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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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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