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It is also possible, and in fact not at all uncommon, that a successful person may attribute a great deal of positive characteristics to someone whose influence at the time was entirely negative or destructive, yet the person accommodated or adapted that negative experience in a healthful and positive way. In other words, some of the jerks in your life may have actually toughened you up; they may have made you work hard to escape and in the process you may have come to appreciate meaningful alternatives. I'm not saying, See - it was all worth it. It builds character, you should thank them! That is absolutely untrue. Cruelty and pain are not legitimate teaching tools, no matter how tough or committed they may have made you. What I am saying is that the problems certain pivotal people may have inflicted on you may have, over time, tested and refined some of your finest qualities and brought them to the surface. The "tuition" was likely way too high, but if this is the case in your life and you found a way to create value from the pain, then maybe you have found meaning in your suffering. We are all sensitive beings but some of us are more sensitive than others. Sometimes we don't even realise what this means, or how to care for ourselves. Instead we berate ourselves for being weak, overly emotional, too soft, possibly even consider ourselves unequipped for relationships and experiences of all kinds! Feeling this way we might retreat and wrap ourselves in cotton wool, concerned about surviving life's knocks both great and small. Yet this is no way to live life to the fullest. We can be highly sensitive people but nurture our sparkles in a way that we feel protected, strengthened and guided by our sensitivity, rather than hindered or weakened by it. Highly sensitive people move through life picking up on the energy of people, places and things with a particular immediacy and intensity. Intuitive, compassionate and empathic, they can often sense how others are thinking and feeling. They feel the energy of places, sometimes even picking up on stories past, present and future. When those around them are sad or unwell, highly sensitive people feel along with, or even take on the states of, others: a lived reality that can become very tiring and confusing for a highly sensitive person. It can become very difficult for highly sensitive people to feel their personal boundaries - to discern where their own thoughts and feelings end and others' begin. Clearly, expectation is more than just a word, but the root of this designation is defined by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as "a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future," and "a belief that someone will or should achieve something." Expectation is the impetus for performing an action, for the purpose of achievement.

Without expectation, people are purposeless and adrift in the sea of life. Let's examine how expectations shape people's lives. Imagine parents who set effort-based expectations for their children. They expect their children will apply themselves and study hard to achieve educational goals; the parents hope their children will bring home As and Bs. After all, they recognize that good grades lead to better opportunities, such as entry into top-tier colleges and more rewarding jobs. Notice how expectation can spark and amplify action; remember the butterfly effect. Setting high expectations can catalyze a whole chain of events. Conversely, low expectations, or having no expectations at all, invariably leads to a vicious, downward spiral. Once you consider how central expectations are in shaping your life, you can appreciate how important they are. In short, it is a far-reaching concept that has widespread implications for your life and the way you conduct it. When you understand not only the meaning of expectations but how they nourish both your outlook and outcomes, then you have acquired one of the most valuable tools for your life. Your brain is constantly working, even when you're not actively thinking. Apart from managing all the vital functions of your body, the brain also scans every piece of information that comes in. The brain compares it with other information that it has already stored. Your brain searches for similarities and differences between that information. That's how we think and use our brain to come up with new ideas. Just a basic understanding of how my brain works helps me to understand how I can nurture it. I don't worry about finding a direct application for information I acquire. I feed my brain with knowledge that I'm curious about. And that diverse information might be stored in different networks, but as long as I connect the dots later, I'm okay with that.

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. If you want the dots to connect in the future, you have the make sure you form dots in your brain. The only way you form dots is by learning, doing, making mistakes, reflecting, or anything you can do to feed your brain with the input it needs to give you the output you want. It's important to honor the years that you wore a mask. What can be healing is to write about what you learned during this period of time. What is the meaning now of those years? Look at yourself compassionately. What did you need to learn or experience? Why is now the time when you've chosen to unveil yourself? It's also important to consider how this life-altering work might not have been possible before. Maybe your support system is better, your kids are older, or you've gotten through a rough few years. Perhaps you've gained in maturity. Continue from Reflection 43, Allowing My Grief to Emerge, and work through the emotions that these questions bring. Hopefully, you've gained a lot of insight in the prior stages. Maybe you've even risked voicing more of your feelings or saying no to a request. Congratulations if that's the case! But if not, that's okay as well. Everyone's journey will be different. Yet hope doesn't emerge solely from insight.

