When People Show You Who They Really Are

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I am having a lot of thoughts after last week’s TX freeze that resulted in massive power outages and a water crisis for millions of humans, untold damage from burst pipes, and most tragic of all, loss of life. At this time, we don’t really know the entire scope of the fallout.

I’m just going to give a little background to those of you who don’t live here.

This was about more than the weather or an ice storm, where the outages are localized and typically the result of downed power lines.

Texas has its own power grid. If you look at an energy grid map of the U.S., you’ll see it divided into three areas. The eastern grid, the western grid, and good old Texas. This state is also the greatest energy producer in the nation. Of course, we have the oil. We also have the natural gas, the nuclear, the coal, the wind, and the solar (although those last two are a small percentage).

Texas also is not known for harsh winters. However, it has happened before and there were recommendations to winterize the equipment that produces the oil, gas, nuclear, coal, wind, and solar. But the Texas corporations responsible for generating this energy said, nah. Not going to cut into our huge ass profits.

That’s how we got to where we were last week. Facts. That’s how the whole state ended up falling to its knees and about the only thing that could save us was warmer weather. Unreal.

Now, let’s talk about coming out of the darkness of survival mode and stepping into the full light of awareness and realization.

You see, when we’re in survival mode, our thoughts are going toward those essential needs and it’s much easier to see how “this too shall pass.”

Now that the sun is shining again, the weather is behaving (not only behaving, we’re at 60-70 degrees), and we’re thawing out, that reflection starts to set in…and along come the judgements.

Let the judgements commence!

Ha.

Listen, I want to believe the Brené Brown logic of “people are just doing the best they can”, and for the most part, I do subscribe to that. I truly do.

Yet…I also subscribe to Maya Angelou’s logic of, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

And I think I need to go with Maya today because again, I’m not that “let’s look at the bright side” person. I want to face the darkest parts of humanity, take it all in, and not try to pretend that everything is fine all the damn time. Because it most certainly is not.

Sometimes people suck.

Sometimes we are the people who suck. We are. Let’s just be honest, here.

I have not always been the best human that I can be. I am NOT always the best human I can be.

Acknowledging this does not prevent me from passing judgements on those that I think should know better, do better, and be better.

Let’s take our two senators, for example.

One is nowhere to be found (rumor has it he was in FL golfing) and the other flew his family to Cancun in the middle of our crisis. Yes, it’s all a big joke. If you haven’t seen the news, just Google John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. The latter is probably going to return the result of a pretty solid SNL sketch.

And we can laugh all we want; we can rationalize it all away…say that the Senate is in recess anyway, and what’s a senator going to do to restore the grid? Is that really their job?

No, of course not.

However…It is my opinion, and yes, my belief, that people who hold positions of power – our elected officials who are delegated to represent the people, should probably be there for those people when tragedy strikes instead of going MIA.

They aren’t behaving as they should.

And yes, by saying “should”, I mean they aren’t behaving as I would like to see them behave.

I am owning that. Fully owning that I am forming my own opinions and judgements on other humans because they aren’t behaving the way that I wish they would.

That makes me feel angry.

My thoughts about their behavior generates my anger.

I know that, and I’m fine with it.

I don’t want to be passive and I don’t want to change it to a “better” feeling.

I do have the ability to do that. If I want to change my thoughts, I can use my reflection time to do just that…to change my thoughts about them.

OR…I can say, “you know what? I’m good with this thought. It brings me angry energy, but I don’t want to feel good about what they are doing.” Or in this case, NOT doing.

What I’m saying here is that I don’t want you to feel obligated to give another human a free pass simply because they are being human.

Yes, humans make mistakes and yes, we can choose to forgive those mistakes…when we are ready to do so.

I’m personally not ready to do that with my senators. I’ll know when I am ready, but today is not that day.

They have shown me who they are, and I believe them.

Another thing that happened last week is that one of my mentors sent an email invitation for coaches to come to her condo in downtown Austin, inviting them to pay a few thousand dollars for the privilege of spending a day with her.

I didn’t get that email. I wouldn’t have seen it if I had. You know, you need electricity and Internet access to receive email. I’ve since learned that it happened, because it’s been the topic of conversation in our coaching circles. I saw this when I was able to get reconnected to the outside world. I know that it was targeted marketing and hey, good for her for finding a way to sell out spots on her couch in matter of minutes.

Good for her for being a smart, savvy business owner.

I just have a little problem with the timing of that invitation.

