I was really lucky growing up; I had parents that wanted me to be whatever I wanted to be. They were excited about the opportunities for women to do whatever they wanted, and they truly wanted me to be happy.
When I was like 8 years old, I declared that I wanted to be the first female President of the United States.
I had the full support of my parents and teacher. (There was a raised eyebrow or two, but from what I could pick up back then, they seemed in favor of me at least trying.)
But the things that came after that decision – knowing that I wanted to do something big and important in the world – came with expectations.
“Rachel Ann, that’s not very ladylike,” my dad would say. “If you want a career in politics, or to influence others, you’re going to have to have better manners than that.”
From a very young age, we are talked out of being who we naturally are.
Whether that’s from well-intending parents who want something better for us, or the tiny occurrences that happen at school that we translate into meaning we’d better do something differently if we want to fit in, we have internalized that who we are is not ok. (On some level, everybody has some version of this, small or large.)
Think of every time you’ve had someone say to you:
You’re wearing that?
You’re dating him/her?
You’re going by yourself?
You’re doing what?
You’re going with whom? (let’s be real…they said “who,” didn’t they?)
You want what?
It starts young, and it never stops.
And unless you’re a fucking superhero, here’s what happens next.
You start to mold yourself. You do what you’re told when you’re little. And as you get older, you look around to see what everybody else is doing. Little by little, you get away from who you really are. (But of course, most of this happens completely unbeknownst to you.)
So, there you are, doing what you think you’re supposed to do to fit in, to achieve success and happiness.
But it doesn’t work for you like it works for everyone else. And then you doubt your choices.
“Why doesn’t it work for me, when it works for everyone else?”
Cue the worst thing you can possibly say to yourself: What is wrong with meeeeeee?
So, you get real detective-like, and start to look around and find all the things wrong with you: you want to lose weight, you aren’t far enough along in your career, you should have more money in the bank, you’d like to dress better, or be a cooler mom, or whatever you think you should be more of.
AND THEN, BECAUSE YOU ARE A WARRIOR, MY FRIEND, YOU BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF THOSE SYMPTOMS!!
“I’ll show them!! I will be more productive, I will lose the weight, I will make more money…” You get the idea.
You beat yourself up, and then try to prove all those things wrong. And you laugh a little laugh, and do a little shoulder shrug, “I’m only human, I’ve got room to grow just like everyone else.” You stay positive despite your deepest fears that you’ll never climb out of this hole.
This makes you really tired. Spent. Overwhelmed.
But you’re working on all the wrong problems. Like putting lipstick on a pig.
There is nothing wrong with you. You’ve just forgotten who you are.
The careful curation of being who you think you need to be in order to get what you want – in love, in careers, in being accepted by others – is disastrous to your life.
I repeat: there is nothing wrong with you.
When you take a wrong turn on the highway, do you start calling the car defective, and find all the things that are wrong with it? Nope, you recognize that you’ve gotten off the path, and you make the corrections needed to get back on it.
You’ve been beating yourself up for following a map that wasn’t meant for you. And instead of beating yourself up, you could just tell the person that gave you the map that you don’t want their map, that you’ve got your own map, and that you’re going to go find your path, thank-you-very-much.
I don’t want you to be anyone different than who you are.
I’m just here to help you get back to the path that’s yours. That’s it. Your only work is returning to who you really are. No more, no less.
I share this for two reasons. The first is that the work is easier than you think it is, and it feels much more like home than you could imagine. So much more is available to you from this place.
The second is because I see a whole lot of brilliant women struggling – all because they can’t see that they are trying to live a life that isn’t the one that fits. (And that’s where I come in: to help bring you back to the life that feels so good to you, you wouldn’t dream of having it any other way. If this is something you want to talk more about, go here and grab a spot on my calendar to see what it’s like.)
What is something you remember about yourself from childhood that seems like it really felt true to who you are? What did you like? How did you spend your time? How is it different than what you like or do or care about now? Leave me a comment below, and let me know.
Bonus homework is to spend a little time bringing those parts of you back, just to see if they still light you up in the same way.
I can’t wait to hear what you come up with and how it all goes!