I don’t remember the exact moment when I started to wish for a good handle on my emotions and for assertiveness. It must have been around the time I promised myself that honesty was going to be the path, at all costs. Trying to listen to the voice inside and follow it and at the same time walking the honesty path with the ones around me has probably been the scariest and most difficult journey I have been on so far. It meant choosing courage over comfort, myself over others and authenticity over people pleasing.
This past week has been a crash course in assertiveness for me. A shocker of a crossroads that pushed me to choose for me and my family and not for convenience or saving face (what does that even mean?). For years now I have been asking the universe to teach me two things: how to be more assertive in my interactions and how to manage my emotions in a way that they continue to be data for me but do not hyjack me at every corner. And the universe has thrown me into the rapids so that I get a crash course in swimming. I must be ready for the lesson. I have been swallowing large gulps of water but I have also learned some new strokes.
I understood that being authentic, honest, true to yourself is always the path to take. However, even when the path is the right one, it can still feel abrupt, dizzying, scary. The voice to follow is that one deep inside which you need to keep your ears to all the time while the storm breaks loose around you. The art here is being able to hear the whisper of your truth amidst the loud noise of how things are done, raised eyebrows and others’ opinions about what should happen.
I realized that courage isn’t always loud and firm. It many times is a whisper and sometimes it is a silence. I used to think that my voice needs to tower over others to establish the fact that I am strong and that I am taking that leap. That is false. Sometimes courage means saying “we will postpone this conversation, I have said everything I came here to say.” Sometimes courage means sitting through the silence, awkwardly, shaking, and not filling it with words that you do not mean or even want to say. Courage is never the absence of fear. I am sure more than one knight in shining armor stopped on the way to fighting the dragon to throw up in a bush because of nerves.
For many years, actually until the sun erased the writing on the paper, I had a note stuck on my wall in my former office quoting Steve Harvey: don’t diminish your dreams to fit other people’s expectations or plans (quoted from memory). As a recovering people pleaser this is quite the challenge. For the best part of my life my standards have been “what will people say?” “what if I disappoint?” “who does this?”. Voices I internalized in my early childhood, still sounding loud in my ears every day. The truth is, people don’t really care that much. Everyone tends to only consider themselves first and when we look at life, in the most important moments we are truly alone with our decisions, regardless of how many guiding angels we have. Free will as an amazing benefit and the greatest curse.
Probably the hardest thing I have had to do as I navigate this crossroads is to go past the shaking, the continuous tension in my muscles, the all encompassing panic at the potential consequences of my actions and the constant feeling that I will throw up, to slow down, watch my thoughts and actions from outside of myself, weigh them not against my fluttering heart but against what is best for me and my family in the long run? And more importantly, what do I want?
Through all of this I have also been fighting the urge to sit down into a dark corner and just wait for all of this to pass, remain in my status quo and pretend nothing happened. But life doesn’t take place in dark corners, I have learned. It takes place in the middle of the music, the pouring rain, the dance, the craziness of plans changing from one hour to another. You just throw up in a bush, get back on the horse and gallop onwards. Always onwards.
Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Unsplash