I used to be the biggest cynic. It’s true. As a child I was always playing and using my imagination, but rarely was I ‘care-free’. I always saw what could go wrong and I expected it. I didn’t call myself ‘cynical’. Seriously, who ever wants to be known as a glass is half empty kind of person? But that’s what I was. I thought it meant that I was smart. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you knew they wanted something from you? It’s as if you could see it in their eyes when they first walked up to you, or you could hear it in their voice from the moment they said “hello”? You just knew that they were desperate for your help with something. In fact, they came across as so ‘needy’ or ‘clingy’ that it made you shiver in your skin, and you wanted to bolt as far from them as possible. If you could have, you would have found the nearest window, slid it open, and launched yourself 3 stories down into a dumpster to escape the situation. Or has the shoe ever been on the other foot?
Have you ever been involved in a project, started a business, or launched a career and you knew there was a particular person that could really help you along? They could help by either telling others about what you were doing, by investing their own time, money and resources, or by hiring you themselves.
Or how about this one?
Have you ever wanted to be in a relationship with someone so bad because you knew that they were the one for you? That if they could simply see how well the two of you fit together that they would certainly be as happy as ever. That if they would give you a chance you could show them that you’d make them the happiest person in the world?
Have you ever approached someone about something that mattered to you, only to blow it? You know the feeling, a hyper self-consciousness that highlights every wrong word and action in your own mind.
Being ‘needy’ and ‘clingy’ sucks the life out of everyone, including the person who is birthing these feelings into the world. Very few healthy people want to be around that person for too long. I’m not talking about basic human needs. We all need community. We all need a safe group of people where we can truly be ourselves, let our guard down, share our wounds and insecurities and continue on the healing process. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the person that wants YOU to save them… wants YOU to make their decisions for them… wants YOU to surrender to their desires… wants YOU to do THEIR work for THEM. You have seen it. You’ve even been on the other end asking. It’s ugly. There is nothing positive about the experience. No one is empowered. Not the person who is being approached and most certainly not the person who is doing the asking.
The reason people want to get as far away from that experience as possible is because there is no LIFE in it. There is no energy around the project, the potential, or the person. It looks, acts, and smells like something that’s about to die. No one is empowered during these exchanges. And sometimes, particularly in romantic relationships, the person who is asking for you to ‘save them’ continues to persist far longer than anyone should.
But what if you came across someone who didn’t need saving? What if you met someone at a party and even though they didn’t seem to have it all figured out (the project, the career, or even themselves), they had a trust and a confidence that it was going to be alright. This person had a certain energy about them that came from a deep trust in a higher Source. They were excited about what they were working on and it was totally evident that they had been putting a ton of energy into the project or themselves. You might start asking them questions about where they find their inspiration. You might want to know the details of how things were coming along. You might find yourself highly interested, not just in their current ‘thing’, but in the actual person. That person who knows their value and has a reservoir of trust in the process is full of LIFE.
Are you hanging on to the end of your rope? Are you working on something, but all your hopes are pinned on someone else coming to the rescue? Are you desperate for a particular person’s attention and affection and nothing else will suffice? Maybe it’s time to let go of the rope and trust that the Divine cares for you and has the resources you need. And after you're caught by grace and love, you might find it easier to be gracious and loving towards yourself. You might find new reserves of energy to pour into your project or even yourself. New insights that were seemingly out of reach before, will lie in a pile at your feet.
People want to be around that person. People want to invest in that person. People want that person to invest in them. You can go from needing to be rescued to having the right people wanting your participation by trusting in the Divine and applying the supplied energy to do the work. Start by letting go of the rope… trust me, you will be caught.
