Friends, this is a picture of me when I was about 4 years old. I have had it hanging up in my room for the last several years as a reminder of who I am at the core. I can feel the joy emanating from this picture, my smile. I’m wearing my swimsuit. I have always loved water. I have always loved to swim. To this day, being in and near water brings me the most joy! Funny thing too is that turquoise and purple continue to be two of my favorite colors. In fact, my current room is predominantly decorated in purple and turquoise/teal. If I was searching for a one-piece swimsuit now, I could totally see myself getting this one. It reminds me of a mermaid. Who doesn’t love mermaids?!
Have you thought about yourself as a child lately? Who were you before the world told you who you ‘should’ be? What did you love before you were told what you ‘should’ love? It’s interesting to me that we know so much about ourselves to the core when we are children, but then we grow up and get brainwashed into thinking that how we are isn’t good enough.
When I was a child, I loved being outside. I loved camping and riding my bike. I loved to listen to music, dance, and sing. I loved having big gatherings with my extended family in the summer and during holidays. I have always really LOVED spending time with my friends. All of these things continue to bring me so much joy. I practically lived at my best friend Jimmy’s house when we were kids. The story goes that I met him while trick or treating. I knocked on his door, and when I saw him inside, I marched right in and we sat there looking through our candy together. When we were kids, we knew what felt good to us and we followed it. We allowed ourselves to be impulsive with starting new friendships simply because we felt drawn to be around the person. We didn’t over think things by questioning how people would respond to us. We didn’t fear rejection. We just lived.
I feel like I have lived in different sections. I have the section when I was a kid still living at home, feeling the tension of a family on the brink of divorce, wishing for my parents’ divorce. I have the section after high school where I left for college and went far from home. I was opinionated and strong and fearless. I didn’t care what people thought of me. I wore tie-dyed shirts on a campus in Florida where there were less than a handful of us who did, OK so maybe just my boyfriend and I. I liked what I liked and I didn’t make concessions for other people. I have the section where I traveled the country as a wildlife/fisheries field biologist which led me, in part, to living in 10 states so far. I was free and adventurous. I excitedly researched projects and places to travel to next. I traveled with everything I owned, leaving half the back seat for my dog, Gus, in my turquoise Geo Prizm. I was a nomad of sorts seeking the “best” place to eventually settle. There’s the section after meeting my ex-husband where I gave my power away. I look back now and just see that my upbringing had led me to be very strong and independent, and I think I was a bit tired of it. I wanted someone else to take care of me and the things in my life for a change. As you can imagine, giving my power away led to a slew of challenges, notwithstanding eventually losing my health and almost dying. It was a wake up call. It was time to take my power back and start taking real care of myself. I was finally forced into giving myself the love that I had always sought from other people. There’s the section throughout the divorce where I felt constantly tested and tried and I came into my own and began to build a new life for myself from the ground up. I struggled further as I lost nearly every local friend I had known, and set out to actively make new friends that would provide a better support system for me. Then there’s the section where I fully dusted myself off, began to dig deeper into the suffering I had experienced and I made the decision that I was done suffering. I decided that I was no longer a powerless victim, but an unstoppable creator of my life! That’s when the real changes began to happen.
I went back to my roots. I went back and reconnected with the strong woman who had been so independent and adventurous and I worked to learn what had made her tick. I went back to my childhood and the memories I held of what had brought me the most joy as I was growing up. I found a lot of answers when I thought about my childhood. I found out that my triggers surrounding fear of rejection and abandonment came from that time. I found that at some point, I had internalized the fact that I was not enough just as I was. I had come to believe on a subconscious level that I was not worthy of love. Since then, I have had to basically go back and unlearn all of these beliefs. I have had to brainwash myself using positive affirmations. You see, in our culture, we are brainwashed from the time that we are very young. A lot of it has to do with advertising. We’re trained to think that there’s something wrong with us or missing from us or not good enough about us, and then the commercials come in to offer solutions to solve these problems and fill our voids by way of the new latest and greatest gadgets, plastic surgeries, shopping, junk foods, a house, new car, or the perfect relationship with another person with a sprinkle of diamonds on top. We get bombarded with offers of shiny objects that promise to fill our void, make us worthy, and enough. The problem is that we have been taught wrong. There is never going to be an external solution for our internal problems. Ever. The sooner you stop looking for one, the better. Trust me.
