and appreciate this amazing gift they’re giving you — their gem of insight — instead of shutting down, you GROW. And you improve. And you trust. And you succeed. And you connect with others like never before because all of the sudden — they’ve been heard. And you feel good. And they feel good. Because receiving gifts and being heard feels SO good.
What’s helpful to embrace, at least for recovering people-pleasing perfectionists like me, is something I call Emotional Fitness.
Some of us ooze a general state of confidence and contentment — happy, motivated, fun! — and others have this anxious/depressing/judgmental/insecure asshole/self-hate vibe going on. (I’ve been both.) And what I can tell you is this: One is definitely having a better experience of life than the other. Why? Because of their Emotional Fitness, i.e. A general state of confidence and contentment, and an ability to transform aspects of failure, abandonment, and grief.
And when you can transform aspects in your personal history, you dissolve emotional weight you never even realized you were carrying, and as importantly — you can choose to stop old patterns from repeating. At least that’s true for the 95% of us who were raised in dysfunctional households. (And, let’s be honest, EVERYONE has emotional inheritance stuff to work through.) All that said, what’s important is that through useful self-improvement, moderate to vigorous emotional challenges, and sufficient forgiveness, Emotional Fitness grows.
You have the right to be emotionally fit. And while some may continue to exist in victim-loops, there are just as many people who will show up, have fun, and enjoy life with you. Because that’s the thing about living an emotionally fit life and developing your Emotional Fitness: It improves ALL your relationships, particularly the ones with yourself… and your childhood family… and your significant other… and your employer… and your close friends… and everyone. And then you have the luxury of belonging in the world as yourself while continuing to discover insights buried in the burdens of your ever-evolving past.
And I guess the real question is: Is it time to peel off some layers?