To Be Human

imageTo be human is to know that we are imperfect and whole: we will hurt and be hurt; we will feel disappointed and will disappoint; we will stumble and fall and get back up again. To be human is to remember that this being human is an experiment without a goal or destination but with a plan that includes learning about love at its center. 

To be human is to love awkwardly and without skill, for how can we practice that which we never learned or saw? We will sit with our partner in a cesspool of pain and silent confusion and have no idea how to climb out. We will feel connected and alive and then disconnected and alone. We will doubt and exhale, find peace and forget again. This is what it is to love another with hearts that have been hurt and souls that have not yet learned how to love fully. 

To be human is to feel uncomfortable even with the people we love most in the world. 

To be human is to forget to connect to gratitude, to forget to take care of ourselves, to forget to pray. Perhaps we spend more time forgetting than remembering, which makes those brief dips into the sparkling pool of remembering ever more delicious and divine. 

To be human is to grow towards an acceptance of paradox and widen our capacity to tolerate uncertainty until we say “I don’t know” more often than “I know.” 

To be human is to struggle. Eventually we realize that when we sit under the umbrella of “shoulds” – this shouldn’t be so hard, I should be happy – the pain rains down harder. But when we accept the fact that struggle is part of the design we step out into the rain and perhaps even dance a little. 

To be human is to grieve even when we don’t know why we’re grieving, to feel afraid even when we don’t know why we’re scared, and to feel joyful even when we don’t know the source of our joy.

To be human is to make mistakes, and sometimes this means that we will hurt others, whether our closest loved ones or people we’ve never met. To be human is to say “I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me” as we dance a dance of closeness and pain, remorse and forgiveness, rupture and repair.

To be human is to experience times of ease and flow alternating with times of struggle. When we identify too closely with the struggle we fall into despair. When we attach too deeply into ease we slip into hubris. Just as the petals of the tulip open and close with the rising and setting sun, so we open and close, float and fight along this river of life. 

To be human is to long to be seen with the perfect attunement of a new mother, and yet to know that there is no such thing as perfect attunement. In moments of clarity and wisdom, we remember that the only perfect seeing comes from our relationship to Source, the Divine, the One Beyond. In those loving and invisible arms, we are seen, known, and loved.

To be human is to have hidden caverns inside the labyrinth of psyche, shadowlands that you cannot see or know until you’re cracked open, and from the fissure the light floods in and illuminates the shadow, causing what lives below to fly up into consciousness.

To be human is to realize that your partner also has these shadow-regions, places of darkness that you cannot see or know in the beginning or even for years until one day he or she is cracked open and the furies fly to the surface, asking to be known, asking to be loved into healing.

To be human is to have blind spots. No matter how much we delve into the interior realms, there will always be places we cannot see ourselves. This is why the most honest and courageous question we can ask a trusted loved one is, “What am I not seeing?” And when the blind spots are illuminated, we sing a song of gratitude that another veil of illusion and mis-seeing has been lifted.

To be human is to age. The fine lines in your 30s will deepen to creases in 40s and 50s and beyond. Because we live in a culture that erases the lines, we’re forgetting that our lines tell the stories of our lives. Look, that’s when I laughed so hard that I cried. Look, that’s when I cried so hard I crumpled into silence. And where are the silver-haired women? They’re being dyed out of the culture, so fierce is our fight against time. What we don’t often see is that with aging comes wisdom, with time comes acceptance, and with the shortening of days comes the lengthening of gratitude. 

To be human is to serve, whether it’s the patch of earth outside your dwelling, the furry creature at your feet, the people with whom you share a home, or in a broader, more public context. One form of serving isn’t superior to any other. When the service overflows from the waters in our well of Self, we connect to the source and to a place of meaning. As Jane Goodall says, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

To be human is to connect to every other being on the planet, not just through information but through the brain of the heart that opens with strength and courage until the young limp boy being carried from the water in the arms of an aching soldier is my son and his mother is my sister and from across all the seas and lands of this vast yet small planet she collapses in my arms and I hold her there, the grief of my prayers catching her in an invisible blanket. 

To be human is to love and be loved as best we can, and to remove the barriers that prevents us from loving fully and freely so that we can bring our love into the world that so desperately needs us.

60 comments to To Be Human

  • John Lee

    Such blessed words Sheryl. Thank you for putting so much of what I feel into perspective.

  • JayBee

    I thought of your words today, not this blog but previous ones you’ve written, as I hiked with my husband feeling awkward and frustrated. I told myself that it was OK. I don’t need to feel connected every second. And if I don’t, then it is not the end. Thank you as always for this reminder. I’m going to sit with this some more and figure out what my damn ego is trying to shield me from!

