Reunion: filling in my back

Recently I attended my 25th high school reunion. In the past I chose not to be present at these events. The uncertainty of the benefit outweighed my commitment to go. Yet I had a feeling that showing up this year would be beneficial for my growth. And boy was I right.

Station break for some theoretical context…

As an applied behavioral scientist and a somatic leadership coach, I observe people. One of the ways that I categorize people is through dimensional planes. We all sense people this way, we just do not have the language to describe what we sense. I will explain these planes briefly here but please refer to earlier blogs for a more in-depth description.

To begin, we often think of ourselves like a paper doll. We look two dimensional in mirrors because we are only capable of viewing one plane at a time. Yet if we use our senses, we can perceive that we are three dimensional.  As a practice, sense your way into these dimensions as I describe them by breathing into the space.

I’ll start with the dimension of length, from feet to top of head. How do you stand in yourself or stand into your dignity. Even if you are sitting breathe into your length. Next is width. Breathe into your sides, can you both reach out into your community for support and connection as well as know when you over extend your boundaries or ‘over share’ your time, energy etc. The third is depth. Can you sense into your back.  In your back or past lives your history: people, experiences, education, evolution, etc. And can you feel this space when you need it for support. Fourth is extension. Do you have the ability to conceptualize your future and then take literal steps forward toward accomplishing the desired result. And last but not least, ground. Are you firmly rooted in your ground or know where you stand in order to draw a boundary both internally with your behavior, feelings, and stories and externally with the behavior, feelings and stories of others.

In my individual and group work, we practice sensing into these dimensions and over time my clients build an aptitude in filling themselves out: seamlessly knowing when to claim space and when to yield. If you observe successful leaders that care for their teams, this is something they do effortlessly, whether they are aware of it or not.

Now back to the story…

As I drove to the reunion, I felt myself shrinking in my dignity and width. I was losing my confidence without interacting with another soul. I was trying to take myself out of the game before it began. Yet my extension (commitment) was strong, as usual. I have an aptitude for setting a goal and seeing it through heedless of my apprehension.

Upon entering the venue, I continued a practice of breathing into all of my dimensions and feeling my feet on the ground. This practice fills me out, calms me down and reminds me of my value when I am nervous and stories fill my head that I am not good enough. I told myself that I could leave early if I was not having fun. And every time I felt myself shrinking I took a deep breath and filled myself out. This made me feel like the self I had grown to be instead of the awkward teenager I allowed to take over in these large group experiences.

As I began to connect with people I knew back in high school, I discovered their inherent behavioral patterns were still the same, but in less awkward and more confident comportments. My friends had settled into themselves. Through the night, I realized that I too was essentially the same and yet settled. And the little, but powerful story, that grabs me at times like these, which I developed as a teenager and had held in my mind about not being good enough, began to crumble.

This weekend I was in the room with amazing leaders and survivors of growing up. The reflection of me in their eyes completed my three dimensional picture of myself and showed me more about who I had become than any mirror. I did not have to shrink, then, now or ever. I only thought I did. I can now feel my history in my back, the support of people who have shaped my growth and had a part in making me who I am today. Through witnessing their transformation from uncertain teen to competent adult, seeing them as whole, I can let go of a story that held me back from allowing myself to be whole. For this gift, I am deeply grateful.

Though a great weight has been lifted there is still work to do. When I enter a room of people I don’t know well, this habitual story will live with me through sensation and the old feelings will come flooding back. Only through practicing my new story, that I am enough, and getting support from my back, family and friends that believe in me and see me as whole just the way I am, will I be able to increase this new behavior and let the old one fade away. I have put in substantial time into my growth and development and all my effort is paying off.

Do you have a story that you want to exorcise? Or feel the excess baggage of the accumulated years melt away? I understand. This is something we all want. Invite perspective, fill yourself out, let go of your story of not being good enough and become the leader you always dreamed of being.