Are You the User or the Used?

Are You the User or the Used?

It is not uncommon to hear people say that they were used in a relationship. I usually bite my tongue when I hear it, because I know that the speaker was getting something in return, or they would not have been in the relationship in the first place, much less for as long as they were in it. The thing is, the answer to this question is not as simple as we might like to believe. We can’t really know for a fact that the other person was using us. In their minds, they could have been doing their best to support us, spare us from pain, teach us something, learn something from us, or even create a loving relationship. Maybe they really enjoyed us, but we were not totally available and they were terribly sad about that. Maybe they wanted to move on, but did not know how to go without leaving a gapping hole in our lives. Maybe they even tried, but they cared so much that they gave us mixed messages. Maybe we wanted more from them then they could give, but they still enjoyed being with us, in whatever capacity they were able to, even if it was less than we desired. Or, maybe it was a long list of other things going on behind the scenes. We can’t really know.

Or… maybe they really were just “using” us. Maybe when they spent time with us, they really were thinking things like: “This person is interesting and my life is boring, so I will hang with them for entertainment purposes.” “I am lonely and horny so I will have sex with them since they are putting the moves on me.” “I need money so I will let them think I like them so they will them buy me the things I want and need.” “They are funny and I am sad, so I will hang out with them and they will make me feel better.” “They are smart and they know how to do things that I need to know how to do, so I will have sex with them so they will help me.” “I need a man around to protect me and make me feel safe. I don’t really like him, but he is here, so he will do.” “I need a woman around to make me feel manly. She is clingy and desperate, but she’s not bad to look at.” However, we can never really know what someone else was experiencing. Even when they try to tell us, it is often hard to convey, or for that matter, hard for us to understand.

Even if we have hard core, hand written evidence that someone was using us, it will be of no benefit to us to believe that and focus on it. Just as difficult as knowing for sure what their motives were, is understanding that our ex may see us as the one did the using. There are two sides to every story. The truth lies in the humanity, compassion and forgiveness between us.

So, what now then? In most cases, (short of abusive situations) saying that you were “used,” is not a fact. It is a belief. To believe that you were used in a relationship is to step into a victim mindset. It is going to create a lot drama instead of gratitude.

What??? Gratitude? How can I suggest that you be grateful for someone who you believe “used” you? Easy. Finding the gratitude is never difficult, if we will only look for it.

If you truly believe you were used by someone, it is time to sit yourself down and have a heart to heart. Ask yourself what you got out of the relationship. No, I am not talking about the pain and heartache that was left when the relationship ended…I am not taking about the trust issues or STD you picked up as a result of their cheating. I am talking about the positive takeaway. Maybe you learned important things about yourself or life. Maybe you got valuable insights or advice that made your life better? Maybe you got to travel to interesting places? Maybe you got companionship during lonely or difficult times? Maybe they saw that you deserved happiness, even if they could not be the ones to bring it to you, and hearing it from them somehow helped you believe it?

Hopefully, you can see now that claiming that you were “used” is not usually a provable fact. Now, it is time to come to terms with your feelings about what happened. There are 6 (negative) core feelings that, once we identify as our experience, can help us step out of a victim mindset and into an empowered one. These are Anger, Fear, Sadness, Guilt, Shame and Loneliness.

Perhaps you feel afraid because you thought you knew the whole story, but it turned out to be more complicated than you thought. Maybe you feel sad because you had invested a lot in the relationship and it was sad to see it end. Maybe you feel angry, because you value complete honesty, and did not receive it. Maybe you feel, in part, guilty or ashamed, because you know that your heart was not really into the relationship anyway, even if you were not were ready for it to come to an official end. Maybe you feel lonely, because your go to companion has gone somewhere else. Maybe you feel afraid because you don’t know what comes next. Or maybe a combination of these feelings.

For each of these 6 (negative) core feelings, there are 6 core (positive) core feelings, which are Gratitude, Happiness, Hopefulness, Willingness, Love and Peace. Perhaps you can find feelings of Gratitude that you had companionship during a difficult time, or some other gain you experienced as a result of your time together. Maybe you can find Happiness when recalling fond memories, Willingness to look at your history with new eyes, Love for your Ex and Peace in your heart.

It is important to identify our feelings about our life experiences. If, instead, we are busy blaming someone else, decrying their behavior, or making them out to be a monster, we are cheating ourselves out of valuable growth lessons. Focus instead on how you feel about whatever positive experience you got out of your time together, because the positive experiences did not suddenly become negative ones just because your partner lied, cheated, left you, or even all three of these things combined. The beauty that was shared between you does not stop being beautiful at the end of a relationship, unless we refuse to acknowledge our gratitude for it.

So, it really comes down to a choice. If you choose to see yourself as a victim, you will probably continue to believe that you were used. Choose to see the positive takeaway and you are on to a brighter future, with no one to blame, lots of wisdom and everything to gain.