    • It’s trying to protect you from getting hurt; that’s it in a nutshell. A helpful question to ask when you’re exploring root causes is, “How have I been hurt? What are my most painful memories.”

  • Joanna

    Beautiful article Sheryl as always. Today I found myself saying “I should be happy, why am I not happy?” But then I remembered it’s ok to feel this way and I don’t have to feel any certain way as I am human and I am full of emotion and ups and downs. I breathed into this feeling and let it go.

  • Britt

    At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. ~Albert Schweitzer

    You’re amazing, Sheryl. I am truly thankful for you. As I sat at the table with my family this past holiday, I made sure everyone knew how amazing you are. You’re such an inspiration. Thank You. ?

    Sending Love to you and your family.?

  • Elizabeth Sherman

    Sheryl, thank you thank you thank you. This deeply touched me. You brilliantly summed up why it is we are here and what we are meant to be and do. We are so blessed to have your light on this earth to help us find our way! Love and light.

  • Mswonderful

    This was great… thank you sheryl

  • agnes

    I look forward to your posts every week, Sheryl. There isn’t a day where I am practising this work. Thank you.

    ”Eventually we realize that when we sit under the umbrella of “shoulds” – this shouldn’t be so hard, I should be happy – the pain rains down harder.”

    I am doing this all the time. I’ve realised my running commentary is something along the lines of ‘you’re a bad person’, as I’m constantly feeling a pressure to give more more more – npt giving enough love to my family, my partner, my friends, myself. Too selfish. Emotionally inept; never feeling things at the right moment. I also notice a rejection within me when I behave in a loving way with friends (I’m trying to be a more loving person in general, trying to find my way back to my sensitivity). I don’t really want to give it to anyone but my partner and family, I don’t think. Perhaps I worry that opening myself up would mean my love for my closest ones will be diluted

    I also recognise a part of me is satisfied to feel bad about myself, like it’s where I belong. Feeling that I am bad is a very comfortable place.

    Anyway, I’ll keep trying.

  • Angela

    I do believe we that aging gracefully with full acceptance. My mother use to colour her greys and I would tell her leave the grey hairs you ought to be proud of, so now she leaves her greys. I have a few greys and im proud of them thats what it means to be human. I do have these unwanted thoughts and i know there not real, but it feels so real. Im human its ok not getting sucked into the old habit of believing it. Its fear, i have a curious mind, what i have heard from my mum saying in the past, still is with me. How do i get rid of that horrible thing she said to me. Im to embarrassed to share this with you Sheryl?I have never been the same ever since. Im trying to get it out of mind but it haunts me from time to time.

  • eshee

    “To be human is to feel uncomfortable even with the people we love most in the world.”

    With thanks as always Sheryl. This sentence alone gives me permission today to be a little more at ease with myself.

  • Angela

    What she said to me years back was so hurtful and insensitive. I feel she was wrong with her accusation. Maybe she was having a bad day i dont know. It was totally not necessary to make that judgement of me. I gave her no reason to say something like that. I have questioned myself am i the way she says i am. Of course not

    • The work is to time travel back to that conversation with your inner loving parent so that you can talk to that young girl, let her have her feelings, and tell her the truth over and over and over again.

  • Paola

    What a wonderful post and full of compassion! Really needed to hear something like that. I’m doing the break free from relationship anxiety course, but I had to take a break. I think that my anxiety is a messenger for the light depression I have experienced frequently while growing up, and the ability to not trust myself. Thanks to your work, I have grown enormously emotionally these past months, and have better understanding. I’m not HSP, (according to my therapist I actually have a strong psych), but there is so much a person can take. I had a stressful and chaotic childhood, therefor I learned to isolate myself from my feelings and just swallow them. I also know how cruel and cold the world can be. So in a way, being in a safe place with a loving person is sometimes difficult for me. Having relationship anxiety and depression at the same time is not easy, but I’m trying to be kind to myself and have self-compassion. That’s why your post was such a blessing.


    • I’m glad the post was helpful, Paola. Just to be clear, highly sensitive people often have a very solid inner core, so one doesn’t preclude the other. In any case, the skills and tools that you’re learning through the course and in therapy are the same regardless of how we identify our personality type: to move toward those painful and difficult feelings so that we can shift out of the vortex of head space. Keep going!

  • Raphaëla

    This is exactly what I needed. The words of compassion and acceptance I was struggling to formulate for myself. And it reminded me that my relationship with my lovely partner is an adventure, a discovery with its ups and downs and light and darkness. THANK YOU Sheryl !

