Our strength is our “light.” The moment we are born, our story begins. Like any good story, our life has themes, evolving characters, plots, twists, challenges and victories throughout. In the stories we love there is usually something important to protect or save. The same is true for your story. In your story there is something precious to be fought for: it is your gifting or inner strength that is similar to a bright light. Like a starlit sky, with millions of variations in stars, your light is unique, powerful and radiant.
For some people, it is a sweet sensitivity or playfulness. For others it is fierce determination. Some may have an overwhelming sense of love for everyone. And still others are protecting the ones they care about from an early age. Your light adds value to the people around your and allows you to feel fully alive. Throughout life we all have the opportunity to shine brightly, engaging the world in our own unique way. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles to overcome.
The Setting of Our Story is Out of Our Control
In our story we did not have any control over the setting such as the place, era, socio-economic status, birth order, role, body type, intelligence, preceding family stories and, of course, the main characters such as parents and siblings. We also did not have control over the experiences we had, especially when we were young, powerless and vulnerable. These pieces set the stage for our development and beliefs about the world, other people and who we think we really are. They set the foundation for our life story.
The Main Characters May Ignite or Destroy Our Light
Our gifting and strength is goodness within that can inspire others to want to be around you and help you become all that you were meant to be. It can also easily invite envy or a desire to destroy from others. As infants and children we need our parents, grandparents, teachers and friends to protect our light. Unfortunately, it is often the people closest to us that can also hurt us the most by trying to banish the goodness inside of us. (Often these authority figures and peers are not aware they are doing this but the result is the same.) Their words and actions can result in a mountain of shame piling up, dimming our light or covering it up all together. Instead of believing there is something innately right and beautiful about us, we come to believe there is something wrong with us.
We Might Choose to Destroy Our Own Light
Once we are adults we have control over our choices. However, if we grow up believing there is something wrong with us, we may subconsciously choose a lifestyle that isn’t good for us. This unhealthy lifestyle may involve defeating self-talk such as: “You’re so stupid. Why did you do this?” It may lead to false beliefs such as: “I am unlovable.” “I am broken.” “I am not enough.” “I am too needy.” “I will never fit in.”, and so on. It can also lead to actions that avoid further harm such as: “I will never be this open and vulnerable again.” “I will never try so hard again.”
When people feel ashamed for who they are they often work hard at avoiding feeling deeply. Often they distract themselves by keeping busy, focusing on food, substance abuse and other addictions. This way of coping most likely makes them feel worse which continues the pileup of shame that covers their inner light and beauty.
We Can Chose to Invite Others to Harm Our Light
One more aspect that seems to hinder our light to shine is our desire to prove our schema, or beliefs are right. Subconsciously we keep inviting others to play a role in our life that proves that there is something wrong with us. Here is an example of a couple in which the husband’s core belief is that he is “too needy” and the wife’s core belief is that she is “not enough”.
He says: “This dinner is amazing! Is there any more left?”
She hears: “Why didn’t you give me more food, don’t you know how hungry I am when I get home?”
She says: “Why is nothing I do ever good enough for you? I already made you a plate of food and it was ready when you got home.”
He hears: “You are so needy. You are a grown man; can’t you make your own food?”
From the outside, it may seem obvious that he loved the food and complimented her but based on the wife’s narrative, she expected to be treated as though she is not enough. He in return understood her comment based on his core belief that he has too many needs.
We Can Chose a New Narrative and Shine Brightly
So where is the hope for our light to be redeemed? If in relationships we got hurt, it is through relationships that we heal. Your marriage can be the most healing relationship you’ve ever experienced! In marriage your beliefs will be triggered all the time and it is an opportunity to learn and heal. Anger and sadness often protect the shame that covers the unique light. If you see it in these terms, you may realize that behind the defensive response is a scared child that was not allowed to shine his or her unique gifting and strength to its fullest potential.
Imagine if in marriage you help each other dig deep, unravel the light and bring it to its full vibrancy and radiance. Imagine if you could help each other reconnect with your goodness and become each other’s “light keeper”.
You can choose to stop re-enacting the same story and choose to write a new chapter and a different ending.
Becoming a “Light Keeper”
Your inner beauty, goodness and strength are worth protecting and fighting for. You are a warrior that is gifted with a unique light to cherish and ignite more and more each day. Your challenge is to first bypass unhealthy habits, dig through unfelt emotions and annihilate false beliefs. This can be an incredibly intimate and powerful journey to go through together as a couple. You can hold each other accountable and also be loving and patient when change doesn’t happen quickly.
How would your interactions change if you were curious about what lies beneath the surface level attempts to defend and protect? Talk about the defeating messages and beliefs you have made in order to protect yourself. Discuss ways in which your partner can gently remind you of what’s really true about you in times of conflict?
Spend some time talking about your childhood. What experiences did you have that created a sense of shame for you? What messages did you take away from those experiences? How does it impact your view about yourself and your relationship with others?
What is in the way of you connecting and owning your “light”? What would help you reconnect with your inner strength, beauty and goodness? How can your partner help you with that?
Finally, if you have children, try to name their light and beauty. Imagine how you are a warrior protecting their light from shameful messages that may hinder their light to shine. Be aware of how your own story may influence your desire to squish their light. This is typically not intentional but if, for example, as a child you learned that being sensitive is shameful, you may inadvertently shame your child for it by telling them they are being “dramatic” or “too emotional”. Instead you can allow them to feel deeply, affirm their sensitive spirit, because it is part of their unique gifting and beauty. Shining light on each other’s light.
Tamara Patterson is a licensed counselor, speaker, and writer. She and her husband Daniel are the founders of New Tree Center, where individuals and couples learn to let go of their past and "plant" new, healthy habits. Tamara is passionate about helping others live well so that they can love and lead the ones they care about well. Tamara and Daniel live with their three little kids in the suburbs of Chicago. They enjoy fitness, Mediterranean food, and taking care of their homestead. You can learn more at newtreecenter.com or you can follow on Instagram @NewTreeCenter.