How many people feel like they’re not meant for this world? That there just isn’t space for a spirit like theirs?
Naturally I’m an observer of people, and what I’ve noticed about small children is that they’re all the same: gregarious, helpful, social, inquisitive, and full of self-esteem. We all start out like this, and then something happens and we begin to take a different path in life.
My inlaws like to joke about how my husband “used to never shut up” when he was a small child. Now he’s one of the most extreme introverts you will ever meet. Getting him to speak-up as an adult has been a major challenge for him. He worries so much about being judged or saying the wrong thing that he hardly speaks at all. What happened to that talkative little boy? It’s heart breaking to think of the world (or his parents) beating him down. And yet here we are, so many adults feeling too flawed to participate in the world in the manner we’d like.
My own parents were non-conformists. My dad enlisted for the Vietnam War when he was 17. He saw it as an opportunity to have a big adventure. When he came back from the war his mother told him there was no longer a place for him here, so he bought a motorcycle and set off riding all across the country, doing odd jobs here and there. Eventually he met my mother. My mother had grown up in a small mid-western town where the expectation was that you’d stay in that town for generations. Instead at 18 she took off for the other side of the country with no money and no plan but made it work. It didn’t take them long to elope.
These two lived a happy life together and after some years began having children. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about the pressures of parenthood that made them decide that they had better become conformists. They both got boring jobs and settled into a boring and predictable life in the suburbs, and they were miserable the entire time. Their marriage took a nosedive, and despite all their unhappiness they nonetheless decided to push this conformity onto their children.
My parents were constantly telling me how weird I was, how socially awkward I was, how I embarrassed them by not knowing the correct niceties to say to strangers, how fat I looked and how I needed to lose weight. And I believed what they said 100% and felt like who I was was unacceptable. Looking back now though, I actually don’t think there was anything wrong with me or my interactions with others. It was totally okay and age appropriate. Looking back at old pictures, I wasn’t even fat. Reading my old yearbook and other artifacts tells a story different from my family’s narrative. People seemed to like me and I got on well with people. It was all very strange. I don’t know what the problem was. I can only assume that my family’s insecurities were being projected on to me for whatever reason. But I grew up feeling that there was something deeply flawed about me where it didn’t matter how hard I tried to conform because I was unfortunately blind to whatever the mysterious defect was. When this happens to a person, what do you do? You start living a false life.
I got the boring corporate job they wanted me to get, I spoke the way they wanted me to speak, I dressed the way they wanted me to dress, I had the acceptable amount of fake friendships they wanted me to have, all so my mother could feel okay about who her daughter was. And here’s the thing, I was actually good at it! I was actually good at the job I hated. I learned that if you give yourself away like some kind of emotional prostitute, it’s actually really easy to make friends too. But I felt like my soul was slowly being eaten away until I couldn’t deal with it any longer.
I was able to keep up the ruse for a long time, but there’s a deep internal shame that comes with living an inauthentic life. We do all sorts of things to distract ourselves from it: online shopping, alcohol, video games, go out and have affairs, etc. Some seem to be able to keep this up their whole lives, although unhappily, while the lucky ones find themselves having a “mid-life crisis” and are forced to make a change.
A few years ago I found myself in this place of feeling desperate to live a more authentic life. But at that point, I know what that meant. I had become such a good actor that I didn’t even know who the real me was anymore. All I knew was that my life had become emotionally barren, materialistically driven, and spiritually bankrupt. I couldn’t live the lie any longer.
I believe that if you strip it down to it’s core, the problem first arouse with deciding that there was something unacceptable about yourself. You identified what these traits were (or tried to!) and then spent the rest of your life stuffing it down and creating an elaborate mask to try to hide it. I want you to take a moment to think about what those perceived flaws or weaknesses are. Now I want you to think of someone else who has those same weaknesses, but even more so than you do.
For me, my weakness was that I’m too weird. I’m too weird to ever be truly loved or accepted by anybody! I’m also too stupid! And yet, I can also think of people that are even more weird and stupid than I am BUT they are happy, have lots of friends, and have a great job that they enjoy. Whatever your perceived flaw is, you know you can think of a similar example. There are people out there who are even weirder than you, and yet they are accepted and they are thriving. These are people who are not conforming, not fitting in with mainstream society, and yet they are being celebrated for their uniqueness. The difference is that instead of leaning away, these people leaned in. LEAN IN.
You might be thinking “But aren’t there genuine flaws that people need to eliminate? What about people who are rude, argumentative, defensive, have drug or alcohol issues, etc?” Honestly, in my opinion, all of those things you just listed are not flaws per se but rather side effects of the toxic shame from being told your whole life that who you are is unacceptable. They are side effects of the deep rage that forms from having to live a lie and being pressured to pretend to be someone else. What do you imagine might be the side effects of embracing who you are and becoming the beautiful empowered person you were always meant to be?
When I communicate with angels, overwhelmingly the messages I get are that they want us to be authentic and they want us to be ourselves. They want us to be happy and to enjoy this beautiful world that has been created for us, but the only real way you can do that is by being yourself. You were born different for a reason. You are meant to be happy. This is your contribution. This is your reason for being alive.
When I started coming back to myself, I got in touch with that wounded inner child. It turns out that I’m not this shy quiet person after all. I have a voice! I’m just discerning in who I want to share it with, but I’m slowly surrounding myself with more of the right kind of people. As a child I loved to create art but over time I was encouraged to turn away from it because “it wont make you money”. But now all those things I loved as a young person (art, tarot cards, nature, spirituality) are making up a bigger part of my life. I’m not the person I used to be. But good God I am so much more happier and fulfilled now. Corporate job and money be damned.
When you get a great idea and feel excited about something, do you have anyone you can share it with? Or will that person quickly change the subject back to themselves (you know, what’s really important!) or worst criticize your idea. Imagine if instead that person said “You know what, I bet you will find a way to make your idea happen! You’re clever enough, and smart enough, and determined enough to make it reality” I realized that I had to become that person for my inner child. I also came to realize that as I became more authentic that I was no longer compatible with my old life. And this is why I ultimately decided to move away from my parents and siblings. I needed to see who I could be if I wasn’t subjected to their influence and disapproval.
There is a sort of magic that comes from nurturing your true self. Honestly, if you think about it, that’s the real message behind the story Aladdin. You can wish for anything you want, you can accomplish anything you want, but you will only end up being a slave to money and power unless you can become something real. What good is magic if it can’t help us find peace and be happy? Begin that journey now. Lean into your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Find time to sit and relax and observe nature and give yourself permission to not be productive; to just be. You’re okay just the way you are.
I want you to go to a nursery and pick out some kind of perennial plant or shrub. Find one that speaks to you. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that looks so unique that it’s not the most popular thing out there, but is still breathtaking in it’s beauty. Maybe the flowers are a sharp contracting color like bright orange. Or maybe the flowers are much more subtle and soft spoken. Maybe it’s wild and untamed. Maybe it’s sitting on the discount rack and desperately needs someone willing to bring it back to life. Find the one that most closely represents your inner child. Now bring it home and plant it in a place of honor and promise it that you will not suppress or hide it any longer. Water it, fertilize it, show it love. And as this plant thrives and comes back ever year, so too will you come back to yourself and not hide any longer.