How I got tangled up…

Have you all ever experienced this – when you are physically with others, but you don’t feel that you belonged? Where you don’t know how to show up and express your true selves?

For years growing up, the above was in large how I felt. I got so used to being told who I was to become, how should I think, what could I feel and not feel, the actions I could take.

To this day, I still have flashback of many moments where I would literally believe when others told me about me. For example:

  • During my elementary school: I didn’t have long hair and didn’t behave like a girl enough, so ballet wouldn’t suit me.
  • When I was about to go to college, as I was the third born in my family and I was just a girl among my siblings, I couldn’t yet go to university simply because my elder brother hadn’t yet been.
  • When I began my professional career, I received feedback to think, talk, write, act like a professional who was raised and taught differently than my own upbringing.

In these recall of my past experiences plus many more, time and time again, I was asked to fit into a tiny little box that I didn’t feel comfortable being in it.

Even though I eventually got to where I wanted to be, as in I did try ballet, I became the first one in my family to have graduated from university abroad, I finally found my way through to becoming the professional and leader I strive to be – in many situations, I had to fight for it. Not physically as such, but emotionally within me.

My lack of sense of belongingness was in large attributed to me growing up with a belief given to me that I should be thinking, feeling, acting, as someone else.

Imagine like a bunch of threads that started out straightened and lined up neatly, I was holding both ends, swapping them around in my both hands. My lack of understanding of who exactly I was, what precisely did I want; and piling on top were the comments from many others, over the years, inside me was this huge conflict, like the bunch of threads got tangled up, with no way to untangle them. I wasn’t me. Deep inside me, I felt imprisoned.

Am I supposed to be living my own life? Or somebody else’s life?

I was confused, unsettled, uncomfortable – and yet, I didn’t know how to become untangled. Whilst none of these are traumatic, but when these small moments got put together, they were enough to limit me from becoming who I could potentially be if the conditions I was nurtured in were different.

My opportunity to pivot

Fortunately, I had an opportunity to pivot into something better. Specifically, shortly after I had my second child, I made a self-commitment that my core role as parent is not to make my children be like me; but to provide them the environment and conditions to discover and be their true authentic selves. My intention was to find ways to minimize the possibilities for my children from going through the same conflicts I felt inside me when I was growing up.

To my blessings, this self-commitment has helped me in many ways. The very fact that I was stuck to my past and living other people’s lives, I had to first cure me in order to be in a better position to enable my children.

I started reading, with the intention to find out the solutions to get me untangled. Book after book, I soon realized three things:

  1. Hang on a minute, as humans, by nature, we are not meant to be the same! Our uniqueness defines who we truly are. When nurtured and used well, it is a strength that we have differences from others.
  2. What we know is such a small proportion to what we should know and what we don’t yet know! Therefore, when others give their opinions, comments, they only capture a small fraction of what else is possible. There is more to be explored!
  3. Our brains are malleable, that is we are adaptable to re-set, re-adjust, re-start, re-focus…as many times as we need to. Our ability to change is driven by necessity!

With all the learnings I gathered plus many more, I came to a conclusion that I can’t change what happened to me. But I can certainly decide what do I want to do with the experience I had – it all comes down to my CHOICE.

My conscious choices to begin untangling

Here are the fundamental choices I have to learn to make consciously in order to continue progress into my journey of untangling:

  1. I choose to live outside the box to give me the freedom to explore and to pursue what feels good and right to me.
  2. I choose to not let others’ limitations limit me.
  3. I choose to be me, to give myself permission to feel, and to live my own life instead of others.

My progress

As a result of my conscious practice of these choices, amazing progress has taken place over time! That is I found my authentic self!

As subjective as it may sound, these are the positive changes I felt from within me in my journey of untangling:

  • I now feel a much deeper connection with my inner-self.
  • The reduced in conflict within me as a result led to increased productivity and focus to do what I prioritize over. These days, I very rarely make remarks like “I can’t find time!” or “this is not what I want to do!”.
  • As I pivoted my focus and time to do what matters, my physical and spiritual energy levels increased significantly. The untangling has led me to feel a constant flow of energy within me.

Even with my children, they now see this part of me and their amazing capabilities to learn through observing is calling out their authentic little selves over time!

The bigger message

Last week, I had the opportunity to host a fireside chat with a colleague in my organization about the importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI). I was reminded of this:

“Aligning us with our true selves is a must, not a choice. When we fail to do so, we won’t feel belonged”.

Becoming our authentic selves is a journey of constant discovery packed with learning, trying, and fine-tuning. Each of us have a role to play to create inclusive environments where we and those around us feel valued, respected, and belonged.

Whether you’re on your own or when you’re with others, remember this, be you.