Do the people you love the most get the best of you the majority of the time?
If you answered yes, I bet you’ve put effort and energy into making this a reality. You’ve done some inner and outer work. Kudos to you! (Feel free to comment and share your secrets. Inquiring minds want to know!)
My current answer to this question, “I’m working on it.”
Last year my answer would’ve been no. My clients, the dogs at the animal shelter where I volunteer, even strangers got more thoughtfulness, attention, kindness, grace and compassion than the people I am closest to.
My husband, my mom, dearest friends (and especially myself) saw the Amber who disconnected, withheld, got defensive, ran high standards/expectations, blamed, raised her voice, and so on. (You can read more about how this showed up in my marriage here.)
I decided I was no longer ok with this balance. I wanted the people I am closest to to get the best of me more often; thus, opening the door to my Kindness Experiment.
Have you ever wondered why it’s easier to offer grace to your child than to your spouse? Or how you think to send a thank you card to a colleague who helped on a project, but not to your dear friend who drove over two hours to visit you? Or how willing you are to fit a client session in even if it cuts into family time?
Why is it that our closest relationships get the worst of us?
Think of intimacy in terms of proximity, highlighted in the chart above.
The people furthest from you, at the surface level, experience your self-image. They get the masked version of you—where you hide your messy, human faults/flaws. This isn’t bad. It’s natural because the relationship hasn’t earned the right to see your deeper inner makings.
Our egos enjoy these relationships because we get to control the narrative. We get to decide what to highlight and what to put aside. If we want someone to see us as good and generous we can lead with those qualities. This isn’t to say we aren’t good and generous, we are. It’s more that the relationship isn’t getting the full scope of our humanness.
The one-dimensional nature of these relationships feels really good to the ego. This is one reason why it’s easier to do something kind for a stranger than someone in your inner circle.
The people closest to you, your nearest and dearest, get all of you—the good, the bad and the ugly. And, you get all of them! This is part of the privilege, sacredness and challenge of intimacy.
The point of our most intimate relationships is to give and receive love. These relationships are also designed to grow us by surfacing unresolved issues (misunderstandings, beliefs, judgments, fears, etc.) so that we may heal, grow and, ultimately, reside more in our loving nature.
It’s through engaging with others (and life) that we come to know ourselves. This is the key; for the most intimate relationship you have is the one with yourself.
How you think of yourself, talk to yourself and treat yourself has a direct impact on the people around you. Your thought, voice and behavior patterns leak into your most cherished relationships.
If these patterns are filled with loving, kindness, compassion, grace—fantastic! Your outer relationships will thrive. For most of us though, this isn’t the case. We are well practiced in patterns of criticism, judgment, shame, wrong-making, not enoughness and so on.
The good news is that your relationship with yourself is like any other relationship in your life—it can change. What’s required is your willingness to be with yourself differently—to give and receive of your own loving heart.
This is part of the focus of The Kindness Experiment.
The fastest way to up level any outer relationship is to transform our inner one. In essence, you get a double whammy in this program! A new experience of a spouse/parent/sibling/body and a warmer, loving experience with you.
There are three spots left—and the program will sell out.
With Fierce Loving,
ps: If you’re a coach and you’re not on my list for coaches, you’re missing out. You can sign up here.
Photo by Jacob Owens.