I recently spent a few incredible weeks back in my hometown of Lancaster, PA, visiting family and longtime friends. The meaningful face to face conversations I had with people who have contributed to my life felt incredibly good. Our deep discussions revealed some invaluable insights about how our individual personal growth has been having positive impacts on others in our families and circles of friendship. I’m offering these inspirations in this post:
I’ve grown very close to the amazing women in my Beautiful Cheetahs Zoom Book Club over the past 18 months. Most of them are also from Lancaster. It was such a delightful treat to be with them in person.
We are amazed at how much we have evolved in the past 18 months as we took a deep dive into Untamed by Glennon Doyle and opened up our hearts and life stories to each other. We peeled quite a few layers off our onions, crying sometimes and laughing at others. We said “me too” quite often — to the stories that Glennon described in her book and to similar stories in our own lives.
Herein lies the biggest nugget of truth — so many people are entangled in the the narratives, the judgments, the unprocessed traumas and the armor of their past.
Some of our armor protected us when we were too young to be able to make sense of things. We are not forever tethered to our past and our lived experiences. We can — and should — untangle ourselves from our triggers, our insecurities and fears so that we can live unencumbered from false, limiting narratives and emotional baggage.
My friends and I notice that we are showing up differently now for our family members, especially spouses, adult children and grandchildren, because of the personal growth work we have done on ourselves. It inspires us to have deeper, more honest conversations. Our awareness about how we were bound or restricted by our past helps us shine a light onto the path of agency and self-discovery for others.
There were touching conversations that I had with two women I love and respect so much that echoed the same sentiment yet from different perspectives. It was how another can see us in a much different light — and what a gift that truly is.
My lifelong friend gazed at her daughter as she looked at herself in a floor length mirror — each reflecting on that same young woman about to be married. Through her mother’s eyes, her youngest daughter had grown into the most remarkable woman, far exceeding any dreams or expectations that her mother had for her when she cradled her all those years ago. Mom could see her daughter’s past, present and future all at once — and her heart filled with love, joy, gratitude and wonder.
We don’t know just what her daughter might have been reflecting on as she gazed at herself in her wedding dress.
What I do know is that my dear friend wished for her daughter to be able to see herself just as her loving mother did. Is there any greater gift that reflecting to another all the goodness that we see in them?
The second conversation centered on how parents and siblings can get stuck in viewing us through the lens of our childhood – or a much younger version of ourselves. Perhaps they contribute to the narrative that a past event in our lives defines who we are today. My young friend shared how her beloved husband was instrumental in helping her family see her in a new light. Her husband saw the courageous, resilient and evolving woman she truly is. All along, she had been working through her past experiences and growing in remarkable ways — but her family just hadn’t stepped back to fully take in all the positive changes in her. They were unconsciously falling back on the much younger version of her. It was her husband who opened their eyes to the incredible woman she is today.
I’ve witnessed this in my own family. My sons are 10 and 11 years older than their sister. Even though they are all adults now, I have a feeling that my sons still view their sister as 8. This often happens in families where there is a big difference in ages of siblings. That playing field gets leveled as we age and mature. We all benefit by stepping back and reflecting on who that person is today.
This nugget of wisdom is a natural followup to the last one about seeing each other from a fresh perspective. I’ve recently read Harriet Lerner’s book, The Dance of Connection, and have discussed its relevance to hard family conversations with a few of my friends. Just like all the “me too” moments that we’ve found in common for ourselves, many of my friends have shared the fractures and misunderstandings that exist in their extended families. Ignoring these conflicts and estrangements rarely solves anything. I call this the “ostrich syndrome” — sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that we can’t see it (or feel it). Sometimes we do need boundaries if there is a log jam and we cannot make forward progress in healing old wounds. Yet, I am a firm believer that being willing to hold space and listen with the intention of learning is the equivalent of extending an olive branch in familial healing.
Lately I have been discovering that these long overdue hard conversations often shed new light and information on a misunderstanding that provides relief and release from our past. Adult kids begin to see their parents through their own lenses as 40 or 50 year olds. Older parents begin to see how their emotional reactions and patterns contributed to problems for their children. Siblings begin to see each other in a more mature light.
Dr. Dan Siegel emphasizes the value of “rupture and repair” in our relationships. We grow stronger when we make repairs. We are healthier and more resilient when we possess awareness and accept accountability for our behaviors and actions. We strengthen our relationships and deepen trust when we apologize and back it up with positive changes.
Here’s the compelling hope that Dr. Dan Siegel offers — he says that it is never too late to repair a rupture. I’ve heard the stories of adult children my age who had hard conversations with their aging parents and subsequently healed decades of trauma and unprocessed emotional baggage. Those last few years of their parent’s lives turned out to be some of the richest. This should encourage all of us to be willing to have those kinds of conversations much much earlier in our lives.
One of the things I love about my closest friendships is how we help each other stay on track with our personal growth – especially when life throws us a curve ball.
Through all the personal growth work we have done individually and together, we have become good resources for each other when we need a little help to stay on the healthy end of our emotional spectrum. We often use the enneagram as a valuable tool to recognize where we might be slipping into an old pattern.
Sometimes we need a boost of encouragement, a reframing of our perspective, or a reminder to take time to journal and process what we are feeling. Occasionally we need each other to hold space for us, allowing us to pour out our hearts and simply listen, without judgment,
We talk a lot about how we want to be “showing up” as our more enlightened and empowered “best selves”. It takes a lot of practice, a boatload of awareness and a willingness to change. Since we are all at different places in our personal growth journey, we benefit from hearing other’s experiences. We have become that relational scaffolding for each other that Dr. Bruce Perry promotes. Best of all, we are helping each other find purpose and meaning in this chapter of our lives.
If you enjoy my Nuggets of Wisdom, I hope you’ll start to follow me on Instagram at InspiredNewHorizons. I post several times a week on Instagram…..and it is often my personalized quote about what I am learning through my evolving personal growth journey. I embellish each quote with something relevant that is touching my life in the moment. Hopefully it will be relatable, inspiring an encouraging for you too.
Ian Morgan Cron’s TYPOLOGY Podcast featuring Carey Nieuwhof (Ian has a new book coming out – The Story of You which is about the enneagram. His acronym SOAR will help with self-awareness and change. His guest, Carey Nieuwhof, is inspiring and also has a new book coming out which is entitied At Your Best. This book is the strategy to help you get your time, energy and priorities working in your favor. Listen to this podcast for an engaging conversation about both books and their application to your own personal growth and happiness.
Huffington Post Article: “I Tracked Down the Girls Who Bullied Me as a Kid. Here’s What They Had to Say” by Simon Ellin, Feb. 19, 2021 (This article is a great example of having a hard conversation and what it can reveal, and how much relief and healing can result).