The Secret to Protecting Your Heart
“Protect your heart, so you can keep it wide open.” - Danielle LaPorte
“We do it for love, we do it to feel in control, we do it because we think it’s a moral responsibility: whatever the reason we take a lot of shit in the name of being spiritual. Specifically we become more and more … and more and more … tolerant.” - Danielle LaPorte
I want to talk to you about how to protect your heart without closing yourself off.
What do I mean by this?
You build important relationships all the time… some come and go, and others are with you for the long haul, for better or worse. When you open yourself up to other people, you open yourself to growth, wisdom, love, support, and fun– the things you need to live a full life.
However, we’ve all experienced relationships that are less-than-healthy... The relationships where we feel like we’re responsible for carrying the other person all the damn time. The relationships where we constantly feel criticized or like we’re not enough. The relationships where we always leave the room feeling irritated and unsupported. The relationships that bring out the worst in us. How can we protect our hearts without closing ourselves off from everything the relationship (and life) has to offer?
This topic is very close to me as I have juggled this my whole life. I am not someone who does well with superficial or fake relationships. I want real and I want honest, and I do my best to make this happen. My husband says that I always see the good in people and that I am blind to the bad. I think I’m just too afraid of not being liked and that’s why I accommodate the shortfalls in situations and people.
What needs work is my ability to be astute. Astute means having the ability to accurately assess situations or people. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Women naturally gravitate towards one other – we collaborate, help others, listen to one another, and see the potential that others miss. We want to feel acceptance and love, and so we seek out strong healthy relationships.
To expand on Danielle’s quote a bit, I would say we take a lot of shit in the name of being “good”. When I was growing up, I was told that if I was selfish or spoke what was on my mind, I wouldn’t be liked. And (wo)man, did I take that to heart. My family moved several times, and integrating into new schools and social clubs as a teenage girl was hard. The boys liked me but the girls envied me. So I chose my battles and tolerating became easier than fighting. There was enough pressure just being a teenager. I learned to veil my true emotions and began to accommodate people. All I wanted was to fit in and belong.
As an adult, with a healthy dose of self-help and therapy, I learned to not judge others. This is tricky. On one hand, everyone has a story that no one can ever understand, so who am I to judge? On the other hand, yes, everyone has their wounding, but not everyone is on a healing journey. I found myself in a tough spot where I began to lower my own relationship standards in the name of non-judgement. “Who am I to ask for better treatment? I know why she’s acting like that,” I would think. “I just need to accept her and her actions for who she is. Live and let live.”
I now know that I was using tolerance as self-flagellation because deep down, I believed I was not good enough or deserving of better treatment. Moreover, I believed that “time would heal all wounds” and that the more years we checked off in friendship together, the stronger our bond would be. Inevitably, I thought, this would lead to unconditional love. We would become soulmates, and then, well, I wouldn’t have to tolerate anything anymore.
We must not confuse compassion with tolerance. Acknowledging that everyone is on a learning expedition and accepting that unconditionally... that is compassion. Putting up with shit in the name of LOVE is tolerance.
I have fallen into this trap many times. For a long time I believed I could rescue and love someone into being a better version of themselves, so that they could better fill my needs. This was almost always met with resistance and resentment. I took on relationships as “projects”, sometimes to distract myself from my own realities and my desire to belong. I thought that if I rescued this person they would be eternally grateful and loyal to me. This is how you build something real, I thought.
Many workshops later, it finally landed. Looking into the mirror and deeply into my own eyes, convincing myself that I was enough, I realized that I belong only to myself. When I accept that without conditions, I will always be unwaveringly me.
My need to belong (or as I interpreted it: “being liked”) can only be met by one person - myself. That is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I admit that it is a tough one to wrap your head around. In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown says that standing up for your heart (aka, your desires) can feel lonely and hard, but the freedom and peace that comes from living in truth is the ultimate reward. Maya Angelou’s quote reminds me of that every day: “You are only free when you realize you belong no place, you belong every place, no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
So let me see if I can sum this up.
The only true form of compassion where all parties win is when you choose to operate from your real power, which is rooted in your self-love and respect, or what I call “heart connectedness.” When you operate from your heart, you discover your own needs, take care of them, and become more available (or compassionate) for other people.
When you honor your own needs first, you begin to see what matters and what doesn’t. Within the sticky complexity of relationships, you naturally begin to care less about what other people think, stay clear of drama, and stop taking on relationships as “projects.” Instead, you begin seeking relationships that are centred around growing together. Honouring your own needs first allows you to take a step back and give yourself breathing room from other people without losing your connection with them. I find that when I’m in this state, I'm still just as compassionate with people, but more creative and objective about how best to interact with them and support them.
How do we protect and reconnect with our heart to keep it wide open?
1. Meditation. Just 12 minutes a day of guided meditation has been clinically proven to improve mental balance. To learn more about how to meditate, go to the Freedom Seeker’s Channel https://youtu.be/6pvXFKH88F0
2. Set Boundaries. Take notice of how you feel in the presence of your relationships. When you you feel yucky, acknowledge it and set some boundaries.
Maybe certain topics are “off the table” and should not be discussed any more with this person. As soon as the person starts diving into a topic like this, be clear. Say: “This conversation is making me uncomfortable/irritated/angry and I don’t want to spend our time feeling that way. Lets talk about ________.” Give it some thought and have alternative topics ready.
Maybe you decide to let go of a relationship altogether. Trust that you’ll know if this is what you need to do, and that you’ll find a way to do it. Once you see, you can’t unsee. Trust me. Letting go doesn’t have to be hostile, but do expect some pushback, as what this means is you are no longer accommodating and tolerating this person’s behaviour. Sometimes, if it gets to this stage, the other person never noticed you were accommodating and tolerating them in the first place… at least, not until your support is gone.
3. Be kind to yourself so that you don’t need to rely on being liked by others. Pay yourself some compliments! Buy yourself flowers and surround yourself with people who share your interests and get you. This is so much easier and enjoyable than tolerating. Start by making a list of 5 things you love about yourself. Save it on your phone or pin it by your desk. I have a reminder set to send me a joyful message or simply a reminder how I want to feel twice a day. When you radiate self-love you will attract more loving and kind spirits into your life.
4. Hire someone to talk to. Speaking to a completely unbiased party will shorten the healing process and double your growth. Been there, done that - have proof of it. We think that our friends and family have our best interests at heart– and sure, they do, as long as it serves them too. Having known you for so long (this is especially true with family), people push their deep values onto you– values they often assume you share, or should share, having come from the same genealogy or having grown up in the same space. It’s human nature. Don’t worry about it. Talking to someone who doesn’t know you as intimately means that you get a fresh blank slate. They’ll see patterns in your decisions, reactions, and words that you never noticed before. They’ll help set you free from an entanglement of tough relationships so you can grow up, up, up into your own potential.
I want to hear from you! How do you know when you crossed the line between compassion and tolerance?
In the meantime, here are 5 ways to tell when you’ve crossed the line between compassion and tolerance:
Changing behaviour to accommodate the other person
Taking on responsibility
Vailing your true emotions
Fear of being unliked
Reluctance to tell people good news
Do you realize you need to redefine some of your relationships in order to grow? Do you want to gain some fresh insight and forge a new path boldly down the road you've been dreaming about? Book a call with me and let's talk about it.