I have been steadily molting into truer versions of myself (for the most part) for the past seven years, and it started with my health and wellness social marketing business. I started on the self-development path because my mentor and coach advised me to, and I being the eager student, followed exactly what she told me to do and read. I consistently and steadily grew in my business and in my personal growth. For me, one of the most important moments of reflection was when people I had known for years, said (verbatim) “who are you, and what have you done with Alexis?” Before I started this often painful path of self-discovery, I couldn’t look anyone in the eye for more than a few seconds, and my head was constantly down when I entered a room. My goal in life until about six years ago was to be invisible in this world due to my perceived lack of self-worth. Breaking the perception of self-worth in my head was both uncomfortably painful, and even more incredibly rewarding and worth it every ounce of uncomfortableness to achieve. I am more “me” than I ever have been. And it’s been a hell of a journey. It’s a journey I choose to be never-ending because that is when one starts dying from the inside out. I know because when I stopped, that is exactly what happened. I was shrinking back into mediocrity because I felt I wasn’t equipped to deal with the issues in my life at the moment.
So as of today this is what my growth game looks like: my business is growing faster in the past three months than in the past two years; I am out and proud baby; I was in a relationship, and I feel comfortable in my own skin. I am actively putting my many talents and gifts back for the world to see and experience. If I am being completely honest, for most of the past two years I haven’t been allowing myself to be that vulnerable with my talents. I shrunk back into being trying to be invisible, but that wasn’t working either because I knew what it was like to be seen. My integrity was incongruous at best. I am purposefully seeking ways to bring my light into the world. I didn’t realize how much I had let it go out until now.
If you have struggled like I have with identity, self-worth; justifying your own bullshit story of mediocrity; validating yourself to your “peers”; trying to hide your emotions because to not do so hurts too much; the fallacy of being perfect (sorry not sorry), or trying to maintain an image that is not true to you- I am giving you permission to let all of it go. For those of you who don’t understand what I am referring to, that is AWESOME. I am both ecstatic for you and jealous. Because I thought needed permission to not be perfect. I thought I needed to wear a certain cape (e.g. persona) in order to belong. I thought I needed to be stoic because that meant being brave, courageous, and impenetrable to hurt. I thought I needed a certain job title and career to be accepted. ALL of it is bullshit if it does not serve you. And none of it serves you.
If I am being honest, I didn’t have much of an active personal growth game for almost two years. In my subconscious mind, my issues were too great. I didn’t know where to start, and I honestly didn’t realize how much of an issue it was until I started therapy. I was hiding. Again. And it was a shitty feeling to start to revert back to being invisible. I went back to being meek, apologizing, self-conscious, and my lack of self-confidence was back in full force. It started with a series of small decisions of not to do. My daily routine of gratitude, affirmations, and personal growth books became less routine, and then non-existent. I started listen to more audio trainings, which as a visual learner is not a good move of efficiency. It was a subconscious; “I don’t want to deal with any of these things right now in a deep way. So I’ll do superficial personal growth.” There is a book called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, which is basically about making the decision to do the little things that are easy to do and not do. Both add up to big changes consistently over time. It is up to you whether they are positive or negative big changes. In my case, they were negative.
There were some attributing factors to why these things happened, but I allowed them to dictate my life instead of acknowledging their presence and figuring out what to do about it. Whether you know it or not, everything you do is an active choice. Most of the time the choice is determined by one’s threshold for how uncomfortable their lives become. I actively made a change in my behavior because the life I was living had become really uncomfortable, and that is not meant in the working through my shit kind of growth that will cause your life to get better at the end. This was the kind of uncomfortable where I wondered how the frak I got there, and how to climb out of the fire swamp that had become my life.
I am comfortable doing things today that I never thought I’d be comfortable doing. I have never been comfortable in my own skin, and had rebelled against finding out why until about seven years ago. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin unless it was canoeing or out in nature by myself. Those were my churches. Those were the two communities I found myself accepted no matter how socially awkward I could be, and in those two communities became my refuge, they were my safe place to recharge and where I felt home. I used to say that I am a fundamentally different person than I was seven years ago. I don’t say that anymore. I say that I am the truest version of myself that I have ever been, and I will continue to evolve into being my best self.
I feel comfortable enough to own my sexuality to be proud enough of it to be in a relationship, and believe I am worth of it. And unabashedly shout during Philly’s Pride Parade on behalf of my cousin’s church, “you are queer? We are here!” Did I ever think in my entire life I would feel comfortable marching in a parade at all? No. Let alone shouting for a mile with pride about my sexuality (a vulnerability that I used to hide behind), high fiving, and handing out a hundred stickers without feeling self-conscious at all? To have the courage to bond with complete strangers in a city I don’t know because we are really all there for the same reason? Hell no. But I grew to get there. I grew to be the person I am today. And I will grow to be person I am meant to be tomorrow. The growth doesn’t stop. It just evolves to destroy the next barrier inside yourself so you can become the truest version of you ever.
In my experience, the best and worst part of growth is you find out who your real friends are. Some people might not recognize and accept the new you, and fight against it. They might even try to tear the “new” you down with sometimes seemingly innocuous comments that sometimes hurt beyond measure. It is okay to feel that hurt, but don’t let it linger. I like to think of it like a paper cut. It hurts like a bitch when it happens, but is gone relatively quickly and forgotten. The fault is on them, not you. They are fighting against themselves because they are reminded what they could be, but chose not to fight for. Show them what you fought for. Even better, show yourself what you fought for. That is another thing the past few years have taught me. Proving others wrong is a great short-term motivator. Proving yourself right? That is when the magic happens, and when you start to discount the lies you have told yourself your whole life.