My story is not a unique one.
In fact, I’m sure most people have a similar version, just with their own experience. But the lessons I’ve learned I am hoping can be applied to anyone who’s ever felt out of place….
If I could go back in time to my 7 year old self, this is what I would say to her:
- Don’t try to be like everyone else. Be yourself; the world needs an original, not a copy.
But alas, I don’t have access to a time machine. So I’ll impart that wisdom on my kids instead.
Growing up East Indian in a suburb where most people were of a different race/culture/religion than me was tough enough. Try coupling that with being bullied at my former school, moving a few times, having to say goodbye to recently made friends only having to start the entire process again in a new place.
It started unconsciously; slowly, like chipping away at stone, I chipped away at my own soul.
I began to deny myself. If my parents didn’t like something I liked, I usually gave it up. If my friends didn’t like something I liked – I adjusted, if my teachers didn’t like something, I changed it. All I wanted was to feel loved and accepted.
It almost felt like I already had two strikes against me, 1 being that I’m East Indian, and 2 being the new kid. Looking back, it’s no wonder that I denied and betrayed myself so many times.
I would unconsciously imitate people’s way of speaking and their mannerisms. I was good at being a chameleon, changing my colours to suit other people and my environment. Sticking out like a sore thumb was something I wasn’t having. There was no way I was being bullied again for being me. I got really good at keeping my head down, pleasing others and generally keeping quiet.
When you deny yourself enough times, I feel, your soul starts to ache. It’s like, your essence slips away. It was only in my late 20s that I finally decided to try to get my essence back.
So what did I learn from this experience? What was the take home lesson from experiencing this contrast of being ‘different’? The more I think about the past and what those difficult lessons were trying to teach me, the more I realize this:
Perhaps everyone who denied, criticized or ridiculed me, my opinions and my quirks were propelling me to fully accept the beauty of my uniqueness.
The contrast that we experience can propel us to be our own authentic selves at our core if we allow it to. Looking back, all of those individuals were my teachers; they were teaching me to accept myself for who I am. I mistook it for utter rejection. The compassion I feel for myself is I was a child back then, and children need to feel loved and accepted for who they are. If they don’t, then of course no one can blame them for opting to fit into the image of what others want them to be, so that they feel loved.
My adult self; however, now knows that love and acceptance starts from within. It starts with meacknowledging and desiring to experience things that make my heart sing. To ask my heart, what does it truly desire? It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but then again, why does that matter?
I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately; why does it matter so much what other people think? I have this one life – and I think the worst part would be to get to the end of it without having done the things that I wanted to do just to make other people happy.
If I go on doing that, I’ll have myself to blame. I don’t want that. It may take me time to discover what it truly is that makes me happy, what does my voice sound like, what makes me passionate. But at this point I’m willing to learn.
Time to do things my way.
Picture reference: http://www.lizardtypes.com/chameleon-pictures/