Smoothing Our Jagged Character

In a world of unavoidable negotiations, I am a raw, spiked rock, pushing against others, sometimes even scratching or poking them.

I aim to be a tumbled, smooth, shiny stone.

Those rough edges have been with me since I first learned how to engage with others. I learned a lot of bad behavior from those who raised me, and I come by some of it innately, as if my genetics calls forth some battle or an aggression within. But the truth is I don’t really like certain things about myself. Sometimes, when I leave a conversation, I cringe at how I behaved, and it feels like this is who I am. This is a part of me that I cannot help. This shitty person is me.

Well, that is a lie.

I can change. I can consciously remove these poor behaviors, if I am actually willing to admit they exist. I know I can. My spirit is strong, and I believe that rooting out these behaviors will only set me free. Then I can feel better. I can show up better for others, and I can practice the very things that build a more spiritual life.

Consequently, as a woman who wishes to be her best self, to fully self-actualize, and to love myself entirely, I made a plan. I am going to share that plan with you now. It is my own self-induced 100 Day Challenge!

Behavior #1: Giving Unsolicited Advice

I have been around for 56 years. I have been through a lot. I have some hard-earned wisdom. But no one wants to hear my opinions when they are not even asking. When I launch into the varied ways in which they can solve a problem, or improve their situation, I am letting my ego drive the car.

This has to stop. And let me tell you something: This is not an easy thing to change. I have worked on it a little bit for a long time, but I have a long way to go.

When we decide to stop a behavior like this, we must fill the void with new behavior. We cannot work in a vacuum. So my intention is to start doing something else; in place if my excessive sharing, I will now do three other things. I will listen fully, really zero in. I will ask investigative questions – NOT LEADING QUESTIONS like an attorney who is implying one answer – but exploratory questions, to elicit the sort of further understanding that illuminates the speaker’s feelings, facts, and conclusions. Finally, I will parrot back to them what I have heard. When I tell people what I am hearing, they can either say, “Yes! That is what I am saying!” Or they can correct me, “Not exactly.” Then more information is shared and they get to feel heard. Feeling heard is really what most people want. They don’t actually want to know what I think all that often. In fact, saying nothing of my own thoughts is far more likely going to clarify what they really want from me. I would save myself a lot of energy and time if I stopped assuming they are looking for advice when they simply are not.

Behavior #2: Complaining

When I am stressed, or I feel invisible, or my needs go unmet, I tend to bitch a lot. I complain about everything under the sun. The weather. My body aches. My lack of time. Other people. My plans. My food. My furniture. My chores. Everything. How do I stop that? At the outset, I must shut it up. But then where does all that negative energy go? Just stopping it will only bury it in my muscles and stomach. That causes disease. And if you think I was complaining before, just wait until I have a disease.

Therefore, I have to replace that behavior with a question: Is there anything I can do to fix it? If the answer is yes, I guess I know what to do. But if the answer is no, I must ask for what I need. Ugh. Who the heck wants to ask for what they need? Not me. I don’t like counting on others. I don’t like to impose. I don’t like to be vulnerable. I really don’t like to hear a rejecting no either. So, instead of asking, I complain. My new self is going to start telling people what I need. I bet you most of the time I will get exactly what I need. If I am not getting what I need, perhaps I will learn to accept it, or perhaps I need to find some new friends, right?

Behavior #3: Seeking Credit

I like to pull my weight. In fact, I like to make sure no one ever suggests that I don’t do my share. The issue is not that I am lazy, or insufficient. It is that I want credit for all that I do, so I can glean all the feel-goods of people acknowledging my good work. I want approval. I want to be seen. I want to be valued.

It isn’t enough that I know I have value. I want to know that others think I have value as well. I suppose in this way, I am competitive, and perhaps too, I am keeping score.

So that’s gross.

What will I do instead? I will observe. I will remind myself that I like doing these things. I like to be of service. I like to keep order in my home. I like to be productive. I like being actively useful.

At the end of the day, most people do acknowledge my efforts. Most of the time, I am given a thank you or a good job! I don’t want to spend my time wondering if someone will notice. I want to spend my time satisfied with my own willingness to contribute and leave it at that. Thus, no more waiting for the kudos. Now, I will do these things because I like myself more when I do. If no one notices, I guess they must be focused on more important things.

How will I know if I have become a shiny, smooth stone? I will tell my closest people what I am trying to do. This gives them permission to help me, and to hold me accountable. I will journal every day, recording my progress, download the struggles, the lessons, and the observation of my self. I know these behaviors won’t change just because I want them to. It will be two steps forward and one step back. These things are a challenge; otherwise, it would have changed long ago. I have to not apologize for my slips, but ask for do-overs, to try again. I have to balance being gentle with myself and holding myself to a higher standard. I have to practice. It takes time, fortitude, and pride in the fact that I am trying. Part of my spiritual practice is to be honest with myself about how I am showing up. I am confident I can do better, and it feels right and good.

3 Comments

  1. I like the analogy but not the preference. Being jagged and spiked requires that the world that engages with you is careful and observant. It takes the time to figure out how to pick you up without injury. You’re given proper distance. You have features that encourage examination. A smooth stone is featureless, two dimensional (color or maybe texture), and interesting only in the short time it takes to understand its contours. Here’s some unsolicited advice; stay spikey.

    1. In this case, you have missed the point. But you do tend to challenge all my posts, so maybe I am just annoyed. Yes, yes, we all are more interesting if we have rough edges, but NOT THE POINT. no pun intended.

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