I was raised in a family where self-denial was the norm, so it was a hard learn to put my needs first.
Well, saying that there was definitely a time in my teenage years (and my twenties/thirties come to think of it) that it was all about me – but that’s another story altogether.
Learning to put my needs first came with a few caveats – firstly I had to believe that I was worthy to be first. And that one’s a biggy because standing up for myself meant that:
- I was strong in my beliefs about why I was worthy
- strong in my values that I knew it was the right thing to do and
- strong in the desire to choose good things for myself, and not put up with the leftovers any more.
It's what has led me to doing the work I do.
Burnt Chop Syndrome
I have a friend who describes the role many choose when denying their needs as: "the burnt-chop syndrome" which unfortunately is often favoured by mothers in the rush to care for everyone else. The idea being that if something is ‘not-quite-as-good-as-the-others’, then mother will have it so as not to inconvenience anyone else.
Nowadays I call it ‘martyr syndrome’.
Yes I know, other people besides mothers do this too – saints and preachers – but generally no one really wants to put their hand up for the burnt offerings. They’re well … dry, chewy and tasteless.
Probably good diet material.
And this is often what I feel is happening when I work with someone to clear blockages that are stopping them from getting what they want.
In front of them are all their hopes and dreams laid out like a smorgasbord of fresh juicy produce, a literal cacophony of colour and harmonious textures that are so deliciously close to touch that their mouth has literally begun salivating.
Yet what happens while the mouth is readying itself for the gorgeous food and the mind is racing with hope and possibility the deep dark cavern of doubt begins to yawn – and once this happens, I can see the smorgasbord morph into burnt chops in front of their eyes. Tantalisingly close and prodigiously out of reach as road blocks are erected and hurdle heights increased while time spins out of control as a mother-load of overwhelm smacks them right in the face right in front of me.
It’s tragic to see hope drain as all the ‘reasons’ for not doing something take ownership of the dreams.
I often feel as if I’m watching someone waking from a sleep when a dream is quickly sucked back into the subconscious from where it came. Sensed, yet not held. As if the dream wasn’t really their’s in the first place.
So if there was one way to take hold of that dream before it slips away, what would it be?
Because creativity is one of my ‘things’ – I let my pencil re-create the mirage – sometimes through words, sometimes through drawings, sometimes with paint – sometimes with nothing more than a walk in an inspiring place and time to breathe.
And that’s because it comes down to the ability to see beyond the ‘now’.
Mindfulness is a wonderful way of keeping ourselves present and connected in the now, yet for me adding some creative insight takes this and adds a whole new dimension to what’s possible. It gives me time to dream in a way that the fragments of thought aren’t lost on the periphery of my mind.
They’re held gently and recorded in a way that holds meaning for me.
Creativity is not mindless colouring in to relieve stress. Creativity is not living on the edge and constantly tapping into a path that only a gifted few ever discover.
Creativity is a gift we all have. I believe that to be true for all of us, whether we use our creativity with pens, pencils and brushes or long walks into freedom from daily frustrations. Yet creativity takes courage – the courage to show up trusting that the process will guide our thinking and reveal even more possibilities and solutions.
We have courage to dream, the courage to hope it’s all possible, all we need is the courage to put ourselves first and close the gap between dream and reality with a little more creative thinking.
It’s this thinking that can ground us, guide us and give us even more of the good things we want to fill our lives with.
Because when we’re not preparing to feast, then we’re accepting the famine – and not stepping into the courage that it takes to move towards that which will make the ultimate difference in how you show up.
I get this, it’s about trusting that you can run, that you won’t fall flat on your face in the rush to prove yourself right and earn a place at that smorgasbord – and you know what? Sometimes you may fall, and your pride may feel hurt and the vulnerability of exposure may just make it feel like you want to crawl into a corner and never come out again.
And my question to you is – Who hasn’t had this experience?
And just because there’s the possibility that it may happen is that the reason to not do something?
If a child came to you with the fear of running in a race at the school athletics day because they may not win – what would you say to that young person?
- I’m pretty sure that you’d say it’s not about winning, it’s about turning up, it’s about having a go, it’s about doing your best, it’s about knowing that you took the challenge – and if these are some of the things you’d say to someone else – then perhaps it’s time you said them to yourself.
You see, this is about being vulnerable – and that means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable because in this space there are no absolutes – only uncertainty. And it depends on how much uncertainty you can cope with as to how much vulnerability you’ll allow yourself to experience. Yet without a good muscle around this, is staying on the sidelines really a good option for experiencing life to the fullest?
Think of it this way, when you meet someone you usually ‘put yourself in a good light’ – would’t you agree? Most of us do this – few really want to appear as losers, yet, as you get to know someone and they share what I call a ‘stuff up’ suddenly the tension is lowered and a greater connection to the person is found. If you’ve had this experience you know what I mean. It’s like a ‘you’re real’ moment and ‘I get you’ – and isn’t it wonderful to know that on a human-to-human basis that sharing a ‘stuff up’ is more bonding than sharing an amazing ‘win’ that the other person may not relate to?
And do you know what this really is? Humility. The humility to be ok with ourselves, to know that we’re not perfect, to not be hiding behind a veneer – it’s about being ok that ‘stuff ups’ happen and it’s these stories that endear us, not alienate us.
At its core, it’s being real – and being open enough to show others our failings and our grit to keep moving even though the incidence may have been pretty humiliating.
As Brene Brown says when she talks about vulnerability: “We’re not made to go it alone”. And that means that sharing the journey – the good, the bad and the ugly – is what it takes to make it to the destination we so want to meet.
And so how can we integrate this thinking more into our lives? How can we trust ourselves to show up and play the roles we were meant to play?
If you’re wanting more time to taste the life you want, and leave the burnt chop on its plate while you begin feasting on the smorgasbord, then come with me and discover more about what Creative Mindfulness may mean for you.
There's so much creativity to have in life - all it takes is saying 'yes' to you.