“When someone shows you who they are…

…believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou

First time.  That’s the part that got me.  It didn’t feel spacious or gracious.  It was a zero-tolerance policy I wasn’t yet familiar with.  Or, more truthfully, I didn’t yet feel deserving enough to enforce.  But that’s a-changing…

I was seated in the Arie Crown Theater of the McCormick Place (America’s largest convention center, BTW.  Go Chicago!).  This special event happened sometime in the ’90s (memory blur… anybody out there remember the exact date?), and it was created so Oprah could share her steps to success with a large, live crowd.  Yes, of course, we all got great goodie bags, but I digress.

At some point in her presentation, Oprah shared the above quote from her friend and mentor Maya Angelou“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” It stung me when she said it.  The truth of it was so sharp, it actually cut me a little.

Which is a far better cut to endure, I’m learning, than if you don’t heed that strong advice.

If you fail to believe a person when they show you who they are the first time, you sign up for a lengthy ride where you hope to be surprised.  But aren’t.

So you knew all along that whatever that thing you saw — that red-flag… that Twilight-Zone episode that you lived… that spontaneous breakdown in the bathroom — had always been there.  But you chose to be blinded by optimism.

Or, the other way it can work, is that your Future/Higher self sees the Real Deal, but your At-That-Moment self hadn’t grown there yet.  (Translation:  What you think is wonderlicious in 2009 might start to smell sour and rancid in 2011.)

So if you took a job or, heck, even a marriage that you had some reservations about, but you went forward with anyway, only to later find that your first hunch was correct, if I may add a little honey to Maya’s strong tea:  Do not fret.  Nothing was wasted. Remember, you can’t break your life.  When you went forward with that choice, it matched who you were at that time.  And the teeny-tiny-oh-so-polite pause you felt was your Essence (the part of you that is eternal) giving a gentle heads-up that you could eventually evolve or grow beyond that circumstance.

Some of us hasten toward that evolutionary growth.  Some of us stunt it entirely.

However we choose to proceed is just fine.  What matters is that we make the choice consciously, because that will relieve the frustration and resentment that comes with playing small, and the fear and vulnerability that comes with playing big.

Two cents on a Sunday afternoon.

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17 Responses to ““When someone shows you who they are…”

  1. Erika Harris Says:

    P.S. I’ve been intentional about blending earth and cosmic energies. Earth energy gives roots, stability and strong-standing. Cosmic energy gives wings, movement and big-vision. Writing this post felt like a blending of the two. Yay!

  2. Joanne Light Says:

    Dear Erika,

    Thank you for your guidance via Maya Angelou via Oprah Winfrey. I can see by way of what you articulate so well that being stuck in that small self can be exacerbated by having a parent mentor about whom my higher self always had reservations. WIth that force that was supposed to be totally believable but always gave me the pause of which you speak, I learned the bad habit of “stuckness”. In other words that seminal experience of “other” as something not to be trusted became the familiar so, to break away from that unconscious interpretation and see that pause as a sign to move away, takes a whole new alien thrust. It becomes very confusing to differentiate that signal when, for so long, it was the very opposite need that prevented my being from understanding what that signal signified. I’m getting that that blinded optimism is the child ego state that keeps the adult stuck with young self thinking.

    For me right now, that blind optimism took me to a job in an isolated aboriginal community in Northern Labrador (in the sub arctic of Canada) where my supervisors are imbeciles (That description might seem a harsh indictment but it’s the truth.) and are derailing the school with their lack of experience and inability to organize to the point where no teaching/learning can take place because some out-of- control students are in control. I often overlook all my reasonable doubts because of financial problems and a quest to become more stabilized in this regard and also professionally (trying to ply my trade as an art teacher), Now my health–physical,mental, emotional and spiritual– is fragile to the point of not knowing how I can get out of here. I have this attraction to be of service as the needs are so great. I spent the week-end with a project I envisioned and carried out to teach three Innu women to make “Best Ever Thin Crust Pizza” so they could start a small business making this recipe of crust and sauce using caribou as the meat. They said no one had ever taught them how to cook anything. I couldn’t believe it.

    But I’m off work with no pay on Dr.’s orders so I don’t if I should stay here and go on sick leave benefits from the government and volunteer to teach cooking to girls in the community through a leadership building organization and hope the school administration will change (Four teachers have left permanently or temporarily on stress leave.) or just get out of here, go to emergency at the hospital in Halifax and ask the health professionals to help me figure out how to mend my burn out.

  3. meorthethoughtofme Says:

    wow. i think i may need tp print this one out and re-read a few times. i can so relate to this.

