For many of us, we are stuck in a cycle of doing. We get up, we follow whatever routine or to-do list awaits us and work towards goals we never really took time to define or connect to.
We become a product of our “what” and “how” without connecting to the “why” that guides us. And without that connection, we simply become cogs in a wheel of stagnation and conformity. We graduate high school, go to college, get ‘X’ job, find a partner, get a house, work, make money, pay off debt…and continue on the hamster wheel of the “predictable human existence”. That was the momentum that described my life perfectly for over a decade.
I have shared this before but for those that don’t know, I lied to myself for years trying to force myself into the professional bubble of “doctor” simply because at one point in my life I had talked about becoming one. I prematurely foreclosed on the school I would go to, relationship I would end up in, the life I would lead…all before I turned 18. Why? Because I believed that was what I was “supposed” to do. I mean that was what everyone around me did — worked in a job they hated, had loveless (or, at the very least, sexless) marriages and simply existed for the opportunity to wake up every day and live a life on repeat. Why would I expect anything different?
I never liked this life, but I learned to exist within it. I tried, for years, to make it work and succumbed to what I now so frequently refer to as the “Predictable Shittyness” — pushing every new opportunity and invitation for introspection as far away from me as I could.
But eventually, like trying to hold a beach ball under water, the pressure finally “boiled over” and the wall of separation I had built, burst open. I was slapped in the face with a life I hated. Riddled with anxiety and a tumultuous eating disorder, chasing a dream I never really wanted, in a relationship with a man I was no longer in love with and pretending to be happy…it was as if suddenly my brain and my heart went on strike. After so many of years of performing, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted in life. All I knew was that I could no longer try to force myself to exist in this world I had contributed to building for so long.
And with that, I left. No, it was not an immediate thing. But piece by piece I started to accept the invitations for introspection and took chances to uncover who I truly was and not who I had pretended to be. Now, don’t get me wrong. Fear showed up in full force, enveloping me in self-doubt, shame and anxiety. Who was I if I was not this person? Would anyone like me if I changed? Would I ever be successful? Would anyone ever love me?
This questions haunted me and played a major role in the pace at which I moved through this transition. So what, ultimately, gave me the courage to keep fighting? It was a mixture of self-compassion, patience and the ask, by a therapist of mine, about what made me fulfilled and who I got excited to see myself being. I had no idea how to answer that question. I had never considered I had the right to even be asked it. And so, a quest to answer it ensued.
As I uncovered what I now understand to be my values, I began to root myself from within and was able to better dismiss the pressures that existed outside of me. I could translate values to actions and choices. I could find courage to make the hard choices and live in the “skin” that felt right to me rather than the one that best blended in to the world around me. I worked through my anxiety, said goodbye to my eating disorder, left relationships that had long expired and made shifts in my personal and professional life to do the work that left me feeling fulfilled.
Was it all rainbows and unicorns? Fuck no. Sometimes knowing the answers can be the worst thing to find as, with answers comes responsibility. It was a lot of work and an immense amount of pain not only to shed these layers of my life but to say goodbye to the Kyira that I was for so long. It was as if I was naked, the whole world staring as I learned to find my way. But, over time and with the love of and trust in a few people in my life, I made the journey and eventually learned to walk in and find fulfillment in the authentic version of my life.
Sounds great, right. But ultimately, my story and growth is not the point. The point is that it is time to hold up the mirror in your own life. I am not alone in this quest to uncover who I really am and feel empowered to live a life in line with that. We are all wondering in a sea of conformity trying to make our way through. And the single greatest pressure is external validation and the misconception that connection requires uniformity. Who are you, really? What is the “why” that drives you to be who you are or is dying to be seen? What would you do, say or become if you knew that you would be safe in doing so? We can all talk about what we do or how we get through our lives but I want you to find the energy that gives you hope, excitement and motivation to get out of bed everyday.
How do you figure that out? Well, after years of working on my own values clarification and helping hundreds of patients and clients work through their own process, I created my own worksheet to help identifying and connecting to our values that much more accessible. It is time to sit with the hard questions and being the journey to building insight, connection and understanding of who we truly are. And then, from there, and yes, while walking with fear, we can begin to tackle the steps necessary to begin to make the shifts you want to see in your life.
So, if you are ready to start living and stop existing, take this first major step in making this your reality.
As always, I welcome any and all insights, questions or ideas below! The sea of conformity has a mighty current but together and with encouragement and support, we can turn and walk in a direction that feels right, rather than easy.