“I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” - Winston Churchill
When I first started my journey toward wholeness, I spent a lot of time wishing that someone would feel sorry for me, take pity on me, see that I had been through a lot.
My first therapist did not feel sorry for me but told me what I needed to hear. My support group could be brutally honest as well.
One dear friend told me if I was looking for sympathy I would find it “in the dictionary between sh&% and syphillis.” Harsh words but ones that helped me to realize that there was no prize in getting sympathy. There was only a prize in hearing the truth about me. And if the truth is told with love and caring, it is a great truth indeed. Some of the greatest truths are harsh to hear.
My therapist shot straight from the hip and told me the truth about me. It was very hard to hear a lot of the time. I could be abrasive, controlling, manipulative and dishonest. I could avoid responsibility and be a whiner. She told me I took people hostages and attacked situations “like Sherman took Richmond.” She told me that I needed to slow down and look at what I was doing. She told me that I felt sorry for myself like a champion of pity and blamed people, places and things for my particular connundrum.
That was all well and good UNLESS I wanted to get better. Then it needed to stop. And in order to stop I needed to hear and LISTEN TO the truth about me. I needed to listen to the cold, hard truth about what was up with (wrong with) me.
I had been abused and abandoned, YES, that was true. I had been a victim, YES, that was true. But the only thing I could do was heal from that or allow it to continue to fester and make my life worse. Feeling sorry for myself or using those things as excuses was not going to help matters and had been keeping me from helping myself.
The only thing I could do anything about was ME and focusing on them (especially my recently separated husband and his new girlfriend) was not going make ME or MY LIFE better. In fact, the focus on them was going to keep the focus off me, where it belonged.
I needed to do my work, my grief work, my historical stew work, attend to my thinking disorders and my behavioral disorders. I needed to get right with me.
When I was a practicing therapist, I often told people things they did not want to hear. As a teacher now, I tell people things they don’t always want to hear. I refuse to feel sorry for people because sympathy doesn’t help the matter and we all know where you can find it.
My greatest teachers shot straight from the hip and I try to do the same. There is a BIG difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Constructive criticism is good for the soul and propels you forward. It doesn’t mean that it sounds sweet and pretty but that it is given in the spirit of helping with your life.
If the criticism comes from a source where your best interest has not always been a consideration (an ex, a dysfunctional family), ignore it. If it comes from a source that wants what is best for you and has no attachment to the outcome other than your best interest, consider it.
Listening to the truth, the REAL truth, not from bullies who want to control us, but from friends who want to save us from ourselves, is hard but it is where our greatest learning happens. Learn to be open to it and to find the pearl of wisdom in the harsh truth. It will also teach us to be truthful, brutally truthful, with ourselves. And it is in that truth that growth happens.
We do need time to nurture ourselves and to have others nurture us and our teachers do that as well. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down but a spoonful of sugar without any medicine is not good for us. We need to listen to loving, supportive people who sometimes give us the harsh truth about what we need to change. We need to trust those who act as a mirror for us. People with no hidden agendas (unlike the critical dysfunctional naysayers we are used to whose agenda is to control us with criticism) who will help us HEAR what we need to hear and do what we need to do. People who will be the wind beneath our wings and not someone who will put us down.
Our teachers are not always who we want them to be and don’t always say what we want them to say…but learn to be a student of the truth, rather than a student of what is easy to hear. Stop looking for sympathy and learn to be open to the truth, from skillful teachers, about you and to use that truth to your greatest advantage.