“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” – Zen Shin
In the past, I often felt like I didn’t belong in groups of women.
Sometimes I felt like something was wrong with me, like I was othered in one way or another: too sporty, too quiet, too serious, too emotional, too dumb, too smart, too wild, too normal, too sexual, too prude.
Other times, I felt like something was wrong with all of them. Girls’ nights and bachelorette parties? The screeching voices, the loud laughs, the mundane conversations about makeup, skin care routines, and lip injections? No thank you.
I wanted so badly to belong but didn’t see a place for myself. I felt like I wasn’t doing the whole woman thing the right way. I found it easier to hang with the guys.
But now? I have learned that nothing is wrong with me (or you), and hanging out with a group of women makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
First, I stopped comparing myself to others.
Those “toos” I mentioned above, and that so many of us feel, are usually a product of that ever so insidious trap of comparison. It’s a trap because we get stuck in a negative thought loop, smothered by jealousy, anxiety, and self-criticism, which ultimately causes a fissure of separation, between ourselves and others.
If we use other people and external standards as a barometer, we will always find ourselves being “too” something, which makes for a very disruptive and tumultuous internal experience. For me, it means that I have spent many years feeling insecure and ungrounded in who I am. It means I often acted as a chameleon and changed my energy based on who I was around, so I could “fit in.”
But now, I don’t do that. (Okay, I still do it sometimes, but way less often.) I have learned that there is no “right” way to be a woman, or a human. We are each unique individuals with our own personalities, desires, fears, and preferences, and the uniqueness of all of us makes the world so much more interesting and beautiful.
Second, I shifted away from judgment and toward curiosity.
During my young adult years, I was very judgmental. I went from thinking that something was wrong with me to thinking that I was better than all the other women. I thought women talked too much about surface level things and people. My ego started to create stories of separateness: me over here wanting to ponder existential questions and talk about emotions, and them over there who wanted to gossip, laugh too loudly, and talk about makeup and boys.
Now, instead of judging the “surface level” conversations (which still occur), I am curious about them.
Why do women spend so much time discussing our weight, clothing, waxing habits, and skin care rituals? Because we have been force-fed the belief that we are inadequate the way we are. We are told that we have to buy this or that product if we want to be beautiful. We are told we have to be thin if we want to be loved. So it’s no wonder we spend so much time thinking and talking about matters of physical appearance.
By switching from judgment to curiosity, I have realized that such discussions are actually not surface level at all. They are reflective of deep desires to belong, to be loved, and to be accepted.
Third, I demoted my ego.
My ego told me that I was the only woman that felt othered. That I was unique in my feeling like I didn’t belong. That I was special in some way because I wanted to have “deeper” conversations. That is such BS!
I have now learned that I was in no way unique in feeling like I didn’t belong. Most women, and people, yearn to peel back the layers and connect with one another in a deep, rich way, but we find ourselves stuck in a performative role, trying to show up how society has told us to.
Many of us have erected walls around our hearts, minds, and bodies to protect the vulnerable, raw, sensitive parts of us. To protect the parts of us that we learned weren’t safe to express or were unlikeable. But we want to let others in.
Lastly, I also started listening to the sage advice from philosophers, religious leaders, and laypeople across centuries.
I started heeding their wisdom, which can be summed up as: you have everything you need within you.
I started to deepen my connection to myself, knowing that the problem I was experiencing, namely the feeling of being othered and not belonging, could only be solved by first turning inward. I’ve deepened my connection to myself through dance, breathwork, journaling, meditating, and playing. I have started to uncover who I am and who I want to be, versus trying to fit into a mold of what I think a woman, or a human, is supposed to be.
In my journey of releasing comparison, igniting curiosity, demoting my ego, and turning inward, I have also learned that:
You are not too anything.
This does not mean that you are perfect, or that you have no opportunities to grow and expand. But it does mean that there is no “right” way to be, except the way that is true and safe for you.
Often when people say you are “too ___,” it is a reflection of their own insecurities.
“You are too emotional” might mean, “I have not learned to express my emotions, and your vulnerability makes me uncomfortable.” “You are too loud” might mean, “I am not fully expressing myself, and I am jealous of your ability to express yourself confidently.”
You are not alone in your desire to belong.
It is likely that what you are feeling, others have felt at some point. When you remember this, you are reminded that you are not alone. The journey of self-discovery eventually leads to a feeling of oneness, because we absolve the illusion of self and separateness and begin to see our connectedness, our shared fears and desires. You know how it goes, we’re all made of stardust, baby!
When you start to express the truest parts of yourself, it’s an act of leadership.
Because in doing so, you provide a permission slip for others to do the same. This doesn’t mean you expect everyone to express themselves in the same way as you, but rather that we all start to express the weird, unique, quirky, true parts of ourselves. And that is what the world needs more of.
So, here’s to less judgment, more curiosity; less separateness, more connectedness; less fear, more love.
About Teresa Towey
Teresa Towey is a coach and mentor for women. Teresa curates individual and group spaces to guide you in breaking free from societal expectations about what you “should” do, so you start doing what you want, and are free to express the most wild and creative parts of you. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram. Use this link to schedule a free consult call!
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