The Rules for Being Human

The Rules of Being Human

We’re all in this together, trying to flourish, get through, dodge the cave-ins and use the bumps in the road as a ramp to lift off. Wherever we’re at and whoever we’re with, there are some rules that are an unavoidable part of being human. They unite us, connect us and when we embrace them, are a way to feel less like we have to do any of this crazy, messy, beautiful, human thing on our own. 

  1. Relationship is everything.

    People are meant to be with people. We’re meant to love them, like them, miss them, trust them, open up to them, learn from them, walk towards, walk away and sometimes, the hardest by far, get over them. Growth happens in the space between ourselves and another. It’s where we learn to love, trust, risk, find our limits and push against them. Don’t be scared to open up to it. It’s where the wild, beautiful things are.

    [bctt tweet=”Growth happens in the space between ourselves and another. It’s where the wild, beautiful things are.”]

  2. We all have our armour. (Other people too.)

    Things won’t always work out the way we want them to but when they do, the risk will always be worth it. A lot of life is missed from the sidelines, waiting for the right time, the right opportunity, the right moment, the right person. Be daring and be brave. We all have our armour and it will always be there if you need it – just be careful not to grab it too soon – or leave it on for too long.

    Sometimes the people we meet will have theirs on so tight to their skin, it will take a lot of commitment, tenderness and patience to see what lies beneath it. Sometimes it will take too much. Too much armour will make the wearer worn down, untrusting and brittle. Being on the receiving end of this will feel like it’s personal. It’s not. It’s the result of one too many heartaches.

    If you’re the one wearing your armour too tight, make sure the reasons you’re wearing it are still valid, and not left over from sadder, lonelier, more painful times. People can’t love you if you don’t let them in. And that’s a hefty price to pay for the protection of old wounds.

  3. We all have a body. Best learn to love it. 

    There is only one body like yours on the entire planet – and you own it – so that makes it a pretty precious commodity. Look after it and get to know it well. Above all else, love it. You can’t take care of something you don’t like. Either we can treat it well or we can treat it with delicious bad carbs and luscious lazy days on the couch. I’m all for a bit of both. But note to the universe, when it comes to taking care of this body of mine, if exercise had the side of effect of, you know, making me love exercise or something, things would be a whole lot easier, so you might want to work on that.

  4. We’ll all get our hearts broken.

    There are lessons we need to learn. Oh I know – some days that makes me want to throw up too but it’s true. A broken heart means this one wasn’t good enough, so learn what you need to learn so you can be ready for the one that is. Be grateful that he moved out of the way so you can see the one you deserve when he comes towards you.

    Give yourself time to heal and to learn about what brings out the best of you in a relationship. Look at what it is that drew you to that person, what changed – about you, him or her – what felt bad, what felt good, what you want more of, less of, none of. If you learn nothing, the risk is that you’ll be drawn to the same people, with the same baggage (yours and theirs), live out the same type of relationship and go through the same type of ending. And really, that’s such a waste of you.

  5. We’re all on a (big breath) journey, but sometimes things are just freaking unfair.

    Confession. I actually hate that word – ‘journey’ – when it’s used like that. I hate it more than alarm clocks. ‘Journey’ is too much of a ‘holiday’ word and holiday words tend to suggest that you can opt out of the ‘carry your own stuff’ option but life isn’t like that. We all have to carry our stuff. What’s important is not carrying too much of anyone else’s.

    We’re all here to grow and to learn lessons and generally, lessons don’t come wrapped in something sweet with a ‘Here’s a little reminder for when you’re ready, Gorgeous,’  card on the top. They come with a smash and a bang, or whatever it takes to get our attention. Nearly always (maybe always) they come to us by way of relationship. Beauty will always emerge from chaos, eventually.

  6. Everything we need is in us. (But sometimes it’s cake. Ourselves and cake.)

    Everything we need to survive life and flourish is in us. Sometimes it’s layered under the losers we’ve loved, the lessons we’ve taken on but shouldn’t have, or the rules we no longer need but still live by.

    If the things you’ve always done, or the rules you’ve always abided by are causing you trouble, it might be time to let them go. Maybe. Too many times we let things sit there and claim a space in us, even though they offer us nothing at all. Take a fresh look at things. If something isn’t working for you anymore, get rid of it. The things that will work  will be quick to take it’s place. This might feel awkward for a while and that’s okay. Like new shoes, new ways of being in the world need to be worn in. Don’t hang on to the ones that are blistering your soul when there is something there that will nurture it beautifully if you let it.

  7. There’ll be bumps in the road. 

    There’ll be bumps in the road. Wish there wasn’t, but there will be. You’ll have two options – over or through. Actually, there is a third option – to stand still, but that will only diminish you, never the bump. When there’s something in your way, chances are that you won’t feel okay okay until you’re safe and sound on the other side. Bumps aren’t called bumps because they feel good. They’re called bumps because they’re jarring and sometimes they hurt. Like any bump in any road though, sometimes the only way through is through. But however big that bump might be, there is always smooth ground on the other side.

  8. You’ll feel alone at times.

    At times you’ll wonder why everyone else’s path looks as though it’s not only bump free, but lined with happy selfies and ‘Loving Life!!!’ Facebook status updates. This can make the pain of troubled times feel worse. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because other people’s bumps don’t line up at the same point in the path as yours that they don’t exist. They do. They do for everyone. It’s what makes us human. Every person on the planet has had to go through something. Maybe not at the same time as you, and maybe not in the same way as you, but everyone has loved, lost, been hurt, scared or heartbroken. We all come of out it with bruises and scars. Claim them as proof that you survived and will continue to thrive. 

