The more ourselves we are, the more ourselves we can give.
We walk about with all sorts of labels - daughter, girlfriend, niece, aunt, friend, cousin, teammate, entrepreneur, coworker, best friend, godmother, pelo-friend, coach, manager, captain, trainer, employee, sister (I think this is the extent of my list of labels I’ve carried in my life).
Somewhere along the lines, we assumed the word “good” was in front of all of these labels; thus an expectation attached to each. And then when we feel we are falling short of meeting that expectation - ie. Not speaking to your best friend for 2 or 3 months - we shame ourselves into believing we are a “bad” best friend.
What happens if we just be who we are and do what we love without the attachment of existing as what we think the other person wants or needs from us? What if all they need is for us to be happy and fulfilled in our pursuits? My experience tells me being a "good" ______ is the byproduct of putting ourselves first and not worrying too much about what it means to be a good _______.
When I am properly grounded, my conversation with my aunt goes smoothly & I’m able to detach from her very strong opinions. When I spend my mornings in meditation, I’m far more pleasant to be around. When I don’t answer the phone just because someone is calling, I’m more willing to speak freely and with depth when we do get the chance to connect.
Oftentimes, what we will do is forcefully try to embody this version of being a “good” _______ and we lose ourselves in the process.
Let me share a little story…
For roughly 8 weeks after my mother survived her cardiac arrest incident, I called her every day and went to visit her twice, thinking I was being a “good” daughter. I convinced myself I was giving her company, remaining abreast of her status, showing her how much she meant to me, and ultimately, that I wasn’t ready to lose her. But there were times when I honestly didn’t want to call her. Picking up the phone to speak was exhausting, depressing, and a constant reminder of the traumatic event that had taken place.
During this period, I also was transitioning from a full-time (very secure) corporate employee to a full-time entrepreneur. I was challenged, scared, and navigating the nuances of being responsible for building a business. Needless to say, a lot was going on in my life, and forcing myself to call my mother at the end of a long and taxing day to “check-in” wasn’t doing either of us any good. Yet, somehow, I convinced myself that it was the “right thing to do”.
Please understand, there was some motivation for calling based on the sheer fear of questioning when my last conversation with her might be. Though what I wasn’t doing, was
sharing with my mother the daily challenges I was navigating in this new endeavor, the wins, or really, anything about my life. Everything was centered around her and her progress, diagnosis, medicine changes, fitness journey, mood, next appointment, etc.
She was probably just as depleted with me calling as I was calling her.
And then, it hit me. I thought by not disclosing information about my life, I was protecting her from worrying about me. The reality was; by not being myself, I was not allowing my mother to be my mother. I was so caught up in showing my concern for her health, I robbed her of the opportunity to impart her wisdom (which she is magical at), listen to me, pray over me, and ultimately love me. Meanwhile, I robbed myself of the opportunity to accept her love.
I was so caught up in the idea of what I made being a “good” daughter meant, I wasn’t being myself or doing what I needed for myself: Which was to let go of the concern for her health & lean on her as my mother, my confidant, my biggest fan, my angel on earth.
You see, we walk about with these labels and the attached expectation of what fulfilling each of them looks like. While the only lable we should be concerned with is: ourselves. That’s what the people in our life love us for: They enjoy celebrating the wins, sharing in the losses, rejoicing in life’s sweetest moments, gaining a new perspective, appreciating the candor, being confided in, holding space, and vice versa, etc.
We can feel when it’s forced, or out of obligation and somehow we continue to act in that manner. Somewhere, we learned to sacrifice ourselves and show up half-heartedly to simply show up and check the box.
Recently, my nephew and his innocence reminded me that I wanted to write about this. It’s been on my mind since I had the realization about my mom (July) but I couldn’t quite get the push to write.
Lately, I’ve been FaceTiming my nephew on Saturday or Sunday during his quiet time. He always answers with this heart-felt, ear-to-ear smile; he’s proud he knows how to push the green button to answer, he’s surprised every time to see my face on the screen, and excited to tell me about his week! We do his homework, we draw, and once he showed me the American Flag painting he made inspired by Jasper Johns and walked me to the original his parents have in their living room.
But this weekend, was different - the conversation was brief. The same smile appeared when he answered and saw my face, the same excitement to tell me about his morning. Except for this time, he was adamant about telling me what he was doing in quiet time, he told me about his show which led to him telling me he wanted to get back to watching it. The conversation lasted 5 min. vs our aforementioned 30-45 minutes. We hung up and both went on about our days. I can only presume, he didn't think twice about it. The only reason I did, was not because I found it hurtful but because I was inspired by his directness, lack of care for my feelings, and ability to honor what HE wanted.
You see, what I wasn’t doing, was honoring myself. I didn’t want to call him, it was later than our normal chatting time (typically I call at 1:30, but this was 2:30) and it was inconvenient for my afternoon.
Yet, being a “good" aunt I called anyway. The great news is he hasn’t learned to put expectations on anything - he wasn’t caught up in being a "good" nephew. He was tired, and he honored that he was tired and that he just wanted to relax and watch his show. He wasn’t concerned about hurting my feelings or fulfilling an obligation to speak with me. He simply expressed that he was going to go and that was that.
Where we get tripped up is by concerning ourselves with the other party's feelings, we forget about ours. Or we begin to create shame or guilt for not fulfilling the self-inflicted expectation of being a "good" _______.
The irony is when we fulfill ourselves, our needs, wants, and desires being a “good” WHATEVER is the byproduct. The more ourselves we are, the more ourselves we can give.
Aidan was being a good nephew by honoring himself. Not being on FaceTime was mutual desire so he was powerfully honoring me (unknowingly), as well. I forcefully tried to fulfill some commitment I made (without his agreement) thinking I was being a “good” aunt, knowing it was cutting into my creative time.
I share these stories to inspire us to be a little more childlike, as Aidan is; innocent, truthful, and self-fulfilling. I’m not suggesting refraining from caring about the special people in your life. My encouragement is to understand that we are only as good for those around us as we are good for ourselves.
As my favorite CEO once reminded me when we were closing out of a business partnership that was no longer serving our company, “If you’re feeling it, it’s likely the other person is feeling it too.” Sure enough, the meeting went smoothly and both parties admitted they were ready to close ties and move forward, separate.
There’s no need for any of us to force anything out of obligation. We will be a good ___________ when we honor ourselves. It is then and only then that we can show up fully, ready to give, and authentically ourselves. And THAT’S who they want us to be!
I say all of this to say: be who you are. Everyone else is already taken & who you are is exactly what your people need you to be.