What does it really take to live a life you love?
It's a cozy Sunday winter morning. Yesterday I posted to Instagram the Marianne Williamson quote that suggests that our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate but that we are powerful beyond measure. This morning I received a call from a woman who I hold dear to my heart exclaiming how moved she was by my post and how much it resonated with her and the other women in her life. I remember checking that quote for comments and hoping that my vulnerability wouldn't be "too much" for people.
That's the conversation that has gone on in my head since I was small. Am I too much for people? Am I too sensitive? Too empathetic? Do I make people uncomfortable with my lack of tolerance for disguises? Does my ability to see people. see people in their wholeness, recognize them in their light actually make it harder for them to be around me?
I remember walking across the stage at my high school graduation with tears in my eyes. I am nostalgic, I crave change but I hate goodbyes and I hate endings. My high school principal said to me, "Oh Teresa! I knew you would cry". I laughed at his transparency and cried harder at his recognition of my true self. My true self.
Do any of you know that feeling? That feeling of being in a room full of people that allow you to show up as your true self? They don't try to make you smaller, tougher, quieter, louder, more engaged, less engaged. They don't make you feel like you should agree with their position, adhere to their desires, shrink to make them comfortable, or pander to their agenda. It's beautiful. It's the same feeling you get when you take a walk in the woods and listen to the sounds of the running water in the river nearby and the trees swaying in the wind. Complete and utter trust that you, as yourself, are invited to stay awhile.
I've spent a lifetime in the grey area. I've jumped in and out of grey when I am confident enough to tiptoe into truth and then immediately retreated back into the grey where I was comfortable and accepted. Don't look over here! I followed the rules, I made you feel comfortable, I silenced my voice, I made myself small. I won't cause any problems, don't you worry, I projected onto the crowd. When I first began stepping out of the grey and started standing up for something or put my true self out there, I lost sleep. I'd lie awake at night going through the day in my head; was I too much? Was I too needy? Too loud? Too honest? Then I would draft apology emails or explanation texts and I would remind people that I don't need to take up the space I asked for earlier. No no, you take up that space, you put your needs out there and I will meet them. Do not look over here, I need and want for nothing and I am sorry I made you think otherwise.
How many of you have written those emails? The ones where you explain why you spoke up earlier or you explain that you didn't mean what you said but what you really meant was that you will do whatever it takes to make it work, even if that means denying yourself the actual thing that you need?
If I am alone in this behavior then call me crazy, for that is what I have felt all of the years as I put on costumes to behave the way that makes others around me feel safe. And the costumes are heavy. They weighed me down in this position of suffering and silence. And when I would return home from a long day in a costume I'd try to peal it off piece by piece and find myself again but I was too tired. The costumes were exhausting. And they made me resentful. All around me the needs of others were being met yet I felt invisible. And who can I blame but myself for the choice I made to continually wear the costumes?
And this honesty about how the costumes feel and what it is like to live the wrong life that I want to share is sometimes misconstrued as sadness. I am not sad. I am awake. I have been awake since I was just a tiny little girl and saw the world through my big brown eyes and felt the movements of humanity all around me. I see truth everywhere I go. In other's eyes I see their truth, the little voice inside of them wishing it could shout from the top of the mountain his or her own truth. But it is safer to hide. In this world we have constructed, it is safer to hide. So I wore the costumes that perpetuated the hiding.
But as I continued to watch as other's stepped outside their costumes and into their truth I become more brave, more willing to step outside the grey. Glennon Doyle Melton, Gabrielle Bernstein, Aly Raisman, Scarlett Johansson, and other women close to me, the ones starting their businesses, moving to new cities, quitting jobs, ending unhealthy relationships, traveling the world. They have taken off the costumes and decided to live in their truth. I'd get nervous for them, I'd get jealous, I'd get resentful and then I finally decided to do the same.
And it's terrifying.
And listen, even the people who love me, they advise me to be safe! They want me to be ok. To take the path of least resistance. To stay quiet and small and follow the rules. And it's confusing right? Because the people who love you should want you to march in your truth, to be your true self. But it isn't that simple. They are afraid. They are afraid for their own reasons and from their own experiences and they are afraid from a place of concern and fear. So we get these mixed messages because the people who love us are supposed to be the ones that help guide us. They are supposed to be the ones that give us the permission to step outside the grey. But most of them can't. Because they themselves can't step outside of the grey. So the only way you will get the strength and the power to step into your truth is to give YOURSELF THE PERMISSION.
To live in your truth and take off the costumes you have to be ready to feel unsafe, unsupported, alone, challenged, confused and unseen. But what is the difference? Because when you wear the costumes you feel that way anyway! You suffer anyway! No one is seeing you for who you are and you have to pretend and spend time in places and with people who don't make you feel the way the woods and the river and the wind make you feel.
And when you wear costumes you spend money and time building a life that doesn't feel good. You might have the car and the house and the perfect wardrobe and the fancy job and the picture perfect husband but you don't feel good! And the people who are still in the grey will say, "this is what is has to be. These are the rules of the game, you have to play". But you don't have to play. You don't have to follow the rules. The rules are made up. They were put there by the people who are afraid who are also living in the grey to feel safe.
I know it's sometimes challenging to think it could be different. I know sometimes when you have a gigantic dream in your heart and in your mind that it feels crazy. It feels like if it were possible wouldn't everyone else do it too? The answer is no. The answer is, it is hard to swim against the current. When everyone is going in a certain direction and you want to step off the path and go a different way, it is hard. But it is not and never will be as hard as the pretending it takes to exist in the grey, to swim in the wrong direction, to deny your truth.
So what do you do? What do you do with the dream in your heart and the life you feel in your soul you are supposed to be living but can't fathom how to access? You start small. You take one step. You take a look at the life you are living and you start imagining very specifically the life you want. What does it feel like? What does it look like? Who is there with you? Imagine your surroundings, the sounds, the smell, the taste. Get specific. Because as soon as you can define what you truly want for you, for your life, as soon as you define your TRUTH it can become real. Because the stronger the image of the life you want becomes, the more clear that picture becomes, the more power it has. The current will begin to adjust. The current changes directions to the direction you are meant to be swimming so that it does, in fact, become EASIER to swim.
And then you take action. Little by little you start building the life you have always imagined and always known you want to live. That's how you step into your truth. That's how you take off the costume and begin living the life you want. And as you build toward the life you want and toward your truth, the critcism and the shame and the doubt and the voice in your head telling you to apologize will become quieter and quieter until they simply disappear.
I will be completely honest, in this process, this process of change and evolution and stepping outside the grey, you have to be gentle with yourself. It will be easier to step back into what you knew. It will be easier to put on the costume, step back into the old and stay the same. Because at first, the voices of criticism, shame and doubt will be really really loud. They will keep you up at night, they will make you feel like you don't deserve a life you love and that you don't deserve to take up space and to have everything you imagine. But they are wrong. They are the voice of fear. You have to tap into the voice of love for this to work. Love for yourself, love for your dream, love for those that are afraid, love for those that can't live up to your expectations, love for the naysayers and those who hurt you. Only love will help you through this and get to you to the other side. Because only you know what is your truth. And if you give yourself the permission and you work from a place of love, anything you want is possible.
And don't get me wrong, there are days I still send apology emails, get scared when I put myself out there, prefer the safety of the grey. It is not about perfecting the dream or perfecting your truth, it is about your willingness to try.
If you relate to this post and want to take the first step in building a life you love I would be honored to help. I offer a free coaching consultation for anyone exploring hiring a coach. Click to Schedule a coaching call with me!