Recently, we’ve discussed how to handle the Order of Operations problem, and how to make the Isolation —> Belonging Shift. We also met Rachel Friedman, who shared useful ideas for navigating the imperfect art of adulthood.
Now, let’s dive into one of the foundational commitments that will help you break through Thirtysomething Panic (or set yourself up for success in any period of life transition): Telling the Truth.
One of the hardest things many people face when beginning to combat Thirtysomething Panic is telling the themselves the truth. Without realizing we’re doing it, we fail to tell ourselves the truth in a variety of ways:
- We say we don’t know what we want or need, when what’s true is that we do know—but what we know is scary, overwhelming, feels impossible or out of our reach, or would require us to resolve conflicts between that truth and other aspects of our lives, or between what’s true for us and what’s desirable to other people in our lives.
- We say we have no idea what action we could take or what path we might want to pursue, when what’s true is that we do have ideas. These ideas may be just seeds or sprouts, and we don’t know how to turn them into action, so we shut them down.
- We shush our knowing, push it aside, or shove it under the rug—because it’s not convenient, or it’s scary, or would require changes that we don’t know if we want to make. And we are so good at this that it may happen without us even consciously realizing it.
- We outright deny our truth. We may feel guilty for feeling what we feel or wanting what we want, so we tell ourselves we are fine.
- We numb our truth, distracting ourselves with screens, substances, shopping, or other mechanisms of avoidance.
All of these tendencies call for immense compassion. They are all, on some level, strategies to keep ourselves safe. It can be extremely scary to tell ourselves (or others) the truth about things that upset the balance in our lives—even if it’s a very unhappy or precarious balance. And it can take tremendous courage to declare what we want—especially if we don’t believe we can get it. Especially if we have beliefs that are incompatible with what we want. Beliefs like: People like me don’t do that. Or: It’s too late. I made my decisions, and now I have to live with them forever. Or: That’s never going to happen for me.
Avoidance is a pretty understandable reaction to things that scare us, trigger unpleasant emotions, or bump up against longstanding values or beliefs. To name, own, and accept our own truth—including the gap between where we are and where we want to be—is a foundational step in breaking through Thirtysomething Panic.
|If we want to make changes in our lives, we need to be willing to tell ourselves the truth about what we know and what we want.|
We need to be willing to tell ourselves as much of the whole truth as we have access to.
This requires letting the truth be messy, uncomfortable, and maybe seemingly contradictory. It requires acknowledging what we do know, while accepting that there’s a lot we still don’t know.
Sometimes, when we start to look at or acknowledge current truths, we quickly feel confused. As frustrating as it can feel, confusion can be a protective device; it protects us from the vulnerability of declaring desires we don’t know how to reach or realities that we don’t know how to deal with. It also protects us from taking action. Very often, what we don’t know is what to do with the truth, or how to create something that we want. It can feel easier to pretend that we don’t know what we want, just to avoid facing that.
If we want to move forward, it is essential to not to wait until the truth is convenient, clear, or clean before we start telling it to ourselves.
Part of your truth can be that you don’t know how to make the changes you want to make.
Part of your truth can be that you have conflicting desires or needs—you may be pulled in different directions.
Make room for all of it—all the parts of what’s true for you.
There’s a reason I begin every new coaching relationship with an introductory session in which we do a deep-dive exploration of the client’s goals. In this space, we coax out the truth in all its complexity and messiness. Often, people articulate truths they already knew on some level, but that they had never articulated, or dug deeper into, before. This is in part because coaching is designed to support truth-telling and to eliminate entrenched habits of squashing or pushing aside truths that we don’t yet know what to do with.
If you never let yourself—or require yourself to—tell the truth about what you know and what you want, you can’t move towards it with powerful intention. One of the most empowering decisions you can make is to commit to telling the truth.
|Put it into Action!|
Can you give yourself permission to tell yourself the truth about what you know and what you want? Can you show up for yourself right now and declare what is currently true for you?
Take out your journal or a piece of paper. (I suggest you write by hand if possible, but you can also type.) At the top, write I’M HERE TO TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT I KNOW AND WHAT I WANT. Set a timer for 10 minutes. For that time, write down anything you WANT to have, be, do, or create in your life; anything you KNOW that you need to deal with; and anything that you are sweeping under the rug or not fully owning. Include any area of your life that you want to. Try to keep going for the full 10 minutes. (If you get stuck, try sentence starters like I know ______, I want _____, The truth is _____, What I really want is to _____, I need _____.)
When you finish, take a breath and notice what it feels like to have given yourself just ten minutes of truth-telling without interference. Congratulate yourself: this is an important first step towards creating the life you want!