The Stories Holding us Back

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A common catch phrase now is people saying ‘You do you’. For much of my life, I have struggled with ‘doing me’. I have largely felt that who I am is unacceptable or my package is not attractive as others’ or that other people have shit figured out better than I do.

Although I’ve come to see recently that this is one of my stories and that others have similar stories too, even those who never talk about it or open up about what’s really happening inside. The ones who hide behind an oil painting facade with an image of poise and grace, warrior pose, looking put together. It may look like they have it all figured out but they don’t though. They are also scared at times trying to figure out their next move or who they are. They think about not being good enough. They get stuck and sad and victimy at times too. Or as my friend Andrew would say in response to me being a special snowflake thinking I am the only one with degrading thoughts traipsing through my mind on the daily – others struggle with these and their own unique track of limiting thoughts too.

In line with these stories, I’ve been awed by people in authority or positions of power. People who are wealthy, accomplished, fit, gorgeous, well-dressed, well-spoken. People who are getting shit done in life. People who are a somebody, or as my girlfriend’s daughter Rio would say, whobody. In their presence, I often feel tongue-tied, ugly, awkward and wanting. And indeed, less than. I shrink into this little girl state of feeling small and insignificant, deferring to them and wanting approval, to be acknowledged.

Yesterday, as I was getting ready for work, I had put on a dress as I was invited by our CEO’s Executive Assistant to a Christmas luncheon. I wanted to look businessy and sharp but also pretty and put together. I love festive events at this time of year and getting dolled up. I also knew there would be a lot of downtown business folk there all dressed up and shiny.

I felt frumpy and pregnant-looking in my dress. I tried on a few blazers with it but didn’t feel good in them. I was starting to panic rushing against the clock to get to work before a 9 a.m. meeting. I felt the shame of showing up looking preggers and dowdy instead of fabulous and confident. I was almost out the door but went back to change and try things on a couple times as the clock ticked further ahead. Finally I stuffed some blazers and sweaters in my bag and got ready to step out the door. I took a last look at myself in the front door closet mirror and cringed seeing my too-dark hair that I don’t feel pretty in and my tights with a criss-cross pattern that didn’t seem to jive with my black lace dress.

All my stuff about feeling powerless about my weight, frustration about my current body and feeling like an imposter came to the surface screaming in my face. Then I thought, wow! How much power I give to my weight and body to shape who I am and how I show up. Even if people do look at me and judge, what bearing does that have on my life? Who are they? Even if they do think I look terrible or fat or that my dress is clashing with my tights, why does that need to touch me in any way? It’s their ideals, their perceptions, their thoughts, their model of the world, their shit. Seriously, what has it got to do with me?! I’ll never see most of them again. So what if they judge or think whatever they think. They don’t know my story, who I am, what I am capable of, what I have overcome. They are only seeing me at a fixed moment in time. A girl in a black lace dress with a bright pink sweater and sparkly jewelry, eyes bright and hopeful yet trepidatious.

Ahhh, but they are my stories of what I think they think about me that I am allow to dictate how I show up in life. Most of what I think people are thinking probably never even hits reality. People are too worried about how others are thinking about them and their clashing tights and their bloated tummies.

It’s interesting to have this come up, witness my reactions this morning and see how much I live my life based on what others think. I live so much in accordance with trying to measure up to others or who I perceive them to be, what they think or perceive of me or whether they will like me or how I can be different so they will. It’s all bullshit and feels gross. My morning was stressful and full of self-induced angst. And for what? Well for great insights and transformation for sure, but also a whole lot of shit storm that didn’t need to be there and certainly did not keep me in a champion mindset willing to give the world my all despite the size of my dress or the rolls on my body.

I was late for my morning meeting. I called to say I was running a bit late but really, in those moments, I was making myself and my shit more important than being there for someone who needed my help. Someone with their own worries and fears who came to me for help because I am a company expert in what they were tasked with doing. I was letting that particular someone down because I was worried some strangers might not think I’m cool?! Because I was placing more importance on my image and what I was doing rather than who I am and what I can contribute to the world?! 

How many of us live like this trying to keep up with the Jonses and carve our path in a cardboard box rat race of competition and making ourselves sick all the while. For every moment I am living in shame and worry about not being whole or enough, there is someone with no limbs or a disfigured face or a broken body who is serving the world in spite of. Someone who has made their mission more important than the compelling limiting stories they could be justifiably letting hold them back. But they are out there adapting, excelling, inspiring from who they are and what they have to offer with their being.

I want to live and be me, whoever she is evolving into. Fuck all that other bullshit and the horse it rode in on. Such a liberating re-frame. But I am not out of the woods yet, not even close. I still need to be more of me. To serve and make my mission louder than the voices misguidedly trying to protect me. To love and accept all the fears and worries and shameful bits I am so worried about other people finding.

But so what if they do? I’ve seen my shadows. I know them intimately. I’ve taken them out of the box and looked at them for a good while. I can help and grow and evolve – yet these roots will always be there. Everyone has them and I am no different. It’s what makes us humble and human and united in our humanity. That’s where the power lies. Not in stuffing them down but in illuminating them, exposing them for the dirty thieves of joy that they are. Maybe I could love even those parts too. Maybe who I am is enough exactly as I am now.

What stories are running in your life? How do they show up and hinder your life?

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