I thought of this analogy recently that explains how I have felt about unlearning and unbrainwashing (I don’t care if it’s not a word). It goes like this: when we are born, we do not want to go pee in our diapers. Babies do not want to wet themselves. Notice that when you change a baby, as soon as you remove the diaper, they pee. But what do we do? Because diapers are more convenient for us, we force them on the babies. We essentially have to train them to go pee in their diapers. Then, when they’re older, we decide that diapers aren’t convenient anymore, and so we begin the process of training them to pee in the toilet. And sometimes it’s a real fight, because this child was trained to go in their diaper for their whole life, and now we are changing what we want from them, and so there can be some push back. We are trained that we are not OK as who we came into this world as being. We learn how to act. We learn what we’re supposed to like. We learn how to be a ‘functioning member of society’. We lose ourselves. Then we hit 30 (though it’s a different age for everyone), and everything comes to a screeching halt. Maybe we’re faced with some big-life changes that leave us unable to deny who we are at the core any longer. We begin the process of unlearning everything we have learned so far that has left us feeling small, that has turned us into people-pleasers, and that has told us that we must seek some holy grail outside of ourselves to attain happiness. We experience push back. The things we have learned are so engrained in our subconscious by this point, that it takes a real effort to not just follow the status quo. It takes a real effort to recognize the thoughts and beliefs about ourselves that are holding us back.
None of us are alone in this process, not really. In the US, we are made to live such separate lives and it can make us feel lonely even when our house sits in a town of over 136,000 people. That void you feel inside is a common one. Yep, that’s right, you’re not special or alone in that pain you’re feeling. You may not realize it because you have been too embarrassed to bring it up to your friends or family thinking that you might be ostracized if you mentioned that you feel an immense emptiness in this life that has been fed to you. Maybe you’ve done what the commercials told you to do. You’ve gotten the advanced degrees, you live in a house with a white-picket fence, you have the diamonds on your fingers, you have the nice car, and the well-paying job, and yet you don’t feel happy. Why? Because your happiness was never meant to come from a box, bag, person, or job. Your happiness is an inside job entirely.
I grew up extra sensitive. I am sensitive to the energy all around me. I am sensitive to tension and negativity coming from other people. I used to feel like my empathy was a curse, but I have come to find that it is actually a superpower that I can use to make my life and the lives of those around me better. I am meant to feel everything. I am meant to be a barometer for what’s not working in our society. It’s an important job that I have had to learn how to do without losing myself in the process.
Glennon Doyle spoke of addiction the other night during her talk on a stage in my town. I’m paraphrasing here. She said that generally, addicts are the most sensitive people in our society. That they act as sort of canaries in the mine, and that we should pay attention to the health of our canaries so that we can gauge the health of the ‘air’ we’re all breathing in. What is causing the sensitive ones in our society to hurt so badly that they feel the need to numb themselves with things like drugs, alcohol, food, sex, and screen time? What is it that we’re being exposed to that is causing us to hurt so much? As one of the canaries, I’ll tell you a few things. The pain we see in the world. The hate. The murders. The lack of compassion. The fighting. The wars. The internal void. The emptiness we feel in this pop-a-pill, instant gratification, consumerist culture. The disconnect we feel from others. Ultimately, the disconnect we feel with ourselves.
People have lost themselves and they’re finding out slowly, but surely that the things that promised to make them feel better aren’t working. They have all of the things, yet they have more depression than ever. People continue to kill themselves at an alarmingly high rate. The rich people who look shiny and happy kill themselves too. What does this say about our culture?
As Glennon said the other night, we aren’t meant to skirt around, avoid, or numb our pain. We are meant to feel our pain. It is through experiencing our pain that we find our strength and our superpowers needed to do what we each came into this life to do. We do ourselves a great disservice when we tell ourselves that life is supposed to be easy, and that if it’s not, then we’re doing something wrong. Life is meant to challenge and grow us. It’s up to us how we handle the challenges. I would not be the person I am today had it not been for my illness and brush with death, and so I am endlessly grateful for those experiences.
It’s time to get back to our roots, people, like ASAP, as in yesterday. I have worked with thousands of people in the hospital as a nurse. I have gotten to know people intimately in my work and personal life, and I am screaming it from the rooftops…YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR STRUGGLES!! Please, read that sentence as many times as you need to so that you really internalize that point. Our story lines may vary, but everything else is the same: the void that we feel, the insecurities, and the baggage we carry that tells us that we’re not worthy of love from ourselves or others, to name a few. If you don’t believe me, start putting your screen away and start connecting with the people around you in deeper, more meaningful ways. When you move past the surface topics, I think what you’ll find is another real human being who has experienced (or is currently experiencing) pain, heart-break, loss, abandonment, grief, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The truth is that we all individually walk around as if we’re the only ones who don’t feel like we’re enough, yet in this society, that feeling is one of the common threads that connect us all.
So, it’s time to disarm ourselves. It’s time to remove our masks. It’s time to connect with each other and get vulnerable, so that we can finally heal the wounds we have been merely putting band aids over up to this point. Connect with your inner child. Give that child the love you were lacking. Give that child the acceptance you’ve been seeking. Give that child the experiences of joy that you most crave. It’s time to stop surviving and start thriving! Isn’t enough enough already?! The only way to fill that void is with the love that only we can give to ourselves.
If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is one of my passions in life to help guide others through this process of unbecoming who they were told to be to become the person that they came here to be.
Thank you for reading along! If you liked this post, please like and share it. Sending you so much love!