I love Leo Tolstoy’s opening line in Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
He’s right: it is our unhappiness that is unique and distinct to our own personal story. And while that’s significant, even important to acknowledge, there is a danger here, as well.
We make our pain so much our own that it becomes woven into the warp and woof of who we are – often to the point in which we find comfort in it, maybe even pride.
Or maybe it’s only me…
Over time and for a myriad of reasons, I internalized the belief that life is hard. The influences that reinforced this were legion: Western culture. Capitalism. Protestant Work Ethic. Patriarchy. My family of origin. My own experiences and stories.
I believed that my pain was of value; more, that my value was directly proportionate to how much I suffered.
Struggle became my badge of honor. “Hard” was the marker that I was taking things seriously, not being remotely frivolous, and proving yet again that I was made of solid stuff.
I know. It sounds crazy. Because it is! The good news is that I am aware of such! (To be this crazy and not know it is highly problematic.)
My truth? It has felt natural, even desirable, for me to suffer and struggle.
- Who would I be, if not burdened and heavy-laden with worry and concern?
- How else could I remain alert in relationships so as not to be taken advantage of or hurt?
- How could I possibly expect to earn money (even meager amounts) if not willing to grit my teeth and soldier on?
- And my writing? How in the world could I possibly believe that what comes easily or naturally, would be worth reading? No! It has to be far more difficult!
And completely unacceptable!
When I was in grad school, I remember one of my professors saying it was much easier for us to accept sadness than joy, much easier to settle for less than desire more, much easier to accept our depravity than our dignity. He was right. I’m living proof.
I’m also committed to changing that story, and rewriting that script.
This is the worthwhile struggle: to choose joy over sadness, to desire more instead of settling for less, and to accept my dignity over my depravity.
This is hardly a silver-lining, pollyanna-esque way of viewing the world. Sadness and “less” and depravity are real. But they are not everything. Learning to believe that, to live that is more-than worthwhile. It is everything.
How about for you?
Can you name some of the beliefs you’ve inherited and reinforcd that now feel part-and-parcel of who you are? Here are a few examples. Definitely add to the list!
- I must prove my worth.
- My value is measured by the income I earn (the grades I get, the promotions I gain, the FB/IG likes I receive)
- Money is the root of all evil.
- Self-care is selfish.
- I’m too much.
- I’m not enough.
You can see how these beliefs, these unhappiness-es, these struggles, are not natural…nor necessary to cling to. Right?
It is a struggle to reimagine them – and ourselves. But no struggle will ever be more worthwhile. A lifetime’s effort, to be sure, and the most amazing and important work (and privilege) you could possibly undertake.
May it be so.
Part of being 100% ourselves, 100% of the time is naming these stories and internal texts/beliefs that have shaped us. It’s also demonstrating the wisdom, agency, and courage needed to craft and live the story that is uniquely yours – unhinged from struggle that no longer serves and committed to “struggle” that strengthens and sustains.
Registration is now open for the next cohort of SOVEREIGNTY: the 9-week program.
Filled with my teaching of content I love, community and conversation with other amazing women, and practical, even sacred tools to help you live an empowered and amazing story that is completely yours. Filled with joy. Desiring more (and more). And accepting your dignity, to be sure. Learn more.