We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.

What to do when you’re tempted to give advice:
Listen
Listen to that person’s story. Listen with your eyes, as well—how do they appear? 
Be transparent when you don’t know what to say
We want to feel useful. We want to make it better. We don’t want someone we are sitting with to hurt anymore. And even though you probably know, here it is again: it’s okay that you can’t make it better. It’s okay to just say “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.” Totally better than giving unwanted advice.
Ask what they want
Sometimes I feel like I have information that could be helpful, but I almost always ask, “Do you want me to listen or do you want advice?” Personally, I’ve noticed that many of my therapist friends do the same thing—we’re used to juggling the friend hat and therapist hat—and I love it. I have never been annoyed by that question—and it’s probably no coincidence that when asked, I often choose advice! You see, we are often ready to receive wisdom from someone who makes us feel seen and heard and respected.

What to do when you’re tempted to give advice:

Listen

Listen to that person’s story. Listen with your eyes, as well—how do they appear? 

Be transparent when you don’t know what to say

We want to feel useful. We want to make it better. We don’t want someone we are sitting with to hurt anymore. And even though you probably know, here it is again: it’s okay that you can’t make it better. It’s okay to just say “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.” Totally better than giving unwanted advice.

Ask what they want

Sometimes I feel like I have information that could be helpful, but I almost always ask, “Do you want me to listen or do you want advice?” Personally, I’ve noticed that many of my therapist friends do the same thing—we’re used to juggling the friend hat and therapist hat—and I love it. I have never been annoyed by that question—and it’s probably no coincidence that when asked, I often choose advice! You see, we are often ready to receive wisdom from someone who makes us feel seen and heard and respected.