The Most Important Bank Account

The most important bank account has nothing to do with your 401K.

            It’s not the number of stocks or annuities in your retirement portfolio, nor the percent of interest accruing in your money market account. It isn’t the bonus received or expected from work or the amount of dollars in your checking and savings.

            The most important bank account isn’t measured in cryptocurrency, gold, or one’s investment in semi-conductors. Those values, like everything else fiscally measured, will rise and fall. Just peruse renowned investor’s Ray Dalio’s recent books, Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail to discover the cyclical nature of economic abundance and poverty.

            After our most basic needs are met—thank you Maslow (air, water, food, shelter, sleep), our spiritual bank accounts require our attention.

            Only we humans possess an affinity to avoid pain and discomfort. We flee from hurt, instead of looking at it directly. We hide behind schedules or alcohol, or addiction to numb our pain.

            Avoiding the pain, denying what we are feeling creates two potential outcomes over time:

  1. Mountain-out-of-a-molehill behavior 
  2. Illness in the body and mind

Author and speaker, Brene Brown (Atlas of the Heart), refers to this tendency to be triggered over something seemingly insignificant as “chandeliering.” 

We see this triggered behavior all over the world and in our own backyards: 

-the “Karen” ready to attack someone for having a different opinion

-the road rage against a total stranger on the highway

-the friend who starts cursing up a storm when their iPad won’t charge

In all of these examples, the anger lashing out is not about what appears to be the source of their anger. The anger is a symptom of an inner pain that is going unaddressed.

The anger is misplaced, unexamined pain and a symptom of a depleted spiritual bank account.

Then there is the manifestation of pain in our body:

-the back pain that worsens in traffic

-the chest pain that “comes out of nowhere”

-the panic attacks 

-the frequent malaise

Brene Brown refers to our tendency to swallow our pain, pushing it down, so it can’t see the light of day as “stockpiling.” These are the folks who say everything is fine, like a spiritual Unikitty (Lego movie) when things are feeling far from fine.

If we are in denial like a super-charged positive Unikitty, ignoring our wounds, they will fester. And if we aren’t “chandeliering,” we are likely to “stockpile” our negative emotion until they show up in our bodies.

It’s human nature to avoid pain and seek pleasure. But there’s a real danger in denial, in running from our negative emotion or swallowing it and swimming like a duck through life—graceful on the surface but fighting for our lives below.

Unexamined and untended to pain that remains hidden will fester, affecting either others (when we lash out) or our own bodies negatively.

When we take time to look our wounds directly in the eye, something wonderful happens: the wound itself begins to heal.

Our spiritual bank accounts fill when we honor our journey and respect the emotions we experience along the way. Emotions, like the weather, change; it’s only when we deny their existence or demand that certain ones stay that our bank account falters.

Earning Vulnerability

Excavating and exploring the painful parts of ourselves with self-compassion is needed before we offer our vulnerability to another.

It was a second date. The first one involved coffee and the kind of conversation typical of strangers: What kind of work do you do? Only child or one of many? Cat or dog lover? Do you prefer beaches or mountains? But *Mike, recently divorced with two girls under the age of 10, felt the questions lacking. He hadn’t wanted his twelve-year marriage to end yet felt lonelier in the marriage than on his own. He felt an urgency to get past the seemingly trivial “get to know you” questions and delve into “the stuff” of intimate relationships.

“I was low-hanging fruit. This was my first date out of the divorce gate.”

So, on this date, hungry for affection and connection, Mike didn’t waste any time on the second date. Before their appetizers arrived, he told her…well everything but the kitchen sink: his low testosterone level, the frequent verbal put downs he experienced from his ex in their marriage, his belief that his ex-wife treated their daughters like pawns to “get at him.” 

“I thought our date went well. I gave her a respectful kiss on the cheek and a hug. But she’s not returning any of my texts, and her phone goes right to voicemail when I call.”

Poor Mike. 

“I don’t understand. I thought women like it when a man is vulnerable. Did I scare her off? Am I supposed to act like some Alpha male? What do women want?”

There’s a famous quote by the late and great author, Dr. Wayne Dyer:

“You do not attract what you want. You attract what you are.”

Vulnerability has two sides: the willingness to look within and the willingness to be seen or known by another. Both involve risk. To look within, to possess the courage to self-reflect and look unflinchingly at our beliefs opens us up to potential emotional pain. Getting “real” with ourselves is no journey for the faint-hearted. 

Mike knows the surface facts of his recent past. He’s:

  • A recently divorced father of two young girls
  • He was married for 12 years.
  • The divorce was not mutual.

The remainder of his story is highly subjective and requires Mike to excavate the cracks in his (currently) unsteady foundation. For example: Was Mike’s ex abusive or is that a story Mike tells himself? If Mike’s wife was abusive, what brought him to experience an abusive relationship, and why was he against divorcing someone who abused him?

 Before Mike can experience vulnerability with another potential romantic partner, he needs to be vulnerable with himself. When we look under the figurative hood of our own life, when we are willing to see the parts of ourselves that aren’t so shiny, something changes from the inside out: we discover our self-worth, we remember that we matter and can distinguish between wanting a romantic partner and clinging to someone just to have a someone. When we explore the slings and arrows of our past with a willingness to see it in the broad daylight of self-reflection and compassion, we aren’t so quick to be vulnerable with others. After our soul’s journey into the wilderness of vulnerability (thank you, Brene Brown:-) our perspective has altered: a potential romantic partner needs to earn our vulnerability. Vulnerability is no longer a by-product of low self-esteem; vulnerability is now an invaluable gift to share with the right person on YOUR timeline.

