“Why can’t you just be normal,” he said. My face scrunched as I searched my brain trying to understand what he meant. I was a master at moulding myself like play-dough to fit into the boxes other people created for me. It just didn’t compute. How he could see me as not normal! I’ll try harder. I’ll make myself smaller. I’ll take up less space. I’ll do whatever it takes. And I did. And it still wasn’t enough.
Broken. Alone. Exhausted. Again. How many more times am I going to reconfigure myself to meet other people’s expectations. Deferring to them to make the ‘right’ decision. Saying yes and feeling my heart sink. Is this it? Is this what my life is going to be? Creating a picture that looks perfect to everyone else but leaves me dying slowly inside. I’ve got so good at suppressing my emotions, fitting in, being the good girl, that I no longer know who I am, what I want, or what I feel.
I go through the motions each day. Drag myself out of bed. Go to the job that looks good on paper but that’s changed beyond recognition and now drains the joy from my soul. I know I’m no longer giving them the best version of me. I just want to stop the world and get off! I have so many boxes and I’m running out of playdough! I have to find another way…
“Their happiness is not your responsibility,” says my coach. It hits me like a punch from Mike Tyson! Wait, what? You mean I’ve spent the last 30+ years of my life trying to contort myself to be pleasing and you’re saying that’s not what I’m meant to do? Suddenly a thought pops into my head – what if I stopped focusing on others and concentrated on building a life for myself that I didn’t have an overwhelming urge to escape from? What would that even look like? Wouldn’t that be selfish? Where would I start?
“I don’t know what you’re not saying or who you’re not saying it to but I feel like you need to speak your truth” says the healer on the yoga retreat I’d booked in a desperate attempt to try to feel better. Boom! Speak your truth. Those words whirl round and round my head like a merry-go-round. I can’t do that….can I?
“I’m not the person to sell this for you,” I say to my boss. “And this is why I won’t do this presentation.” My heart is pounding in my chest as I say these words. My palms sweaty, my mouth dry. This kind of honesty is new to me. I have spent my life avoiding conflict and managing what other people think by adapting my words and behaviour, so this feels incredibly vulnerable. I brace myself for impact. To my astonishment, it doesn’t come. “Ok,” says my boss.
Slowly I start to unpick where they end and I begin. I reconnect with my feelings, with my wants and needs. I start to recognise the whispers of my heart that act as my internal compass to keep me on track, and I make choices that feel right for me. In doing so I learn who my people are. Most importantly I learn who I am and that who I am is more than enough. My confidence, courage, and communication soar. Who wants to be normal! I finally claim my space in the world.