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  Breaking the Spell of Specialness
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Breaking the Spell of Specialness

This lesson in being ordinary can help your relationships

Sara Russell

Once upon a time the people of Terra Firma fell into a deep sleep. While in this dreamworld they believed they needed to earn their place with one another. They tried to convince each other of their worthiness by working harder and vying for recognition, but the dream turned to an exhausting nightmare.

The harder they tried, the worse it got. They began to doubt themselves and compromise  what they wanted.  They said “yes” when they wanted to say “no,” overextending and keeping their needs secret. They became resentful because they stopped living their truth.

Feeling irritable and insecure, they began competing for control. To feel more powerful they made demands on each other. They became insatiable for validation. “Why don’t you post more photos of me on Instagram?” They needed others to “prove” their love, but no amount of “likes” did the trick. The specialness came and went as quickly as a sugar rush.

Nothing ever seemed to fill the black hole of longing.

One day a crone was passing through the kingdom. She began to wake the people up. These were the lessons she bestowed. 

Quiet the Inner Critic

First, she taught them how to fight the voices of doubt and shame in their heads. They learned how the mind and body eavesdrop on each other, creating a cycle of hyper-arousal and exhaustion. If their stomachs clenched or their chests collapsed or their throats felt tight, they knew their thoughts had a hold of them. She taught them to create sounds and gestures to use the body to interrupt the mind: to snap their fingers or click their tongues or curl their toes to interrupt their whirlpooling minds. She encouraged them to clean up their social media feeds, awakening them to the concept of a digital detox.

It’s Not All About You

Once they cleaned up their shame, the crone taught them that, truly, it wasn’t all about them. 

“People aren’t thinking about you. They’re thinking about themselves,” she snapped. “Quit thinking someone is doing something to you rather than for themselves. Learn to tell a story about somebody other than yourself.” 

This shook the people out of their stupor. They stopped putting themselves at the center of every story and started seeing things from others’ perspective. They asked questions, prioritized curiosity over judgment and opened their hearts to the hurt others felt.

The Practice of Being Ordinary

The crone was amused by the people of Terra Firma. Each had their special talents: quick wit, athleticism, kindness, creativity, a killer chai recipe … Everyone had a particular ability that helped them through tough situations and became their go-to way of solving problems.

Unfortunately, they started using their strength like hammers and treating everything like nails. Problem solvers became bossy.  The eloquent wouldn't stop talking. And the easy-goers became doormats, letting others walk over them to keep the peace. They were spraying their specialness like dogs marking territory.

The crone acknowledged that sometimes it made sense to stand in their strength. And sometimes, she counseled, they needed to override their instincts and be a bit more strategic.

They learned to ask themselves important questions: When was it time to speak up, and when was it time to listen? To make requests or to self-soothe? To stand firm or rest? To be special or be ordinary?

Time to Wake Up

As the fog of their fears cleared, the people realized that love isn’t more real because somebody sacrifices for you.

People don’t owe us time, attention or energy. Demands aren’t love, they are oppression. We need to be able to say “no” for our “yes” to mean anything. If somebody wants something, we can choose to give it to them. If somebody needs something from us, it is no longer a choice.

The spell of specialness, like so many addictions, requires higher doses with diminishing returns. Specialness temporarily relieves our self-loathing, but then we need a bigger hit.

Better to accept that while, yes, we are all unique dewdrops, we are also perfectly ordinary. We are the drops that come together to form a large, ever-changing river. The river becomes the clouds, then the rain and then the river once more. 

We’re special because we are here and the fact that we are all here means we are all special and all ordinary.

Once we can accept how ordinary we are, we can empower each other to approach relationships from a place of choice. Rather than feeling obligated and resentful, our relationships can reflect our true desires. We can let go of the need for others to affirm our worth and instead embrace our everyday belonging.

People’s inherent value is their aliveness, so we offer them freedom in their expression of being alive.

How special. How ordinary.

Sara Russell is a relationship coach. Connect with her on her website and on Instagram. She is also the new host of the Trends w/ Benefits podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Header image by Leohoho via Unsplash.

Read more: 7 Ways to Navigate Conflict in Your Relationship 

Read more: How to Set Boundaries When You Work from Home

Read more: Are We Here Yet?

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