  • Emma

    Hello Sheryl

    I just wanted to thank you for this piece of writing. Today I feel so sad, so heavy, after feeling so disconnected during a weekend spent with my closest friend. The desperation to feel connected, to feel one, but to no avail, can feel so panic inducing. So it feels extraordinary that this would come into my inbox today.Thanks to you, I realize that these shadowy days are part of me, part of my experience. And I need to allow them to move through me. To feel disconnected is to be human. Its okay. It doesn’t make me a bad person. Thank you for your words.

    • Yes, all of the parts are okay! We all have shadow, we all disconnect, we all struggle. The more we can accept that, the more we can shift into acceptance, and with acceptance comes more peace.

  • thank you

    God Bless You Sheryl.

    Thank you a million times over for the work you’ve done and time and space you set to share your wisdom with us. You’re one of the all time greats. Thank you

  • Abby

    Wow. This is so beautifully written. I just signed up for your Break Free course, after completing your last round of Open Your Heart, and this post reminded me exactly why I need to be doing this work. Every word rang true and made me feel content. It’s not often I can escape the seas of anxiety, and when I do, it usually swings the pendulum the other way into complete gratitude filled with tears. But this feeling I get when I read this, sitting here in my kitchen, is of utmost contentment. I feel that I am okay. Thank you Sheryl, for your words and your work.

  • Heartchakra

    Just beautiful, Sheryl. And I love the mention about wrinkles. Wouldn’t it be so lovely if we lived in a society that honored them as a map of our lives – to be celebrated and worn like a badge rather than the site for some Botox? Sigh. Sending lots of love to you and to all of your readers.

  • Soumya

    Dearest Sheryl,

    Thank you for being the voice for us human beings. As I read ‘to be human’, I didn’t know where your writing ended and where my soul’s expression began. I have never experienced being human captured more gracefully, and lovingly. I thank tre day I came across your voice. Keep sharing your beautiful insights.

    Lotsa love,

  • Akiko

    Hi Sheryl…
    But how much of mistakes and how far should we accept?
    So hard to forgive someone that makes the same mistake over an over…
    I do truly enjoy reading your wise posts. They always make me reflect 🙂
    Thank you for dedication and thank you for sharing your talent!

  • Newly Married

    My husband and I had made the commitment to be honest and clear with each other and I m so spiked with him and untrusting that when he is not clear or changes the story about something i just loose all trust again in him!! I don’t know what to do anymore I feel so anxious and spiked that i want to run away, i feel like i car be like this, he used a lot of mind games and jealousy games always and it just get me to not trust him and the more he did it themorei would feel like he was just playing with me and now even though he tries i dont know what to do, i m so scared and desperate and in the flight mode that its horrible!!!

  • Newly Married

    He has changed alot and seems to be committed to being honest he is a good guy and our relationship is great but those things he would do and our past history spike me so so much because i m afraid!!! I dont want to go but ifeel so flight and spiked that i even get anxiety atacks and whenhe is still not clear about things or changes the story about something my anxiety goes tothe top horribly

  • Choosing Presence

    Hi Sheryl,

    I know some of your practices you have mentioned in staying present are journaling, prayer, and meditation, but I was wondering if you had any further suggestions in staying connected to ourselves and then staying connected to our loved ones around us? Also, do you have suggestions about how to do inner healing and work individually?

  • R

    Sheryl, you are so wise and poetic. Thank you for this and all the wisdom you provide us through your writings. This is particularly beautiful. I hope to someday formulate and express my thoughts so eloquently.

    • I think you just did ;). Your comment below is full of wisdom and beauty, and the self-loving action of staying in bed and allowing the emotions to be there before starting your day can be life-changing. This is so beautiful:

      “To allow sadness actually makes me happier or maybe more alive.”

  • R

    I too wrote in a journal just today about our American culture seemingly forcing happiness and forever ecstatic joy on all of us. That if we aren’t bubbling over the brim with ecstasy, we are spoiled, clinically depressed, unpleasant to be around, and need to make overhauling changes in our lives. The forcing of happiness onto all of us is exactly why many of us deal with depression and anxiety. The culture says, something is wrong. Friends say you need to cheer up and just have fun. What’s wrong? Let’s fix everything!

    While we can still acknowledge that we have it pretty good compared to the majority of the world, we are human, and that involves ranges in emotion. Americans need to allow for sadness in their lives. Instead we drown it with partying, alcohol, 60 hour work weeks, never-ending socializing and events, never quiet for more than sleep allows for.

    I’ve found during these transitory times of year like Fall when the light changes and the added pressure of Holidays, I go into a funk. Nothing terrible, but just down. I feel a weight, I feel pressured to be 10, when I just want to be a 7 on energy and happiness levels.

