Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘honesty’

Suicide Affects Us All

Suicide Strikes

At some point in our lives, given the constantly increasing numbers, we will all experience suicide. It might be a friend, or an acquaintance, but chances are, at some point, it will be someone we know well, and perhaps love. Some of us might even be the ones considering or even attempting suicide.

Admittedly, I’m more aware of it having lost both parents to suicide. I’ve learned to recognize people who are hiding behind self-made walls and masks; who show little or no value for the life they’ve been given. Sometimes I can reach out to them, but more often than not, they’ve created safeguards preventing people like me who see and feel too much from getting too close. They want neither to be pitied nor judged and are unable to see some of us might just want to help them feel wanted and loved.

Freedom to Be Ourselves

Life these days is hard. There’s no pretty way to say it. For some, the daily challenges are overwhelming, and the stories they tell themselves about not being missed become a reality to be escaped at all costs. Many even become the person they believe themselves to be; withdrawn, angry, unpleasant to be around. They use their behavior to discourage others from reaching out or trying to help change their reality.

Others wrap themselves in false gaiety, often with the assistance of alcohol or drugs. They’re the life of the party on the outside, surrounded by smiling faces who are completely clueless about the turmoil the false front hides. Even those closest to them are oblivious to the cost of keeping the mask in place; of the loneliness they’re unable to break free from.

I talk to friends who’ve at one point in their lives contemplated suicide and understand. There were times I, too felt alone and unnecessary. Times when the only reason I’m still alive was my refusal to put my daughters through the pain and trauma I’ve had to live through twice. I remember being angry all the time, stewing over the slightest thing, and feeling abused and put down by everyone around me. Of course, a lot of it was their reaction to my prickliness and unfriendly demeanor.

Recognizing Our Value to Others

Fortunately, both my writing and the dancing were my saving grace. When I was at my angriest and most withdrawn, I had put the dancing on the back burner to involve myself in the girls’ high school activities. Perhaps not my best choice, but it was the right choice for them, if not for me. Shortly after those responsibilities ended, I got my butt back out on a dance floor. After awhile, the fog began to clear and I found my happy; bigger and brighter than it had been before.

Unfortunately, what may work for some of us, doesn’t help for others. There are plenty of writers and people who dance regularly who aren’t able to escape their pain or realize there are many people who want them around, and who would miss them if they were gone. It puts a lot of responsibility on the rest of us to pay attention to the ones who always seem happy, or who drink to excess and have a long drive home, or simply who share the barest snippets of themselves.

They’ll never say, nor admit to needing help, but they’re the ones we need to do our best to include and reassure we love them as they really are, and that they needn’t pretend for us.

Loving Each Other for Who We Are

I recently saw this graphic on Facebook of Eeyore (my favorite of the Winnie the Pooh, coincidentally). I think this really says it all, and was published on the Canadian Mental Health Group Facebook page.

It speaks directly to what I’m saying. We all have friends who are depressed, and they need to be included anyway, and not expected to pretend everything is fine. They need to know it’s OK to be who they are without need for masks and walls, and that they’ll be accepted as they are all the time.

The biggest problem our society faces right now, and probably why suicide rates are climbing at such a frightening pace, is people think they need to pretend to be someone they’re not in order to be accepted or even liked.

I’ve learned people like, and even love you more if you’re yourself and nothing else. Those who don’t, quite frankly, don’t matter. We all have quirks, idiosyncrasies, broken parts, and imperfections. Rather than believing they make us wrong in some way, we need to realize they’re what make us unique, and even in tune with others. If we aren’t worrying about fitting in and matching some arbitrarily prescribed description of normal, we’ll find others are able to let down their guard and be themselves too. Not only that, the relief we get from not pretending might even lift some of the sadness and depression!

Dropping Our Disguises Ain’t Easy, But it’s Worth the Trouble

Learning to open up to my friends was, in all honesty, one of the toughest things I ever did. It went against everything I’d been taught from birth, and left me exposed to the ridicule and abuse I’d experienced most of my life, at least from my distorted recollection. I only saw people teasing and making fun of me, but never noticed when it went in the other direction, or when I was one of the perpetrators. Funny how our memories leave out the important parts, right?

Once I got to the other side, however, it became one of the most rewarding, kindest things I’ve ever done for myself. I have friends who are as imperfect as I am, but who accept themselves as they are. They have challenges with family, jobs, and a million other facets of a life well lived. We all know we have someone to talk to if we need to vent, but also to share successes and joys with. We gather in small groups and large, discussing everything from world events to personal frustrations.

When all is said and done, we feel better for the company and the opportunity to release some of the weight we carry around. What’s good for us is clearly good for those we might tend to overlook. They may not open up the first time or even the tenth, but after awhile, we can show them by our actions and our own sharing that they have a safe place to drop the pretenses and be themselves.

If we have the chance to keep suicide off the table for even one person, shouldn’t we take it?

