I’ve just finished the in-flight crossword. I typically finish it by the time we’ve reached a cruising altitude – it’s the first thing I do on every flight.
This being at least the 12th plane I’ve been on this year, I’ve started to notice the things I do every time. Mini rituals that make flying a little easier. Unique quirks that make me feel like me.
And as I raised the window shade, timed perfectly with our exit through the shelf of snowy clouds covering Chicagoland, I saw the warm, radiant sun.
It’s 7am and the sun has risen. Not that Chicago would know it.
But yet, despite Illinois being covered in gray winter for the next 4 months, the sun is still there.
Which got me thinking.
What an amazing metaphor for our inner voice. Our inner thoughts. Our inner self.
IT IS ALWAYS THERE.
Even when we can’t see it.
Yes, just like the sun above the clouds, it is omnipresent. Even on dark days. Even through the storm. Even during a blizzard.
Our atmosphere, much like our circumstances is life, is just that. An atmosphere. A concocted concept of hustle and bustle and drama and shit.
Learning to see the sun above it all, your inner amazing self…that takes work. And practice.
In the life coaching community, we make it look easy…to find your self. To figure out who you really are. But we don’t always outline just how much you have to push past.
See, life is easier without knowing who you are.
It takes way less effort to “coast” and fit into whatever your family, upbringing, signficant other, society, etc. has told you to. A job, a life, a role, a relationship.
It’s all technically effortless.
But if you’re like me, effortlessness seems mindless. And while ignorance is bliss (and it really is), I’d rather be awake at the wheel of my life.
So, what’s our “cloud shelf” we have push past to start getting to the real version of ourselves?
It’s made up of two things: beliefs that aren’t serving us & vivid self awareness.
This is something I coach on quite a bit. And it’s something that almost broke my brain when I first learned about it.
We create beliefs about almost everything. And no, I’m not referring to religious beliefs, although feel free to apply it however you wish.
No, our beliefs are something different – they are things that our society or parents or friends or even TV shows taught us so long ago, we don’t even question them anymore.
Here’s some examples:
- You have to work long hours to prove your worth at a new job
- You need a stable job to succeed
- You have to settle down one day
- Women are motherly by nature
- All you need is love
- Love hurts
- Love stinks
Ok…now I’m on an 80s kick, but you get the picture. The list goes on.
And these ideas are constantly getting louder and sneakier. Just when we thought the outdated notions of Stepford wives were gone, we got a whole new set of beliefs that now need to challenge.
We can thank the internet and memes and characters like Liz Lemon for these “beauts”:
- Ghosting someone is a reality of life
- Being with emotionally unavailable men is inevitable
- Constant communication = real friendships
- Instagram celebs and waist trainers are the new beauty standard
But even on top of that – our beliefs conflict with each other:
Money is the root of all evil – BUT – charitable giving makes you a better person.
Student loans get you a college degree – BUT – debt is shameful.
Love is blind – BUT – don’t miss any of these 30 red flags! (now I’m just writing Buzzfeed article titles).
All of these beliefs fighting against each other causes major mental friction.
This is where we start to lose ourselves.
And only as we start to dismantle some of these beliefs do we find our inner truths.
Let me give you some examples of beliefs I’ve worked through:
- Debt is bad– this just isn’t always true. It’s certainly good sense to not have large debts or put your family in a bad financial situation. But not all debt is bad – going and getting your Masters degree on student loans isn’t embarrassing, why should other investments in yourself and your future be.
- Rich people are snobs – I know, I know. This is a rude one. But hey, let’s get real. I truly was brought up to believe that rich people were snobs. Call it my environment, TV, whatever – but I actually thought this most of my childhood. While some rich people can be snobby some times, it is a belief that doesn’t serve me as I become more successful and meet new people.
- Work hard, play hard –Not going to lie, this one almost sent me towards a mental breakdown. I spent 7 solid years living by this philosophy and burning myself out in the process. There is only so much a body can take. I gave myself acid reflux at 22 years old – losing sleep working late hours, downing 4 cups of coffee a day, chugging red bull every weekend, and binge drinking with friends on Friday’s and Saturday’s. The more I learn about myself, the more I realize I neither want to work myself sick, nor do I want to “play hard” if that means staying out til 4am drinking my stress away. I’m good.
So now for the other component. It all starts with observation.
When’s the last time to you took note of your emotions and feelings and thoughts in a given day, week, month?
Does everything you think and feel serve what you really want in life?
Let me give you an example.
I can get really fired up about politics. Really fired up about the state of our country.
Following the news every day, staying as “woke” as humanly possible (although there is always work to be done). But I hit a breaking point.
It was the days after the 2016 election that cracked me. Sitting on the el train in Chicago, opening crying while reading the news and looking around to see other people doing the same thing. It was somber and sad and draining.
But after I collected myself, marched on Washington, and realized I needed to help the world however I could, I knew I had a bigger purpose. A bigger goal.
And part of that truth about me means that I can’t get exhausted.
I can’t lose energy in a resistance that is going to be long-term.
So I have to protect myself. I can’t read the news every other hour. I can’t get CNN updates on my phone. I can’t talk politics all the time. If you can, that’s great. But I can’t.
Because it doesn’t serve my greater mission.
Plus, I’m a big picture person anyways. Anyone ever tell you that you can “see the forest from the trees”? Yeah, that means you’re a big picture person too.
I’d like to think that’s why I can map out a landscape painting so easily…I can *literally* see the forest from the trees. And tell you how many shades of green there are. And, oh, there’s a bit of brown and red in this one in the back.
Self awareness also means being true to who you are. Saying your peace. Setting your own boundaries.
It also means holding on to the beautiful things that make you, you.
Some would say that I fall in love really easily. And that’s accurate. I love falling in love. And I am so grateful that my heart, which has been bruised and battered many a time, is still capable of stretching and growing and carving space for new people and new friends and even new family members all the time.
If you know me, you know that I book the flight. I make the party. I send the heartfelt text. It’s just who I am. And I don’t plan on changing.
As we prepare for landing, I can feel the sun slipping through the cracks of the window (thank goodness for window seats). Headed to NYC, we’re actually gaining more sun as we go, and I’m soaking up all the Vitamin D (forgot to take my vitamins this morning – sorry, Mom).
That sun represents so much to me. And it’s a beautiful reminder that there’s light just waiting to shine through.
We just have to remember it’s there.