  9. Some days, the best you’ll be able to do is breathe. And that’s okay.

    Who hasn’t had one of these days. Maybe more than one. And maybe for longer than a day. Know that it’s okay to fall down, fall apart and feel like you can’t get up. Stay there for a little while – it’s healing and important. Just don’t decide to live there. 

  10. That thing you can’t stop thinking about.  Do that.

    If you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s worth trying. So just start. Stop thinking about what there is to lose (there’ll probably be plenty), and start thinking about what there is to gain (there’ll always be more). And don’t try to predict your path. When you’re doing the right thing, you’ll have passion, energy, creativity and resources that you never imagined. But they can’t show up for you until you do.

  11. You won’t like everyone and not everyone will like you. So save your time and energy for the ones that do.

    There’ll be some people you like. And there’ll be some you can’t stand. Some of them will be ‘can’t stand’ times, like, infinity. Too many times we spend time with people we don’t like out of obligation. There are only two of these situations I can think of that are worth even entertaining, and even then they both have their limits. The first is that they help to ensure your day to day survival – as in you work for them. But put a limit on this. You might not be able to walk out of a job you hate straight away, but don’t stay because you think you won’t find better. You will. It probably won’t come to you though, so you might have to hunt it down. The only other reason you’d put up with anyone difficult is for love – as in in-laws or step-someones (because you love the one they’re related to). You can do this from a position of power though, by being clear in your own head that you’re making the decision for your own reasons and not because they have some sort of power over you.

    Save your time and energy for the people you care about and who care about you back. The others will surely get over your indifference and lack of attention. Otherwise you’ll get over them not getting over it.

  12. You’re going to stuff things up sometimes. Sometimes it will be monumental. 

    Part of being human is our right to get it wrong sometimes. It’s normal, it’s important and it’s part of growing and becoming a better version of ourselves. Own your mistakes and honour the lessons. It the only way to make sure the same thing doesn’t keep tripping you up or holding you back in the same way.  Whatever you do, don’t spend too much time (or any time) regretting anything. Haul yourself up, dust yourself off and move on, all the more wiser for what you’ve learned and all the more prouder for moving forward.

  13. Love hard. It’s a superpower.

    There are so many reasons not to love. The biggest is that it might not be returned. One thing is for certain though, if you don’t give it out it can’t come back to you. If you’ve been hurt before, you might be reluctant to put yourself at risk again, but what you need to remember is that broken hearts heal. It doesn’t feel like that when the edges are still raw from the break, but you have to know that it’s true. What holds people back from full living, even more than heartbreak, is the loneliness that comes from never allowing yourself to be vulnerable – the loneliness that comes from never taking the risk to connect.

    Humans thrive in relationships. Be open to people, relationships, connections and the sheer joy and happiness that comes from that. People will always be drawn to an open heart. That doesn’t mean you have to feel the love for every human that comes your way. You’re going to come across jackasses – particularly if you have an open heart. Know when to steer clear, or let go, but be daring, curious and willing to be vulnerable. Love will always come back to you in some way. If it doesn’t come back from the same person you give it to, be patient and open, because it’s coming from someone better. 

We’re all human. We all have something to offer and something to lose. We all have vulnerabilities, potential and an extraordinary capacity to grow and be something remarkable – to ourselves and to others. The more we own every one of the beautiful, messy, confusing, rich, unlikeable, warm and wonderful parts that go into making us the people we are, the more able we will be to connect, grow, love, be loved, take chances, take a stand, and fully live this life of ours. 

9 Comments

Cris

Funny, I found your wonderful article here by typing “Sometimes, being human ISN’T marketable.” into Google. I was looking for something besides advertising and boy, did I find it! Thank you so much for your inspiring words. I’ve already shared them with my loved ones. They make me feel not so ashamed to be human.

Reply
Daniel

Dearest Linda,

I have been spreading your Beauty! Testing, researching and most of all, LEARNING! Using the sheer wonderous feedbacks, hundres of them, made the greatest part of me whole again. What an unbelievable piece of work! Can’t wait for the future!

Thank you so much for this!

Reply
Andy

Good list. No 1 struck a chord, I’ve been an island keeping people at arms length from a basic emotional needs unfullfilled/self preservation/perceived threat perspective since consciousness became memorable!

I’m seeing this trauma, unresolved conflict, distrust/disconnection/isolation/fractured/broken relationships = lonely 🙁 less productive member of society a common thread.

Proverbial’s repeatedly hit the fan, in various forms and intensity. p;ssed I got into such a mess, kinda thinking a heads up on common life traps might help prevent/prepare me somehow. I can see one for kids developmental stages and this helpful page but is there a comprehensive compendium out there?

Reply
Zinia Roshan

This is beautiful and written in the way that feels like someone is talking to me. I’m the kind of person who always gives, will offer this sort of advice but hardly receive it in return. I also love how I know most of this advice but it only in snippets and reading it all in one wholesome chunk like is like nourishing food. My motto this year is “input/output”, i.e. moderation and balance. This is definitely input!! I feel balanced!

Reply
linda jenkins

Im a new widow, and a friend posted this. It was healing and helpful to me today. Grief is like the boggyman in the closet, and today he has been out in full force. I look forward to maybe finding some “sense” in my life, or maybe I should say making sense, out of what life I have been left with, through your articles.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Hi Linda, I’m so pleased this article found its way to you. I’m sorry you are going through a painful time. I know that when you lose someone you love, for a while there’s nothing that can make things right – just time and having people you care about close to you. I hope you are able to find some comfort here as you move forward. Much love and strength to you.

Reply
Barbara Isenberg

Dear Linda,
I’m a new widow too. Episodes of grief, loneliness, heartache and fear, seem to wait just around the corner for me (just like your boogyman). Today, this piece “ambushed” me instead. Hope is a wonderful thing…..

Reply

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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