April 8th was my birthday. I love birthdays. I love them even more now that I have made it through some life threatening stuff. Some people hate birthdays. For some, it is because they really don’t like the attention. For others, they don’t like feeling old. 35 seems like a milestone…I feel that way about all of the multiples of 5 birthdays. I’m not sure why. This birthday kind of feels like a re-birthday. I have come so far and grown so much over the last year.
This weekend, I spent time with my family and had some time to think. It isn’t unusual for me to spend time with my family, they are part of my support system. They let me be me. When I need to rest, they don’t make me feel like I should push through my fatigue. They tell me to rest and ask if they should wake me up or just let me sleep until I am ready. I don’t feel pressure to do anything but take care of myself. When I am with my family, the priority is to share stories of our lives and laugh. We laugh about everything. Everyone in my family is extremely funny in their own way. It is enjoyable to laugh with all of them.
Sometimes I feel guilty about how I spend my time in other parts of my life. I feel more pressure to be productive, perfect, and to please. I compare my pace with the usually faster pace of others. I tell myself I should do, say, or be certain ways. My favorite expression I use when I am counseling is, “Don’t should on yourself”. Trust me, it is easier said than done.
Acceptance is a big part of wellness; so is authenticity. In my work, it is so important to me to encourage others to find a comfortable way to be accepting and authentic. I am most effective when I follow my own advice. I want to be successful with my business SO BAD that I sometimes feel my authenticity slip. I get trapped in the “shoulds”. When you market your business, you “should” do it a specific, proven way. When you write a blog, you “should” cite and link tools for your readers. Your readers “should” be called to action after reading what you have to say.
When I step back and read what I have written, I feel my authenticity return. The only thing I “should” do is be myself. In the past, I have been successful being honest, raw, direct, and authentic. I’ve been told it is refreshing and unexpected. It is rewarding and, at times, painful. I choose to show others what it’s like to be me whether is is good, bad, ugly, silly, sad, confusing, offensive, or exciting.
To be effective and successful, I must be me. This means sharing hurt and frustration, celebrating my strengths and successes, having difficult conversations, searching for information, and taking time to rest. Sometimes, I don’t want to share resources or links like I “should”. I just want to tell you what it is like to go through my journey with my chronic conditions. I want to inspire and empower you to do your own work, congratulate yourself for finding an awesome resource on your own, and invest in your own wellness. I have hope that my authenticity will be “enough” and I don’t need to answer to the “shoulds”. I can follow my intuition and heart about how I want to serve others.
I want others to speak for themselves, be their own advocate, and fight for what they want. I took so much time developing my SPEAK model to teach others to do just that. The easiest way to teach others is by example. I model how to be a good self-advocate. It isn’t always easy to be honest and raw. Facing that fear has, at some points, been the push to accomplish what I need. To do this, I move past the “shoulds”, face my fears, follow my heart, and wait to see the positive results that come from the process.
So why do I love birthdays so much? Because I can celebrate that I have lived through another year full of experiences. I have lived an additional year with wisdom, ideas, disappointments, successes, perspectives, and hope. How amazing! This is what propels me forward. Every year, I will get to grow more, laugh more, speak more, and continue to practice what I have learned in years past. It is nice to have a marker like adding a number to my age to celebrate what living life means to me. More chances to be accepting and authentic. More perspective…