I've been thinking a lot recently about the rules I would put in place for any clients working with me. Not that I have rules of course – that’s not how I work – but if I did, the top one would be this:
Own your shit.
In fact, if I were suddenly put into some position of great power for the entire world, one of the first rules I would impose would be to own your shit.
Now that doesn’t mean that you need to take responsibility for anyone else’s stuff, or that you must immediately have answers for and a soul-deep understanding of all the shadows, challenges and fears that are part of your life.
But it means that when you feel something, you own it instead of throwing the blame for that feeling out to other people.
I’m not talking here about genuine triggers for a psychological trauma that we’ve experienced, or about the genuinely offensive things someone might say that we find wholly unacceptable.
But all too often in our society right now we’re all holding our breaths for fear of saying something that offends or triggers someone else by flagging up a feeling or an experience that they aren’t willing to accept as their own.
Let me say this simply: That isn’t OK.
Because while we should of course be empathetic to the feelings and experiences of other people, and while we should make a very regular habit of checking our prejudices to make sure we’re not causing genuine offense intentionally or otherwise, we cannot take responsibility for the feelings of everyone and anyone we come in contact with. And nor should we.
Human life is complicated – we all have experiences that stick with and wound us, memories that bring up their own emotions, and a mind that’s all too willing to protect us from the less enjoyable emotions by hiding away the true roots of them and instead deflecting those emotions to someone or something else that’s way easier to blame.
To me, one of the greatest journeys we can take in life is take responsibility for all of those things, dive in and understand of our own selves.
Of course that’s not always easy... even after well over a decade of dedicated self development, I still have moments of judging people I chat to in social situations, or feeling so offended after reading a social media post that I vow to throw my phone away and shun Facebook or Instagram forever.
But we have to recognise that no one can ever make us feel anything – we always have a choice on how we will react to something.
This life is a journey; a journey filled with lessons, tough and painful experiences, and bloody amazing times too.
It’s down to us to make the best of that of course – to celebrate our good times and heal from the tough ones, and then to reflect on all of that to enable us to live the fullest life that we can for ourselves.
That means owning the good, shiny, sparkly things and unashamedly diving into those moments of joy as and whenever we find and create them in our lives.
But it also means owning the tough ones too – recognising the experiences that hurt us and the fears we carry within us, and then taking the time to understand more about how that affects us within our everyday lives.
Owning your shit sounds harsh I know, and it’s definitely not always easy. But it is a great way to find peace with yourself, and to move forwards in a positive way towards a life in which we can be mistresses and masters of our own feelings and destiny.
So how do we do that?
We start by stepping back and reflecting on our own feelings… Instead of immediately writing that comment or having that rant, we start by putting down our phones, taking a deep breath and asking where that feeling comes from.
Do you feel irrational anger at the woman talking about co-sleeping with her baby because society has convinced you you’re not a good enough mum?
Is the Instagram feed of the friend whose continuous photos of the relationship you suspect isn’t so happy behind doors upsetting you because it’s fake, or because it supports some unconscious fear that there’s no such thing as a genuinely happy relationship?
And is the announcement from a colleague celebrating their recent promotion upsetting to you because they really don’t deserve it, or is it more that you worry you’re not where you want – or even just think you’re supposed – to be?
Of course there are a million more examples – some much deeper and more painful, and some that need support to really delve into and work with (of course I’m going to plug Soul-Centered Counselling here – you know that unpacking and understanding the detail of my clients’ stories is one of my greatest passions and favourite things to do!).
But no matter what our own examples; no matter what the feelings, experiences, shadows and fears we carry within our own selves involve or where they’re rooted, working through them and finding peace with ourselves begins with one choice.
The decision to own our own shit.