That's why risking is so important. Hope comes when you see your actual choices and behavior change in the present, when you can put your head on your pillow at night and realize, I did something today that I never thought I could do. Your grief, however palpable, can begin to be healed--because you can see yourself changing. You have proof that you can stop covering up, and each new risk leads to more freedom. Who are the five pivotal people in your life? Who are the five people who shaped the self-concept that controls your life today, both positive and negative? Who has written on the "slate of you"? As you think about this question, it may be helpful to look back at the writing that you did for the previous chapters on defining moments and critical choices. Your answers there may instantly reveal who belongs on your list of five pivotal people. If not, perhaps the mental associations or connections that are triggered by those writings call some names to mind. You may find this exercise will be a breeze; you may have a hard time limiting yourself to just five names. Alternatively, you may find it very difficult to come up with that many. Wherever you find yourself, though, remember who you're looking for: These are people who have played a unique and substantial role in creating the person you are today. Think of them as five individual links in the long chain that leads to who you are, at this moment, as you read this paragraph. Every link in that chain is a critical element of it. In other words, if any one of these five people were to be removed from that chain, the you at the end of that chain today would be someone substantially different, a person you might not even recognize. Bright lights, loud, overwhelming people and sounds, crowds and confrontation are just some things that can ruffle a highly sensitive soul, causing feelings of stress and overwhelm. While some of us enjoy noise and chaos, life can simply feel too loud, too bright and too nerve-racking at times for those of us who are highly sensitive. Sometimes we don't even know why we feel so emotional, tired or overcome in certain situations, but we do. We feel life deeply on all levels.

Highly sensitive souls are called to practise extra self-care in daily life and honour their spirit's calls to feel safe and grounded. Extra rest and downtime is very important for highly sensitive people, who are mostly introverted by nature. Unlike extroverts who recharge their batteries through socialising and adventurous action, introverts replenish their energy by going within and taking quiet time out to rest their minds, bodies and spirits. Soothing mindfulness meditations, self-strengthening positive affirmations and protective visualisations are particularly supportive for highly sensitive people, bringing balance to both their mindset and nervous system. Mindful awareness of triggering situations such as crowded environments, overbearing personalities, horrifying movies or devastating news footage can help the highly sensitive person to take appropriate and necessary measures to comfort and support themselves in daily life. Limiting or avoiding exposure to such influences while maintaining a sense of connection to others and to life is essential. Exploring the protective, strengthening powers of crystals such as citrine, hematite and black tourmaline can be most helpful, along with essential oils including grounding frankincense on the soles of the feet, or lavender oil applied to the wrists in times of stress. Flower essences and homeopathic remedies may also provide extra comfort and support for the highly sensitive soul when needed, and are a joy to discover. We can never assume to understand exactly how somebody else sees or feels in the world. Being honest with ourselves and others about our feelings can help us to design lives that support our unique personalities and spirits. Be respectful of yourself as a highly sensitive person, or of highly sensitive people with whom you share your world. Highly sensitive people can sparkle very brightly and, with the right nurturing, may experience and share their immense wisdom, light and love. Think for a moment about the origins of expectations. According to the Christian worldview, God made Adam and Eve, and he expected them to tend to the planet and the animals upon it. Additionally, they were not to eat the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Good and Evil. This is the first example of expectations. It is from God that people first get a sense of purpose through his expectations for them. Of course, it is important to note that God is above expectations; according to the Amplified Version of the Bible, he is able to do "superabundantly, far and above, all that we dare ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). Expectations are shaped by faith, open-mindedness, and creativity.