As a coach who is working to grow her own business, I get it. It’s not what I would do, but I get it. She was targeting coaches who had been through her certification program and perhaps it was received as an amazing opportunity by many. In fact, I’m sure of that, based on some of the conversations I’ve seen.

That’s not how I receive it.

Again, I didn’t find out about it until my power was restored. My electricity. My heat.

All I could think about was, “what kind of privilege is this, to send out such an invitation while people in Austin are suffering? How tone deaf could you possibly be?”

I had seen the videos of long lines stretched for blocks to get into grocery stores with empty shelves. I knew how fortunate I was to not have that same experience here in North TX, though I’ve seen similar videos for Dallas, which is only 30 minutes away.

Yet…I get it. That invitation was not for the locals. It went out internationally. And she wasn’t targeting the people on the street, standing in line in freezing temperatures in search of food and water. Her message was intended for people sitting comfortably in their homes and offices where the state of emergency in TX was nothing but a blurb on the news.

I get that.

And yes, we are still in the thick of a pandemic.

I have friends and neighbors whose homes I haven’t been in for a year.

So, I had to think to myself…REALLY?!

The optics of that offer. It is just…surreal.

She has shown me who she is, and I believe her.

So, let’s talk about the fact that people disappoint us.

The examples I’ve given you so far are of people in high places. In literal positions of power. Those that we tend to place on pedestals and hold to higher standards because of who they are; their positions of influence.

Still, they are deeply flawed humans.

I know that they didn’t reach their current positions by playing nice all the time or by concerning themselves with optics or perceptions of the general public. In the case of this master life coach, specifically, she would not hesitate to tell me that the sadness I felt about her positioning is all about my thoughts.

I don’t disagree with that, but that’s also gaslighting.

Plain and simple.

The very definition of gaslighting is a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perception.

My friends, let me be absolutely clear with you right now. Hear this. I will never do that.

I see a fine line between showing someone that it’s their thoughts that are generating their feelings, and then doing whatever I feel like doing and simply telling you to explore your thoughts about it.

Yes, I am going through some things right now, because this person is showing me who she is. And I believe her.

I am disappointed, and I am deeply sad.

I thought we were going to have a different relationship over my lifetime. I didn’t idolize this person, but admiration was certainly a thing. And now, I have to do the work to unpack that.

That’s okay. That’s doable. I can get it done. It will just take some time.

Because it is true, that any relationship you have (even if you don’t know the human being personally) is created in your mind.

I had created a very strong relationship in my mind that needs to be fully examined and unraveled.

That behavior is no longer admirable, in my opinion.

And that’s the beauty of thought work.

I know it’s my own thoughts. I know I hold my power and my agency in my own mind. I know this because there are other coaches out there who scrambled for the opportunity and happily paid the price.

I have completely different thoughts about her actions.

Then the question becomes, what to do with them? What to do with those thoughts?

Yes, I have some unraveling to do myself. I’m not necessarily going to get into the specifics of that work here, but I do want to touch on how we can go about, in general.

What do you do when someone you love or admire disappoints you?

When they show you who they really are and that doesn’t line up with your own values?

When it becomes a direct conflict with your own values?

What if it is someone who is really close to you? Like a close friend or even a family member?

Well, I think that it becomes an opportunity to examine the relationship (remember, your relationship is what you have created in your mind) and decide whether you want to keep it or determine that it’s been completed.

I do like the idea of competing a relationship rather than ending it. I learned that from the very mentor that I’m ready to pull away from.

Ultimately, it is true that the actions other people take (or don’t take) are out of your control.

We can wish all day long that things would be different and that they would behave the way we would behave if we were in the same position.

But, they won’t. They will do what they think is the right thing to do and we are left with our thoughts – indeed our judgements – about their actions.

That’s your first order of business right there.

Recognize that other people are going to do what they do, they are going to say what they say, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

You wouldn’t want anyone else telling you what to do or say, would you?

Let go of the notion that other people, especially those that you love and admire, are going to behave the way that you want them to.

At the very least, acknowledge that they are living their lives. Yes, maybe not in the same way that you would, but that’s what they are doing. Living their lives. Perhaps they are even doing the best they can.

It’s possible.

Taking that step alone is a freeing exercise. It really is.

Let go of the notion that other people, especially those that you love and admire, are going to behave the way that you want them to.

