"What you make of liberation - that is the trick. Can you, unshackled, set someone else free?"
These words from a social justice Haggadah were read at seder tables this past weekend as Jews recalled their historical flight from slavery in Egypt and contemplated current forms of slavery, like racism, sex trafficking, and unfair labor practices.
These powerful words also apply to the invisible but habitual behavior patterns that hold us down... the need to be right, an out-of-control temper that flares at the least provocation, overwhelming anxiety, fear of the unknown, an unwillingness to set healthy boundaries and say "no". The list goes on and on.
Consider that by doing the work to unshackle yourself, you are also liberating your children, and their children, from the intergenerational after effects of your own slavery to habitual behaviors that no longer serve you.
How to start?
Stop long enough to notice. Self awareness is not easy. Commit to spending some quiet time considering your values, your "fit" within your work and home environment, and the impact your behaviors have on others. What comes up? Now consider how you think others view you, in light of these same things. Pay attention to messages from your head, heart and gut.
Own it. Instead of deflecting ("He makes me so angry that I blew my stack! That will teach him to listen better next time."), defending ("I would set boundaries with my adult child, but he isn't ready to do these things on his own - I have to do it for him or it won't get done.") or minimizing ("I just asked them to work two additional overnight shifts this month - not that big of a deal - we all do it."); own it. Know that how you read a situation, your behaviors, and your reactions are always a reflection of you, not them. It is about you. Not them. Own it.
Start with one thing. Start tiny and grow it from there. Focus on one personal value and track it throughout the week. Or notice one emotional trigger at work and write it down. Or simply take one deep breath in through your nose and out through your two times a day.
Doing your own work creates spaciousness around what is possible. Instead of being enslaved to habitual behaviors, discover freedom and choice. By modeling this work and living with healthy behaviors, you also set your children and their children free.
Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.