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"Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go." - Hermann Hesse
"I don't think it's necessarily healthy to go into relationships as a needy person. Better to go in with a full deck." - Anjelica Huston
"When a person goes into a relationship emotionally needy, they are not going to have discernment in choosing people." - Jennifer O'Neill
The five words that changed my life. Ironically, I was the one who uttered them to myself. That’s right, I talk to myself. So do you. My story is a familiar one. I didn’t have the first clue about valuing myself or loving myself and for the longest time, I had no idea that was a problem. I had a great childhood. I still have the most incredible parents when it comes to feeling loved and cared for. In very concrete ways they expressed their love for me since before I can remember. I’ve always just known their love. I grew up in an incredible community and was involved with some wonderful people through my entire childhood and into college. I share that so you can be aware that even people with the healthiest of upbringings have major struggles with insecurities and negative thought patterns. I used to think that I was the only one. Now I know I’m like every other person on the planet. Several years ago, when I hired a mentor, I knew that there were things in life that I wasn’t able to figure out and I knew I needed help. Insecurities and limiting beliefs, attached to things like fear of loneliness, finances, my own sense of worth, and intelligence, had been haunting me since I was an adolescent. But I didn’t know how to deal with them. So I found a mentor I trusted and that I knew had turned things around in his own life. His name is Mastin Kipp. I had taken a couple courses from Mastin online and I had quickly begun to build a rapport with him. We had similar stories, which helped with my trust.
When I first starting working with Mastin, he began describing exercises intended to help with learning to love myself. At first I thought they were absurd. Mirror work. Self-affirmation sentences. Telling myself that I loved myself whenever I felt a sense of shame for making a mistake. One morning while I was alone and practicing these exercises, I said out loud, with a heavy dose of jaded arrogance, “this is TOTAL HOGWASH!” (ok maybe I used a stronger description). What I said to myself next surprised me.
“How’s that working for you?” I was stunned. I couldn’t remember the last time I was content. Thinking the way I had been thinking for so many years had led me to this point. How was that working for me? Not well at all. I realized that I needed to make some major changes, but I didn’t know what. So, even though it went against everything within me, I decided to give these exercises a chance. Slowly, after practicing these exercises, I began to notice a difference in my overall thought patterns and demeanor. I had once prided myself on being an over-analytical perfectionist and cynic. But along the way, I stopped identifying with those characteristics. I didn’t know how it worked scientifically, but I saw the evidence. As my friend Mike told me, “you don’t have to know how an engine and transmission work in order to drive your car.” Mike's one of the most intelligent people I know and so I asked him to explain it to me. He's great at breaking down complex matter into laymen's terminology. So he did.
The most ancient part of the human brain is the limbic system. Our feelings of fear, anger, and aggression originate there. The limbic system is fast and ruthless, and we’ve used it for survival for as long as we’ve been around. Thanks to its speed and efficiency, the limbic system can make judgments and decisions much faster than the newer hardware in our heads. Our brains are like a muscle–what we use most gets strongest. Negative, critical, fearful or aggressive thinking tends to strengthen the response of our limbic system in our daily living.
More recent structures in human brains like the neocortex and the anterior cingulate cortex are the parts of our brains that produce love, compassion, and empathy. If you focus on those types of thoughts, you will enhance the neural circuits in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex and it encourages your brain to support that way of thinking. Intentional focus toward these kinds of thoughts has been clearly demonstrated to have helpful physiological and psychological benefits. You can actually begin to find your identity in those thoughts and feelings.
Why do I tell you all of this? Simple. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe my story resonates with you on some level. Maybe you’re tired of being cynical, judgmental, critical of yourself, and influenced in major ways by your insecurities. Maybe you know you need to value yourself and love yourself more but you just don't know how. Maybe when you hear me always talking about loving yourself, accepting yourself, and sharing practical ways to begin to do this, you are skeptical. Maybe you also think that doing any kind of ‘positive’ mental and emotional exercise is too ‘Stuart Smalley-ish’ for you. Maybe you think that is too 'touchy feely' could never work. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘I’ll just stick with what I know.’
Well let me ask you, with the most sincere and humble of intentions, how’s that working for you?