I looked down at my grandfather in his casket and realized the caretakers made him look like Elvis. With my grandmother, parents, sister, aunts and uncles nearby I quickly covered my mouth when the involuntary laughter tried to burst from my lips.
Like Personal Growth on Facebook
I turned it into a choking sound instead. Laugh at a funeral? I would have bled out from the multiple dagger wounds of judgement. That day I learned there were rules to follow and appropriate ways to behave if I was gonna make it as a good, normal, right girl in this world.
I spent the following few decades attempting to follow those rules and be that perfect good girl.
I quickly forgot what it felt like to express myself fully in the world, especially if it meant disappointing or upsetting my family, or anyone else who held that sense of propriety for me.
I managed to stay appropriately quiet, politely kind and passively good until the pain of that suffocating behavior wasn’t tolerable anymore.
I lived and identified with the fear of being not good enough. I tried to make people like me.
Now that I get it; like really understand it’s not about making anyone else happy and more about being myself and living true to my heart, my life carries me in moments of awareness, freedom, joy, curiosity and gratitude.
To feel these things I had to choose me, in all the forms my soul was screaming for. To feel happy I had to stay awake to the unrelenting messages my soul was sending and honor them, no matter what those around me said, did or tried to convince me I was doing wrong. No easy task.
I’ve since muffled my laughter at other funerals. It’s the best example I can think of because we’re so conditioned to believe there’s a “right” way to be at a funeral.
Respect, you know? And that dirty word gets me every time. Respect your parents. Respect your elders. Respect your teachers. Respect the dead.
And what they really mean is think, say and act the way your parents/elders/teachers/society think is right. If you don’t that must mean you’re disrespectful or bad in some way.
Telling someone they’re being disrespectful is a way to control them
Today I constantly do a gut check when that pang of shame hits me. Who is this talking, I ask myself. Who made this rule, I question. Why am I feeling like the world is about to crumble because someone thinks I’m disrespectful?
I realize the opinions of certain people in my life matter more than others. I tend to give certain people more weight when it comes to my reaction to their criticism.
Some because I trust and respect them, and some because I was taught to trust and respect them no matter how I felt about them.
Now I have ways to gauge whether or not that feeling is true for me. Whether or not my shame or guilt or whatever feeling is trashing me is warranted. II learned the language of my intuition/inner wisdom and she tells me when it’s old, conditioned fear or when it’s truth. What a gift.
I learned the skill of listening to my inner wisdom over time and it’s what’s freed me from the jail of the thoughts, rules and opinions of others. I’m not saying I don’t still react when I get called names now and again but I’m way better at realizing when those judgements are the other person’s problem and not mine.
I’m way better at expressing myself and what matters to me even though it goes against other people’s definition of right, appropriate or normal.
I don’t live a normal, appropriate or right life at this point. I live my life, with a mission to feel joy along with the pain. I don’t really care what other people tell me is right way to do things.
I’ve surrounded myself with fellow warriors. And I’ve created a “why” for myself that trumps all the little excuses.
Your bigger mission, your why, has to be big enough to light your fire every single day. If it’s not, you’ll derail yourself on a regular basis. You’ll disappoint yourself. You’ll fall out of integrity with your own goals.
You can’t live your dreams if you’re not able to be your full self in the world, with your friends, with your family, at work.
Can you think of the times in your life you held back to behave appropriately? The times you compromised your true, full awesomeness to fit in?
The shame you felt just expressing yourself in the world? My sincere wish for you is that you recognize it’s time to be yourself, that you overcome the fear and share your light.
I’m right there with you, reaching for my courage and hoping I don’t die of embarrassment. But I’m going to laugh anyway.
Here are 5 ways to overcome your fear and be yourself no matter what:
1. Realize your worth and believe it for once
Everything you do when it comes to fear gets back to understanding that your opinion, thoughts, and presence matter in this world. Stop doubting it and start from a place of unapologetic worthiness.
2. Start small and be your wild and crazy self with those who will love you no matter what
My BFF does this for me. I test out my full expression on her first most of the time. When she gives me that feeling of acknowledgement and love (and she always does) it makes me a little braver when it comes to doing the same with those who feel a bit riskier.
3. Recognize your fear as a feeling and don’t add extra meaning to it
Naming fear for what it is, just a feeling inside, and allowing it to exist will help you create some space around it.
4. Do the thing you’re afraid of
Taking action by saying or doing the thing that feels the most like it aligns with who you are and what you stand for is the surest and quickest way to dissolving fear and propelling you forward on this journey. Take a step, even if it’s small.
5. Stop trying to fix everyone else and focus on yourself
This is not selfish, it’s necessary. As you realize your obligation is to one person, you, you’ll be headed in a direction of healing, happiness and freedom you only dreamed possible. The only way through the fear is to focus on what lights you up, on what you feel aligned with, and on your biggest desires.
That is how you’ll change the world.