What have you had to unlearn to better understand your true self? What have you had to strip down to find from within? And what have you had to relearn about yourself once you got there? For me, it’s been a lot.
This is a harder entry to write. It requires putting my ego aside. That was a huge thing to let go, peel away. Your ego is there to keep you safe, or at least makes you feel that you are safe, powerful, untouchable. And who wants to look vulnerable? I didn’t for a long time. I still don’t, yet with the right people I can and it makes a huge difference. We are not meant to be strong all the time. We need safe pockets that we can let our armor down. Find your person, whether it be a good friend, or better yet a therapist, that you don’t have to be strong in front of all the time. Release. Feel. Let it out. Feelings are meant to be seen, felt and ultimately pass. Don’t let your ego get in the way from preventing this fluid cycle.
WRITE YOUR OWN RULES
As children and young adults, we are given outlines for how life in our world flows. And in fact, we need it! Healthy structures ensure safety, help us learn and provide foundations from which to grow from. Yet there will come a time when you have to start making your own rules for your life. What worked for your mother, brother, father, grandparent, friend may not work for you. And only you know this. This requires great insight to identify how to move through this world in a way that feels true to you. As a single adult female, I’ve realized I may not get married but better yet I’ve finally began to question if I actually want to get married. As a little girl, I just assumed that’s what would happen. Now I get to be an active participant in this and help decide if that’s truly what I want for me. I’ve also stopped listening to others giving me advice to things they have never experienced. This goes for relationships, employment, self-care and anything/everything you can think of. Choose those whom you listen to wisely. Only you can truly know what you need, where you are going and how you’ll get there.
Man, this was a long road traveled to find my comfort with stillness. I took Adderall in my early 20s for almost a decade, spending most of that time trying NOT to be still. In fact, the last thing I wanted was to be still. When you’re still, all there is to do is be with yourself, your thoughts. And depression, shame, guilt, frustration, insecurity, sadness were too much for me to confront. Just as I didn’t get to that point of desperation overnight, the road back to my true self took a long time as well. It started with one step, then another, followed by another. It included lots of back steps too but through journaling, therapy, supportive friends/family, yoga, breathwork, and so much grace and compassion – here I am. The stillness is scary when you are not used to it. The stillness is when you look back at yourself in the mirror. The turning point is knowing there is no wrong image looking back at you. Meet yourself where you are now. That is enough. You are enough.
FAILURES ARE OK
Let me say this loud and clear: IT IS OK TO FAIL! In fact, that’s when I’ve learned the greatest lessons. The ego wants to tell you this is unacceptable. Society screams this is not an option! But let me tell you, failure builds resilience. Knowing that you don’t have to always get it right is incredibly freeing. Now I didn’t take my first job out of college wanting to be fired. But it happened. And while immediate feelings flooding my ego were of shame, guilt, shock, and sadness, when I let the dust settle I realized life was happening for me and not to me. If I had not been let go, I would never have decided to go ahead and sub-let me apartment in Dallas. If I had not already planned on coming back to SC, I would have missed the start of the biology class at Wofford I needed to take for credit to be admitted in Graduate School for Speech Pathology. Woah, thank you universe. And full disclosure, I needed to be fired. I was doing a horrible job. I never said failure was fun. But oh the powerful lessons you learn when it happens and the knowledge gained when you’re able to grow from it. I still have moments where I regret what I said, how I acted, what transpired – yet I remind myself there is a lesson to be learned in each one. Let the ego go, know you are still growing and evolving, learning. And the best part, when you realize the “failure” or worst thing that could happen is someone says “no” – that’s when you can accomplish anything. Always try. Fail. Try again. It will happen when it’s meant to.
FINDING YOUR PURPOSE, AGAIN
Insert deep sigh. What is your purpose? This could not be a more loaded question. So I’ve decided it’s a spectrum. What my purpose was when I was 15, 25, 35 have all been different. And I love it that way. I love the evolution of self. I like the idea of our purpose, what we want, what we dream of all being on the horizon. We can always walk towards it but depending on the time of day or year, it will look different. The same goes with life. Wherever you are on your path will determine what you are looking at. Know that is ok. In my younger years I would say it looks flakey. I know now it is brave. Don’t give up. Everything you’re learning comes together to help you reach new horizons.
During one of my deepest depression episodes, I had a therapist have me do the 100 Happy Days challenge on Instagram. Each day, for 100 days, I took a picture of something that made me happy. Side not, I faked a lot of that happy. But it restructured the connections in my brain, it rewired my pathways and messages I was telling myself. It doesn’t matter if you feel like smiling, feel like being happy, feel like being outside. Just do it. Then do it again. And then do it again. Create a pattern of support for the self. For me this includes smiling each morning and telling myself I am proud of myself. Seriously. Sometimes I say it sarcastically. Others I say it with tears in my eyes. And they both benefit me. What words do you tell yourself? What acts of kindness do you give yourself? When do you stop and smile at yourself in the mirror? Most people would say never. I’m not even going to suggest you turn that frown upside down, but I will say the words and actions you repeatedly expose yourself to can change the chemistry in your brain and very being. So be kind to yourself. Be the soft place to land. And smile, even if you fake it.
DOWN TO THE STUDS
When I saw this house being stripped down all the way to its inner core, I stopped in awe. “How beautiful,” I thought. I actually drove back to the house to get a picture because I loved the metaphor it provided for life. What was originally built had purpose, served as shelter, and was just what was needed at that time. Then it wasn’t. It doesn’t mean you tear down the whole house however. The bones are still good. The core is strong. You get the opportunity to reevaluate what you need and what you don’t. Be the house. Evolve and expand when you need more. Strip down and rebuild when the horizon changes. Be the crazy lady with a little dog in her car taking pictures of stripped down houses (that’s me by the way, letting go of my ego). And don’t be afraid to fail, over and over again, for the gold is in the getting back up.
There is more to write of course as my life is not done yet. But for now, here we are. And it feels right to close this post with how I close each class. So with that, remember to live with intention, move with gratitude and never stop breathing.