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The First Step to Self-Awareness: Knowing the Difference between What Nourishes and Drains You

I was cleaning out my desk the other day and came across a quote I'd written down several years ago. I'm not sure who said it, but the quote went something like this:

If a relationship with someone or something isn’t a 9 or a 10, on 0-10 scale of fulfillment, then it might as well be a zero, and you would do best to let it go and drive on.

My initial reaction was that the quote felt harsh and completely unreasonable. I thought to myself, "If I only had relationships or things in my life that were a 9 or 10, then I wouldn’t have much in my life!”

I crumpled up that piece of paper to throw it in the trash, but then realized there was a LOT of wisdom in that quote, and smoothed the paper out again.

My next thought was, “I’d really have to change a lot of things in my life to consistently have things be at a 9 or higher.”

I reflected upon the people, things, and places in my life that were a 9/10, and my heart swelled with love and joy. I really enjoyed spending time with those people, things, and in those places. I felt nourished, excited, and energized when I was around them. So then, I began to wonder why I had anything other than 9+/10 in my life.

As my eyes moved around my office, I realized that I was living a life that was a 5/10…at best and that as a result, I was living a life of “crumbs.” No wonder I felt drained and unfulfilled the vast majority of the time.

I realized that I had those relationships/situations that were a 5/10 in my life because I kept telling myself to “be reasonable.” I was equating “being reasonable” with settling for mediocre one-sided friendships, relationships, and situations in my life. I was spending a TON of time and energy trying to make those 5/10 friendships, relationships, and situations be good enough….and it wasn’t working. As a result, I felt frustrated, disappointed, and let down, but felt obligated to stay or fearful to leave.

I’d tell myself that friendship, relationship, or job was perfect and that I needed to be grateful for what I had. The reality is that while no one is perfect, and it is important to be grateful for what we have, it’s also vital to understand the difference between the relationships, places, and things that are nourishing, and those that are not.

If we can’t tell the difference between what is nourishing and what is stagnant, or toxic then living a life we love is nothing more than a game of chance—and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my life to be a gamble!

If we can’t tell the difference between what is nourishing and what is stagnant, or toxic then the odds are that our life isn’t fulfilling. Instead, life is probably full of frustration, continual disappointment, and misplaced hope, thinking that maybe someday these people and situations will become what we need them to be.

The truth is that ”being reasonable” when it comes to staying in less-than-nourishing relationships, friendships, and jobs, isn’t just wasting my time and energy—it’s wasting everybody’s time and energy!

I began to wonder where I picked up this idea that crumbs are enough, and when it started. When did I start convincing myself that I needed to settle for people, places, things, or ideas that weren’t nourishing? I began following the trail of crumbs, and was horrified and saddened at just how far back that trail went—all the way to my childhood, and even further back to my parents’ childhood. Settling for “good enough” wasn’t just something I did, it was a mindset I had been born into. This realization saddened me. My parents lived out this crumbs mentality that they were raised with, I think in part because there is a false sense of security in that something is better than nothing. However, keeping the mediocre or toxic around doesn’t keep a person safe, it keeps them stuck.

For years, I had compromised my wants and needs. Up to that point, my whole life had been a life based on what I felt I should do, or want, or who I should be with, instead of what I really wanted—effectively swallowing my unhappiness and turning down the volume on what nourished me.

There’s no value in settling for “crumbs” and “being reasonable” if that means limiting yourself. It’s healthy and reasonable to have wants, needs, and standards. It’s healthy and reasonable to set boundaries and to assert yourself to ensure that your standards are being met. You are worthy of living a great life.

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