Self-Pity is a Thief

gardnerSocial media can be amazing when it comes to connecting with people you might never have encountered otherwise. It can be a beautiful forum for sharing ideas, laughter, concerns, gratitude, tools for living well, and beauty. I’m in contact with people I haven’t seen for twenty years because of Facebook. I get on this page every day and am blown away by you people, and how thoughtful, kind, compassionate, enthusiastic, honest, intelligent, funny and thought-provoking you are. I get emails from people that are raw and brave, and I have zero doubt this is one way we can show up for each other. We can reassure each other that we’re not alone, and people care, and more importantly, strangers care. I think that’s huge to know, because it restores our faith in the goodness of people, if we need to have our faith restored. I see people rooting each other on in the comment threads, offering support, or condolences, or ideas. So those are some of the ways this world is not virtual at all, and can be a real blessing.

Having said all of that, sometimes social media, and I’m including Twitter and Instagram and whatever else you might be doing, can be a source of pain for people, if they’re feeling badly about themselves, or moving through a dark time. It can really seem like everyone else is having this idyllic, carefree, fulfilling life with their bare feet in the sand, and their annoyingly perfect dog in the background. Or that everyone is wittier, more cutting edge, better informed, more engaged, cooler or hipper or hotter or glossier or whatever-er. It can become a source of feeling “less than”.

Social media is certainly not the only contributing factor that might make a person wonder if they’re measuring up. Most media is designed to do that, after all. If you want people to buy products, apparently you have to barrage them every day with messages that they just don’t cut it. They don’t look right or smell right or feel right, and there are a million products, diets, supplements, cars, pills, and different kinds of beer that can help. We could talk for hours about the way women are relentlessly encouraged to be as tiny as possible. Perhaps we should all disappear, and don’t even think about getting angry around that topic, because then you’re really taking up too much space. Men don’t fare much better. They’re supposed to be virile and unafraid and able to take charge under all circumstances. Video games start to look awfully appealing if those are the standards men are supposed to meet. In a virtual world, that might be possible, but in the real world, it’s asinine to think we’ll never be afraid, or we’ll always have the answers, or know the next right thing to do, and that goes for both genders. Anyway, my point is, most advertising is designed to make us all feel like we’re blowing it, in all kinds of ways, and if you’re feeling vulnerable, you can get sucked down the rabbit hole.

Self-pity and self-doubt are thieves. They rob you of your power, of your belief in yourself, of the desire to take ownership of your life. Blame and shame and rage are poor traveling companions, but sometimes it’s hard to take action when we’re already feeling like we should just give up. It’s easier to point our fingers, and make other people the cause of our unhappiness, or to feel angry at the world at large because it’s so unfair. And you know what? It is unfair. It’s not a level playing field. Some people are born into loving, nurturing families where there’s no concern about health insurance, or keeping a roof over everyone’s head, and other people are born into abusive environments where they weren’t wanted, or their parents were too young to be responsible for themselves, let alone a baby. Some people have to deal with loss and grief and mourning that just brings you to your knees, and other people have a path that’s a lot smoother. Here’s the thing. There might be a few people living a life where their hair is always done, and their cars are sleek, and they talk to their housekeeper about the meals for the week. That doesn’t add up to a happy life if there isn’t happiness on the inside. Most of the crap we see that’s designed to sell us something, is just so far removed from most people’s reality, it’s laughable. I think most people know this, it’s just easy to get sucked in when you’re feeling tested, down on yourself, rejected, hopeless or really confused. It’s a distorted perception of reality when we’re moving through times like that, and believing we’re not good enough. Or that other people are more deserving, or more likely to get the breaks, or the girl or the guy or the promotion.

If you ever find yourself thinking, “No one likes me”, or “People suck”, or, “Everyone cheats”, you know you’re hanging out with the White Rabbit. Extreme thinking, sentences that involve “always” and “never”, are good indicators that you’re not thinking clearly, that you’re allowing yourself to spiral downward, or spin out of control. When we feed self-pity, we make ourselves sick. It’s likely we’re all going to feel sorry for ourselves at one time or another, so please don’t misunderstand me. Sometimes horrendous, deeply painful things happen to beautiful people, and it’s hard not to feel like we’re being “singled out”, especially if many unfortunate things happen at once. I’m just talking about self-pity as a way of life, as a way of moving through the world. There’s no possible way you’re going to uncover your gifts and share them freely, and light yourself up, if you’re in the blame/shame/rage cycle. You really have to step off that wheel, dust yourself off, and start again. That’s the beauty of being human. It’s never too late to start where you are, until your final exhale.

