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The Thirteenth Question: A TEP Revelation by Lindsay Sturm

For what seems like a very long time, the potential for ‘getting it wrong’ in the eyes
of others engendered fear within me. My apparent need to be ‘right’ and ‘liked’
emanated from a fear of disappointing others. The thought process goes a little
something like this: “If I am wrong or if I fall short of a loved-one’s hopes and
expectations, then I will disappoint the person I love. When the disappointment sets
in, my loved-one will retreat from me and I will ultimately be alone. When I am
alone, I am unprotected and unsafe. Maybe I’ll even DIE!”
Out of this fear, I developed a behavior meant for self-preservation whereby I’d
share less of my true self with others and more of a variation on myself that I
thought they would prefer (what arrogance presume that I knew what others
wanted!). I affected a way of being that aimed to please. I thought that pleasing
others would bind them to me and keeping people ‘close’ was the opposite of being
alone. Conducting myself in this way achieved the same results that athletes realize
when they ignore an injury: The near-term result may enable a player to finish a
game; however greater harm ensues if the injury itself goes on ignored. Such was
the case in my efforts to keep people close to me by never being wrong. The more I
strived to please others, the less I knew of myself. I found myself seeming to
emulate others in speech, conduct, and deed. I was disconnecting from myself to
such an extent that I felt I had nothing worthwhile to give or to share. And so I
stopped. I stopped sharing about my experiences, my questions, my fears, my hopes,
etc. I stopped relating and I stopped listening and I stopped being a stand for others
because I was so consumed with myself. I seemed to have gotten lost. The paradox
in all of this maneuvering was that I’d poured my energy into preserving myself and
consequently ended up feeling alone. Fortunately, I am finding my way back……
My biggest breakthrough in the TEP program has been the realization that we are all
connected. That, by nature of our existence, none of us is alone. With this realization,
I have been able to turn my attention toward being of service to others and - in so
doing - I have reclaimed my sense of self. I am reminded of something I learned in
my freshman year history class about the “American Cincinnatus,” George
Washington. There is a statue of our nation’s first president in which he is sitting,
offering a sword with the handle turned outward, signaling his intention to share
that power with everyone. When he had reached the height of his power, he shared
it with the people and created the foundation for the freest nation in the world. By
acknowledging my own power and then sharing it with others through acts of
service, I simultaneously reclaim and share my own power with a resulting access to
deep, personal connection. Loneliness has no place where an aura and community of
service thrives. This breakthrough helps me to see that possibility exists in each and
every person including myself. My mother used to tell me that we are of very little
good to others when we don’t first love and care for ourselves. We are unable to be
100% for anyone or for anything when we are not first 100% ourselves. I’d heard er say it so many times in my life; I embraced this truth through my breakthrough
in TEP. What I know to be true now gives me access to confidence and the
knowledge that I am whole, perfect, and complete. I feel like ‘the work’ is only just
beginning and that there is no limit to the positive contributions I can make in this
life because I am not coming from a place of fear. Does fear still come up?
Absolutely. Can it still influence my actions? Yes. Do I choose fear as my guide? No.
My breakthrough returns me to choice. What I know now that I resisted before TEP
is that I AM ENOUGH. This enables me to make the distinction between being in
inquiry and seeking approval; between being curious, and ‘polling the audience’
because I want somebody to tell me that I am right. The desire to be right in me
came from a place of fear. The desire to be of service to others comes from a place of
personal power and strength. This was my breakthrough. My heat overflows with
joy when I imagine how this world can be even more beautiful with this spirit of
connection and personal power moving through each and every person.
I entitled this blog post “The Thirteenth Question” because the thirteenth
question on our TEP application was “what do you see as your biggest weakness
coming into this program?” I will simply say that I no longer stand by the answer
that I wrote down to that question. To the TEP program and this process, I offer my
sincerest gratitude.
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