When I stood up for myself, this severely threatened those I had allowed to dominate me
This has been a helluva weekend. I’ve been tucked away in an Austin hotel room overlooking Sixth Street. When I walked into my room, I knew it was going to be an epic time. I set my suitcase down and opened the balcony door. Fresh, warm Texas air and sunrays washed over me, and the intoxicating sound of live music from across the street flowed through my soul.
And the band was playing my favorite song ever.
The weekend only got better. And much, much harder.
I came here to have an epic soul-searching experience: just me and my new favorite book, Martha Beck’s “The Way of Integrity.” The overall gist of the book, and trust me, there is so much more, is to get honest with yourself. To stop lying.
I opened a bottle of water, curled up in a nurturing green velvet chair, and began my work.
I’ve always considered myself to be truthful. I’m an IRS agent’s dream to work with because I feel compelled to walk the straight and narrow like nobody’s business.
But I’ve increasingly realized that this is not truthfulness; it’s obedience. Telling the truth has equaled following someone else’s rules so that I can genuinely say, “I’ve done what is expected of me.”
This is a different kind of truthfulness than honesty and worlds apart from self-honesty.
There are many reasons why it’s been tough for me to understand what is really “true.” One therapist described it as a post-traumatic disorder that results in not knowing what “normal” is or what, typically and healthily, should be expected.
I had many experiences in childhood that added to my inability to see my own experiences, preferences, and needs as accurate. But one particularly impactful thing was the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.
I can’t adequately describe what it felt like to be me and how this affected me. I still have to work on undoing the damage. But basically, it’s about feeling powerless and how others used to shame and guilt to keep me quiet.
I had to lie about what I felt, what happened to me, and had to suffer alone, feeling unsafe, unprotected, and helpless.
It’s so sad that our culture still deeply supports the abuse of children and protects the rights of (predominantly) powerful males to have sex with anyone they choose, without their consent.
I’ve had to do a lot of work to disentangle untruths from my psyche. And I deeply feel for others who’ve had to go through the same. Relieving this suffering is why I get up each day and do what I do.
The journey to see truth effectively and stop lying to myself has been one that’s had to be self-taught.
This has required me to dig super deep into any area that I felt I couldn’t be honest with myself. And let me tell you, it’s much, much harder than you think.
It’s been both brutal and exhilarating to examine how the beliefs taught to me have affected my life.
For example, I have sought dependent relationships hoping that someone would finally take care of, love, and protect me.
Only they didn’t.
Because while it felt suitable temporarily to have someone do things for me, financially support me, or have a husband to hide behind, it always left me feeling hopeless, controlled, inadequate and stuck. And often, once again, abused.
And when I left, or stood up for myself, or even began to realize my self-worth, this severely threatened those I had allowed to dominate me.
In response to their fear of losing me or being exposed, I was again encouraged not to believe my experience was authentic. And have been called crazy more times than I can count when I raised my emotional response to the level of injustice or frustration I truly felt. The psychological term for this is gaslighting, and it is still effectively used by unscrupulous attorneys today to discredit victims.
As I’ve course-corrected through the years and spoken my truth, I’ve also lost relationships. My family still judges me for being wrong and reckless. I’ve been brutally attacked and have had people try to take my kids away from me. I’ve had to work within cultures that favor white Southern males and the rules that keep them in power–allowing them to continue to be violent towards women.
But each time I have spoken my truth, I felt another layer of weight lifted from my shoulders. And I gained more confidence, self-compassion, and the beautiful experience of connecting to my true self.
I’ve found that I can be safe, protected, and loved when I give it to myself.
I spent this weekend once again doing the work of connecting to Truth–ready to uplevel. I’ve committed to a higher and deeper level of honesty with myself and others. Come hell or high water.
This will likely shake things up unimaginably in my life once again.
And candidly, I’ve felt terrified over what may come next and afraid that I am inadequate to meet the challenges ahead. But I have the tools to work through those limiting beliefs and find my way back to peace.
And I know it gets easier each time. I’ve had so many experiences with real threats to my life that I no longer being silenced even by the fear of death. Because being dishonest with myself is the worst kind of prison– a self-imposed limitation that can feel like death.
I encourage you to take some time and space to get honest with yourself. Martha’s book is a masterful guide to doing so in a safe way.
And as you disrupt your life, may you find self-compassion and all longings of your heart be fulfilled.
I love you enormously. Keep going.
Tami Green earned the title of America’s Most Respected Life Coach when she publicly testified before Members of Congress on what it feels like to have a mental illness. She has been telling her truth since, layer upon layer, and works with others to realize their personal worth and power. Schedule a coaching session with her here.