You are not less than. Less than what? Other people? You’re you. You cannot be less than you. We have about seven billion people on this planet, but we only have one you. So what are you going to do with your spark? What are you going to offer up? Whatever it is, you’re the only one who can do it, and you can’t buy that knowledge, you have to dig for it. You really don’t want to move through life feeling bitter and resentful, and unable to be happy for other people’s good fortune. I can’t think of too many things that would feel more unfulfilling than that. There’s so much beauty inside you. If you’ve been hurt, disappointed, heartbroken, allow those experiences to open you and make you a more compassionate, understanding, empathetic, patient person. Don’t believe the hype. You aren’t missing anything. You don’t have to be anything other than yourself, your authentic self. Let your pain inspire you to grow, let it mean something. And stick with the social media that lifts you up! 

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

The Green-Eyed Monster

jealousyLet’s crack open the green-eyed monster. I’m talking about envy, but while we’re at it, let’s tackle jealousy, doubt, insecurity, fear, a history of betrayal, doubt about self-worth, and abandonment issues, too, shall we?

When we envy what someone else has, it’s because we’re coming from a place of lack. We’ve stopped focusing on all that we do have, and have become transfixed and obsessed with what we don’t, and with what others do. When we’re envious, we fear that someone else has taken up our space in the sun. Now our chance is gone, because the sun can only shine on that other person, and any hopes we’d had are dashed, and we never get any breaks, anyway, and maybe we just have really bad karma. Or maybe that other person is a lying, cheating whore who’ll stop at nothing to get what s/he wants. The green-eyed monster isn’t at all pretty, and it has bitter breath, too. It gets in our heads and tells us tales of how we don’t measure up and probably never will, and you can choose to feed the monster with your fear, or you can send it packing. But I’ll get back to that.

Jealousy is a close cousin of envy. We worry that someone else may have something we don’t, or may take something we have. We doubt our own value. We feel threatened and insecure, and we focus on our perceived weaknesses. We dwell on what could happen, we worry about imagined slights. Jealousy makes us sick, and if we let the sickness grow, the symptoms are ugly. Jealousy makes a person check their partner’s texts, emails, pockets. Jealousy whispers that what you treasure most could be stolen from you. You can feed that fear, or you can send jealousy packing, too. But I’ll get back to that.

You may have a history of having been disappointed, disrespected, betrayed, unheard or unseen. Maybe you put up with treatment you never thought you would. Maybe you were left as a child, or maybe it happened later, at the hands of the first person you really, truly fell in love with. Maybe you think everyone cheats, simply because everyone you’ve picked has cheated. Maybe you’re so worried about being left or betrayed, you bend over backwards to be perfect so that there’s no way your current partner would do those things to you, but they don’t get to really know you that way, either. And you know that they don’t, so the relationship won’t be satisfying, anyway. You’ll be “perfect” for them, and unfulfilled. Unseen, unknown.

When we doubt our worth, it’s because some deep part of us thinks we might not be truly lovable. There’s something in us that believes we might be easy to leave, or betray, or disrespect. Let me circle back, here. How do you send envy, jealousy, doubt and fear, packing? You pick up your mind and direct it toward all the things you do have. You remind yourself that there’s only one you. Something like seven billion people on the planet, but only one of you. You remind yourself that you have your health, you have people in your life you love beyond words. You have people in your life who know you and see you and cherish you. You have a particular, gorgeous song to sing. You have a beautiful, tender heart, and you have gifts only you can share. If you start to train your mind on all that abundance, the nasty green-eyed monster will climb out of your head and slide off your chest and vaporize before you so you can breathe again.

Be mindful about what you’re feeding yourself. When you’re feeling vulnerable and insecure, try not to push those feelings away, see if you can lean into them, and find the source of your doubt and fear. What’s really bothering you? What’s happening now, and is it reminiscent of something that happened long ago, that pierced you and made you doubt your own beauty?

