Getting Out of Our Own Way
March 8, 2013
This writing is copyrighted and the exclusive work of Halli Bourne of True Self Wellness, LLC.
“Self-defeating behavior…is a poison preventing us from achieving the love, success and happiness we want for our lives.” ~ Mark Goulston & Phillip Goldberg in Get Out Of Your Own Way
Last week I spent two blissful evenings swing-dancing with a friend I hadn’t seen in two decades. Twenty years ago, the two of us were standing on the bank of the James River in Virginia when he spontaneously burst into dance. Accompanied only by the fleeting song of birds and gentle lapping of the river, I longed to join him yet I felt both absurdly ashamed and paralyzed by insecurity; so instead I quelled my own rhythm and watched him agape until his display eventually, and thankfully, dwindled. Over the years, my friend in those moments came to represent an ideal for me to reach toward—a kind of unguarded, impromptu expression of rapture for living. It wasn’t until I was kicking up my heels on last week’s dance floor I realized I had finally achieved my ideal.
Along with this exultant realization came a companion flood of grief for all the time I’d wasted feeling sheepish and for so completely muzzling my own joyous expression. Refusing to drink the poison of self-defeat, I drew my awareness toward the ways I have erected obstacles in my own life. Many of these obstacles were born of limited thinking intended to create a sense of safety; however, the sense of safety revealed itself later to be nothing more than illusion. If I don’t show how much I love to dance, no one can criticize or judge me. If I didn’t reach too high, then it wasn’t so far to fall. If I kept putting things off, then I didn’t have to risk failing. If no one noticed me, I would not have to suffer the pain of rejection. In a flash, I understood my fear of rejection had eclipsed my potential. I had been telling myself there was no inherent value in dancing—survival is more important. Yet I did not realize then how tied my survival was to my ability to feel joy. Joy feeds our energy for the mundane tasks of life, guiding us toward quality of life rather than accumulation. When we work without the support of what feeds our soul, we seek more temporary salves such as personal drama, food, drugs, alcohol or the latest technology and life is sapped of its luster.
Self-defeat seldom comes from trying and failing. When we make ill-informed conclusions about what we have striven for, the ambition to reach for what we want diminishes. When we have decided we can’t have what would bring us true happiness, we can then resign ourselves to making no effort at all. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and Oprah Winfrey was demoted as news anchor because she “wasn’t fit for television.” These people and people like my dancing friend were in touch with a resident truth that ‘failure’ couldn’t shake. When we remove the limitations on why we shouldn’t enjoy what we do or shouldn’t have what our soul is driving us toward, obstacles dissolve like sugar cubes in a cup of tea and joy becomes its own reward.