  4. Peter Says:

    Erika, that’s really a beautiful story about growth; about YOUR journey!

    This caught my eye, because it’s one of my all-time favorite quotes. I think I came across it maybe 15 years ago… and I remember thinking “Yeah, I wish I’d realized this, sooner.” But, like you, I pondered how it felt a bit harsh.

    But then I looked at the deeper meaning. What does this REALLY say? To me, it said (and says) several things:

    “Trust yourself.”
    “I have the right to CHOOSE.”
    “I am worthy.”

    It also invites us not to slide into the world of co-dependency and magical thinking. In a sense, to “play the percentages.” If you see what looks like a red car pass by… is it more likely that it really IS red? Or that a freak ray of sun bounced off a red tinted highrise window and temporarily made a white car APPEAR red?

    I’ll share a small story… my ex “showed me who she was,” but I didn’t believe her. Now, the was/is a wonderfully creative and interesting person, don’t get me wrong. But (I think the very first time we were out together) she exhibited *some* “road rage” and later was very short with several sales people at stores we went in. She SHOWED me “I have anger issues,” but I did not “believe” her. Many painful and frustrated years later, she still had a fiery temper… and I realized that MY problem wasn’t “her temper,” but MY belief that I could “fix it.”

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this! I think this is a PARTICULARLY poignant message for Sensitive People… aside from simply being sensitive and empathic, we often have considerable “ego investments” in “being tolerant” and “being compassionate of other points of view.” But that can work to our detriment, too.

    • LifeBlazing Says:

      Peter, thank you for such a mindful response! I love the thorough way you sift through things. Your sifting makes my flour finer :-)

      I love, also, the realization that so often our frustration really isn’t with the “other” person… but rests, rather, in our disappointment that — as you said — we couldn’t fix things.

      And even though I truly believe nothing is wasted, I’d really prefer to not spend any more time than absolutely necessary composting life-lessons. LOL. So, if a deal-breaking red-flag appears in month 2, don’t wait ’til year 2 to heed it.

      Thanks, again, for shining your light here, Peter.

  5. Jeannie Says:

    I followed you through from a magnificent comment that you made elsewhere. This post struck me (not that they all didn’t!). This post IS my life. I’m currently involved, at the back end thankfully, in something that has been ongoing and intolerable. While I can look back and see how it absolutely matched who I was at the time, and I got some serious gifts from the Universe out of the deal, I am still dealing with the nonsense, and I can’t quite pinpoint why I’m still attracting this experience into my life. I LOVE LOVE LOVE what you said about my higher self seeing the real deal. I’ve discussed that with myself and friends on occasion. I mean YOU are on it! I could write for hours about this, but I just wanted you to know that your words, on many different pages, have touched me today and it feels good to have stumbled across your presence. Love to you!

    • Erika Harris Says:

      Your kind words have touched me, Jeannie! It’s a relief and gift to know we’re in community with all this stuff… we don’t have to schlep along feeling isolated about things that are, in fact, very universal. I’m thrilled by your visit. And your heart. Much love to you too, new friend :-)

  6. Sarah Says:

    Great post, this is so true. I need to trust my intuition; I am so aware of it, I just do not always listen. My fear traps me so often and I don’t see where I am until I am in the thick of it. Thank you for the reminder.

  7. Michele Spector Says:

    This is so true, from someone who was married once. I think I was in love with potential, or my own projections, but saw, and chose to ignore the tipoff for whatever reason–fear maybe Thanks for this one. Lesson learned.

    • LifeBlazing Says:

      “I think I was in love with potential…”

      Sometimes seeing a person’s greatness (even when they don’t) actually arouses it from them. Brings it forth. I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of love and it’s amazing.

      But, when the potential and greatness continue to slumber, it’s a real drag. A true let-down. Most days I feel the risk is worth it. The day I wrote this post was not one of them :-)

  8. Lorri Says:

    I’m finding this too late, but love it so much. Have read it over and over and over again. It gives me strength. What wonderful words, Erika.

    I’m just now climbing off that “lengthy ride” where I was hoping to be surprised…and wasn’t.

    My heart aches. Thank to you and all the other comments givers here for supporting me, even if you didn’t know you were.

    Now it’s time to work on me, before I get in line for any more rides.

  9. Deidre Says:

    Being in love with potential seemed to govern my early years. Maya’s words ring so true to me in my 40’s.

  10. Deb Says:

    Erika …. Doing a web search on Maya’s quote brought me to this awesome post of yours. The heartfelt and insightful comments just add depth and dimension to your words !!!!

    A work of ART … with words :)

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