If you find yourself trolling around on social media, feeling sick because everyone’s statuses are pithy and positive, everyone’s pictures are shiny and insta-perfect, and you feel like crawling in a hole with a bag over your head, try to breathe. We all have those days. Everyone you encounter has pain. Most people don’t put that stuff in their updates. Put your phone down and go for a walk.

You are not here to worry that you aren’t good enough. You are not here to chase after people who don’t see you. You are not here to convince anyone else of your worth. You are not here to be in relationships with people who make you feel sick and full of fear, wondering if you’re going crazy, or if it’s them. You really aren’t. Life is too short for all of that. If you’re not sure you’re lovable, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, energy and heartache if you deal with that doubt before you try to do anything else, like be in a relationship, or follow your dreams. Those things are hard enough to do when we feel good about ourselves. It’s near-impossible when you’re riddled with self-loathing and anxiety.

Wishing you love, peace, strength, and the ability to focus on everything that is right and good about you. There’s a lot.

Ally Hamilton

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Leave Nothing in the Tank

Death-is-a-challenge-ItThe tendency to look around and compare and contrast our lives, our accomplishments, our troubles, against someone else’s is not always easy to quiet. Those feelings of being on the outside looking in, of thinking other people seem to be having an easier time, of wondering whether we measure up, can be brutal. I get so many emails from people in pain. People who have a dream they don’t pursue because some voice inside doubts they could ever pull it off.

Fear and doubt are perfectly natural feelings. It’s what you do with them that determines whether you will or won’t live your life in alignment with what you feel and know in your heart will bring you peace, happiness, joy and meaning. Sometimes we’re so scared, we just toe the line. Make the safe choice. But life isn’t some linear thing. There’s no quid pro quo. You can do everything “right”, and still, your life could be turned on its head on a random Wednesday morning, without warning. We’re here, and we don’t know how much time we’ve got, or what happens next. We’re here and we have the capacity to love each other, which makes us vulnerable. We’re here, and some of us are dealt one set of cards, some another. You’ve got, what? 70, 80, 90, 100 years if you’re lucky. That’s not a lot of time, in the best case scenario. How much of it are you going to allow to pass you by because you’re scared of being judged? Scared you’ll never meet your potential? Scared it will come and go before you can get it together?

Envy is a terrible feeling that suggests we are less than. When we’re envious, we’re also assuming a lot. Things may look easy from outside a person’s life, but everyone has pain, and everyone struggles. You may encounter someone who’s worked through a lot of their anguish, and has figured out how to live life in a way that feels good to them. But maybe if you’d met them five years ago, you’d have thought they were a mess. Or maybe things look shiny and perfect from where you’re standing, but the reality is completely different. It really doesn’t matter. I mean, it would be great if we could all wish the best for each other. It’s not like someone else’s success diminishes your chances of realizing your dreams.

And I suppose we ought to define our terms. To me, success is having people in your life who see you clearly and love you for who you are. People you can have entire conversations with, just through a glance. People you love with your whole heart. It’s also finding personal meaning and purpose, figuring out what it is that lights you up, and then pursuing it, because even the pursuit feels right. Even the journey itself is enough. Uncovering your own particular gifts and sharing them freely, because doing that fulfills you and makes you feel grateful. So that on any given day, if the rug were pulled out from under you, you could say you loved with everything you had. You left nothing in the tank. I think if you have any or all of these things going on, you’re a success.

But we’re slammed with messages all day, every day about what society defines as successful. Tons of money, a huge house, a really fast car, a “perfect body”. It’s all external stuff. All you have to do is look at Hollywood to understand none of those things will make you happy. You’re either happy on the inside, or you are not. To me, tapping into that well of love within you, and sharing it wherever you go, makes for a happy and successful life. And if you’re coming from that place, you can celebrate other people’s good fortune, even if it looks like what you want for yourself. You can let other people inspire you to put yourself out there more, to shine your light even more brightly. You can let fear stop you, or you can let it inspire you. We’re all made of the same stuff, but no one else, not a single person, is just like you. Only you can offer your particular gifts, and you don’t have all the time in the world. You’re not going to look back on your life and think, “Mine was pretty good, but THAT guy over there really had an awesome time.” You won’t care anymore. You’ll only know if you gave everything you had. If you pursued your dreams. If you loved the people in your life the best way you could. You’re not going to be counting your pennies or thinking if only your corpse could have a six-pack. Don’t waste too much time. It’s precious, and so are you. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton

Head for the Eye of the Storm

There-are-some-thingsA lot of the feelings we’re going to experience in this life are not comfortable. Rage, for example, or grief, shame, fear, doubt, jealously, envy, loneliness, bitterness, feelings around being betrayed or abandoned or neglected; none of these are easy feelings. Sometimes we’re in so much avoidance around this stuff, we flee. We keep ourselves insanely busy, or we numb out all the time, or we cling to a false reality and insist those who are close to us do the same. None of that stuff works, assuming you want to be happy and at peace.

The desire to feel good can be so strong, we excuse and explain behavior of others that we really shouldn’t tolerate. Forgiveness feels better than rage. Gratitude feels better than the feeling of lack or bitterness. Being in love feels better than acknowledging something at the core is just not right. What we know is more comfortable than what we don’t, even if what we know doesn’t feel good. But forced joy is not the same as true joy. Should you be happy because it’s the holiday season? Should you get married because you’re thirty and all your friends are doing it? Should you be careful around the word “should”? You feel how you feel, and your best bet is to deal with it.

If you’re enraged because your spouse had an extramarital affair, you can’t race to forgiveness. You have to be with all the other messy feelings that come up first, and see if you can work your way toward forgiveness later. If your grown child is determined to head down a painful path, you do a disservice to everyone if you deny that reality and insist everything is okay. Clinging to positivity is a sure recipe for suffering. It’s not all positive and light. Some of it hurts like hell. Some of it makes your blood boil. Being spiritual does not mean you shun those feelings or push them down or feel shame around them, either. The greatest gift of a spiritual practice, whether it’s yoga or seated meditation, hiking or salsa dancing or cooking or whatever speaks to you (and yes, anything that you do consistently that helps you quiet your mind and tune into your own intuition, that helps you become a part of the flow, and lose your sense of separateness, can be defined as a spiritual practice), is the ability to face reality as it is. It’s not about being positive and thinking positively every second and clutching at the light like it’s going to save you. Being able to be with the darkness can save you. Sitting with what is real for you and owning it and allowing painful feelings to arise so you can understand yourself is incredibly liberating. If you don’t do that, you’ll be driven by unconscious forces, and wonder why it is you keep making choices that send you headfirst into brick walls.

The pressure to be happy is enormous. It’s all around you. Watch what you feed yourself, and I don’t just mean food. Everything you take in through your eyes and your ears is food for your mind. If you feed yourself a constant diet of “everyone else is happy and I suck”, you’re probably going to feel pretty badly. Not everyone is happy, many people are suffering in silent agony because they don’t know how to get from here (despair) to there (peace), and very few people talk about the shadow stuff. I think it’s the responsibility of people in the spiritual community to get their hands dirty and shine a light on the stuff that hurts. Knowing yourself can be a deeply painful, lonely process. You may have made a series of choices based on what you thought you should want, or what other people wanted you to want, and you may have a lot of unraveling to do to get back to what’s true for you. That hurts. You may have old wounds that are unhealed that need your kind attention, and that hurts, too. You may find that certain relationships need to be examined from the roots up, and that they may not survive the move to new soil. Birthing anything into existence is uncomfortable at best, whether it’s a new way of being, or a new life that feels more authentic to you.

Too many people are hopeless and numb, internalizing their own rage, walking around feeling depressed, and wondering how all these shiny people on Instagram are doing it. No one posts the pictures of days they shuffle around in their pajamas, feeling lame and alone. You don’t see many status updates that say, “I feel scared because my life is going by and I don’t know what I’m doing”. But everyone has pain and fear and questions. That’s the stuff you run toward, although that might not be intuitive. If you want to be at peace, you have to be willing to walk through the storms, too. They don’t kill you, they don’t wash you away. Avoiding them does. Sending you love. Ally