Do You Try to Fit In Or Do You Belong?

Behind the house, there were some hills covered with green grass and huge trees that gave shade when the sun was hot. The air was clean and fresh. I took a deep breath; it felt like a blessing after having spent all summer in Barcelona’s sticky and humid heat. I was in the south of France. My first holidays since three years. There were about ninety people, most of them were French; some Spanish or German. I would spend the next ten days with them to meditate. I had never seen them before and felt nervous and insecure. How would it be to stay together for such a long time? How will I manage to cope with this situation?

The bell was ringing. 6 am – it was time to get up and go for the first meditation. I awkwardly crawled out of my dormitory bunk, brushed my teeth and went downstairs to the temple where we meditated. I smiled at the people at the entrance. They returned a grim look. I sat down on my zafu – the meditation cushion – and meditated. Some bird’s song broke the silence every once in a while. Then, the sun rose as an amazing red ball shining directly into my face. It was a beautiful morning.

After the meditation, we went for a silent walk. I just felt happy and light. I could feel the smile on my face. The people around me walked with severe faces. For a moment, I thought whether it was inappropriate to smile. Nobody else seemed to do it. The following days, I always had a smile on my face while the others were distant and grim. I started to feel guilty and questioned myself. Was my smiling appropriate? Was there something wrong with me? Did I need to be serious because everyone else was it? One part of me feared to be criticized and rejected. What should I do? I went for a walk alone. From a distance, the people were small little dots. Why should I give up on smiling? I couldn’t find a reason. I was enjoying the meditation as I always did. What was the worst thing to happen? Maybe I’d stay alone for the retreat. I could cope with this. I decided to stay true to myself and to resist my urge to adapt.

Two days later, I sat down at a different table for breakfast. I looked at the people who surrounded me. The energy at the table was joyful. We couldn’t talk, yet we communicated with eye contact and smiled at each other. From that day, we spent each meal together. On the last day, a lovely elder lady from this table came to me. We hadn’t talked a lot because I couldn’t speak French, and she only spoke a little bit of Spanish. She gave me a flower and said, “Thank you for your smile.” Suddenly, I was very happy that I hadn’t listened to my fears. I didn’t connect with many people but with the right ones. And I had released my survival strategy to fit in that has accompanied me since my childhood.

What are your survival strategies to fit in?
Sometimes, we learn difficult lessons in life, and we try hard to fit in. We also live in a society that tells us that there is only one standardized way to be or live. I was used to adapting and fitting in. Many years, I believed that it was the only way to be accepted and appreciated. I feared to show up as I was. I gave in to the pressure of my family or partner and fulfilled their expectations. However, with this strategy, I didn’t allow myself to experience true belonging. I also didn’t allow me to be happy. Belonging requires showing your true self, even if your knees may be shaking at first. You can never control what the other person will do. They may like you or hate you. That’s up to them. But the people who like you as you are, are the ones you belong to.

This retreat also taught me another precious lesson. Maybe you can’t see the right people at first but if you stay true to yourselves and show up the right people will find you. The nice French lady stayed in contact with me and sent me a picture she had painted that showed my smile. I felt very grateful for this present. And we are all looking for lasting bonds that nurture and support us, aren’t we?

How about you?

  • Do you want to belong?
  • Where do you still work hard to fit in?
  • How could you change this?

Do you fit in or do you belong? I’d love to read your comments below.

Do you want to read more? Check the article Do you enjoy the beauty of the moment.

Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

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5 Ways To Deal With Unhealthy Family Relationships

This week, I read a quote by Willard Scott in google+. It said, “Positive feelings come from being honest about yourself and accepting your personality, and physical characteristics, warts and all; and, from belonging to a family that accepts you without question.” Willard Scott. Somebody had posted a comment: I have it all… except for the family that accepts without question. When I read it, I felt sad. It reminded me that family is sometimes seen in a rather limited way and it is more than just the family we are born in. I commented that family does not only mean the family you are born in, it can also be friends or colleagues. He answered with a smiley: if it’s that kind of family I have too. I replied, me, too. It’s a good one. and he posted, the best one ever.

