As a young girl growing up in the country, I had the freedom of thousands of acres of land on which to run, play, adventure and create, as well as 3 brothers with whom to share those adventures. Miles form the nearest neighbours, we could be forgiven for thinking we were alone in the world. Yet, my darling mum had rules about how the clothes must be hung on the line, with the underwear on the inside lines and all the pants hanging together, just in case someone dropped in and saw the clothes line. Even then, some 40 plus years ago, I would sigh and say, “really mum, what does it matter?”.
Being more of the persuasion of “who cares what others think of me”, it was somewhat baffling to me to make sense of balancing the need to just get the washing dry with my mother’s need to have things “look right”. Then I grew up and realised this was a micro demonstration of one of life’s true challenges.
It seems life is a continual journey of wanting to be our true authentic self and trying to be what other people want, need or expect of us. Pulled left and pushed right, we sometimes forget to honour our own truth and walk our own path. Indeed, if we bend and mould to the needs of others for long enough, we can become completely disconnected from our own truth and that inner wisdom that could so powerfully guide our journey.
There’s a strong social discourse for women (and indeed for men too) about what it means to be a woman, mother, wife, daughter, sister, community member and so on. But who makes these rules and who sets the expectations? My sense is we all do, yet we seldom stop to reflect on the impact of these social expectations on how we live our lives. Handed blindly from one generation to the next, we end up conforming to these expectations and wearing the ill-fitting and out-dated garments of the past.
When finally the garment rubs like hessian, we are usually well into our adult years and too entrenched in the patterns of serving others to know what’s happening to us, how to deal with it or to whom we can go to even share the deeply guarded truth that we’re struggling. After all, I’m surely the ONLY one who feels like this, right?
This is the power of finding your tribe – that unique group of people who genuinely want you to simply be your best and will stand with you and by you whilst you shake off the old garments and create your own new ones! This is a group where sharing your struggles and vulnerability builds connection and meaning, rather than judgement. The human soul seeks connection, understanding and belonging, yet we all too often rob ourselves of the opportunity to experience this because of our own judgement and the need to wear the cloak of happiness – a garment that keeps us apart from others.
“Today you are You, that’s truer than true. There’s no-one alive who is Youer than You”, Dr Seuss.