   *Mike, in his desperation for affection and loneliness, attracted what he was: the absence of a potential partner and a greater sense of loneliness. This pattern of women leaving him is likely to continue, so long as he continues to perceive himself as “low-hanging fruit.” 

    Vulnerability is both a gift and a wound. When we are willing to go within and explore our wounds with an open and compassionate heart, we receive the greatest gift: self-love.

*Name has been altered to protect the privacy of the individual.

Are You Wearing Emotional Spanks?

Donning an emotional “everything is fine” mask in our personal relationships is psychological Spanx, making it difficult for authentic connection to develop.

Spanks. Those ingenious undergarment items that smooth our bumps and bulges has helped many of us feel our best. But there’s an emotional kind of Spanx wearing that tends to occur in our personal relationships: the idea of hiding our authentic selves from a potential or actual partner in an effort to be liked.

It’s one thing to want the illusion of a slimmer physique but when we hold back who we truly are in our personal relationships, we are doing a disservice to ourselves, our partner, and the relationship itself.

*Gena just started dating someone.

“I really like this one. I think there’s real potential. But then I saw him on TikTok, throwing emoji kisses and hearts to another girl. Psychologically, I went down the rabbit hole. But I’m not letting him see that. He thinks I’m all cool with his online flirting emoji-fest.”

It’s a couple of weeks into Gena’s dating “Mr. Real Potential.” Two weeks of seeing his online TikTok flirting, two weeks of keeping her angst inside like a muffin top hidden under Spanx. And just like the physical Spanx, the emotional Lycra needed to eventually come off.

“I found myself getting passive-aggressive with him. I couldn’t take not knowing who these girls were that he was online emoji kissing. So, I asked him, ignoring my head screaming at me that I looked like an idiot.”

That inner voice is fear; it’s our brain’s meaning-well-attempt to protect us. But we aren’t in danger when we are honest. Ironically, removing our emotional Spanx is the best thing you can do for everyone involved. Your relationship can literally breathe better.

A dear friend of mine is a bit of a branding guru (https://www.catheynickell.com). She recently had a speaking engagement where she shared her most popular posts on Instagram:

“It’s typically the ones where I share something about me, something personal and authentic. People are drawn to authenticity.”

Authenticity not only boosts one’s potential popularity on social media; it nourishes our relationships. When we, as Brene Brown ingeniously coined it, “dare greatly,” we are showing up in this life, removing our psychological Spanx to experience genuine intimacy.

Shortly after Gena’s confession, her Mr. Real Potential shared that he appreciated her honesty and assured her that it was just playful texting and that he only dates one person at a time.

Could Gena have experienced Mr. Real Potential giving a different answer, one filled with negativity? Judgement? Disappointment? Anger? Absolutely. To “dare greatly” is to know there are risks and to do it anyway. The greater risk is to keep the emotional Spanx on and live a lie with yourself and your partner.

*Names have been altered to protect the privacy of individuals.

Serving Ourselves a Dare

The fear paradox: the greater we avoid something, the more likely it is to consume us.

Remember when you were a kid or teen and you dared your friends to do something scary? Sometimes it was something that in hindsight wasn’t so scary like going up to a police officer and asking him for the time; other times it was scary but—once again with that good ole’ hindsight—foolish and borderline dangerous, like eating something questionable like glue or a bug?

Regardless of what kind of dare you were given or gave, the intent was always the same: to get a thrill, a rise, a rush of adrenaline through our youthful veins. Even just giving someone a dare was enough to make our blood pump faster.

If you are reading this, chances are you fall into the adult demographic and your days are filled with lots of R’s (responsibilities). Time is limited while to-do lists are infinite; you are rarely in the now and more often than not, planning what needs to be accomplished or completed next.

One of my colleagues recently said, “I’m going to be like an ostrich and keep my head in the sand.” She was referring to our new virtual reality of teaching through so many new online platforms. A friend of mine shared with me this evening that she accepted a new position because “it’s safe.” As we get older—and with the uncertain backdrop of the ubiquitous pandemic—it’s understandable and downright tempting to want to cling to what is safe, to dig our head into the figurative sand until the unknown passes.

But what would happen if we, as author and professor, Brene Brown suggests in her eponymous book, DARING GREATLY, we became that young kid again (who still resides inside of us)? What if we chose to shake the sand off of our heads and see whatever is going on without judgement? What if we decided to not cling to safety so steadfast and instead, allowed ourselves to feel a little rush of fear as we considered other alternatives to earning money?

When we were children, we dared each other; as adults, we need to serve ourselves a dare: something that will reignite our soul and breathe fresh life into our lives.

Consider the pandemic, the growing violence in our world, the political tension—let’s not forget the killer hornets and potential meteor headed our way (the day before the US Election). Do we really have the control that we are so hungry for? Uncertainty is abound, and here’s the rub: the more we cling to things/people/circumstances for peace of mind, the less peace of mind we will experience. 

So what can we do? How can we serve ourselves a dish of happiness in such an uncertain world? We can find opportunities to dare ourselves—even if it’s over something that might seem small. 

My dare is often involving facing my fears. Fears embraced lose their power over us. And there’s nothing that feels more alive than meeting your fear head-on—talk about an adrenaline rush!

The great thing about being an adult is you don’t need to wait for someone to dare you. But since I’m still that kid inside who never grew up, I’ll take this moment to dare you, right now! Serve yourself a daring dish and watch your life change—dare I say, for the better!