Life seems easy if your family relationships are supportive and nurturing.

However, how can you deal with family relationships if they are unhealthy or manipulative?

Our family relationships are the first relationships we experience in our life. As children, we needed their attention, their love and their nourishment. During our childhood, we adapted the best way possible to the circumstances and tried to fit it so that we could belong to them. We may have tried to save them from their problems. We may have taken on the responsibility for their happiness. As children, we need our family and we love them unconditionally without knowing what is good for us.
However, as adults, we have choices. We do not have to stay in relationships that try to control and manipulate or that constantly use blame or shaming. You may still feel obliged to do what your family says and wants, however you can learn to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s part of your personal growth process and your path to become mature. You can’t save other people, even if it is your family. You can’t change them if they don’t want to. You can only save yourself. And you are free to leave relationships that hinder your growth, that don’t accept and don’t support you. You are the most important person in your life. You are responsible for your well-being and your emotional health.

What can you do if your family relationships are unhealthy?

  • Execute your rights.
    You are an adult now, and you can claim your rights. What your rights are? Here are a few to think about: you have the right to be happy, and you have the right to be happier than those around you. You have the right to follow your own values and standards. You have the right to take care for yourself, no matter what. You have the right to be uniquely you, without feeling that you aren’t good enough. You have the right to be in a non-abusive environment. You have the right to dignity and respect.
  • Put some distance between yourself and your family.
    If your family relations are unhealthy, find a place for yourself that enables you to feel well with it. Put the distance you need between yourself and your family. What distance can you put between yourself and your family so that you feel well? What kind of contact do you want to have with them? You are free to put the distance you need and to follow your path. It is kind and caring for yourself to love your family with the necessary distance.
  • Cut contact with manipulative family members.
    If the relationships are manipulative or if they constantly drag you down, cut contact with these family members. You are not obliged to stay in contact with your family. You are responsible for your own well-being and for taking care for yourself. If your family ties hinder your personal growth, you have the choice to cut contact with them. I cut contact with my father when I was 26 years old. It was the best and wisest decision I took for my well-being. I acknowledged that he wasn’t able to give me the love and appreciation my inner child longed for. It was not an easy decision. I faced comments like how dare you, or you are a bad daughter. I received looks that expressed disapproval. I also received a card from a friend who thanked me for cutting contact with my father and given her the courage to do the same. The world is full of different opinions about what is right. Important is that you follow your intuition. I don’t know how it is like to grow up in a supportive family. I do know that there are good reasons to stop having contact with family members. Being a family relationship doesn’t justify manipulation.
  • Heal your inner picture of your family.
    Your childhood experiences influence your way to relate with the world. If you have experienced unhealthy situations, you have to heal the effects it had on yourself. If you don’t face the issues you experienced in your family, you risk repeating the same mistakes as your parents did. I always said, “I never want to have the manipulative relationship my mother had.” And I had it in another disguise until I dealt with the effects my family had on myself.
    As an adult, you are able to face the pain and heal your inner child from the pain he or she experienced in their childhood. Face your grief of all you didn’t have and let go of it. You also can do a family constellation to liberate the effects your family had on you. Through the process of self-discovery and awareness, you can find inner peace with the family issues you are dealing with.
  • Create your own definition of family.
    I am blessed with two types of family: the family I was born in and my chosen family. My chosen family consists of my three cats and my closest friends. They give me the love, support and sense of belonging I need. You have faced challenging family relations. You can continue to look at all what you never had, and it is likely that you will never get it there. You family gave you the best they could. They didn’t have more. They have their own story that hinders them to give you what you want.
    As an adult, you have the choice to create the kind of family you wish. Outside the family you were born in, there is a group of people waiting for you that accepts you without questions. That’s your family of souls. Invite them into your life!

