Aka: being brave enough to be myself
I have always felt different, and growing up I desperately wanted to fit in.
Not only did I feel overwhelmed by life, terrified by conflict and have a strong need for things to be just right to feel safe, but I also had red hair, fair skin and freckles. Growing up in a culture that rewarded the emotionally detached and idolised the tanned, I may as well have been from another planet.
I was scared of almost everything and I would spend hours hiding under my sister's bed. I desperately needed to be in nature and I would climb trees and fall asleep at the top. I slept a lot to process my experience of the world, and always needed time to myself. Excess noise when I needed things to be quiet drove me crazy. I would break into tears if things weren't as clean as I needed them to be, and if people were arguing I would have a melt down. After expressing myself through anger to get them to stop I would proceed to take it upon myself to 'fix them' to bring about harmony.
But as I grew up I came to realise that my reactions to feeling unsafe, overwhelmed and needing things to be a certain way weren't accepted by my family or my friends. They didn't want to be fixed, and they would rather that I just be quiet and fit in with the crowd. I was told that I was too much, a problem and that I drove people crazy.
I had to find a way to be ok amongst noise, other peoples challenging emotions, things not being quite right and the way people behaved to each other if I was to be accepted and loved.
I started to shut myself down. Become more quiet, less vocal, accept things as they were and just go with it. As a result I suffered from many throat infections throughout my childhood. Often experiencing an extreme case of tonsillitis every 3 months.
Illness became part of my life, and it almost seemed normal to me by my teenage years.
Throughout my school years I had been a quiet, and yet a high achieving student. My teachers told me I had potential, but I didn't believe them because they didn't know who I really was. I longed for a boyfriend, someone who loved me unconditionally. I would fantasise about him coming to save me from this harsh and cruel world. A world that didn't accept me for who I was.
I was terrified of being found out to not be cool, and yet somehow I had an amazing circle of friends. I started a job at a local supermarket and when I was 16 I began exploring drugs and alcohol.
Finally I had found a more effective method of numbing out my overwhelm and increasing my self confidence than I had ever experienced before. I suddenly had the confidence to be more me, or at least that's what it felt like.
I used drugs and alcohol to express myself. To say and do the things that I wouldn't normally have the confidence to. And as a result I had an amazing social life.
I started dating my first boyfriend and life seemed to be finally unfolding how I had always wanted it to. I spent less time with my family and more time with the people who accepted this new version of me.
The years that followed were a blur of parties, social experiences and forging ahead in my career path. Everything seemed to be working out for me.
Well almost everything...
I was still getting sick regularly with throat infections and my immune system seemed to be constantly struggling.
I was very successful in my corporate career managing a huge department and making lots of money, doing everything that my managers asked of me, and yet I was miserable. I felt totally out of alignment with who I truly was and I would be full of dread every morning on the way to work.
I had multiple relationships and they all ended in the same way. With me seeming to want something from them that they just couldn't give me - unconditional love and acceptance. Not because they weren't capable of it, but because I hadn't shown up fully. I hadn't expressed my true essence, so they didn't even know the real me.
I moved to the UK for a change of scene and to reset my career to something more me.
I continued to stay quiet and mask my discomfort of being in the world, until it came to a breaking point when I was 24 and I almost died from epiglottitis - an infection of the flap in the throat between air and food that eventually stops breathing.
As I lay in hospital barely able to function after 3 days in intensive care, I vowed to never do anything that would get in the way of having a healthy throat again. At this point I knew nothing of chakras and what my body had been trying to tell me all along that I needed to speak my truth and express myself fully.
I travelled the world, met hundreds of amazing people and their words of farewell to me always ended with 'I hope you find what you're looking for...'
I didn't know what I was looking for. All I knew was that I didn't want to feel this pain of not being good enough anymore.
I began to delve into spiritual and personal development paths in the hope that they would give me the answers I sought.
I became a course junkie attending everything I thought could help me break through and become the best version of myself. From Landmark Education, to Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Abraham Hicks, Byron Katie and everything in between. I danced it out in 5 Rhythms, cleansed my insides with a water fast, broke through barriers in conscious sexuality workshops, cleared my patterns of illness by becoming a raw foodist, and went on plant journeys to get to know myself better. I juice fasted, went on 10 day silent meditation retreats and lived in spiritual communities in London and Italy. I was determined to discover what I was missing, whatever it took.
It came as a shock to me that after years of courses and searching in all of the corners of the world it took an emotionally abusive relationship for me to finally get what I was looking for.
After ending the relationship I was at an all time low. My self esteem felt non-existent and I felt like crying all the time. I felt more distant from my true essence than ever before.
I went to see an intuitive healer and she said 'Oh, you’re waiting for someone to come and save you... That’s why you’ve just gone through that horrific experience with a narcissistic man. You let that happen. In fact you called it in. You were so willing to hand over your power, because you didn’t want to deal with it all anymore. But the experience broke you. And after giving away your power like that you’ve hit rock bottom. So it’s time to face the truth and own it. Babe, no one is coming to save you. He was your messenger. You are your own knight in shining armour. You pulled yourself out of that unhealthy relationship, and it’s time to save yourself in every other way too.’
That conversation made me sit up and pay attention.
It took a controlling and emotionally abusive man for me to get it.
After so much soul searching and looking outside of myself for something that was missing, I came to realise (in the words of Ben Howard) that 'All I was searching for was me...'
The real me. The one I had forgotten that I was hiding. That I had put so much effort into concealing.
The trouble was I had forgotten who she was. And besides I was petrified to show up as the real me. What if my family rejected me? What if my friends dumped me? What if a man never wanted me again? What if my clients fired me?
Then one day a friend asked me what I would hate to have as a regret on my deathbed. And I knew that the only thing worse than braving the world as my true self was never letting anyone get to see who I really was.
I came to realise that a life unexpressed is a life unfulfilled and I needed to chip away at the protective shell I had created that kept my true essence from the world.
Finally I had the motivation to start taking brave and bold steps to owning my true essence in all parts of my life. Showing up as myself on social media, in friends circles, when making new friends, and in changing careers completely to align with who I really was. I even changed my name to reflect my true essence.
And then I met the most amazing man while I wasn't looking. The one I had always hoped for. The one who loved me unconditionally for exactly who I was, the version of me I had been hiding.
It was through my partner that I became aware of the book - 'The Highly Sensitive Person' by Elaine Aron - a guide on How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. I felt like I had finally found how to explain the way I was. But I was embarrassed. I didn't want to be different. I didn't want to have a label, I wanted to be 'normal'... didn't I?
When I finally started to honour my true self, the part of me that was always nudging me from within - go this way, follow this path... I came to realise that normal was far from what I wanted to be. I wanted to be me. Whatever that took, however uncomfortable that sometimes felt. Whatever that cost me.
It has been a long journey to get to here, it has required a lot of courage and it has never been easy. But it is oh so worth it to be able to share my true essence with the world. Even when it's messy, when it feels hard and scary and all I want to do is go back and hide behind all those masks. Being true to myself trumps it all.
I continue to be rewarded for coming home to myself in so many beautiful ways - from a business that aligns with me, clients I feel thrilled to serve, a healthy body and robust immune system, friends who get me, support me and cheerlead me and a securely attached relationship with a partner who honours my highest truth.
I want this for you too.
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