I was having a conversation with my BFF Tricia Barrett recently, and I found myself asking this question, “Can you shine your light and be pure in your integrity and still experience love and belonging?”
I know it’s a strange question. But I’ve identified a big limiting belief in my life, so I spent the past day exploring it.
As a young person, I lived from a place of what I considered very high integrity. I didn’t drink until I was 21. I never tried drugs. I didn’t lose my virginity until years after others had. I didn’t break laws. I made straight A’s. I came home in time for curfew. I didn’t cuss.
And I was lonely as hell.
Other people, however, were drinking, smoking, getting high, sleeping around - and popular.
It didn’t feel fair.
In medical school, doctors were getting stoned, breaking rules, and had a “C=MD” mentality. I was committed to becoming the best doctor I could possibly be and taking exceptional care of my patietns- and I was chastised by the other medical students for being a goodie-two-shoes. I was rejected. Left out. Not invited.
By the time I hit thirty, a little voice in my head was whispering “F*ck you and your God damn principles.” So I started acting out. I hooked up with a bad boy. I started drinking. I smoked pot for the first (and only) time. And all of the sudden, I had a group of girlfriends who, for the first time in my life, I could call and say “What are WE doing tonight?” It felt awesome.
But it didn’t last long, because my bad girl act was just that - an act. It wasn’t authentic to who I was, and when it came right down to it, I realized I was really more of a goodie-two-shoes at the core of my authentic heart, and I was actually proud to live that way. I didn’t expect others to abide by any personal guidelines I created about how to live. I wasn’t sitting in judgment of those who smoked pot, hooked up, and got wasted every night. But it just wasn’t me.
Over time, the popular girls I had befriended shed off like old skin and I found myself back like I was in high school, with a few key friends - and my integrity - but without the comfort of a big group of friends.
Since then, I have waxed and waned in my alignment with my integrity. If integrity is a spectrum that runs from 100% pure integrity to 100% pure sellout, where I fall on the spectrum changes depending on where I am in my life and what the circumstances are. But the older (and I suppose wiser) I become, the more I find myself sliding to the left, refusing to sell out my integrity, even when doing so would mean more friends, more money, more fame, more [whatever].
But the old story still pokes out from time to time. If I shine my light and align firmly with my integrity, does that mean I will, once again, wind up lonely?
If you had asked me last month, I would have said yes. Integrity equals loneliness. It separates you and makes it harder for people to relate to you. When you fall out of integrity - and are brave enough to admit it - people feel connected to you. Confessions of your inner bad girl breed intimacy. As Brene Brown teaches in her awesome TEDx talk, imperfections breed intimacy, and from this place of vulnerability, we connect.
But I just recently realized that idea that integrity equals loneliness is a very old story, and it no longer serves me. Because I firmly believed that old story, I was engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors that sold out my integrity in order to welcome in love, belonging, and connection.
Yes, selling out your integrity as the price for love and belonging is tempting. But it’s a cheap connection. It doesn’t go deep. And it’s a high price to pay for a sense of belonging.
Yes, we are all imperfect, and yes, being transparent and vulnerable breed intimacy when we allow our imperfect selves to be witnessed. But that doesn't mean you have to intentional self-sabotage to make yourself imperfect, the way I have. You don’t have to sell out your integrity in order to feel a sense of belonging. You just have to attract very high vibration people into your inner circle.
People operating at a lower vibration will want you to dim your light in order to fit in, and they will be temped to reject you if you shine your light. You won’t be “cool.” You’ll be perceived as a “drag.” They’ll choose to hang with other low vibration people with dim lights and sold out integrity because those people make them feel better about themselves.
But you don’t have to buy into that story. And neither do I.
When you raise your vibration, you naturally attract other high vibration people, and they lift you up as you align with your integrity. You offer them the same gift in return.
I’m blessed to have many high vibration people in my inner circle. These very spiritual, loving, divine beings want nothing more than to see me shine my light even brighter - and I want the same for them. I don’t have to dim my light in order to feel accepted by them. They don’t feel threatened or judged or put off by me when I shine my light. And I don’t feel that way when they shine theirs.
In fact, if anything, these high vibration people expect me to be as radiant as possible - and I expect the same of them. Because it is safe to shine my light with these precious people, I can be loved and belong while aligning with my highest intentions and greatest potential. And they can do the same. Together, we create a sense of intimacy and belonging, and there's no self-sabotage required as the ticket for entry.
If you’re one of those people who thinks you have to sell yourself out in order to be accepted by others, think again. You don’t have to dim your light in order to belong. You just have to be very discerning about where you shine your light. You’ll know you’re in safe company when the more you shine, the more the other person shines as well.
Right now, I’m feeling a bit tender around this issue, so I’m being very mindful about the people I surround myself with. I’m asking for their support. I’m seeking their counsel. I’m feeling like a baby, learning to walk, and I’m craving their arms reaching out to stabilize me if I start to falter. I know, with their support, I can do and be anything.
Some trusted friends recently reminded me that I have a tendency to trust everyone, when not everyone has the highest good (or my highest good) in mind. So then I recreate this old story over and over. I shine my light, then I trigger someone else who winds up rejecting me. So then I dim my light in order to feel loved and accepted.
But not anymore. The guidance of my friends was to "be very discerning right now," which has led me to take stock of the people I know I can really, truly 1000% trust as I learn to grow into my full potential. Last night, I cried for hours in my hubby Matt's arms for reasons I can't even begin to explain. It was literally tears over the bigness of it all, but they were no longer tears of resistance, more like tears of grieving my old way of being, letting go of what has long served me well but no longer is, saying goodbye to an old friend who is no longer me.
The former Cat Stevens Yusuf Islam wrote a song I love whose chorus says "To be who you must, you must give up who you are."
I guess that's what is happening. I am giving up who I was to be who I must. And that is SO not easy.
Have you found the people who can lift you up when you align with your integrity and shine your bright sparkly Inner Pilot Light? Do you feel safe shining your light?
That’s my mantra for 2012 - it is safe to shine my light.
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Revolutionary, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
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