Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rehashing Eleanor

Often quoted and always appreciated are these words attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." It is probably possible to track my own personal evolution against my level of buy-in to that statement. I find it to be quite true these days, and powerful.

In learning to listen for one's own understanding, moving beyond gleaning what you can from the discoveries of others, most (or likely all) of what takes place is a living example of the experiences that all those that have come before you wrote about. Lest you think I intend to throw any shoulds at you, I will offer a disclaimer here: Any directives or pieces of advise are meant from me to me only, with no audacious assumptions that my perspectives shall apply to any other.

As one for whom it has become a central realization that most thoughts and experiences are filtered through the question of how others will see her, my lessons offered lately tend to build my understanding of how I see myself.

This reminder from Eleanor is true, in my experience. No one can hurt or demean or insult you without your permission. What I am understanding these days is nor can they they do it without your invitation or your recognition. Something in you has attracted them, and you have chosen to give them the stage. For many, these statements can stir up some mighty objections. What I consider the "normal, modern day point of view" puts us in the role of one to whom things happen. To claim that we are in control of the circumstances of our lives can be a frightening thought for many, since it is likely that at least a few "bad" ones have come to pass.

So how can this be? How can I create my own life? I have no control over other people. Life seems pretty solid and complex, and orchestrated by something much bigger than I, plus I am not the only witness to what is taking place. And yet, I have seen enough to buy it. How... empowering!

No one has ever said to me, "I didn't even realize that so-and-so hurt my feelings until someone pointed it out later." This is the simple example that has been playing on my mental stereo. So it got me thinking... what takes place when my feelings are hurt? Usually I have received an insult of some kind, or have not received love or appreciation. Conversely, if I leave an interaction not feeling hurt, it dawned on me, this does not mean that an insult was not offered. What it means is that either I did not hear it or perceive it as an insult.

Most of us know someone for whom doom and gloom is the song of the day, the one who claimed that life was out to get them, always getting taken advantage of and put upon by the world. (Some of us even were that person. Or still are.) For them, though, it is true, because that is the filter through which all circumstances are viewed. That is where the expectation bar is set for them. That is the frequency at which they are tuned, drawing in circumstances of a matching frequency.

I had several sessions with a life coach a couple years back, and the most brilliant thing she ever shared with me was this statement, "The good news is that it's none of my business what you think about me." Boldly, this was her response to her boss when he had some choice words about his impression of something she had done. Apparently it gave him pause, too. This is a very unusual concept when held up beside the norm. How can it be that it is none of my business what others think of me? If they are angry, do not like me, see me differently than I want them to see me, isn't this every bit my business? Surely, I need to know where I stand so that I can respond appropriately, yes?

This statement has been almost scripture for me over the years. It is similar to something my brilliant husband pointed out. A typical response to finding out someone is mad at us is to be mad right back, even without knowing the reason. I'm mad at you because how dare you be mad at me! This was my pattern, for sure, for much of my life. To really think about it, though, if I love you and am happy with our dealings, then why would that suddenly change because you do not feel the same way? Do I offer a gift to a friend on the condition that they give me one of equal value back?

Back to the one above who did not realize their feelings had been hurt; in that person's reality, all is well. By not recognizing an insult, or by not perceiving one (for how can we interpret someone else's intentions, really?), no insult was received. This question rapidly followed in my mind: "Can't we choose, then, not to be hurt?" Um, yes... I believe this was Eleanor's point. Oh, sorry, of course.

As I reflected over the past experiences of my life, and how I felt in each situation, I began to understand. If a familiar feeling of dread, hurt, worthlessness, inadequacy, and/or/a.k.a. fear occurs, recognize that it is a reaction in you that is manifesting. Even if that opinion is truly held by the person you are sensing it from (as it may or may not be), you have invited and allowed those feelings in your life. For if you truly recognized and believed in who you were, that perceptions by others do not reflect your true self, you would not acknowledge nor lend them power. Rather, you would realize the reality that it is their issue, and has nothing to do with you.

In my daily quote feed yesterday I read from W. Somerset Maugham, "It's a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it." Not that I am down for refusing life or much of anything that it has to offer. The point, I guess, is that you get what you ask for, what you call for. And there is a direct and proportionate relationship between how you value yourself and the value others assign to you and what you have to give. If you are consistently feeling undervalued by everyone, chances are it is because that is how you see yourself, and you are constantly fearing that they see it too, further confirming your reality.

And finally, my ultimate lesson came. We each have a direct connection with the Source of our very life and existence. No middle-management. No one more entitled than the next. This helps me to believe in my own power. No one more deserving, or, perhaps more accurately, everyone equally deserving. If I can cease comparing my gifts against everyone around me, and pause long enough instead to really see me through my own eyes, then no one else's reality about me will ever trump what truths I hold to be self-evident.

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