Behind the Mask – finding the real you

Last week, I talked about the life-changing magic of daring to be you; of living your dreams, following your intuition, and refusing to be confined by the expectations of others. But what if you’ve spent so long conforming to both external and self-inflicted restrictions that you’ve lost sight of who you really are, and how you’d like to live? Whilst I’ve never had a problem following my heart with the big stuff, I did used to restrict myself – and allow others to restrict me with uninvited opinions – in smaller acts of self-expression. Things like:

– A boyfriend who mocked my style of dress, which, to borrow from Elizabeth Gilbert, is best described as ‘Stevie Nicks goes to yoga in her pyjamas’. Little by little I started to dress how he wanted me to, and I started to lose a piece of me in the process. Well he’s long gone, and I’m happily married to a man who looks at my exuberant outfits and says ‘it’s you, darling’.

– I was horrified if I was caught singing, because I’d been told aged about 8 that I was rubbish at it. I kept quiet; I muted myself. 30 years later, I screwed up my courage, recorded myself, and guess what – I sound perfectly fine. I’m not going to win any Grammys, but I’m no worse than the next person.

– I almost missed out of one of the best adventures of my life, cycling around Bali. Not being a regular cyclist, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to keep up; I said ‘it’s not the sort of thing I do’. Thankfully I challenged myself just in time, and had the most fabulous experience.

So I’ve been there. I’ve fallen prey to limiting beliefs and self-doubt, but I’ve learnt how to get past them and do ‘me’ at my liberated best. So this week, I’d like to offer some practical ideas of how to peel back the mask and find out who you really are…. the you with no limits, no barriers, just complete freedom to be – well, you!

1 – Do what you love. This is the biggie. It doesn’t matter how silly, how unproductive, how childish you think it is, because this is about how it makes you FEEL – and the thinky, judgy part of your brain can butt out. If you’d love to fly kites, do colouring-in, turn cartwheels, write poetry that you’ll never let anyone see, dance around bonfires, swim naked in the ocean, wear flowers in your hair, play an instrument that you’ve never been trained in – what’s stopping you? Notice if your reaction to those ideas was ‘ooh no, I could never do that’. Is that because those particular ideas don’t appeal – or because your thinky-judgy put up the barriers? Start noticing where you shut yourself down – then start challenging that by asking yourself ‘why not’? Start doing something, no matter how small, that sets your spirit alight EVERY DAY.

2 – Do what you love part 2. This is where it gets tougher. This is about integrating what you love to do into your life in a bigger way. Maybe you already have a career that brings you joy, in which case fantastic! But what if you don’t have that sort of job? What if you’ve got a solid, steady job that pays the bills but makes you die inside a little bit every day? Well, you have some choices, and this is something that deserves a blog all of its own, so I’m going to look at this in detail next week. But start by taking a tiny piece of number 1 with you to work – a picture of a kite as your screensaver, a flower at your desk, a shell in your pocket – to remind you of what you love to do.

3 – Focus on the other person. Huh? This is a post about you, isn’t it? Well yes, but sometimes the best way to quieten the thinky-judgy is to forget about you. If you really pay attention to what someone is saying in conversation, you’re not formulating your response and you’re not worrying about what they think of you. Which means they feel truly heard – believe me, that’s the best gift you can give a person – and you get to practise being you, without the mask.

4 – Small dance test. Start to pay attention to your reactions. Do you feel uplifted or slightly worn down by invitations, people, places? I have a motto when it comes to purchases, which is ‘never buy anything that doesn’t make you want to do a small dance’. I mean, it doesn’t apply to boring necessities like bathroom cleaner but you get the idea, and it can equally be applied to life. ‘Does this make me want to do a small dance? Or does it make me feel like someone let a tiny bit of my air out?’

5 – How would I act now if I gave no damns? This is such a useful question to ask, to gauge if you’re limiting yourself. You can begin by playing with it in your mind, but in time you might flirt with the idea of just acting as if you gave no damns. It might feel so good to act that way, that you start to wonder why you give a damn? And if you keep going, you might just find that one day, you really don’t….


In part 3 of this blog next week, I’ll look in detail at how to integrate the things that set your soul on fire into the bigger picture of your life.


Quote: Kurt Cobain

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