    I’ve found this year, rather than fight it, to allow myself 30 minutes in bed in the dark under the covers, allowing the weight to be there, and just letting it settle into me, does wonders. It’s not a cure, it’s just allowing space for real raw emotion in my life. I simply notice and acknowledge whatever is causing me to feel this way. However trivial it may seem, or however impossible to overcome it may seem, I just allow it to exist. After a moment, I can get out of bed, and go on with my day or evening. To allow sadness actually makes me happier or maybe more alive.

  • Stéphanie

    Thanks sheryl, you are such an inspiration and you help me stay grounded and focus on the reality of my feelings. I just realised how much Hollywood is selling us ideas of love that are not always complete. As humains, we experience the bright, the grey zone and the dark side of everything. I will need to stay true and have more compassion for myself as I experience such feelings as love.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Sheryl,
    I found an article of yours on the fear of loss and the “stories” the brain creates to protect us from loss. I knew the thoughts I was having were a fear of loss but I couldn’t work out how to see past them! Your article was like a light bulb switching on, suddenly I could see these intrusive thoughts clearly! Your article and posts since I found this a few months ago, have helped me immeasurably. Thank you for these.
    I lost my mum when I was 4 years old and then my older brother when I was 15, and my family and early life was chaotic to say the least. I had counselling for many years which has helped me and I married the most amazing man 7 years ago, and even though I’d been suffering with what I know now was relationship anxiety caused by fear of loss, we have a wonderful marriage.
    I am however still really struggling with connection at times, but mainly self acceptance, I realized a that I felt huge guilt when my mum died. My Nan (on my mums side) died recently and the guilt that came up was such an old feeling I sort of recognized it, I felt like I should have saved her (my mum), that maybe she “left” because I was bad or too much that my feelings are too much, I know now that I have lived in my head managing “feelings” constantly so not to lose that way again. I know logically it wasn’t my fault, she died of cancer, as did my brother! But I am struggling to see myself, deep down as OK and finding it hard to feel safe in my emotions and feelings and to stop the whirring of thoughts that intrude if I go to let my feelings come up to the surface. I try to sit with them but I fall into the analyzing spiral very easily and I just get lost sometimes and end up with a lump in my throat that can be persistent. I know I need to see myself in a different light and not as bad or “too much” just not sure how sometimes. I think this is self love that I am finding difficult.
    Anyway thank you again for your posts they really do help, a lot.

  • Newly Married

    What do you do when all you feel towards your partner is anger, resentment and fear, this due to behaviors that occurred in the past and again once we got married?
    He has stopped that and yes we are great together, but I feel as if he just was playing with my feelings to feed his ego and to be hurtful, he is owning his mistakes and he says he did them out of insecurities and feeling shameful and his ego. He used a lot of jealousy games, he would tell me hurtful things like he was just fooling around with me and that I was not his priority and other hurtful things, then he would tell me he loved me, this happened again before we got married in 2009 then we stopped seeing eachother because he pushed me away, he says cause he dint want to hurt me or get me involved in things he was doing and he behaved like that for jealousy and insecurities and shames.
    We got married and I was very anxious because I think one factor was that I didnt trust him, but I loved him and I game him a second chance we were more marture now he was 31 and I was 29, we were quite young when he behaved like a jerk, 26 and 24 me.
    But then again he continued with he jealousy games until I latterly exploded and he confessed it was just that he would make up stories, lies to get information out of me, for me to open up about my sex life and about my past and to see if I still loved him.
    Now I dont trust even more, I am angry and hurt and resentful for all he did and how he behaved. I am jealous and insecure, I am so jealous that he left and accepted another woman back, the one he used to hurt me, he says she was nothing and they had nothing although she lived in his house but they had no relationship, she was just there they would not even have sex ever at all, but he lied so much that I dont know what to think, I feel he even never loved me.
    He is amazing and we work great together as a relationship, he now understands that doing those things just cause problems and realizes how immature he was and owns his mistakes and says he was just an idiot, closed up, afraid and shameful to show me who he truly was and what he was doing at the time, being in gangs and stuff and he didnt want me to know about it, thats why he pushed me away and behaved like that and because he loved me.
    Please please someone help me, anyone who can give me an advice.

  • Nikki

    Oh Sheryl- such eloquent heartfelt words with such depth and truth in them. Thank you for the courageous work you do every day in your family and in the world. These words are synchronistically timed for me as my heart and soul have been tilled and it’s all landing on fertile soil.