Next, you need to examine what you really want this relationship to be. Do you want to keep both love and admiration? Do you want to just keep the love but drop the admiration? Do you want to work toward completion and just move on?

Get curious.

Remain compassionate. Both for yourself and the other person.

Often, we get to this point and we’re still in that place of “he/she should have/shouldn’t have” said or done whatever they said or did. If that’s where you are, you need to go back to the beginning and acknowledge that they are living their lives the way they want to, not the way you want them to.

The things they do or don’t do only impact you when you have a thought about it. When you make your judgment. That really is true. It only treads into gaslighting territory when they throw that back at you in a way that has you questioning your perception – your own version of reality.

You can own and acknowledge that for yourself – that your thoughts are creating your version of reality. I absolutely encourage you to do that.

Now, ask yourself: Do you want to continue this relationship?

Do you want to continue this relationship in a different way? That’s an option too. You don’t have to move toward completion – you can always choose to continue it, just in a different way.

That’s where your power lies. It’s entirely your decision.

I think we all have people in our lives that we respect and admire, who have also disappointed us. Surely, you can relate to that.

I think we have also been that person who is respected and admired who has disappointed another. Maybe we know this, and perhaps we don’t. We could be totally oblivious to it.

As could the other person in your scenario.

The person you are focusing on who has disappointed you could be completely oblivious to that. Or perhaps they are completely aware and don’t even care. They are unbothered by your angst over their actions. That’s entirely possible as well.

Where your focus needs to go is on who you want to be in this relationship.

Because, really, you are the only one you can control. That beautiful mind of yours is the only thing that you have control over.

How do you want to show up? What kind of friend, partner, employee, parent, or sibling do you want to be?

Make sure that you separate who you are from the other person’s behavior. Your response should be disconnected from their behaviors. Who do you want to be, regardless of the other person’s actions?

That’s what I’m currently examining in the example of my mentor. I’m looking at it like an opportunity to examine who I really am. Why do this person’s actions bother me so much?

Because it’s not what I would do. That was my first thought. And if that was my first thought, it’s worth a look, isn’t it?

That gives me the space to really look at myself and ask who I want to be. That is really a gift.

When your inner voice and intuition kicks in, it’s time to listen.

When something doesn’t feel right to you, it’s an invitation to explore. Not what the other person is doing. We’re really good at that, aren’t we? I’m a master level expert at evaluating what everyone else should be doing, I can assure you!

No, that invitation is to explore within. It’s an invitation to go inside of your own mind and navigate that space.

How do I want to show up in this relationship? Who do I want to be? And is the person I want to be in alignment with the other person’s values?

Don’t force yourself to stay in a relationship because you’ve put all of this time or effort into it. Or because of who they are. Either maintain, adjust, or complete the relationship because of who you are.

And listen, I’m going to explore “who you are” in the very near future, so you can definitely look forward to that. Just keep in mind for now that this is such an amazing opportunity to do a gut check and start scratching the surface of your own values. Take a look at that alignment factor.

Do you feel aligned with the other person’s values (what they are showing you), or do you feel conflicted?

When there is conflict, that’s a signal that there is work to do. On you. Not on them, the work to be done is on you.

Trust me, I would love it if everyone else behaved the way I want them to – if they followed the imaginary script that I’ve written for my movie. Also, trust that that’s never going to happen! Of course, sometimes it works out the way I envision that it should, and a lot of times, it does not.

Really, no one can let you down. They can and do simply fall short of your expectations. Your ideal scenario version of who they should be.

Because people are going to be who they are. They are going to show you who they really are. Time and time again.

They aren’t going to be who you think they are.

They are going to be who they really are. 

Every damn day.

Be with those who help your being.

– Jelaluddin Rumi

And I think this quote is much deeper than it may seem on the surface.

I don’t think it means only be with people who lift you up and “help” you to generate happy thoughts most of the time. I think it means that every person you encounter in life can help your being.

Every person that you encounter in life, whether it’s a personal relationship or one that you have created out of admiration for their success, is your teacher. There are lessons to be learned when they show you who they are. Those lessons that you learn are about who you are. There is work to be done within; decisions to make about whether you want to continue and how that relationship will look if you do. How it might shift, change, or evolve.

The opportunities are endless, and the limits are boundless.

When people show you who they really are, you get a chance to learn who you really are. Acknowledge that. Appreciate it. It is indeed a gift.


This post is a partial transcript of my podcast, What Lights You Up – Episode 48. I invite you to enjoy the full episode and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible!

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