I’ll tell you the secret to revealing your bliss: be so committed to your own joy, your own happiness, your own connection to your world / the outside world that no amount of judgment from others can take you off-base. Nobody else’s opinion can make you walk away from what feeds your soul. You don’t need approval from anybody but yourself to do what you are doing as long is it really feeds your soul.
I was raised to be very concerned with what other people think of me. More specifically, to be very concerned with making sure other people thought of me as NICE, above all else. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” was probably the biggest mantra repeated in our household. If my little sister and I argued we were sent to stand in the corner until we could “smile and apologize to one another and be nice!”. Couple that with being raised in a very neutral, polite political climate in western Canada and - voila, here’s me: nice.
Fact: I was voted Most Congenial at girl scouts camp at age 7. I am the living antonym of the word ‘rebel’.
As a result, making decisions that might leave someone else with hurt feelings or a poor opinion of me have been very painful. Choosing to divorce both of my previous husbands was a huge internal conflict for me. First, I had made a commitment to a partnership that by it’s definition, was meant to be a lifelong union. I have a son who was 2 years old when I divorced his father and 22 when I divorced his stepfather, and I don’t take lightly what effect my decisions would have on his life or his emotional well-being. I worried a lot about how my mom would be with the divorce news, not only because of her concern for my son and I, but also because it’s pretty high up on the scale of not behaving nicely. My grandmother raised my mom and her two siblings to be very, very nice. It’s not a bad place to come from; my grandma was one of the kindest souls you could have ever had the privilege of knowing. It’s just that the other side of that coin means often putting your own feelings aside so others like you.
It’s been a real struggle for me finding that place where the scales are balanced, giving importance to my own feelings on one side, balanced with reverence for the feelings of others on the other side.
I still struggle with it often.
When I teach yoga, I often use cues like this: “press your heels down, but against that let the top of your head grow taller”. It’s that kind of teaching that I’m trying to use to guide my life; “be grounded enough in your decision to tell this person XYZ, but against that feel your heart rise and your mind grow clearer because you’ve made an empowered decision that is right.”
Sometimes we hear our inner voice whisper something that scares us. Like the softest little sound coming from a corner of your mind that you almost want to lean in closer and ask “what did you just say?”. Call it intuition, inner voice, inner wisdom, call it insanity. It’s like in the movie ‘Meet Joe Black’ when Anthony Hopkins first starts to hear the faint voice of Brad Pitt’s ominous character: “what was that? What did you say?” You hear it, but you’re not even sure you actually heard anything at all. You dismiss it, because like the grim reaper Joe Black, it might be too scary to meet. It might signal the end of something in your life, and endings are scary. It means leaving what we know for something we don’t yet know. It might mean admitting something is wrong that you need to fix, and it might be really uncomfortable or even painful. When I was confused about whether or not to divorce my first husband, I went to a therapist. I will never forget what she told me on our first meeting: "you do know the answers; you just don't like them. Because they are hard."
It’s a VERY big shift to realize that telling your friends about your life to share it with them is VASTLY different from telling them so they give you their approval. Nice, congenial people (as I was raised to be) want your approval. ‘Nice’ people don’t want to think that you disapprove. Nice people lose sleep wondering if you are upset with them but are too scared to ask, in case the answer is yes. They want your confirmation that they’re making the ‘right’ choices, in your opinion.
A lack of understanding breeds fear. When we don't understand something we reject it. Or mock it. Or discredit it. Unfortunately I have had these reactions from friends for some of my choices. I've lost valued friendships because they didn't understand or agree with my decisions. What was most bothersome about that was that because I have been a chronic 'people pleaser', I never made life-altering decisions lightly or easily. I was deeply confused and tortured before I made these changes in my life, because of the crippling fear of causing someone else to be mad, upset or hurt. When I made these decisions that forever changed my life, I did so with careful consideration and weeks (months, more accurately) of lost sleep. For the friends I lost because they didn't approve of my decisions, I'm sad to realize that our friendship was conditional; that my soul-searching and realizations weren't up to your approval. However I will no longer sacrifice myself to fit other people's expectations of me. To the family and friends who have still had my back and been there to watch my evolution and continue to be my cheerleaders, I thank you and love you more than you could ever know.
There is an expression that I love and completely sums up my feelings:
"Who does she think she is?" - "It appears she is someone living her life unconcerned with who YOU think she is.".
Bliss is my word. It's my purpose, to find my bliss and share it with the world and inspire others to find their bliss, whatever that looks like. My wish is for everyone to live in a state of bliss without ever hurting another human being. But if it turns out that the path to your bliss means losing other relationships or jobs or people who could not support your true happiness, then my wish is for you to be so committed to yourself and your own happiness that nothing can take you off-track. Re-awaken your joy; find your bliss.
I'll leave you with a quote from Mark Twain: "the two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why".