One of the best moments in my life was a moment of discomfort so overwhelming that it changed everything!
I was in an argument with a boyfriend. He kept telling me he wasn't arguing, he was trying to have a conversation. Because of my sensitivity to raised voices -- growing up, my parents argued a lot -- his forceful way felt like an argument. It made me uncomfortable. His voice was elevated. It felt aggressive. I felt overwhelmed. I felt incapable of effectively getting my point across. I felt I was losing in some way. (Aren't arguments win or lose situations?) Something fundamental to how I saw myself felt at risk... if I stayed another minute, I was afraid I would lose control and crumble.
My frustration hit a crescendo and tipped over into overwhelm so excruciating that I jumped up and headed towards the bedroom door. My boyfriend jumped in front of the door. He said, "You don't get to leave just because you're uncomfortable. You have to talk to me." I was stunned. Frightened. I had always left before. Leaving was easier than grappling with my feelings and forcing myself to share how I really felt. That kind of vulnerability seemed too risky. Leaving -- or better yet, indignantly storming out -- felt better.
"You have to talk to me," were terrifying words. They meant I would have to say what was on my mind. Tell the truth about my feelings. Risk the possibility that I was wrong -- or worse, that my feelings didn't matter -- or even worse for my ego, acknowledge that I was responsible, or at least a participant in the circumstances that needed to be discussed.
Turning around and going back into the room of my own free will was the hardest, bravest and most freeing thing I have ever done. It changed my life. It freed me from the sophisticated way I had learned to side-step feelings in an effort to manage the discomfort of feeling at risk. This was my first real experience of my authentic self. It was a supreme act of Self-love: Something inside of me was more important than my self-righteous ego, my past way of handling things, and even all the previously ways I had come to protect myself. When I looked into this man's well-meaning eyes as he blocked my escape route, something inside said freedom calls. Turn around. Follow his wise loving lead and head home to your Self.
Being confronted by moments and people who demand that we show up more honestly and authentically can be scary. They are also blessings. If in those moments you feel like you're at risk of losing something, you are: your old, inauthentic way of being. To be free, we must allow life to challenge our commitment to looking good, being right, being better than, in control or feeling safe (in old, unhealthy ways). Life is always trying to send us new people and situation to help us move beyond our stuck, inauthentic ways. To honor our Self and grow our Inner Fitness, we must learn to transform these challenges into transformation.
The next time something in you jumps up, ready to storm out-- or you attempt to leave difficult conversations in more quiet, subtle ways -- take a moment for an inward glance. Ask yourself, Is something old driving me? Is leaving easier than telling my truth? Am I avoiding taking responsibility in some way? If you are committed to freedom, you will find the right question to ask. Let your inward glance guide your next move.
Of course, there are people and circumstances we should and must leave. Self-love requires that we walk away. The distinction between the two scenarios is this: When we storm out with drama, that's an indicator that there's more to come in the saga. When we walk away in Self-care, a door closes with profound finality. It is over. We are done. And that is best.
I will always love the man and moment whose wisdom helped me take my first big step to Self-care and Inner Fitness. As we each discover The Third Metric, we stand before an unprecedented opportunity to know our true Self, and follow the lead of our inner voice to profound freedom.
"PARENTHOOD" Actress Tina Lifford attended the Third Metric conference. She is Author of "The Little Book of BIG LIES" and Founder of The Inner Fitness Project
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.