Difficult family relationships are painful experiences. However, they don’t define your capacity to experiment positive feelings. Through growth, self-awareness and self-discovery, you can transform them into life mastery and wisdom. That’s a path so that you generate positive feelings with the kind of family you had.

I look forward to reading your comments below!

Do you want to read more? Check the post Forgiveness – your choice to find freedom.

Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

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What Was The Best Year Of Your Life?

Some years ago, I sat in my Spanish class together with three other students. The teacher asked the question:

What was the best year of your life?

My answer was clear within a second, yet I had to wait until it was my turn. The first person to answer was a blonde woman sitting on the right end of our circle. She was in her early 20’s and said: “The best year of my life was when I was 15 years old. I played a lot with my friends and was outside in the nature.” Suddenly, there was joy in her voice. A man in his 50’s answered: “The best year of my life was the time when I studied. I was regularly going to parties and had many friends. I was free to do what I wanted.” His eyes turned radiant for a moment. A woman in her 40’s remembered: “Well, I had just fallen in love with my husband. We did many activities together; we danced and went to the cinema. It was lovely. We also made many weekend trips to visit places all over Europe.” Her eyes gleamed while she saw Rome and Paris in her inner mind. Her voice was full of love and her gestures vivid.

It was great to listen to their answers, yet I also felt a touch of sadness. While remembering these nostalgic moments, their facial and corporal postures had changed completely. Suddenly, they transmitted a level of joy and happiness that seemed forever lost in everyday life. Silently, I asked myself:

What do they need to do to make this year the best year of their life?

Then it was my turn. For a second, I hesitated to say my answer because it was different and did not fit. Finally, I said: “The best year of my life is the current year.” The years have passed by, and this statement is still true. It does not mean that everything in my life went perfect, I faced some unexpected twists and turns. And with all that, each year is the best year of my life. I am 41 now, and I look with positive anticipation of what the future will bring.

You can make each year the best year of your life, too. The following practices will help you on your journey:

  • Practicing gratitude: Sometimes, we get distracted by all that what we don’t have and forget about what we have. Keep a gratitude journal and write down each day what you are grateful for. Notice the small steps you make, notice a sunny day with a beautiful blue sky or the loving smile you have received while waiting for your train. What are you grateful for?
  • Taking care of your emotional health: Don’t numb your feelings. In our society, it is usual to numb our feelings by different behaviours, such as using alcohol, online games, excessive shopping or eating. If you numb your feelings to avoid pain, you also won’t feel joy and happiness. Grief your losses, maybe it was a project you especially loved or a relationship. Allow yourself to feel the sadness, allow your tears to flow. They will clean your soul and help you to move forward. Every emotion that shows up in a specific moment has a meaning for your life. Connecting with your emotions and expressing them is a vital ingredient for your well-being. On a scale from 0 to 10, to which extent do you currently connect with your emotions?
  • Spend time alone in silence: The noise from the outside world is very loud, it offers us a huge range of distractions. Your partner, your family and even society may want to tell you how you are supposed to live your life. The urge to fulfill all these different expectations is tempting, however, is this your path? Does it feel right for you? You can find all the answers you need within yourself. What feels right for me, might not feel right for you. There is no right or wrong way to live your life; important is that you find the way that feels right for you. Take a time-out, and sit some minutes each day in silence, just you and your breath. Live the question and trust that the answer will arrive when the time is right.
  • Cherish the relationship with yourself: The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship you will have in your entire life. It is also the longest relationship you will experience. Make it a good one. What can you do to cherish your relationship with yourself today? Do you see yourself as being good enough? Do you consider yourself as being worthy? Let go of the negative conditioning you might have received. Create a loving, cheerful and respectful relationship with yourself.

Now, take a deep breath and set your intention to make this year the best year of your life. Close your eyes and see yourself living the best year of your life. You are the magician of your life and have a magic wand. Change is always possible.

What is the first action that comes to your mind?

I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below.

Do you want to find out more about taking care of your emotional well-being? Read this article about emotions.

Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

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