You made it through the boxes challenge! Way to go identifying your boxes from my last post. That means you’ve already completed step 1 of this process. You’ve identified the the ways you were expected to show up in order to feel valued, seen, included, successful, important, etc. (If you missed the post about the first step, you can find it here.)
Today we’re moving on to step 2: Clarity and Compassion.
We start this step with mindful self-compassion - can we notice why we ended up in the boxes in the first place without judgment or criticism? And can we give ourselves some compassion around it?
I’d like to highlight something about the boxes we find ourselves in that will help us know how to heal. You might be wondering why you ended up in these boxes in the first place. These are the some of the factors I have noticed:
- You were born into it. It’s the cultural water you swim in. You didn’t choose to be a part of or influenced by a lot of these. It just happened by virtue of the family you were born into and where you live. Any group you belong to has cultural values and norms baked into them. Some are more transparent about it than others. For example, you are at least a part of a national culture, family culture, and any other local or widespread groups you are connected to or influenced by, such as evangelicalism, a local church, the schools you grew up in, college, your kids’ school, media culture and trends, and local culture.
- You felt like it was the only choice. Sometimes we’re consciously or unconsciously forced into certain roles, especially as a kid when you have fewer choices over your life. You might have felt you better choose to be the good kid, or you were going to be labeled a bad kid. You might have chosen to be a “bad kid” because you were already the scapegoat in the family and that’s what everyone expected from you anyways. Or you might have chosen to do whatever you needed to do to fit in with the popular crowd so you wouldn’t be alone or bullied. You either consciously or subconsciously made a decision to cope with a situation by picking the only choice you were aware of that you could live with.
- You experienced shame at some point in your early life. You assumed that something was wrong with you. This felt awful, so you learned to shame yourself (in order to avoid more shame from others). This bred an internal pressure, and desperation even, to fit in, succeed, measure up, do it right, and receive external affirmation. This is one of the really common cycles of self-sabotage we experience in our society. Our individualistic meritocracy only rewards you if you measure up to its standards. The ones who measure up are the heroes, the successful ones, the ones who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. We use shame as a social coercion tactic, but run from feeling shame like our life depends on it. And so shame becomes a tool to keep us small, in our place, and in a rat-race of avoiding internal shame.
- You were trying to meet your needs. We embrace a certain box or act a certain way in order to meet our primary needs. Often other needs go unmet in order to meet the need we deem most important. That is part of what tells us the system we’re in is too confining. There aren’t enough choices available to us that can meet most, if not all, of our needs. So, we give up autonomy for the sake of feeling like we belong. We give up self-advocacy in order to avoid conflict or risk rejection.
After hearing this, does it feel possible to give yourself compassion, and even gratitude, for doing your best to survive in a culture that made you pick boxes to live in?
Grieve, be angry. All feelings are okay. Even shame and guilt—the parts of you carrying these feelings know it felt awful to be in the boxes, but they thought it was the only place you were safe. You can let these parts of you know that you’re actually safer outside of the boxes where you can see what’s really going on and take care of yourself.
Clarity and compassion bring the gift of release: to live outside of the box and not blame yourself for being in it in the first place. That way, you can actually enjoy your freedom. You don’t have to believe the lies that the boxes were only a problem because there was something is wrong with you. The boxes themselves were the problem! The reality is…
I’m going to let you sit on the porch swing with that for now.
When and if you’re ready, let it come to you with all the power and freedom it has for you. I’ll see you again soon.
Love and light,