The Practice of Authentic Living

The Practice of Authentic Living

Authenticity is in these days. I often read inspiring posts and articles that encourage me to be my authentic self and I feel charged up and think “Right on!” However, a lot of people do not understand what authenticity is, or what it means to live an authentic life. Authenticity is a practice… A continuum, if you will…It is at once both the simplest of things and the most complicated of endeavors.

Authenticity begins with truly knowing who we are. First of all, being authentic means breaking through our limiting beliefs, and understanding our deepest fears, because becoming well acquainted with our deepest fears will point us in the direction of our deepest desires. It means knowing and growing into our zones of genius, because allowing ourselves to become distracted by less inspired activities will only take us away from ourselves. It means understanding the difference between our ego, and our true selves, which are infinitely wiser, kinder and more ready to offer grace and forgiveness, to ourselves and to others. It means understanding that someone else may not be at the same place as you are on their journey toward authenticity, but that that does not make them inauthentic.

Why is it down right scary to be honest and authentic with some people and almost impossible not to be honest and authentic with others? When we spend time with people who share our values, being authentic is easier, because we are more likely to find common ground. If we share values with someone, we naturally feel safer and more connected with them. It gets trickier when our values clash with someone else’s. Especially if we want them to like us.

Often, it is with people who have shown us that they have rejected or judged others for holding values in conflict to theirs that we find it most difficult to be authentic. If they said bad things about that other person, then they might say bad things about us, right? Maybe they are not even able to articulate that they hold different values, which makes a relationship particularly lonely. Or, perhaps, they do know that they hold different values, but they would rather be in a known lonely relationship, than in no relationship at all. If we know that they have lied to others, we will surely wonder if they might lie to us. However it happens, we can usually tell when we are not wholly accepted by another, and if we are wanting to be, we might get stuck in the cycle of trying to win them over to our side. This makes authenticity difficult.

In contrast, we sometimes meet people who seem to rarely, if ever, stoop to judgement, while offering only inspiration and support, even if their values differ from ours. These are the people who will listen dispassionately to our darkest shame, offer forgiveness before we have asked for it, and encourage us to reach for dreams we never thought could possibly come true. They understand that even if they hold different values from ours, we are made differently than them, and that is OK. They understand that our differences, and even our failures, are a beautiful part of our journey and they support us to be on that journey. These people understand that authenticity is equal to love. It is always easier to be authentic with these people.

Sometimes, we are doing a pretty good job overall at being authentic, and we just get confused. Maybe we know someone who needs our help, or so they say, or so we believe. We may believe that our unique position, knowledge or skills in life will be the exact thing this person needs to step out of a bad situation and into a better one. We feel like it would be wrong not to be there for them, even if they have not even asked. Maybe we believe that we owe them something. Maybe they are popular and we want them to like us. Or maybe we are just lonely and want to feel important. These are the times when it can be tricky to distinguish from our ego and our true selves. Trying to manipulate someone into liking us is not authentic. How can they know who they are liking if we are not honest with them? If our ego gets involved, being authentic is going to be nearly impossible.

But that’s OK. Because few of us are 100% authentic 100% of the time. Jesus and Buddha seemed to have figured it out, but most of the rest of us are still struggling with the concept. Judging or resenting someone who we deem to be “inauthentic” does not make us more authentic. Nor does it make us happier. Being authentic means understanding that we are all doing our best to be our “authentic” selves, and offering grace and forgiveness when someone falls short of the goal. It also means caring for our own needs.

A huge part of being authentic is learning to communicate in ways that take 100% responsibility for our feelings. Along with learning to identify limiting beliefs, our deepest fears, and zones of genius, learning to identify our feelings, needs and values makes communicating a much easier task. That way, we don’t feel the egoistic desire to call someone names, make their life difficult or otherwise cause them pain. Being authentic means understanding that true words, spoken without love, are not true at all.

Living an authentic life requires that we understand that we are loved, by a power much greater than ourselves, and that we are forgiven when we fall short of our goals. It means understanding that what we may have thought was “rejection” or “dishonesty” is merely our ticket to a better life. It means understanding that our beliefs shape our lives, and that we can choose how we see things that happen to us.

It means understanding that the belief that someone is “selfish,” “does not like us,” or has “hurt” us, is not going to connect us with our bliss. Instead, we can learn to see that they need something else in life, and so do we. It is up to them and their their higher power to lead them to their most authentic self, and it is up to us and our higher power to lift us up to ours. As we learn to see opportunities where we once saw pain, we can step into another paradigm of living. We can live in a world that leaves judgement at the door and creates a safe space for truth, even if we cannot understand it.

So, the next time we feel that pull to tell a half truth, go along with something that is not really in our best interest, or the best interest of others, I hope we can stop… and remember that living an authentic life is a conscious practice…and take practice it does.

If we all get up each day, put our judgements, fears and anger aside, pursue our passions, grow our genius, communicate with clarity, and strive to be the kind of person around whom we would find it easy to be authentic, we will get to Authenticity, together.