“Once I began to realize that there were no rules and that my path didn’t have to look like everyone else’s, I relaxed and my whole world opened up.” – Brian Benson
Are you dying to say “This is who I am” and “This is what I think”, but you’re afraid that might disappoint the people in your life?
Well if you do, this might be just the reading you need right now.
I’ve had something cooking up in my mind for a few days and I wanted it to gently simmer and to cool down a bit, before serving it to you today in the form of this article.
Lately in the Mindful Body Women Circle we’ve been talking and working a lot about acceptance. We’ve started with focusing on accepting the body, but it was inevitable for the reflection to expand beyond the body and into acceptance of who we really are.
Something very nourishing and refreshing that came up was how good it feels to be in alignment with who we are, and to be able to get up in the morning and show up just as we are.
To me it’s an experience that feels like coming home, like coming back to that familiar place that you can become nostalgic about when you’ve been away for a while.
And, god if I was away from myself in the past.
Sharing in the circle reminded me about how long I hid myself from the world in the past, by not showing my real self to anyone, always molding my interests and my behaviours to adapt to family expectations, new friends, a new partner, the workplace.
I did it to protect myself from the fear of not fitting in, of not be accepted. Because I felt like I wouldn’t have been good enough to belong otherwise.
Food was with me all along this journey of pretending to be who I wasn’t. Food and its ability to numb and distract from what’s really needed.
All we want is to belong
I’m pretty sure you’ve seen before the Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs below.
Sitting in the middle of this pyramid (which shows our basic human needs) is the need to belong, have affection and love, be connected to family, friends, work, romantic relationships, etc.
As human beings, we have an an innate need to belong. It’s a basic need.
Which means we need it for survival, not just as a nice one to have to live better.
I have the deep need to connect and belong. And you too.
As children and adolescents we get these messages about what we need to do or how we need to show up to be accepted and be part of our family, or any other group of people.
Sometimes we learn that needing less or being different from what we feel we are deep inside ourselves, is a necessary compromise. We do it in order to be good for our parents or other significant people in our lives.
We keep asking this question (whether we realised it or not): “What do I need to do in order to be connected, in order not to lose this person?”
For many years, the answer to this question for me was:
“I need to look thin. People will want me around more.”
“I need to eat less. Eating chocolate and cookies is wrong and will make me fat. Which means nobody will like me.”
If you had asked me about the above only 10 years ago, I would have found it so difficult to admit to you (and to myself) that this was the reality of what I thought I needed to belong.
The same applies to sharing what we really think with others. To telling people what we really like, how we’d like spending our time, what we really need, which might be different from what the majority of them do.
All the time, all we want is to belong.
Even if sometimes that means saying no to who we really are.
Even if it sucks to do something we have very little interest for.
Even if that means we don’t have time left for ourselves.
So we keep talking ourselves into the situation “being ok”.
It’s not a surprise that a lot of the loneliness we can experience as young adults and adults doesn’t stem from the physical absence.
It rather comes from the deep feeling of wanting to take a different direction, cultivate different interests and passions compared to the mass, having different life aspirations.
This also explains why the process of discovering the things that matter the most to us can be bumpy, because we percieve it (at least initially) as a threat to our chances to belong, to be accepted.
Additionally, it explains how coming to the conclusion that we need to change the course of our lives can be sometimes painful.
There’s some grief to work with when we get to this point of self-actualisation and begin to allow ourselves to exist and take-up space.
I wonder how my waffle today is resonating with you, so far?
This is who I am and what I want
A few question to reflect on:
- What if we are already good enough as we are?
- What if we are worthy of connection and belonging without needing to fit into any specific box?
- What if we have the right to eat what we like, no matter the size we wear?
- What if wanting something different for ourselves is not wrong or selfish?
- What if by giving ourselves permission to “say no” or be “selfish”, we also teach the people around us the freedom to do so themselves?
Start taking-up space.
It will probably require some adjustment, especially in your relationships. And some endings for some relationships too. That is the hard patch to go through.
Some people will always feel slightly inconvenienced when you don’t act as expected, when you don’t fall into what they want. However, there are also a lot of other people that won’t.
If you don’t have many of the last type in your life, start looking for them.
As I come to the end of this article, I feel like my elaboration of this topic isn’t quite done yet. It feels pretty incomplete to me, but I hope it’ll make sense to you.
I’ll let it bubble in my mind a little bit longer, and see if anything interesting comes up that I might feel like sharing in the future.
In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you how you’ve faced the messy and sometimes confused path towards showing up more like yourself. If you feel like sharing it with me, get in touch or leave a comment below.
Always with kindness,