Thursday, September 27, 2012

Your Own True North

At times, I see a theme in the life coaching and counseling work that I am doing, running across several individuals I am working with. In the past several weeks, I have been guiding different people in the similar theme of  not betraying themselves.

Often we consider not letting others down, but rarely do we consider not letting ourselves down. In relationships, at work, and in our lives in general, we need to be our best, most authentic self. You can feel the tension and resentment that builds up inside you if you are not being honest with yourself and the others who are important to you. Notice what your body feels when you are around different people. Are you at ease, or tense?

We need to say the truth about what we need and want. We need to be brave enough emotionally to stand up to people who want to belittle us, or for whom you need to act smaller than you are in order to fit into their perception of us. We need to not be codependent with those who would marginalize us, or beat us up emotionally with our past choices. We are allowed to change and grow, and expect that the people close to us give us the grace to do so.

Every person has a basic right to say how they want to be treated. Philosopher and writer Martin Buber wrote about the "I and Thou" relationship, where we treat the intimate other with respect, compassion, and tenderness. We also have a right to ask to have that respectful relationship reciprocated to us. That is how we should strive to treat not only our partner, but also our children, our parents, our co-workers and friends.

What happens if you betray yourself in a relationship, perhaps out of fear of losing that person? You are giving away some of your own personal power to them. You are letting your need for the relationship, or your insecurities from the past, or about this relationship, run the show. You shouldn't have to betray your true north, or your sense of being at peace with yourself, in order to maintain the homeostasis in any relationship. That's a bad deal, and over time, that bargain will eat away at your sense of self. Perhaps it will also eat away at your spirit like acid rain.

This is the only life we know for sure that you get. Treat it with reverence. Make sure that you are reflecting from time to time about whether you are being honest and appearing as yourself in each of the relationships in your life. Nobody needs to give you permission. You can give it to yourself.

It is never too late to reset your life course for your own true north. I admire people who decide in middle age or beyond to retrain for fulfilling work, or recognize they are tired of ignoring their own feelings, or getting stepped on by their family, partner, or friends. You must be your own best friend and advocate for your life being lived fully.

What direction do you need to steer in order to be more fully congruent and your authentic self in all the parts of your life? This week is a perfectly good week to take a step or two in the direction of your own true north. A baby step will work just fine, and will strengthen your ability and resolve to keep on going. Ask for the support of those closest to you.

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