Nuggets of Wisdom – Personal Growth Insights

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.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

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).

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/middle-high-school-bully-depression_n_602c0800c5b65259c4e52240

Present Day Me in my Hometown

Recently I was back in my hometown where I spent over a half century of my life. So much of my history is woven into the streets, the houses, the buildings and businesses of this now expansive community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I marveled as I drove through city and countryside recalling memories of the younger me. I surely must have had a dozen lives to have such a vast collection of experiences and metamorphoses.

It is cathartic to return to my hometown as a much different woman than I once was. I’ve shed the childhood armor that I carried far too long. I’m beginning to recall and recognize the courageous moments in my younger life where my true nature was pushing through all along.

Maybe that is the way that our growth spurts occur over our lifetime — little nudges pushing us out of our comfort zone and into evolving version of ourselves. Most of it is just the natural, organic process of maturing. Some of it occurs through change — unplanned and unwanted, and some of it through change we pursue.

I grew up in the heartland of Amish farm country — nutrient-rich soil, verdant green fields, seasonal harvests of the best local produce, warm summer sunshine and drenching nourishing downpours. The farms and gardens of Lancaster County represent what is possible with the right environment in which to grow and flourish. This metaphor is not lost on me as I reflect on all that I have learned through my personal growth journey. What insights can I share with younger generations to help them in cultivating a healthier, nurturing, supportive environment in which to reclaim their true nature and embrace their full potential?

We are all products of our environment at some level. The earlier in our adult lives that we claim agency about what that environment needs to be in order for us to be our best selves, the better equipped we will be to handle all that unfolds in our lives. Driving through my hometown, reflecting on my life from childhood through 50+ years, I saw things much differently than I did before my deep dive into personal growth. I could readily recognize the origins of behavioral patterns, insecurities and false narratives that made my life harder than it needed to be. At the same time, I found myself feeling an overarching sense of gratitude for all that I was able to accomplish in spite of those tethers. This awareness fuels my motivation to help others untangle themselves from the impediments that hold them back from living their best wholehearted life.

As I drove through Lancaster County, I was often accompanied by my brother or a longtime friend. We’d share our memories with each other as we took in the things that remained the same and those that had changed dramatically in our hometown. It was often in these stories that we would unravel some of our personal history. Our perspective has broadened over time. Our renewed appreciation for each other’s complex lived experiences deepened our empathy and our connection to each other. My brother touched my heart when he shared with me that he hadn’t truly realized just how quickly I needed to grow up, assuming adult responsibilities for our family much too soon.

Some attributes we honed as children served us well. Other attributes became stumbling blocks or major road blocks. It occurred to me that in many cases, we changed our physical environment by moving out of dysfunctional homes when we were 18, but we brought with us unconscious behavioral patterns and childhood baggage. Our emotional environment was still tethered to our past.

We entered marriages with fairy tale-like visions of what we anticipated, but completely unaware of how our family histories and unhealthy coping skills would tear at the seams of those dreams.

Is it any wonder then that well-worn unhealthy familial patterns get unknowingly passed from one generation to the next? This was especially true of my parents’ generation who preferred the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it came to hard truths.

Long and deep conversations with my friends revealed that many of us operated believing the limiting and false narratives that originated in our childhood. Those narratives became the voices of our inner critic telling us that we were not worthy, not lovable, not smart enough, or we were too much. Our childhood circumstances did not define us, but in many cases, we blindly accepted that others judged us as though it did.

My close circle of friends have worked hard to break free from unhealthy behavioral patterns that stunted personal growth and shrouded authenticity. People pleasing, shape shifting, conflict avoidance and stuffing emotions did not serve us well as we tried to build a network of genuine friends, foster our marriages, raise children or advance in our careers.

Through many of the conversations I was blessed to have on this extended visit, one thread that weaved its way through consistently was that none of our lives turned out exactly as we had planned or anticipated. We all had highs and lows. Yet we got through adversities, with our inner strength, with the support of family and friends, with love and hope. We rebuilt our lives — often.

I believe that this is also the natural, organic ebb and flow of life. As Dr. Bruce Perry says “none of us gets through life unscathed.” Dr. Perry teaches the value of having a relational web and how that web provides the scaffolding we all need to pull us through hard times and show us what is possible. Relational webs are those people who have our backs, who show up and sit with us in our darkest hours, who help us reframe things with a fresh perspective, who help us discover our inner strengths and who encourage our potential.

My friends and I talked a lot about the hard lessons we learned about the people who were in our lives that we wanted to be part of that web, but who often let us down, or made matters worse. Over time, we learned who we could trust. We began to be more discerning about the people in our inner circle. We learned the value of setting boundaries. We now recognize that this is a very important component of a healthy environment in which to grow, mature and flourish. We need to be surrounding ourselves with people who support us in positive ways. That old adage that you are most like the 5 people you spend the most time with is a sound guidepost.

The gold in my visit back to my hometown was in the warm embrace of all those connections I’d made over 50+ years with family and friends. We talk with ease about some of the hardest moments of our life and what we learned from them. I marvel at the strong women I have known most of my life who have overcome so many hurdles and big setbacks and how they are thriving today. They are incredible mothers and grandmothers. In many ways, we’ve become “advance scouts” for others who want to live life more authentically and with a lot less baggage.

I’m so encouraged about the future for our adult children and our grandchildren for one compelling reason. It is awareness. There is a growing awareness of how our childhood experiences, unprocessed trauma and mental wellness can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. There are so many fantastic resources available to us to support our healing and personal growth. And there are a lot of really awesome grandmothers and grandfathers who are doing their own work and in turn, shining a light on that path for their adult children and grandchildren.

Many young adults are hungry for deep conversations, for mentors and supporters who will listen without judgment to their trials and their dreams, for role models for navigating divorce, co-parenting and rebuilding life. I think of these young adults like the starfish on the beach. I envision my incredible friends making a difference in the lives of others in their families and in their communities by taking the time to hold space for the younger generation and to offer the supportive environment they need to heal and flourish.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

This incredible book underscores the importance of being truly present for our children, and how repairing our relationships when we mess up contributes to resilience, trust and healthy emotional attachments.

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/562899/the-power-of-showing-up-by-daniel-j-siegel-md-and-tina-payne-bryson-phd/

Bestselling author, Harriet Lernerm focuses on the challenges and importance of being able to express one’s “authentic voice” in intimate relationships.

The key problem in relationships, particularly over time, is that people begin to lose their voice. Despite decades of assertiveness training and lots of good advice about communicating with clarity, timing and tact, women and men find that their greatest complaints in marriage and other intimate relationships are that they are not being heard or they cannot affect the other person, that fights go nowhere and that conflict brings only pain. Although an intimate, long term relationship offers the greatest possibilities for knowing the other person and being known, these relationships are also fertile ground for silence and frustration when it comes to articulating a true self. And yet, giving voice to this self is at the center of having both a relationship and a self. Much as she did in The Mother Dance, Harriet Lerner will approach this rich subject with tales from her personal life and clinical work, inspiring and teaching readers to speak their own truths to the most important people in their lives. (Harper Collins)