My Personal Experience
It has been such a beautiful journey to watch the way in which relationships have flowed in and out of my life. Some of them have lasted longer than others, but all of them have shown me something about myself. Do you remember looking through your photo albums and seeing how you have changed as the people, places and things around you have? I grew up as an athlete and most of my childhood memories revolved around playing softball on the weekends with my teammates and traveling from complex to complex with my family. Being an athlete was beneficial to my life in many ways; I was more disciplined, I had a team mindset, I exercised often, and socializing was easy for me. Playing sports gave me greater confidence in myself, was an extra support system, and allowed me to build resilience in the face of adversity. A good portion of my classmates and all of my friends growing up played sports. Most of the children who played sports competitively came from privileged homes where their parents could afford to travel for games, go out to eat, and buy new team gear every year. I was easily influenced to wear name brand clothing, paid close attention to my appearance, and constantly compared myself to those around me. I was so used to competing that everything in my life felt like a competition and my inner critic was a real big bitch.
It wasn’t until I got into high school that I started to make friends outside of the sports that I played. My sophomore year, I tried out for an Improv group and decided to take debate and forensics. This was completely outside of my comfort zone, but I thoroughly enjoyed the new relationships that I was beginning to make. I started identifying with my intellectual side more and expressing myself in new ways. This was also one of the first times that I started to hang out with people who were a few years older than me. I began hiking in nature more, was expressing myself through thrift shop finds, and trying out new music that wasn’t played a thousand times on the radio. In some ways it makes me sad to think of how lonely I felt at times in high school as I was exploring and discovering parts of myself that I had never been aware of before. What am I if I am not an athlete? I don’t know if it was just me or if we all think this way in our adolescent days, but I was growing into my own identification with my multidimensional Self and with that came the growing pains of death and rebirth unexperienced prior. Who am I if I am not a softball player, a student or a daughter? My first job, as a Jimmy John’s employee, I remember thinking “none of these people know much about me or can relate to the experiences that I am having.” I was a stranger to all of these people and most of them were 10+ years older than me with a completely different lifestyle than I had. I had a fresh clean slate, a version of myself that was in service to the public, a part of me that had not been experienced before. I was among people way older than me, from all walks of life, learning how to show up and co-exist as an independent person in “the real world.”
Things got really confusing for a while in high school and I didn’t quite know where I fit in, in the world. What was my purpose? What should I try to go to college for? How can I serve others based off of my strengths? What even are my strengths? I didn’t really know the gravity of my decisions yet nor the influence that my relationships had on my mental well-being. I just had an unsatiating hunger to experience all avenues of life, I felt rebellious and alive, sneaky, unstoppable. There were times I thought I had it all figured out and then there were moments where I felt chaotic, lost, and so uncertain. Being a teenager can be so hard, I just wanted the freedom to express and be and feel all that I was, yet I felt confined by the limitations that my age brought me. I didn’t yet have the wisdom or self-control to restrain myself from the flood of hormones and impulses that were bringing me into temptation. I didn’t know how some experiences would negatively impact my life. I got into relationships that gave me a thrill, but also diminished my sense of self-worth. I gave myself away so freely, in all aspects. I was easily influenced and wanted to be accepted by this older crowd of people that I began surrounding myself with. They felt novel, exciting, spontaneous, and thrilling. Yet, I could still clearly see that there was higher purpose for me. I just wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get there yet, or what exactly it would look like. I definitely was not aware that the people I was investing in at the time were going to have to leave my life in order for me to create space for healthier avenues. I just held onto hope. I maintained a good academic standing and ended up going to a community college for softball.
I faced more initiations and circled through more friendships filled with the rise and falls of ecstasy and despair. When I was kicked off my softball team in college for smoking weed, I was also granted the highest academic scholarship the college offered for my grades. I was soaking up the information being fed to me in classes. Being an athlete gradually became less appealing to me and the idea of my purpose and my career were becoming more integral aspects in my life. I was finally at a point in my life where I could completely make decisions for myself independent of anyone or anything. I decided to complete my bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Kansas, so I moved to Lawrence, KS. By the second semester of my junior year, I decided that I was going to study abroad. I spent 5 months in a different country (Australia), and it was the first time in my life that I spent an extended period of time on my own and also the farthest and longest I had been apart from my family and place of birth. The whole trip cracked me right open, I was now able to see the part that I was playing in my life and how my decisions were affecting my life. I also showed myself that anything I set my mind to is possible if I align myself with that outcome, including the people and habits that I engaged in.
At this point, I became a vegetarian (something totally new to me) and started to become more aware of the things that I was putting into my body. I also became more aware of the ecological threats present on our earth and started advocating for a more sustainable lifestyle. That really is where I began integrating a holistic perspective to healing in my life. I also noticed that I was calling in a different influx of people into my life. Now that my values were shifting, my beliefs were changing, and I was taking a more active role in ALL aspects of my life; I could see how my choices in the people I was spending time with was becoming more aligned to those values and beliefs. There is this strange moment when you look around at all the people that you spend the most time with and ask yourself “do the behaviors I engage in with these people reflect my core values and beliefs?” I noticed that most of my friends were the people that I spent time partying with, who worked in the restaurant industry and had decided that school was not for them. I have no problem with these people actually engaging in these behaviors, but it was not in resonance with what I was cultivating in my life. I was a full-time breakfast server, who had to be up before the sun came out, and also a full-time student. I couldn’t be spending half of my week out until all hours of the night with how much energy I needed to have to be able to show up for work and school.
Unfortunately, I still had more trials and tribulations to experience until I realized that I had to be the person to change the people, places and environments that I put myself into. It wasn’t until I was almost fired from my job for no-call no-showing and my grades were slipping that I decided my job security and my future were more important to me than missing out on going to live music events or staying out late with friends. Once I removed myself from the “downtown scene” I noticed that the people who were an integral part of my life started to fade. I was able to keep my serving job and showed up more fully each day with loads more energy now that I wasn’t so tired. I was also able to keep up with my studies and made it through my classes with good grades. I began traveling to national parks, got into backpacking, started my own garden and was beginning to make most of my own meals. Before, I would have gone to a music festival for vacation, spent most of my time at bars downtown, and eaten out at least half of the week. Once I understood that the activities that I engaged in were an expression of my identity and NOT my identity it was easier for me to try new things, spend time with new people, and enter into new environments. I had more control over the ways in which I spent my time because I changed the value that it meant to me. I spent a good portion of my life allowing others to define who I was by giving my power away to those people, places, and environments that did not fill me up, but rather pulled me down. Once I became aware of the way in which those around me influenced my decisions, I was able to create environments for myself that helped me obtain the goals that I envisioned.
The type of people we choose to hang out with, the job we choose to have, and the activities that we choose to engage in are ways in which we influence our environment. Furthermore, our environment has a big role in determining our lifestyle habits, interests, and hobbies. Our social relationships are interconnected with our environment and our state of being. We are more likely to have similar behaviors, beliefs, and careers with the people that we spend the most time with. Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, famously stated that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. We are deeply impacted by our environment and those that are closest to us. It affects our way of thinking, self-esteem and our decisions. It is also important to think about our jobs. We spend a good portion of our lives working and those people play a critical role in our day-to-day lives. In many ways, I believe our jobs (or school) can shape our lives as much as our close family and friends, because most of us spend more time working and preparing to work than we do with those that we love.
The Work Place
A positive work environment is strongly dependent on a good leader with integrity. The way in which your boss shows up and leads your team is the same way that their team will show up and treat each other. Is your boss negative, unorganized, lazy or unaccountable? Or do they have integrity, positivity, accountability, and a good work ethic? Does your boss listen to your needs and implement protocols that take your thoughts into account? Does your boss guide and teach you how to get the job done when you are lost, confused or make a mistake? Does your boss take time to tell you that you are doing a good job or they appreciate your hard work? Does your boss create a positive work environment for all employees? OR Does your boss create protocols that have a bird’s eye view of the tasks that need completed with no reasoning from those with lived experience performing the job? Does your boss tell you that you need to figure it out when you are lost, confused or make a mistake? Does your boss only focus on the limitations, shortcomings or future to-do’s? Does your boss gossip about other employees? Does your boss take out their personal issues on you?
