I sometimes feel that my life is very busy — overwhelmingly so, on occasion — and that taking time to slow, breathe, and reflect simply means that I am shirking my work. For those who know me personally, I doubt that they would ever associate the word “shirking” with me. Workaholic, perhaps. Driven, definitely. When I do take time to slow down, I wonder what is the point of being so busy. Is it that I truly have that much to accomplish? Or am I using my commitments as some sort of defense mechanism?
I took one of those ubiquitous Facebook tests recently, and this particular one struck a chord with me. The purpose of this test was to help the tester determine what might be subconsciously holding them back from attaining their career aspirations. My result startled me at first, but it makes more sense upon reflection. It revealed that I am afraid that other people will not like me, so I avoid situations that allow me to open up to other people fully and am reluctant to state my own truth because of this fear.
Talk about being hit in the head with the proverbial 2×4… That result, as childish as it may sound, is spot-on correct, which makes me a little uncomfortable. I regard myself as serious and adult (for the most part), and it seems silly to be afraid of other people not liking me. What drove it home for me was the insight that every failed relationship in my life has left me with some element of thinking that I am unlikable and that is why the relationship failed– not because the other person was going through something that I did not understand or know. Upon reflection, I see a pattern of my trying too hard to get someone to like me and to show me their esteem in a way that I need to see it. And by not seeing that, I have built up a wall that has become thicker over time.
Prior to taking this test, I happened to be on a retreat with my church’s leadership team. The retreat was held at a lovely monastery in upstate New York that had glorious views of the Hudson River. On the first morning of the retreat, I happened to be peeling a hard-boiled egg with my breakfast, and it occurred to me that part of this life’s journey is to find a way to remove the built-up layers of defense that we all have so that the real person may emerge. If you have ever peeled an egg, you know that sometimes the shell can be removed easily, but sometimes it requires painstaking effort and patience.
I have a feeling that I am in the latter category.
The hardest part of peeling the egg is making the initial crack big enough to start the process. In my life, that first crack involves an element of force followed by gentle, careful, and persistent trust. Trust that I will be liked for who I am. Trust that the walls I have built no longer need to exist. Trust that all will be well. And in my case, trust that it is alright to not be busy, that people will still like me if I take the time to take care of my own needs, and that I am likable just as I am.
This could be one of the biggest challenges yet.