As I was standing in the bathroom getting ready for my work day last week, I got a text message from my mom: “Heidi do you have a minute?” Usually, if my mom sends me a text message it’s an “I love you” followed by a stream of emojis. So I, like most of us when receiving the unexpected message, assume she needs to talk about something important.
I pick up my phone and call her to see what’s up.
< Mom answers: Hi honey, I just got back from my colonoscopy and they said they found two diverticula.
< Me: Did they give you a next step?
< Mom: They diagnosed me with diverticulitis, and told me to monitor it with diet, etc…
< Me: How are you feeling about that?
< Mom: Oh I’m fine; it made me think of you and your “tummy issues.” Maybe you should get a colonoscopy.
< Me: It’s possible I might have diverticulitis, but even if I do my tummy is under control and I don’t want to put my body under unnecessary stress to be labeled with something I might not have.
< Mom: Well, maybe not now, but you will need to get one at some point.
< Me: Well, maybe at some point, but I’m not worried about that right now.
< My thoughts: why are you texting me before work to talk about something that’s not an issue for me…?
…Can you see where this story line is going?
My mother is seriously one of the sweetest, most loving people I’ve ever met (okay, maybe I’m defending her a little because I love her). She loves me to a fault — so much so that she would do anything to help me in life, especially feel better. I don’t share my health journey with very many folks because I don’t want the world feeding energy into something that I view to be temporary — “tummy issues,” etc…but she’s my mom, and I do share with her.
This means that our relationship sometimes comes with an unsolicited diagnosis based on her experiences, an article she read, or a stream of information that was captured from somewhere. This adds in information to my space that can sometimes be helpful, yes; but more often than not it’s unwanted energy trying to invade my space. I don’t want to constantly have the pictures of sickness flooding my head/energy/emotional space; I have a life to live, and I’m actually healthier more often now than I ever was as a kid.
A little backstory: I grew up being a very sick child. I was consistently not feeling well from a young age, and it took a long time to figure out what was going on. I’m sure that, as parents, this was very upsetting and frustrating to experience. I wasn’t growing like the other kids, I couldn’t regulate my body temperature, my hair was falling out, and I was lethargic all the time. After months of doctor visits, taking pills, and tons and tons of blood work, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism — at six years old. For a child, this is a highly unusual condition; typically such a disruption to someone’s hormones happens because they’re pregnant, going through menopause, or have a hormonal imbalance.
My body has always been sensitive to my environment: stress, food, you name it. Since this is all I’ve ever known, I’ve learned to work with my body’s systems so that the “I’m sick” conversation doesn’t rule my world. Which is why, even though they mean well, I don’t love hearing my family trying to diagnose or fix me.
Maybe you don’t have a WebMD family calling you before work. Maybe yours give you unsolicited career advice; or maybe they want to tell you how to manage your finances, without having the full context or narrative around what’s really going on. Whatever the subject, I’m sure people beyond your family members do this in your day-to-day.
We are constantly getting unsolicited energetic imprints like these from the world. I see an imprint as someone else trying to force their belief systems, thought processes, or their ideas on you. They’re trying to fit you into a type of box, like, if you don’t match on this level energetically, you’re not possibly relatable to another person. As if there’s a one-size-fits-all way to be, and obviously, if my mom has diverticulitis, I must, too — just because we both have digestion issues.
Unsolicited imprints can show up everywhere — in the media, our homes, on our way to work, at a happy hour with colleagues — and if we are unclear where we stand in the world, it’s easy to get persuaded to take on someone else’s agenda as your own. Their thoughts and reasoning seem so clear, after all.
It took some practice, but I am now able to be in conversations like this with my mom (or anyone else in the world) and hold my ground. I can see beyond her words, and what’s underneath them is that she cares enough to call me bright and early, trying to help me discover a way to make my life easier. I also know that making my life easier isn’t her job, so I can hear her words and choose not to take them, or the energy behind them, as my truth. I am clear on who I am and what I’m willing to stand for.
Energetic imprints are still coming at me — at all of us, really — and we can’t expect them to stop. Part of being human is a desire to be helpful and to share our experiences with others. The piece we sometimes have a hard time with is that my experience, point of view, thoughts, and opinions will always be uniquely different than those of the person in front of me. This is part of what makes us so fascinating!! No one really wants to be the same, even though we always ask if what we are going through is normal.
Even my experience and where I stand keeps changing. Like everyone, I don’t have all the answers, and I question my truth constantly. We are always growing and expanding to some capacity; what’s true for us today might change tomorrow. The more we check in, the more we can come back to ourselves and our beliefs, and the sturdier our stance will be.
I invite you to practice standing your ground. Take a minute to process what you experience and check in with yourself before you choose to take advice, suggestions, or imprints on as your own. The greatest boundary you could ever embody is being fully present with you; as you actively stay present with your truth, there is no room for others to put anything on us — unless we choose to accept it.