I remember when I was in high school I didn’t eat one day and my mom said, “What did you eat today? 600 calories?” and it made me realize something: she noticed. She noticed a lot. She noticed me. I think I took for granted how much she actually saw. I operated under the idea I was on my own for a long time when I really didn’t know how to reach out for help. I had so many failed attempts at professional help and I’m super impatient so I didn’t pursue it and I didn’t trust people to help me get through it. So when I think of this story in the context of feeling alone, I see how much time I spent by myself when all I had to do was reach out. I’m still like that (more on that tomorrow). But this ties into a couple of other things—presence and the impression we make on people.
Things change quickly. I remember the moment my mother asked me about what I ate like it was yesterday. But when I look up, I see a very different reality. I have a husband, my own child, my own house, my own job, grey hair. My parents are aging and they need help. I don’t want to continue missing out on the moments I have left with them because I’m not here mentally. I chose to operate on my own because I didn’t feel I had a lot of people I could rely on to help me and I didn’t want to put additional pressure on my parents. Taking that behavior into adulthood (coupled with a fear of doing everything wrong), some nasty habits formed. I’m learning to let those go and choosing to acknowledge it wasn’t people who let me down, it was my expectations and the idea I needed to do it all on my own to prove I was worthy. I was embarrassed to admit I needed help because I didn’t think I deserved it. My mom was there the entire time. She saw everything I tried to hide.
People see more than we give them credit for. Our reactions, our demeanor, our habits, our practices, our beliefs all become who we are and it is all part of the image we project to the world. I said above my mother saw everything I tried to hide because she did. I took her experience and awareness for granted. Because I projected such a strong façade of being able to do it on my own, she didn’t know how to step in. This applies to everyone around us–our friends, co-workers, our children. They all see what we do and they form an impression of who we are so they know how to operate around us. I have learned so many lessons from the reactions I show my child that I know I need to be stronger and choose my reactions more carefully. He has picked up on everything and he knows what will upset me and what won’t. But I don’t want him to live like that. I don’t want him to grow up carrying the weight of worrying about my reactions on the things he does. He needs to explore and have fun. My employees need to be able to come to me with ideas. I need to be coachable in order to coach.
The simple truth is that I need to stop projecting the façade and learn to share who I really am with those around me. Some may not know how to react, but as I said with my child, I can’t base my actions on their potential reactions. It’s hard and it’s scary because I don’t know how I will be received—no one ever does. But I see how short life really is and I know the sting of regret. I don’t want to regret people not knowing the real me. I don’t want to regret never showing the real me. I don’t want to regret what a relationship could have looked like because I didn’t break down a wall. I built up walls with everyone around me, even those closest to me. It was easier to share these things with complete strangers than it was those closest to me because I didn’t want to lose their approval. But the things I did to maintain my image pushed them further away. I have to stop pretending I have to do this on my own. Just because I have a vision doesn’t mean it will turn out exactly as I plan it. I can soften and bring others into it and maybe it will turn out even better. They will see me giving a different chance. That is connection and that is something we all want. So I begin there. With accepting myself and learning to accept help. People see that—I can accept them as I accept myself. I can accept my mother and move on. She’s looking for the same thing.