It dawned on me as I was chatting with my lifelong friend Judy that our big immersive conversations have shifted quite a bit as we progress on our personal growth journey. A few years ago, our focus was on ourselves –behaviors we wanted to change, what we wanted to heal and what lessons we were learning. While we continue to do this inner work, we have discovered that we are now more naturally attuning ourselves and our focus to others. As a direct result, our conversations reveal that we are more proactively participating in healthy ways to helping others find their own path. We feel more energized, fulfilled and purposeful. The feedback we are getting from others is reinforcing that how we are showing up for others these days is landing just as we had always hoped it would — in positive, helpful and constructive ways.
I recall telling Judy years ago about some wisdom from Pema Chodrun. In essence, Pema said that doing our own personal work was not just for ourselves, but also for others. As we peeled off layers of old baggage and outgrown behavioral patterns, others would notice we were changing. At first they might not care for it because it would feel awkward to them. Over time however, they’d witness how much calmer and present we were and they too might be inclined to do some personal growth work. Pema offered that this is how we pave the way for others. She also explained that as our energy shifts to more positive, resourceful ways to respond to life, we will organically begin to attract more of that same growth mindset energy from others. Judy and I marvel at all the truth that is packed into Pema Chodrun’s wisdom. We have witnessed this transformation in our own lives and in each other. I don’t think we will ever lose sight of all the hard work we did together over these past few years and where it lead us.
Judy and I are both Type 2’s on the Enneagram — the helper. For most of our lives, we were like first responders for family and friends. Although our life paths took us in very different directions, as we revealed our stories to each other, we could easily recognize the all-too familiar patterns of helping too much, exhausting ourselves, enabling others and diminishing our own value. That would be the unhealthy end of the spectrum for a Type 2. We made a commitment to get to the healthy end of that spectrum — together. We would help each other stay on track. To be honest, we knew that there would be times that this might be really hard especially when the truth might hurt. Yet we had a strong foundation of trust to help us with our commitment.
A trusted friend is invaluable when it comes to discovering and addressing our blind spots, tunnel vision and insecurities. It is often so much easier to divulge our fears and vulnerabilities to a friend than to our family members. It just feels safer. Brene Brown calls these our “marble jar” friends.
A marble jar friend is your advocate – and they want you to be successful, happy and to flourish. They hold your confidences, can be trusted implicitly and aren’t judgmental. They are also realists who can sit with you in your darkest hours and hold space for you to cry, to vent, to pick up the pieces. If you have one, you are so fortunate. If you have several, you are truly blessed.
So often, I have heard a soft refrain of “me too” from one of my marble jar friends when I shared something painful or shameful. I can almost feel a space opening up to pour out hard stories when those words are uttered. It feels like a trust fall — “let go, you are safe – I will catch you.”
Judy and I have certainly deepened our friendship as we ventured hand in hand on our personal growth journey. We have also witnessed how our daughters have been watching us – how we maintained a lifelong friendship (with and without social media), how we have celebrated and supported each other through many life events, and most especially how we’ve transformed into healthy versions of our type 2 selves over recent years.
It is this “witnessing” of personal growth work in action that has become the most meaningful aspect of the journey for me. My own daughter sees and feels it in my relationship with her. The same is true for Judy and her daughters. Old patterns that we once had with our daughters have faded away giving us a more expansive space for connection, encouragement and wisdom. Judy and I love helping our daughters navigate the challenges of parenting, marriage, careers, friendship, family and life with the wisdom gained from the lessons we learned the hard way and the benefits of better responses.
Others in our lives have also witnessed — and experienced – how we are showing up much more authentically now. Just as Pema Chodrun pointed out, others are drawn to the changes they’ve noticed and are asking us about our resources and tools. We are calmer, more energetic and resourceful. We listen more and ask better questions to learn more.
Here is another heartwarming aspect of the journey for me. Where once I was often interjecting my help where it may not have been needed or wanted, I am now legitimately helping others who are expressing a desire to learn and understand.
As we moved the needle toward the healthy end of being a Helper, Judy and I also ended up more closely aligned with our true nature and our purpose, especially at this chapter of our lives. We have always had good intentions, and now we have better tools and skills to support us.
I’ve been witnessing this same progression with my several of my dearest friends. The more we are engaging in growth mindset conversations, the more we are reading, experimenting with new tools and resources and sharing ideas.
I get so inspired by my friends as they share their stories of how they are evolving in their relationships with their adult children. Especially when it becomes so evident that all the work we are doing is shining a light on a new path for that generation — that they are shedding their armor much earlier than we did.
And with any luck at all, we will help our grandchildren travel through their lives with strong emotional intelligence, a firm grasp on their own authenticity and worth, and the confidence to pursue their passions with our wholehearted support.
Being Well Podcast (Two parts) with Dr. Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson- Debunking Self Help Myths: