My Family is Holding Me Back

My Family is Holding Me Back

“I’m trying to make all of these changes but I feel like my family is resisting me and their resistance is holding me back. They’re threatened by my growth and I don’t know what to do about it.”  – modified from a Facebook post

There is a contradiction in growth and personal development.

In order to have what we want, we must be willing to move forward. But in order to move forward, we must be willing to leave those that we love where they are.

For example, say you’re gay. Say your parents are devout, evangelical Christians in rural Arkansas. You can either stay in the closet to maintain the family and suffer or you can come out and lose your family in service of your deepest self. What do you choose?

Either way, there is pain and discomfort and this is what I’m referencing previously as the contradiction of change.

Leaving those that we love behind feels painful because it’s a violation of our belonging. It’s an abandoning of our tribe- a group that’s hardwired into our DNA as necessary for our survival- and in doing so, it will call up the associated feelings of guilt and shame.

The individual who posted on Facebook is facing this contradiction of growth. Growth has a price.

Imagine you and your family are starving and within days of dying. A higher power puts a bowl of soup in front of you and says you can eat the soup, while everyone else watches. No one else is allowed to eat a single spoon full. Do you eat the soup?

The answer is always no. We would rather suffer to belong than nourish ourselves.

This is one of the main reasons so many people are unhappy and struggling. Because they ensure they maintain their belonging at the expense of themselves.

If you’re going to feel bad either way (or at least have some negative feelings), what would you prefer? To stay where you are on behalf of others? Or be who you want to be and learn to be okay with the guilt?

This is not to stigmatize families or deny anyone’s experience. Families are inherently complex structures and one faction may surprise with open acceptance while another feels legitimately threatened and longs to keep us where we are. But no matter their position, staying where we are to avoid violating this belonging doesn’t help them. It only hurts us.

You don’t help your starving family by not eating the soup. Just like if your parents got ebola, you can’t help them by contracting ebola in solidarity, you can only hurt yourself.

This is an extremely hard aspect of growth. We’ve been taught to believe by the self-help industry that change will put us on cloud nine all the time. This isn’t true. Growth is bumpy and it comes with some discomfort. If we can learn to start understanding this aspect of our experience, we can move forward accepting that growth is the best option, even if it comes with the pain of leaving those we love where they are.

Once this starts to sink in, I often get asked, “Well, how can I help my family? I feel lonely leaving them where they are. Isn’t there anything I can do?”

Yes. You can keep pursuing your personal growth. You can keep moving forward. Because maybe, just maybe you will set an example they will follow. Unfortunately, this is the only way.

Your belonging was handed to you based on where, when, and to whom you were born. It’s not something you can control, but you can control the experience you make it.

You can choose to move forward and accept the discomfort of violating your belonging. Or you can stay where you are and nobody benefits. It’s your choice.



I’m Not Enough

I’m Not Enough

“I’m not enough…”

Not enough according to whom?

Find a baby born that is not whole, complete, and perfect the way they are. Point to a single baby that is not enough the moment they take their first breath.

We enter the world this way, but many of us lose our grasp on the truth and begin to desperately scramble to find our enough-ness externally.

What is enough?

It’s not a shape or a texture. It doesn’t have color or weight. It doesn’t smell or make noise.

But we try to find it outside of ourselves.

You can hear this in common questions like, “How much is that person worth?” As if someone’s financial means determines their worth. If this was true, babies would be considered worthless.

Enough can never be found outside of ourselves. We’ve been whole and complete since our birth. Trying to fill something that’s already full never works.

This is why so many people who reach pinnacles of financial wealth and success are more miserable than those still on their way up. At least on the way up, there’s hope that more will be the answer.

Not to say financial wealth and success are wrong – in fact, many people with wealth and career success understand their enough-ness. But wealth and career success are primary areas that we’ve co-mingled with worth.

We all emerged whole and complete. This has always been true and will never change.

Everything else is just a distortion.

A Decade Later

A Decade Later

Nausea took ahold of my body.

I was sitting on the couch in the middle of the afternoon, staring blankly at the high definition glow of my brand new TV. Nearby were stacks of self improvement books that were good for show but hadn’t been touched in over a year.

After quickly rising in the ranks of the real estate business, I was making far more money in a month than most people my age were making in a year. I acquired things – including a fancy car, the curvy girlfriend, and thirty pounds of excess fat hanging off my body.

It was all wrong.

Some time after finishing college, I got sucked into the shiny allure of money.

Looking back, it wasn’t the money that was the problem. Money is an amazing channel of energy, like sunlight, that we’ll talk about at length in future posts. But it was the lack of intention in my choices that led me astray.

I was blindly following the western way – seeking value and happiness via external things. I was playing victim to this thoughtless reality without questioning my choices and decisions. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to acquire happiness.

I’m not sure why nausea set in at that specific moment. Maybe it was the lazy mid-week couch session that broke the camel’s back. Whatever the trigger, it was painful enough to motivate a choice that changed the trajectory of my life.

In that moment, I chose to live intentionally. I decided to stop at nothing in order to figure out who I was and what happiness meant to me. I decided to stop living someone else’s life.

Within a few weeks, I had returned most of my stuff, moved out of the bachelor pad, and broken up with the curvy girlfriend. I left real estate, got back in shape, and focused my attention on discovering who I am.

A decade has passed since then, and I’m left smiling about how fundamentally different things are today because of that moment.

Without that decision, I wouldn’t have met my beautiful wife in a Manhattan grocery store. I wouldn’t have invested in the self discovery that has shaped so many of my choices and changed the trajectory of my career. I would not have the maturity and patience to parent my daughter.

Living intentionally is derivative of understanding ourselves. The deeper we dive into our experience, the more we learn to make choices that are in service of our true self.

In my opinion, this is the foundation for perhaps the single greatest reason we exist, to learn. Without intention, learning becomes something that happens to us instead of something that happens because of us.

I’m launching thegivegive as a collection of wisdom I’ve uncovered along the way. Stories from the journey, philosophical thoughts, practical tips, critical analysis of modern “truisms”, and deep insights into human experience that I’ve learned from personal experience, the classroom, mentors, research, and my own work with individuals.

I hope these words help you in your journey.

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