There is an old story that is ascribed to the Cherokee. It captures how to amplify the voices that encourage us to be the best version of ourselves and quiet the voices that spew doubt, fear, and shame.
It goes something like this.
A grandfather was walking with his grandson through the woods, sharing the wisdom he had gleaned throughout his 73 years. Holding the young boy’s hand, the old man began. “Within us,” he said, “are two wolves locked in a constant state of battle – a good wolf and a bad wolf. The good wolf represents all of the good things we seek to be: brave, honest, true, happy, and generous of spirit. The bad wolf represents greed, anger, selfishness, arrogance, hatred, and fear. Throughout our lives,” the man finished, “these two wolves will battle.”
The young boy looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which one will win?”
The grandfather replied simply, “Whichever one you feed.”
Those wolves represent the voices we all have inside of us. No one is the perfect version of themselves. No one is free from self-doubt or immune to anger or jealousy.
And every one of us is capable of joy and love and acts of generosity.
But here’s what most of us don’t do well. Most of us don’t take a step back to look – and I mean really look – at the things we do that feed our good wolf and our bad wolf and then mindfully and thoughtfully seek out the people and the things that feed the good wolf.
There are people in your life who feed your good wolf. The friends who support you and love you unconditionally. People who make you laugh, encourage you to grow and support you when you need them. And then there are people in your life who feed the bad wolf by spewing negativity and doubt and gossip.
It helps to recognize that those people are spewing that negativity because of them, not you. Perhaps they are jealous as they see you taking steps forward toward your best life. Perhaps they are so lost in their own unhappiness or challenges that they simply don’t have it in them to give.
Perhaps … well, you know what? It doesn’t matter. If there are people in your life who feed your bad wolf, you must consciously remind yourself that their issues are their issues and mindfully limit your connection with them. I’m not suggesting that you cut them out of your life entirely – though sometimes that is the best solution. But sometimes those people are members of your family, or your neighbors, or parents of your child’s best friend, people who you simply can’t cut out entirely. If you can’t remove them from your life, you must consciously refuse the treats that they offer to your bad wolf.
Consider your use of social media: is it feeding your good wolf or your bad wolf? If you are like me, and I suspect most of us, it is feeding both. It is lovely to see my cousin’s children growing up in California, exciting to learn about the movie recently produced by an old high school friend and fun to catch a meme that so perfectly captures my day. Those things feed my good wolf. But my bad wolf is fed by images of perfectly-curated lives that spur jealousy, competitors who seem to be doing “more” and succeeding faster, pounds lost, weights lifted, and money earned by “friends.” For most of us, social media feeds both wolves, and it is on us to consume it carefully and thoughtfully.
Consider how you spend your time and what you prioritize in your day. Here’s a secret: your good wolf loves to be outside – in nature. She loves to move and stretch and grow. She loves to be with people who stroke her fur. She loves to play. She loves hard work. She loves to care for her pups. She loves a den that is cozy, safe, and warm. She loves her pack. She loves fresh food and sunshine.