The other day I had writers’ block. I was writing a business proposal, the first of its kind in a very long time. I was accessing experience and knowledge from my old life, my life as a leader in the public sector. All of it was second nature to me and I was stumped. Do you think I could write a bio of myself? Do you think I could define an approach for creating a corporate vision? I sat poised at my keyboard waiting for inspiration that was not forthcoming. I meditated, resting in the emptiness of no thought, and patiently awaited the “idea” that would have my fingers flying.
Blank. Nothing. The writing that came did not flow nor did it feel right. Finally, in a fit of total frustration, I put my computer down, my running shoes on and went out to get some exercise. As I turned myself over to the movement, the feeling of putting one foot in front of another, coaching questions began to arise.
“You know you don’t have to do this. It is ok if you don’t want to do this kind of work.” prodded my inner Guru.
“It’s not that.” I responded. “I am excited about working with this organization. It feels good supporting them to define their vision.”
“What is it then?” asked the Guru. “What are you afraid of?”
Smack! It was like getting hit over the head with a two-by-four. In a blinding flash of light, I realized, I was afraid they wouldn’t like me. I was writing the proposal so that it would resonate with them, rather than writing it so that it was an accurate reflection of Cheryl and what I bring to the table.
I saw this for what it was, a repeating pattern in my life. I can’t count the number of times I tried to alter how I show up to fit someone’s perception of me. (Tried being the operative word here.) Or how often I felt deflated and inadequate when I wasn’t liked or approved of by other people. The truth is, there are people who are not going to approve of me, agree with me or support me. The truth is, my proposal might fall flat for this organization. And that is ok. No apology necessary. I am not everybody’s cup of tea.
My challenge is two-fold. I need to accept that I don’t personify that universal likeability quotient I strive for. (Do I know anyone who does? Do I even know what it is?) I must accept the fact that I want to be liked. In fact, I want to be liked so much, that sometimes it incapacitates me and leaves me feeling not good enough. The curious thing is when I accept these conditions fully, when I see them for what they are and what they are not, I take the sting out of them.
Both conditions are thoughts. They are internalized belief systems that have been with me for as long as I can remember. The recognition of these from the eyes of “awareness”, and hearing them from the voice of my “inner Guru”, is the everyday drudgery of awakening. It is drudgery because it is ongoing. It is the mirror of life reflecting back, exactly what I need to see. When I see it with an open heart and no judgment, I free myself.
There was a time when I was overwhelmed by the conditions and situations that make up my existence. Now I celebrate them. I am grateful for the gift of this life, my most potent teacher.
Cheryl Levine and her partner Lucas Stiefvater own and operate a wellness retreat centre. Cheryl is an aspiring writer and life coach. She is committed to awakening as the one – for all.