This past weekend, I was hugged by a shaman. I was at a thoroughly amazing conference—the MindBodyGreen Revitalize event (which was shot and you can view here, btw)—and one of the speakers was a shaman who had, as the story goes, died and come back to life and now goes around the world healing people. As everyone was milling around the day after his talk, word got out that the guy gave amazing hugs. I thought it might be an Amma-like situation but without the having-to-wait-in-line-for-hours part and so the next time I saw him, I ran up and requested one. I got it and it was pretty good. (Side note: I always feel, with things like this, that it’s not quite “working”—that I’m not feeling the hug “as much” as other people; this is, I think, related to what I’m about to write.)
Post hug, I mentioned to Shaman that I had a headache (I had been hiking in the 100+ Arizona heat earlier that day and stuff like that can bring one on) and asked him if he could get rid of it. I pictured him putting his hands on my head and the headache drifting off in a puff of cartoon-like white smoke but he only did that for a minute and then tapped my stomach and declared that I had a serious “gut” issue.
“You care entirely too much what people think of you!” he exclaimed. WHAA? AND THIS WAS RELATED TO MY HEADACHE HOW?
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I was immediately defensive, as I think of myself as someone who’s moved beyond that. I have no problem these days with not being liked, with being a little brusque about people’s writing if it’s going to be published on the site, with standing up for myself despite potential consequences and can usually brush off negative comments I read about myself online. I started to tell him this as I noticed these two girls from the conference sitting at a table next to us watching the whole conversation. Immediately, I wanted to shame them—make them feel terrible for eavesdropping on a conversation that wasn’t their business—and so I turned to them and asked them if they could talk to each other or something because their listening in was making me uncomfortable. They were both apologetic—”I’m so sorry,” one said, “I just find everything Shaman says so interesting”—and started to talk to one another when Shaman exclaimed, “THIS is exactly what I’m talking about! You need to deal with this!”
It was a strange moment; here I was telling him that I didn’t care what people thought of me but I was simultaneously embarrassed that two people I didn’t know were hearing someone diagnose me with a problem I think confident people shouldn’t have. At the same time, I felt perfectly entitled to inform them that it was none of their business. So did I care or not care what people thought of me?
The answer: of course I care. When I first got sober, I heard the saying “What people think of you is none of your business” and I embraced it. I don’t care—unless you’re going to see me being weak and then I really, really do. I’m okay with you seeing an image I’ve crafted of myself and with being disliked or a little harsh or that “difficult” customer if it means getting what I want. And I have no problem stating (or writing) that I’m insecure. But now I see that I somehow see that declaration as a sign of strength because shows that I’m strong enough to admit I’m weak. It’s sort of the pre-emptive strike where if I say it before you do, my ego tells me that I win. If I’m not the one who’s controlling that judgment, however, I feel humiliated. (Example: if I raise my hand to share in a meeting and am not called on, I feel unspeakably embarrassed if someone acknowledges that with an “Sorry you didn’t get picked; if no one sees this happen, on the other hand, I’m perfectly fine.)
This whole line of thinking rushed into my head during my shaman-with-women-watching experience and I knew it came down to the v-word (no, not venereal disease). I’m terrible at appearing vulnerable. And I want to get better. In my opinion, that’s the next level of strength: being strong enough to allow you to see me as weak.
I suddenly just worried that nothing about what I’ve written here is revelatory or interesting and I should scrap it and come up with a new topic. But then: maybe it’s progress to send this out despite that fear? If a tree falls on me in the woods and no one sees it, after all, all I have to worry about is my own safety. If, however, I write a post about it and people think it’s stupid, then I have to be vulnerable.
So thanks for reading this. And if you think it’s stupid, now you know you’re helping me to grow! Shaman would be proud.