It took me a long time to remember how to be me. I’m pretty sure I was born a perfect version of myself. However, I was immediately immersed into a boisterous family of eight children and two parents who (bless their hearts) were probably just trying to survive the chaos. Add four more kids to the mix, and soon I was lost in the middle of twelve, just going along with the crowd.
We all have different versions of this story. The influences of our family, friends, teachers, and society mold us into the person we become.
We are taught to stifle our nature in so many ways
“Stop looking out the window and daydreaming!”
“Big boys don’t cry.”
“Good girls don’t talk back to their fathers.”
Layer after layer, our perfect souls get covered, like concrete, in the ways we “should be” – to fit in and to meet others’ approval. If we live our whole lives without peeling back those layers to find our true heart, which leads to our true purpose, we miss out on something amazing.
I was speaking to a group at a national conference a few years ago about following one’s dream. A middle-aged woman came up to me the next day at my book signing and said, “I was in your audience yesterday.”
“Oh that’s great! I hope you enjoyed it,” I smiled.
She replied, “Well, I realized I’m an imposter.”
Slightly taken aback, I said gently, “Really?”
“Yes,” she continued. “I have spent my whole life in a job that I hate, simply because my dad thought it would be a good career for me. After listening to you, I have finally decided I’m done doing what everyone else thinks I should do. I’m going to go do what I’ve always wanted to do.”
She grinned a huge grin, like a child just let out of school for the summer. I walked around the table and gave her a big hug, on that day, the first day of her new life.
It’s not easy to shed those layers that have been placed upon us since before we even remember. It’s not easy to risk displeasing someone we care about by stepping out in our true direction, regardless of their approval.
But it’s even harder to live as an imposter.
It’s even harder to find joy in someone else’s vision for us.
And it’s even harder to live with the sadness and listlessness that come from following a path that is not aligned with our soul.
It is worth every bit of effort to start listening to our heart’s direction. Deep inside, that perfect version of our self knows what is true for us, but sometimes it takes someone to help us be able to hear our truth. Many years ago, I had a friend who was that beacon in the night for me, who helped me to see past people-pleasing and to know my own heart. I spent a great deal of time deep in #meditation and life review and finally realized, whatever the cost, I needed to be true to my own self. Since that time, my life has blossomed in ways I could never have imagined.
Everybody is their own kind of flower
And speaking of blossoms, I recently had the pleasure of spending a summer in #Italy, tending the garden and watering the many beautiful flower beds on an #olivefarm. The senore owner took me under his wing and we spent a lot of time together sharing outings, meals and philosophies, with his being based in buddhism and mine in shamanism. Although we got along great, it soon became clear that I did not fit his perception of what a spiritual person should be. He would say to me things like,”Why don’t you walk slower?” and “Why don’t you speak quieter?’ and “Why don’t you shut the door more softly?”
After hearing this many times, I finally said to him, “Costanzo, when you walk through your gardens, do you say to the flowers, ‘Gardenia, why are you not more colorful, like the bougainvillea?‘ Or ‘Sunflower, why don’t you smell as beautiful as the jasmine?‘ Or ‘Rose, why aren’t you thornless, like the lily?‘ Of course you don’t! You know each #flower is perfect the way it is. And so it is with people. Like a unique flower, I am the way I am. I am a Cateflower, and I am a perfect Cateflower, just as I am.”
The same goes for each one of us. Regardless of the bill of goods the world tries to sell us, there is no makeup, or make of car, or make-believe improvement that we need in order to be perfect as we are. You are perfect, right now, dear reader, and worthy of love.
How would you blossom if you shed the constricting layers that bind you and opened your heart to follow your dreams? Is there an image that would be your avatar?
I didn’t always know I was a perfect flower. Although, as the mother of three sons, I did know I wanted my boys to be free of stifling role expectations. I believe the men of our society suffer as much as the women when society defines how different genders must be and act. To avoid those destructive stereotypes, I did my best to teach my sons about #realmen and #realwomen:
Real men do cry
Real men can be physically affectionate, outside of sexuality
Real men need big hearts more than big muscles
Real men speak their truth with gentleness
Real men appreciate real women who speak their own truth
Being on my own journey of discovery during those family-raising years, I wasn’t always a perfect role model, so I was touched to the core when my middle son, John, sent me a video and said it always made him think of me. Take a listen here: