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That One's Dead Already
Iris Chamberlain comment 0 Comments access_time 5 min read

I’m on an emotional roller-coaster right now. IT’S A POST BREAK-UP THING in this particular case. I’m swinging back and forth between resilient and hopeless, and in my heavier moments I feel vulnerable and insecure.

Many of us tend to react to vulnerability by either shrinking or puffing up. We’ll either make ourselves appear weak in order to dissuade attackers (example real life scenario: “Look, that one is already dead. Lets not attack it,”) or strong in order to dissuade attackers (example real life scenario: “Shitting shit that one is big. Lets not fuck with it”).

It’s really just a what-flavor-of-fucked-up-was-your-childhood thing. In my case, I shrink.

I walk around with my head down, avoiding people’s eyes, and physically trying to make myself small, as if trying to pass by unseen. And I caught myself doing this in a number of scenarios in the past few days – both with people I adore and feel comfortable around and with total strangers.

Immediately I think of that quote from Brené Brown – “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand on your sacred ground.”

Granted, “sacred” sounds pretty floofy but I think this is actually a really powerful concept. Stay with me here.

When I noticed I was pulling this magic shrinking act, I could literally feel it in my body. I watched myself respond to every stranger I passed with a kind of calculated evasiveness. I tried to force myself to smile at people with that polite smile of acknowledgement (I tried it in the mirror once and realized to my dismay that it comes off not only as unconvincing but also more than a little disdainful).

Meanwhile I’m thinking, “Cripes Iris! Now is the time to face your world with love and openness and courage! The actual fuck are you doing right now?”

And those words came into my head: “Stand on your sacred ground.”

And, because I’m trying to be nicer to myself in my head lately, I thought “Hey. It’s okay. You don’t have to cower. Lets see what happens if you move like you truly value yourself, because that’s what we’re doing now right?”

And because I’m trying to be a goddamned warrior about facing my fears, I also thought, “Come on world! I will take whatever you have to dish out! LETS DO THIS!”

I pulled my shoulders back, straightened my spine, and lifted my eyes. I opened my chest and moved in a way that felt like I was really inviting the world in, consequences be damned. It was incredibly uncomfortable at first, but I did it.

Within minutes I might have even had a bit of a swagger.”Hello world! Look at me, walkin’ and stuff! I know, baby, I know.”

Only someone with social anxiety can feel this proud of walking four city blocks like a normal person.

By the end of the day, how I felt about myself, how I felt about other people, and what I suspected they felt about me completely changed. I felt connections where before I might have felt fear. I read humor and affection and kindness into people’s faces where before I might have read judgement or disgust.

I remember smiling at this older man who must have had no teeth and whose face seemed near about to drip down to the ground and I swear he smiled in spite of himself.

I really love that idea of “sacred ground”. It’s that place where I AM and all the bullshit and drama and worries fall away. And now that I’m devoting real effort to building a strong relationship with my self, it’s a place where I feel powerful. It’s the place love comes from. The place excitement comes from.

I’m not calling this a cure-all. I DO believe in the power to CHOOSE YOUR MOOD, but I don’t think it works that way for everyone all the time. I haven’t even been diagnosed with depression and I have some days where it feels, and may be, completely impossible to see the world as anything but hopeless, dark, empty, and/or terrifying.

But it seems like all the work I’ve been doing on myself lately has given me a pretty solid foundation to work with on my darker days. It’s been months since I thought that dying sounded like a nice vacation, and although I’m dealing with a lot of pain and uncertainty from the fallout of this breakup, I have a lot to look forward to because I’ve been laying bricks.

So use the idea from wherever you are (it’s actually most useful in the context of interpersonal conflicts, but I’ll talk about that another day).

What does your sacred ground feel like? Do you have another name or idea for it (I called it “my island” when I discovered it once). Do you struggle to find it or do you have a story about a time when you did?

Brene Brown mantras tools

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