I have always been a rule follower. I was the good girl in school. I didn’t disappoint my parents. I got good grades. I was scared to step out of line. I’m not sure exactly what I thought would happen if I screwed up any part of my life, but I wasn’t going to take a chance on finding out. I did whatever other people (especially authority figures) told me to do. I never skipped school. I didn’t drink or do drugs. Basically, I was a goody two shoes.
Then in my twenties I started to explore life more. I became a bit of an adventurous free-spirit but still lived within the rules. The only day I ever took a sicky from work and went to an amusement park with a friend, I got caught. My boss found out and I got in trouble. It just reinforced the idea to me that rules were meant to be followed.
It was reinforced even more strongly when I married a scientist. Someone who lives by the book. Any book. There is always a scientific book that will explain some part of life to him. Even when my eldest daughter was born, we followed something called The Contented Little Baby Book. I’m horrified now that we used such a thing to try to manage our baby. But we did.
Over the past few years I’ve been trying to break free from this mindset of being ‘good’ and following the rules that someone else has set. I’m tired of being someone else’s idea of ‘good’ and have realised that innately I AM good. We all are. I was born perfect for being me and no one else can tell me how to be me.
I’m the expert in being me.
Two weeks ago, I flew to Hawaii. For a week, I had a beautiful holiday with my parents who met me in Maui. It was my Dad’s first visit to Hawaii and it was fun being with them and seeing the sights. For the first few days, it really was fun. I laughed with my parents as hard as I’ve ever laughed with them and we enjoyed having a number of adventures together. It was great being three adults on holiday enjoying each other’s company.
But as the week came to a close, I felt my Dad become negative as I’ve felt so many times before in my life. He was particularly ill-tempered towards both me and my Mom. Mom’s way of dealing with it has always been to ignore it or try to fix things to placate him. I learned from her that this is the way to keep a man happy and for years has been my go-to strategy for dealing with my Dad, my ex-husband, male bosses, any man who has had a role in my life. But with all of the work I’ve done to believe in myself, I see that this learned behaviour has helped me stay tied to men who make me feel less than adequate. And the reality is that I am more than adequate. I am amazing.
So I confronted my Dad about his behaviour. This is not my normal way of interacting with him and he reacted with confusion and anger. Both were understandable. I tried to explain with love that I don’t appreciate being treated like that but I wasn’t very successful in getting him to hear me. He and I parted on a bad note.
The day after my parents left, I started a holistic life coaching retreat. I had been looking forward to this retreat as it was a requirement for the life coaching course I began in January. Part of the reason I chose this course specifically is because of its holistic nature which matched the goals of my empowerment retreats that I organise. Another reason is that the course takes six months to complete and is intensive. And a third reason is that at the end, I will receive a certificate to put on my wall and prove to clients that I’ve had formal training.
The retreat was one of the most spiritual and emotional life occurrences I’ve been privileged to be a part of. But as it began, I was still stuck in the negative energy from my encounter with my Dad.
As the week progressed, the issues I have around men and how I have let them treat me over the years kept coming up. I was able to work through much of it with the help of some of the most beautiful, amazing and loving people in the world — my teacher and fellow life coaching students.
But on Wednesday I hit rock bottom. I had no more energy for me or to give to my fellow students and I decided to skip an afternoon session and stay at the beach, my happy place, to try to ground me and raise my energy to be able to return to the class. I knew I was doing the right thing, for me. And I also felt good that I was keeping my negative energy away from my classmates.
It worked. I spent the afternoon sitting on the beach meditating and journaling. Sometimes I was in tears, sometimes I was happy. But my energy definitely shifted. I returned to the class feeling better and ready for the evening session.
Except as it turns out, I wasn’t meant to skip a session.
When I got back, my teacher wanted to know where I had been and what was up with me. He told me that I wouldn’t be receiving a certificate at the end of the six months, because I had missed the afternoon. I was floored. After all my time and money that I had invested and planned to invest in this program, I was now kicked out because I looked after myself, followed my intuition and did what I thought was ‘right’.
As I sat there dumbstruck, suddenly I found my voice. I spoke up against a man in an authority role and explained my position. I was true to myself and as authentic as I could be.
He explained to me that he could see that I was a “free spirit” and told me that perhaps the program wasn’t for me. I couldn’t believe it. I watched him walk away and felt such anger that after all I’ve done and gone through and have trusted was right for me. It felt that when I finally followed my heart and did what felt right instead of what someone else told me was ‘right’, I was being punished. By yet another man. At that moment, I was mad at all men in the world.
I calmed down enough to go the evening session. At the beginning of the session, I explained to my fellow classmates where I had been and why I had not been there in the afternoon. I took responsibility for my behaviour and ended up sobbing my heart out. The group surrounded me with love. They accepted me unconditionally. Almost every member of the group, including my teacher, came to me to hug me. Their outpouring of love for me helped me heal.
The evening exercise that night was all about love. Love for ourselves and for each other. Honouring the divine spark that lives inside each of us and reminding us that we ARE love.
I was in a completely different frame of mind the next day and as I thought about the events of the previous afternoon and evening, something stood out to me. My teacher had acknowledged me for being a “free-spirit”. Something I’ve not been called in a long time. And something that I have been working on returning to. To have a man recognise that in me was powerful. And all I felt for him in return was love, not anger, for validating my spirit. It felt wonderful for me to be able to tell him that and express my appreciation.
As I think back, I also see that perhaps he’s right. Perhaps the program as it’s structured, isn’t right for me. The more I think about it, I don’t really care if I have a certificate to hang on my wall. My experience comes with the lessons I’ve learned in life, the marks on my heart that have been tattooed by love. Every experience I’ve had in life, whether ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, has helped forge me into the person I am. Those experiences combined with the tools I’ve learned this past week will help me hold space for those who come to me for coaching. And potential life coaching clients will come to me because they are drawn by my authenticity, not by the certificate hanging on the wall.
In my application for the course I wrote that I believe we all have the power within ourselves to make changes for the better in our own lives. I reflect that back to my friends, my family and to those who come to me for coaching or an ear to listen. As my experience has reminded me this past week, believing in myself and loving myself is the only rule I need to follow.