October is the Month to be Open! In my book; Broken to Unbreakable, 12 Steps to an Unbreakable Mind, Body & Spirit, I share why being Open is important for self-discovery, meaningful connections, living with authenticity and being true to yourself.
As a continuation of that theme I wrote the following article to share with my Wellness School members about how being Open is playing out in my own life 3 years on!
Step 10 - Open
At some point in your life, you may decide that you “Don’t Care” what people think of you. For some this revelation comes early in life, for others much later. A lot of this depends on the environment in which you grew up, and the freedoms you did, or, did not enjoy. Cultures, traditions and faiths have a strong influence on our perception of the world and how we should behave in it.
It’s easy to worry about what people may say or think about you. In Step 9 we fostered positive social engagement by leaving our ego at home when we go out, and connecting with people who have shared interests, and values as our own regardless of who they are.
I’ve practised letting go of judgement and thinking about people who irritate me through their words and actions, and focus now on what I can learn from those that are different from me. It’s freeing and liberating letting go of judgement, and not feeling the need to worry about others. Focusing on what is most important, which is how I show up in the world for people, not how others show up.
When I decided to be Open, I had to practise being vulnerable. Sharing parts of myself including my thoughts, feelings and emotions with people close to me as well as people who may not know me so well. I realise that the version of me that people think they know, is not always the true, full and unedited version. Authenticity is a word that is impacting a whole cross-section of society. No longer reserved for Pop Stars and Self-help Gurus.
A little Mantra I practise now is this;
• I will live my own life and let others live theirs.
• They can do them and I will do me.
For those that have worked hard to maintain a strong persona, being Open and Authentic is not always easy because we generally want to protect ourselves from rejection, hurts, fears, judgement and we wear a mask that is largely driven by our experiences with the world. Being in control, being bullet proof or being a hard-arse, are not traits that sit comfortably alongside open, vulnerable and authentic. I get it!
What is the right amount of Openness and Vulnerability that enables us to feel connected to ourselves and others? Well, that is a question YOU need to explore because I will let you into a secret; even on your path to becoming Unbreakable you will meet dickheads, assholes and two-faced judgemental you know what’s…. And as much as you no longer care what people think of you, these people will crop up in different areas of your life and mess with your Zen-state. So, while being Open and Vulnerable are keys to unlocking compassion and wholehearted connections you may need to close the window on the those that are not at this point in their life… Yes, just close that window, door, or as the younger people say, swipe left and move on. Don’t let those Negative Nellies and Woeful Williams stand in your way of authentic, open and valuable connections in your life. They’ve not started their journey yet!
I use the word Practise, a lot because;
• You don’t just become Zen-like and stay there.
• You don’t just become Mindful and stay there.
• You don’t just Stop caring what people think of you and stay there.
• And you certainly don’t just become non-judgemental of yourself and others over-night.
It all takes practise. Practice may not make you Perfect, but it does give you Possibilities.
Since I’ve become, Open, Vulnerable and Less-Judgemental, I’ve connected on a whole new level with hundreds of people all over the world. People who are also looking to connect with open and compassionate people. These people share their stories with me, and share their pain as well as their passions. I can relate to many different people because I’ve had a whole variety of experiences in my life, both good and bad, that enable me to draw on empathy and insights. I’m grateful for all of the life experiences I’ve had in a variety of cultural settings all over the world. They have provided me with knowledge and understanding of people, and how their environment has shaped their life.
I was out walking with my 7-year-old recently and she asked me was I friends with someone who passed by because I smiled, said hello and waved at them. I told her that I did not know them, but I don’t need to be friends with people to smile and say hello. It’s ok to be friendly to people I don’t know! Stranger Danger is real, but what is also real is the need for Connectivity with people around us. I’ve been helped out of some tricky situations by Strangers. I’ve met Strangers in random places and had incredible experiences. I never want to fear people because I trust my instincts, and if I teach my kids to do the same, then hopefully, they can also find helpful Strangers when they need them, and not be afraid to connect and be open with people they meet.
Some of my best memories of travelling is having smiling, waving, open, vulnerable children approach me and to share in their friendly joy of meeting someone new. I treasure those scenes in my head.
A big part of my challenge to be Open was to admit to myself that I was not happy with who I was. I was not happy with being a Negative Nelly anymore, and I also didn’t want to be two-faced or spend time trying to fix things that were not of my making. If I want to have any chance of achieving a Zen-like state then I need to embrace Acceptance and Non-Resistance to things outside of my control and accept that the only way I can influence my inner and outer environment is to role-model to myself what good looks like, and only hold myself accountable for my thoughts, feelings and behaviours and make others accountable for theirs.
Most suffering in the world is caused by how Human’s treat Human’s. Shocking when you think about it. Outer Peace starts with Inner Peace. So, I need to be Open with myself, Peaceful within, and treat myself with Compassion, Kindness and an Open Mind. If I can do that consistently and role-model that to myself, then by default I should attract and retain people in my life who are similar.
In writing a book, I opened myself up to judgement, criticism and ridicule. BUT actually, I opened myself up to compassion, support, wholehearted connections, new friendships, opportunities to help others, a new chapter of my life and a whole lot of possibilities.
It’s not easy to be Open in all areas of your life. Some of us can be guilty of disclosing too much of our life to the wrong kind of people who then use that information against us. The important thing is that when you realise you may have done this, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are mindful of the impact of your actions and you will learn from it. Learn who is worthy of your openness and who is not. Try not to be too suspicious of people’s intentions. It may look like some people are interested in you, but it could also be they are nosy and want to use your life to validate their own.
Openness is scary and wonderful, and my best days are when I’ve had the chance to be Open with people who are also looking to be Open and I feel my cup is overflowing with a shared sense of good intentions and genuine respect.
Take your time with your practise of being Open. It will change as you become more comfortable with who you truly want to be. Windows that you closed may be opened again in the future. You may get so busy living your life with authenticity that you inspire others to do so as well. When you feel doubt, judgement or fear remind yourself; I can only role-model to myself what good looks and feels like, and after that anything is possible.
Sending you wholehearted, open support for this step on your journey.