I got a chance to catch up with a dear friend last night, and while we spoke, she described her frustration over having had to go back and live in her midwestern home state since last I saw her. She had to leave her previous bustling city, and bypass one of the more popular coasts, and she described how her frustration had grown into near hatred for the “slow” pace, nosiness and lack of privacy with rural life. However, her deepest frustration for where she was living was that it felt and looked like a “step back” from the chic, fast-paced life that she had been living. She was itchy and uncomfortable being in Iowa because of the fear of what people would think of her having left her job, her boyfriend, her previous life in order to figure out her next move in the quiet, economical generosity of her family home.
It made me think back to the time when I had been forced to take some time off from the University of Notre Dame, and return to my mom’s house in Michigan. Just like my friend, I had fought the leave of absence staunchly, not wanting to have to do something that felt like such a tremendous regression.
Fear of people’s judgement and perception was a powerful force. It made both of us respectively rail against the towns in which we had been born, the towns that were now generously supporting us during that transitional time, and the towns in which our parent’s had still been living.
The rub of it was, had we really listened to what we both had been fearing others would think of us in the midst of fighting so vehemently where we were—and where we weren’t living—we would’ve realized that those very judgements were how we had been feeling about ourselves at the time. Both of us felt like failures, we felt stunted and trapped and alien to our real selves. We felt afraid. We didn’t know what our next steps were going to be, and it made us fearful to return to our childhood homes as adults. We were each scared of having to live under our parent’s roof again after having been adulting for some time.
Those judgements that we were most afraid of were actually coming from inside our heads. And the moment we were able to identify that, we then took the opportunity to actually deal with them.
For me, I forced myself to take a step back, and observe the big picture of my situation. I realized at the time that I had so many resources at my disposal. I had had a free place to live for the moment, a soft place to fall with the support of my friends and family, and the time to allow it to come together. I had a set time frame. I had three months. Three months to work on myself, my body, my mind, my spirit. Three month’s to get myself together before going back to school—the place I really wanted to be. I finally gave myself permission to embrace my circumstance, my surroundings, and most importantly, myself. Instead of pushing against, I embraced. I remember the crushing weight of my circumstance being lifted almost immediately. I remember suddenly being able to breathe again. I remember the consummate freedom that had transpired by shining a light into what I had fought to hide in the darkness for so long. I remember having broken the chains of fear and shame and judgement that bound, and feeling the consummate freedom in embracing who I truly was. I remember coming back into my skin so gently, so lovingly, and feeling the relief, the comfort, the exhilaration of the integration. The exhilaration inherent within my acceptance of myself—scars and all.
I remember coming into the knowing that when you feel happy in your skin, your geography doesn’t matter. When you feel happy in your skin, the pace doesn’t matter. When you feel happy in your skin, the opinions of others don’t matter.
When you feel happy in your skin, when you know yourself, accept yourself, and are well on your way to loving yourself unconditionally, then the world around you starts to reflect the very same.
My dear friend went through a similar process, and she is now thriving. She, like me, feels strong, passionate, purposeful. She has started an incredibly successful business venture, garnered the support and partners necessary to be successful, and most importantly, is sublimely happy.
So many of us get tripped up in pushing against that which surrounds us, that which is outside of us. We get caught up focusing on what is wrong with our external situation, instead of pausing to take into consideration that our outside environment almost always mirrors our inner most environment. Our mental, emotional pattern of thoughts and beliefs. If we start by exploring, acknowledging and cleaning up our inner atmosphere, the atmosphere outside of us, the atmosphere around us will inevitably change, take care of itself, and we will feel so incredible, that it won’t even matter to us in the interim.
Polo REO Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile. Growing up, [...]