Can you see the power in speaking your truth?
And yet, maybe you hear your parents saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!"
What a conundrum.
So many times when I'm coaching my clients to speak their truth into the world, they say something to the effect of: "But I'm tired/down/low-energy/annoyed/something else uninspiring, and I don't want to share that with the world! Social media is already SO negative, I don't need to add to that!".
Well, OK. Let's break this down.
First, my clients are brilliant and definitely know what is up. And we are always completely aligned on what I do not mean by speaking your truth: complaining, bitching, moaning, worrying, stressing, whining, whinging (for the Aussies or Brits out there), or anything of the sort.
There is no authenticity in your complaints. None of your complaints, as such, are going to move the world forward. None of them are going to light up the world. None of them are going to inspire people.
AND there is something behind them that WILL do all of those things.
Are you ready to discover it?
But ... you might say, "that's what I really feel!" "These complaints are my deepest truth, and now you are telling me to share myself, but NOT to share all my deepest truths!" "I am tired, and frustrated, and sad, and annoyed, and exhausted, and that's what's REAL for me!" "Beyond that, I don't have anything to share! That's what I spend my whole day focused on."
Here is where I take three deep breaths, remind myself of my love and commitment to these amazing people, connect to my compassion for my own similar tendencies and the beauty of the human condition.
Now, I can respond: I understand that you feel that way. And I respectfully disagree that those complaints are who you really are. And I get that you can't see anything beyond them, in this moment.
Remember, I'm not here for positive thinking in some Pollyanna way. (Poor Pollyanna, I apologize for using her as a straw man for all of my arguments against papering over reality with pretty words that don't make a difference.)
I'm not even asking you to give up the complaints. In fact, I'm asking you to sit with them. Be with them. Look at them. Allow them to be. Do not resist them. Remember: what we resist, persists.
This is not the same as dwelling or indulging in our complaints. You need not grant them meaning, being, or existence beyond what they are: thoughts that popped into your mind, whether once, or on a repeat loop worthy of a dance track. Remember, your complaints most often leave you victimized and at the effect of something or someone outside of your control. This is not what it means to be empowered.
So, how do we empower ourselves by means of what shows up for us so easily, our complaints? It's actually quite simple.
Start by allowing yourself to be curious about your complaints. For bonus points, do this PRIOR to sharing them with other people, because in sharing, you are creating, and for a minute, let's just see what these complaints are all about, before we share them and give them a kind of existence that perhaps they do not merit.
Complaints are based on "should"-type of thinking. That is: the world/this person/I should be a certain way, and it/they/we are not.
Try it out: "My spouse doesn't support me in [some area]." How can we translate this? Can you hear, underneath that complaint: "My spouse SHOULD be a certain way, or do a certain thing, or say certain words, or think certain thoughts, AND they do NOT."
OK. Good. Now we are moving in the direction of empowerment and ownership and freedom. So, what is the authentic truth behind your complaint?
I don't know! It's yours. It will be different for every person, and every complaint, but I can promise you, the complaint is not the bottom of the well.
Look at what you think "should be". Sometimes you have to put on your 4-year old hat (no, not that the hat is four years old, but that the hat brings you back to what it was like to BE a four-year old...) and ask "why? why? why?" in response to each of your initial responses.
So, it looks something like this:
"My spouse is a jerk!" --> I promise nothing with anger or name-calling or generalizations represent your ultimate, authentic truths.
So, next step --> look for the should. Be with the complaint for a moment. Do not indulge. Do not root for it. Do not cheer it on. Do not add a peanut gallery that piles on. Just be with the feeling behind it.
If you can sit with anger, I promise you, it will dissolve. And I'm not saying that experience is going to leave you with immediate joyfulness, but I promise it is a step forward. Most likely, it will dissolve into a bit of hurt, or sadness, or sorrow, or a feeling of loss, or disappointment, or upset. Anger itself is not a primary emotion. It arises from a wound. Get curious about where the anger originates.
If your complaint doesn't yet have a "should" in it, look around. What would the solution be? How could your spouse not be a jerk? How would he act? What would she say? What is your underlying belief about how a spouse should be, where you see your spouse as falling short?
Take on the notion that, especially if you are using a vague generalization like "is a jerk" or, even, if you look above, the initial claim that "social media is so negative", you will need to get specific and clear.
One sure way to always live in complaints, and never have a prayer of getting what you want in life, is to not know what you want, and to be very vague and general about all the things that you do NOT want, like, approve of, etc.
So, get clear. Maybe your spouse is a jerk because they do not support you in some endeavor. (Do you hear the "like you think they SHOULD" that I could append on to the end of that claim?) Or, maybe your spouse is a jerk because they forgot your anniversary? (Implying that you think they should?) The best work of this type will REALLY nail down the actual solution to your complaint.
For example, if you think your spouse is a jerk because they forgot your anniversary, be clear about what the solution be to that, about how it would have looked to fully satisfy you. If your think your complaint is that they did not remember your anniversary, be careful. Would you truly have been satisfied and fulfilled if they remembered your anniversary, but did not celebrate that remembrance in some way with you? Would you have truly been satisfied and fulfilled if they celebrated that remembrance with you in words, and not in any tangible way?
This is not about judging your desires.
This is an inquiry of curiosity.
What, specifically, "should have been" the case, in your thinking, that resulted in the world not living up to your expectations, and thus, causing you disappointment, upset, frustration, or any other emotion that led to your complaint?
Now, imagine a world where what "should have been" WAS or IS! Are you fully satisfied? Are you fulfilled? Are you joyful? Are you grateful? Are you enlivened? Are you inspired?
If not, one of two things may be going on.
One: you may be stuck on the thing that "should not have happened". You may be so entrenched in punishment mode, feeling hurt, experiencing loss or sadness, wanting to lash out, holding on to your pain, that you cannot let it go. Remember: anger is a poison that you take, hoping the other person will die. Stop doing that. There is nothing to be gained out of holding on to hurt. There is everything to be gained out of letting it go. How do you let it go? You commit to letting it go. You say outloud, "I let it go." Every time it shows up in your mind, you let it go. You continue to do so a million times if need be. You simply keep letting it go, until your letting-go muscle becomes much stronger than maybe it is now. They atrophy easy, and the holding-on muscles get so much use that it takes practice to shift your power. There is also some addictive trigger to holding on. We get a little high out of being right and making other people, or the world, wrong. Trust me, it feels great in the moment, and it's just as good for you, your body, and your mind, as doing hard drugs. That is to say: STOP IT.
Two: you may not have gotten to the actually inspirational level of what you think "should be" in the world. You may have settled upon something that you never really considered for yourself, but that you blindly adopted as a "should be" from your parents, from society, from advertisers, from others, from teachers, from siblings, from friends, etc.
For example, if you came down to "My spouse should give me a present on our anniversary," and if -- when you sat with that as being actually SO, and if you weren't inspired and enlivened and fulfilled, then maybe you have never really considered FOR YOU what you want out of a certain situation. Perhaps you merely adopted the philosophy of Kay's Jewelers, or whatever other advertiser conditioned you to believe that a gift on your anniversary is the ultimate in fulfillment and love. And perhaps, just maybe, when you actually consider it for yourself, you recognize now that you don't give two shits about that. That what you really want is for your spouse to remember your anniversary to show you love, to wake you up with a moment of presence, and a kiss, or to send you a sweet note during the day, expressing their true feelings, in their own words. Perfect. This tweaking is one of the HUGE benefits of this exercise. This is precisely how listening and tuning in to our complaints can actually improve our lives. You get to say what matters. You get to say how you believe the world should be. You get to create your world, as it inspires and enlivens YOU.
So frequently, you will notice, that if you tune in, what you originally thought underpinned your complaint was not actually YOU. Sometimes it's society, family, friends, advertisers, or other external influences. And yet, you are living your emotional life in tune with a song you didn't write. And when you tune in to the music, you might find it's a song you don't even LIKE! And you will never know unless you tune in.
Because, if you choose to share your complaint with the world BEFORE you do this work, I promise, you will find an enormous amount of agreement.
Complaints are an easy way for humans to relate to one another. We bond over complaints, thinking that we are empathizing and relating, when in fact, we are simply reinforcing unconsidered messages from society-at-large, capitalism, advertisers, and other forces that we don't acknowledge. And so, we find agreement. We feel good for a moment, that other people understand us. And we reinforce views about the way the world should be that we failed to articulate, and that we certainly failed to consider or inspect.
And then we wonder why we are not happy? Why we do not have the life of our dreams?
In part, because, WE WOULDN'T EVEN WANT IT!
Back to my original point, if you do this work, you will find enormous benefit for yourself in guiding your life, but -- as is relevant for so many of my clients -- you will also have something positive, uplifting, personal, and beautiful to share: YOUR VISION OF THE WAY THE WORLD CAN BE!
Live with the vision you create of the way life could be, such that it would fulfill you, inspire you, and fully satisfy you. Then, share THAT vision with your spouse. Create the whole world of what you see, in other people's listening! Do you see how differently this will land, than if you gave them the cold shoulder for a week until you went through six fights to get out the fact that you were pissed that you didn't get a present for your anniversary, when that isn't even what you would have really wanted, if you took the time to reflect?
Then, you can share similarly with social media. Share in a way that lights up the world -- create and spread your vision of a world that works, of a world that inspires you.
If you have nothing to start with other than your complaints, you are in the perfect place.