In the last month I’ve had a couple of tricky and confrontational situations with people who are close to me. They have brought with them all the old feelings of fear about expressing my truth, the anxiety about what they may think of me and about what this confrontation might mean for our relationship.
The pay-off of going through these challenging situations is that there’s usually so much learning and growth built-in. For me, this situation brought up a new awareness that was such a game-changer that it turned the fear of confrontation from a mountain into a mole hill. I now feel so much more capable of tackling those tricky conversations in future.
Before my ‘showdown’ with the first person, I did some soul searching and asked myself “How do I want to feel at the end of our chat?” I visualised them leaving after we’d both said our piece and realised that what was most important to me was that I felt:
I was surprised to realise that none of my feelings were based on how they felt, how they acted or what they thought of me. I wasn’t attached to the actual outcome of our chat, I just wanted to know that I had behaved with integrity. As long as I came out of it knowing that I hadn’t left myself, I knew everything would be okay. This wasn’t to say there wouldn’t be feelings to work through but I knew that if I was in integrity, I would have the inner strength and reserves to process and allow these feelings to pass through me.
I thought back to past conflicts where I’d left feeling awful, worried and lost in circular thinking. They all had moments where I hadn’t stood up for myself, I’d spoken with anger or manipulation or I’d become so caught up in my feelings I’d lost my empathy for the other person. As a result I found it hard to love myself fully afterwards. Here I’d been thinking I felt awful because THEY were upset with me, but it was really my own thoughts about myself that haunted me.
The day leading up to confrontation #1, I wanted to vomit for most of the afternoon. But I actually felt a sense of calm come over me during our conversation, and when it was over I felt exactly the way I’d wanted to – proud of myself! With the added bonus of feeling closer to this person and happy with our deeper understanding of each other.
When I went into confrontation #2 armed with this new awareness, it changed everything. I was able to come deeply into a place of compassion and authenticity. I felt much more able and willing to face the conversation and be ready to hear whatever came back to me. I wasn’t caught up in trying to control the outcome, but focused just on being honest, compassionate and authentic. When a curve-ball got thrown, I knew just what to do: continue to simply be honest, compassionate and authentic.
As a former people-pleaser I used to spent a lot of time and energy ensuring I didn’t hurt someone or say something that might be taken the wrong way. This backfired so many times when the other person ended up hurt or angry because I wasn’t being fully honest. Or when I tried to ‘protect them’ from pain, but ended up causing twice as much. I learnt the hard way to put much less focus on trying to control their experience and feelings and just being real about my own.
This is true loving compassion. To offer your authentic feelings and experience to another without protecting, filtering or punishing is a true gift. To be able to communicate the truth, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable is true love and respect. I’m not 100% there yet. There are still some conversations that scare the bejezuz out of me, but I’m learning that there is really nothing to fear if you are loving yourself.