I am Stronger Than That Which Holds Me Back

At a luncheon for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado I had the great pleasure of listening to a presentation by Shiza Shahid, the co-founder, along with Malala Yousafzai and Ziauddin Yousafzai, of the Mala Fund. At 25 this soft-spoken young woman has already been a force for change in our world.

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Towards the end of her inspiring and humbling talk, Shiza said something that really hit a cord with me. “I am stronger than that which holds me back”. That statement zinged right through me and has lodged in my mind ever since.

The week prior I had been in New York City for an event with The Hunger Project, and had listened to other inspiring transformational leaders share their own stories, or the stories of those with whom they work, on how they transcended their original situations to achieve something that had once felt so out of reach or near impossible.

What was common amongst these people was that they had aspired to something greater, believing in a different future for themselves and for others. They had pushed the envelope, stepped intrepidly out of their comfort zones, and moved through fear, uncertainty and doubt to reach that different future. What they had done was to prove themselves stronger than that which held them back, whether that thing be a history, a culture, a community, another person or just the voices in their head.

Contemplating these various stories has given me pause to reflect on how I have owned or disowned my power to create the life I want. Without a doubt, I have let the naysayer in my head hold me back at various times in my life. I have let that voice tell me I can’t do something. That it’s too much…it’s too hard…that I don’t have what it takes. During those times I feel scared, unsure and insecure, and I forget that I am, in fact, stronger than the negative voice in my head.

And yet I know that at many other times in my life I have proven to myself that I AM stronger than that which holds me back. I have overcome those negative, limiting, unhelpful voices and have done and achieved things I never imagined possible. I look back sometimes and think “wow, I did THAT?!”

Perhaps at the core of being stronger that that which holds us back is the degree of intention and drive we put behind something along with the ability to really imagine and believe in what’s possible when all outward signs would have us believe otherwise.

4 Ways I Connect With My Power:

  • Get clarity on what it is that I want and how invested I am in bringing that about.
  • Identify and acknowledge the obstacles (internal and external) that may arise and figure out a way to maneuver around them…there is always a way.
  • When I get the naysayer stuck in my head, reflect and recognize that I have been in this place before and have overcome what I once thought I couldn’t.
  • Remember that with intention, passion, and trust in myself, what may seem impossible is actually possible.

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What’s Really Going On?

At a family dinner this past summer my dad and I got into a heated discussion about the pros and cons of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). The conversation continued to escalate until another family member finally redirected the conversation. I patently ignored my dad through the rest of the meal and wouldn’t look at him…which was no easy feat as I was sitting right next to him and could feel him looking at me.

After helping with the dishes I left the rest of the family and went to my room where I promptly burst into tears. I love my dad dearly and have such respect for him. I deeply admire the man he is, and in so many aspects of my life, I rely on his guidance, his knowledge and his insight. I hated arguing with him. I also hated how I was feeling.Be grateful for the life lessons that challenge us_small

I had been in conversation with a friend the day before and discussed how I didn’t understand why people couldn’t just listen to and respect the opinions of others even if they were in conflict with their own thoughts. If I really believed that why was I so upset? Why wasn’t it enough just to agree to disagree?

I knew what I was feeling was about something much more than a disagreement on the value or drawbacks of GMO’s. Sitting in my room with tears streaming down my face and a great big ache in my heart I started a little personal inquiry. Sometimes when I can’t get to the root of something directly I start to ask myself questions. Doing this has really helped me to loosen up my thinking when I get stuck.

Why WAS I so upset? Did I feel like he wasn’t listening to me? Did I feel insecure in my beliefs and let his contrary opinion undermine my confidence? Was I embarrassed that we had argued in front of the rest of the family? No, none of that felt quite right. There had to be something more behind why I was feeling so distraught.

Finally it dawned on me. I wasn’t upset about the actual conversation. Honestly I couldn’t have cared less about the discussion on GMO’s at that point. What was really at the root of why I was so upset was a deep-seated resentment and anger at my dad about not taking better care of his health.

Holy S#*t! I was angry and resentful! What???! I don’t do anger and resentment. Well, surprise, surprise…apparently I do…and that shoved down, hidden away anger and resentment had just risen to the surface. The interesting thing was that I felt so much lighter when that realization dawned on me. It was like a huge weight had been lifted.

P1030505While my dad isn’t in poor health he isn’t in his optimal health either. I realized I was angry at him for not making a few simple adjustments to his diet and exercise habits that could have a profound impact on his overall health and longevity. I resented the fact that he is such a disciplined and principled man in so many aspects of his life but this one. And I was scared. I was scared about the day when he wouldn’t be around for me.  That realization still brings up a lot of emotion for me.

A few moments after this epiphany there was a knock on my door and I opened it to find my mum and dad on the other side. Probably in her attempt to clear the air so we could go watch our nightly installment of Homeland (we are coming to Homeland a few seasons behind but are busily catching up!!) my mum had brought my dad down to my room to talk to me about what had happened. Still hiccuping a bit from my tears, and with a shaking voice, I explained to my dad what I had just become clear to me.

It was probably not an easy thing for my dad to hear that his daughter was angry and resentful towards him. It probably wasn’t easy for him to see how vulnerable I felt at the thought of him not being around. However, true to the amazing man he is, he patiently listened to me, explained where he was coming from and then opened his arms and gave me a big, emotion filled hug.

While our talk that night was healing for the both of us it wasn’t complete, and there are more conversations to be had. However, it was an experience that was both freeing and illuminating. I am grateful that we hit this bump in the road and had the opportunity to share with each other in such a profound way.

Learning from a Difficult Conversation:

  • When something happens and my response seems out of proportion with the context, I need to pause and ask myself some questions to get at the root of what is really going on. More times that not what will reveal itself will have little to do with what just happened.
  • It is important that I am honest with those I love and share what I am feeling. It may seem scary at first but it is far scarier to keep those emotions and thoughts bottled up and stuffed deep down inside of me.
  • I need to remember that everyone is on their own journey. Especially when I love someone and think I know what they need I often want to jump in and fix things for them. When this desire comes up, it’s a signal for me to take a deep breath, meet them where they are and honor their process and their choice.

Have you been upset about something and then realized it was actually something else that was bothering you? How did you handle that?

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