We are more likely to be accountable, positive, and flexible with our employers when we feel valued, heard, and supported. Furthermore, we are more likely to have or develop a good work ethic if we feel like our boss is on top of things and is putting in a similar or greater work ethic. Additionally, it is essential for our boss to remain as neutral as possible, treat all employees with the same respect, and refrain from gossiping about employees with other employees. When our boss does not make us feel valued, heard or supported it makes the work environment more hostile and creates more stress for everyone. If we feel that we are working harder than our boss, we are likely to not respect them and thus our work ethic and values are tampered with. We may not trust our boss, respect our coworkers, and is likely to create a more negative and stressful work environment. If your boss is not fair among their employees or they talk down on others, then it will be harder to create trust and respect among coworkers. It is important to be in a positive and uplifting work environment that allows you to express yourself and helps you continue to grow.
Friends and Family
Another important aspect of our identity is shaped by our close friends and family. Take a moment and reflect on the people you spend the most time with. Are these people who inspire, uplift, and support your values? Are your relationships loving and autonomous? Do you feel valued, heard, and important when you are around these people? Who is your commUNITY? What do you stand for? Does your environment reflect the core values you want to live by in your life?
Our relationships are our mirrors. If your closest relationships do not feel safe, joyful, and autonomous then it is possible that you are not aligned with the people, places, and things that you bring your life greater well-being. The way that we show up in our relationships tells us what is on our hearts. Our connection to others tells us about our connection to ourself. Relationships give us the opportunity for introspection into our own self conditioning based off the ways in which we respond and communicate with others. We are more likely to spend time with people who struggle with the same childhood conditioning as us or with people who are at the same level of emotional intelligence as us. Our relationships are the portal through which we can truly see ourselves. If I am going to place judgements, expectations, or complaints on others then I am more likely to have expectations, judgements, and dissatisfaction with myself. If I am going to continue to spend time with someone who puts me down then I am more likely to hold onto negative beliefs about myself. If I am going to continue to spend time with those who do not respect my boundaries then I am more likely to not set boundaries. If I am going to spend time with people who have a low self-confidence and low self-worth, then I am more likely to have a low self-confidence and low self-worth. Conversely, if I am going to spend time with people who are positive, uplifting, spontaneous, flexible, and accountable then I am more likely to develop or have those qualities as well.
Do the people in your life revolve around the shared habits that you have? Do the people that you spend time with reflect the success/fulfillment that you wish to cultivate in your life? If our friends are more likely to go out to eat and then to a bar afterwards then it is likely that we are going to do the same. If our friends are more likely to cook dinner at home and play a board game afterwards then we are more likely to do the same. If our friends have full time jobs that they work 9-5 then we are more likely to have a similar kind of job. If our friends are more likely to work at night and stay out late then we are more likely to do the same. If our friends are more likely to show up to our house with chips, candy, and soda then we are more likely to do the same. If our friends are more likely to show up to our house with a homemade salsa, fresh fruits and veggies, or a healthy snack then we are more likely to do the same. If our friends are more likely to go outside and spend time in nature then we are more likely to do the same. If our friends are more likely to spend time gaming at the house then we are more likely to do the same.
Our relationships and the environments that we choose to show up in are an expression of our identity. We can get to know ourselves better by understanding the people, places and things that we choose to show up in. What qualities do you look for in others? The beautiful aspect to life is that there are so many different ways that people come into your life to show you something about yourself. We discover different pieces of ourselves by the way different people reflect our light to us. We are multi-faceted, intelligent, social beings with the capacity for more knowledge, wisdom, depth and love. Find your path and all the right souls will align with your greater well-being and expansion. Allow space for change to happen in your life, try new things and spend time with yourself. As you grow more in love with yourself, there too you will find those few who love you for that. Keep those ones around, they are the real, living, breathing gold.