Gratitude Helps Keep the Gloomies Away

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life the last few years who’ve made me feel accepted and loved for myself.
  2. I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the acceptance I gained while writing my memoir.
  3. I am grateful to my daughter, Heather, and my oldest friend, Candy who kept me moving forward with the memoir, even when I needed a few long breaks to get further along in my healing process.
  4. I am grateful for the dance community that lets me see we are all broken in some way, but that it isn’t a flaw, but a badge of honor.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, dancing, writing, inspiration, motivation, support, butt-kickings, ideas, dreams, goals, baby steps, philanthropy, peace, harmony, health, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Acknowledging our Loneliness is Healthy

Acknowledging the Demon Within

This morning I woke up with my gut in a tight knot. I was supposed to go to a critique group meeting, but all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball on my bed, surrounded by my cats. So I did.

A couple of hours later, I got up and started the day (read: fed the cats), feeling well enough to drink coffee instead of the tea I thought I’d be reaching for today. As has been my habit for the last few weeks, I sat at my desk, pulled a turquoise pen from my jar of colored pens and began to write my three pages (at least it wasn’t a black pen kind of day!). Three pages turned into four, and feelings fell like teardrops on the page.

The nice thing about the morning pages is that I can admit things to myself I won’t typically admit to others. But they also force me to be brutally honest with myself. Today’s burst of honesty took me deep within, to where what I call my gooey marshmallow center resides. It was there I discovered that, try as I might, I’m still very much alone. I have not allowed myself the pleasure of making friends I can comfortably seek out when I need to drag that marshmallow center out, knead it, massage it, and otherwise get it to let go of a lot of pent-up crap.

Do We Starve or Feed our Loneliness?

Cuddling with my cats is wonderful, and I will always cherish the time I spend with them. I can tell them anything, cry on them, or just stroke their soft fur while they purr. It never fails to calm me. But it doesn’t help me let go of things I no longer need, nor does it help me put things in perspective, sometimes with brutal honesty.

Writing helps some. Especially now that I’ve rediscovered writing in longhand. But it still doesn’t give me the outside perspective I sometimes need to see past the weeds to the garden waiting to be tended and nurtured. For that, I need an actual human (did I really admit that?) who can tolerate Sheri not-at-her-finest. Who is willing to listen to me whine a little, then tell me in no uncertain terms to pull up my britches, get off the fence I’ve been riding and actually commit to something.

I can honestly admit that I, alone have deprived myself of that luxury. By hoarding my solitude, I’ve built an almost impenetrable wall around myself. If someone does get close, I’m sure to do something especially stupid, thrusting a particularly evil thorn into their kindness and good intentions which convinces them their efforts would be better served with someone less prickly and moody.

Being Brutally Honest With Myself: The First Step

The writing helps me see that not only do I do this to other people, but I do it to myself as well. I make it painful to break away from outmoded beliefs and habits. I snuggle close to my solitude yet fail to use the time alone to improve my life, myself, or my circumstances. It’s as if I decided long ago that I don’t deserve love, success, happiness, or friendship. Why would anyone do that to their worst enemy, much less themselves?

As painful as it might be to admit all of this publicly, it occurs to me that there are two very good reasons for doing so. First, putting something in writing releases the bound up energy contained within the thoughts and makes them less powerful. Second, I’ve learned in the last few years of blogging and sharing my foibles that what I’m feeling even now is not unique. Someone out there might just benefit from seeing the words and knowing as alone as they’ve allowed themselves to become, someone else out there gets them.

Cutting the C.R.A.P.

The Neurogym programs I’ve been following have something they call the CRAP board. To quote Mark Waldeman, the creator of the CRAP board,

C.R.A.P. stands for Conflicts, Resistances, Anxieties, Procrastination and any other problem you think you have.

The premise behind it is, as I’ve already stated, by putting things which hold you back into written form, you take away at least some of their power. Mr. Waldeman advises writing all of your negative thoughts on a piece of paper, then meditating on them. In my mind, it’s as if you’re transferring all of the crappy, self-limiting thoughts inside your head onto a piece of paper, leaving your mind clear of the rubbish.

So in a way, blog posts like this are my CRAP board. I’m dumping all of the negative thoughts which are causing my stomach to churn onto the page and letting them go. I’m taking away their power to hold me back. Of course, this isn’t a magic pill. The feelings of powerlessness, loneliness, procrastination, neglect and a host of other self-limiting patterns can and do come back, at least for awhile. So the process has to be repeated as needed.

Welcoming the Inner Child of our Minds

But taking the mind on a little field trip like this gives it an opportunity to forge better patterns; take more scenic routes, so to speak. In my case, it reminds me to stop spending so much time going within and put more effort into connecting with other people. Sure, it’s hard, scary and fraught with perils like <shudder> getting hurt! But how can those potential hazards even begin to compare with love, joy, friendship and caring? When did one hurt, no matter how monumental it seemed at the time counteract the flood of warmth from a single, heartfelt hug?

My little marshmallow is still peeking shyly out from behind my protective walls, but with a little coaxing and a few minor successes, I’m sure she can be convinced to venture further from the safety of her haven. My job is to stop protecting her so closely and allow her to touch other humans. I promise most of them won’t bite!

Gratitude: It Heals All Ills

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my morning pages.
  2. I am grateful I can freely admit to my imperfections.
  3. I am grateful I’m able to see that, in most cases, it’s me getting in my own way.
  4. I am grateful for the lessons which continue to fall in my path because they remind me I’m still a work-in-progress.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, knowledge, lessons, charity, goodness, kindness, compassion, honesty, hope, dreams, peace, harmony, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

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