  • Jean

    As many have said, this very much puts me at ease. Knowing it’s okay is what I crave to hear from people. I’m having trouble still however. I feel like I understand the “why” and have mapped out traumatic events that lead to why I have this idea that one day all love fails.. And in my true self I know that is just not true, yet I continue to get sucked in. As soon as I’m feeling content, negative thoughts knock at the door and distort my views once again. I wish I could listen to myself, and truly understand and believe that feeling disconnected is okay and it does not mean it’s the end. I tend to feel that by looking inward I’m “ignoring a problem in our relationship” yet absolutely nothing is wrong – it’s truly a strong and healthy relationship.

  • zennoubia

    Lovely ! Thank you !

  • Silver

    Does being rejected in the past can subconsciously affect my present relationship? I keep saying to myself that I’m not enough, I can’t accept compliments from others. I keep distancing myself to my partner. I’m slowly understanding that I don’t want to marry her and not deeply into her. Cause it feels so real.

  • Katie

    Hi Sheryl,

    Just thought i’d get your advice on courses, I moved in with my boyfriend 3 months ago, and it’s been a rollercoaster, me and him have been amazing, everything is so easy with him! However my fear is unbearable, my anxiety has gone from panic attacks about me “needing to leave” to major fear of the future. I used to really want to get married until i read Osho’s post on marriage (highly recommend anyone suffering from anxiety to not read it) and now i question if i want marriage and that gives me great anxiety because I don’t want to change into someone who doesn’t want to get married. I’ve done so much research into spirituality and stuff and its just made my fears of losing my partner even stronger, like i feel like something will take him from me in the future, or i’ll have to leave like my mum left my dad and broke our family. He told me last night (because he couldn’t stop crying about it) he had a dream i died before he asked me to marry him and i hurt so bad seeing him hurt and i just can’t get loss out of my head, I journaled with my inner child and she says ” whats the point in opening up to love when its only going to hurt and the same thing will happen again”. We’ve stopped having sex because i have no desire, I’m so shut down. i’m 20 in my final year at university and we are only in this house for 11 months, and i have no idea what i want to do with my life or where i’ll need to go to get training everything in the future is so uncertain, i think after moving out of mum and dads this year and the uncertainty of next year has really made me numb, closed off, alone. I also looked into numerology and it said my first husband will die, how can i marry this amazing man if i’ve been told he will die. Even if there is no truth to numerology, if anything happened i will blame myself of course i would.

    Just wondering if you have any advice,

    best wishes

  • Katie

    I have been struggling with relationship anxiety for awhile. I’m in a lovin two year relationship with the best man. Lately I get this random thought in my head, “I wanna break up.” I immediately reject it because I know it to be false. However, I keep obsessing over it and lately I’ve been getting so terrified it’s true that I begin to cry.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Sheryl,
    First, I want to say to you that youre blog have greatly improve my relationship anxiety. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 1 year and a half now and we are in a long-distance relationship. Recently I have been spiked by this article :
    I have had a low self esteem since I was bullied in school. I have never truly recovered and gain self confidence, but recently, my low self esteem got worse since I started being bullied in college (I’m 20 years old). I feel so humiliated due to the fact that I’m hated that much from my peers, and it makes me believe that it is my fault that I’m bullied (I mean, most people stop being bullied after leaving high school, why am I so different?). I’m constantly searching for approval. Anyways, back to the article that spiked me. I felt extremely triggered by this quote from the article: “No matter what they say, they don’t truly love you. They love what you represent and what you can give—a better future, a higher status in society, a trophy to show off to their friends, or simply someone to assure them of their self-worth and attractiveness”. The reason it spiked me so much is because I sometimes like to imagine myself walking with my boyfriend, holding hands, in front of my bullies or in front of other people just to show them that “see, at least I’m in a happy relationship!!” This article spiked me so much and I really hope it isn’t true that I don’t truly love my boyfriend or that our relationship is doomed to fail. I mean I have no problem to stop having this “fantasy” and to stop having such a low self esteem if it means that our relationship won’t fail ! I also feel so ashamed of my low self esteem and I wish I could just be “normal” (without relationship anxiety, without ocd, with a higher self esteem) I’m so scared that the reality is that I’m just “using” my boyfriend to have a “perfect future” or that I’m using him as a “trophy” (especially that I frequently fantasize of having a perfect life with him when we will finally be reunited and get married.

  • Newly Married

    Hi Sheryl, do you think that maybe you could write something about forgiveness in relationships? or something like that in particular 🙂 Blessings

  • lailah

    This prose and message is beautiful like a flower blooming from a center of wisdom. Thank you for creating a life that enabled you to create and share this.

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