Most of my life I have felt like a fish out of water. I don’t really fit in where most other women do. I don’t really fit in with the men either. I have tried to figure out why I don’t have the stereotypical “female tribe” I see around me. Why am I not invited to do some of the things those female types do? Never mind that I don’t enjoy most of what they are doing and don’t really want to go. I still want to be invited. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of friends and some really good close friends. I’m not living life alone. But I don’t live it like most other women. I never have. I have always been able to make friends with boys easier than with girls. I feel more comfortable hanging out with guys and there is nothing sexual about it. But that can seem awkward for others, so I keep hanging out with the guys to a minimum. I have beat myself up for not fitting in, wondering what is wrong with me. Wondering am I not good enough? Am I not fun enough? Am I not nice enough? I could go on and on.
Over the years I have tried repeatedly to diagnose what I perceived was a problem with me. As a coach, I help people through issues such as this quite frequently. Why couldn’t I figure it out for myself? Turns out it is easier to help others than it is to help yourself. Helping yourself to truly become self-aware and to then make changes is hard. Really hard. Thankfully there are some truly self-aware and gifted people in the world that give nuggets of their wisdom and experiences to help inspire us. I love to listen to podcasts and run. This is my time to be alone and consume the information that fills my fuel tank.
On a run this week I was gifted with a beautiful story that has led to one of the most powerful epiphanies of my life! Brene Brown was interviewing Glennon Doyle about her new book, Untamed. I have now listened to this podcast 3 times and I am reading the book. Thank goodness for the forced slowdown and quarantine because I can indulge myself over and over in this fabulous gift of information. As I listened to Glennon talk about herself and life, I felt like it was me talking. It was within a different context, but the feelings were the same. Glennon tells the story of a cheetah in a zoo she was visiting with her children. The cheetah had been trained alongside a Labrador to help tame her.
I don’t want to steal Glennon’s thunder, go get the book, but the gist of the story is this:
The cheetah was born into captivity and trained to act like a dog. It is the only way of life that she has ever known. But deep inside, the cheetah feels that life should be more than this and that she is not meant to act the way she was trained. When she is alone in her zoo exhibit, she is different and wild again. She dreams of wide-open savannahs and freedom, of a life more beautiful than the one she has even if the one she has is good enough. But how can she dream of this if she has never seen or experienced it? Why can’t she just be grateful for how good her current life is? It is because she is a cheetah!
In Untamed, Glennon uses the cheetah story as a metaphor for the way women are tamed or trained to act. We are taught to “be good”, “speak correctly”, “know our place”, “be perfect wives/mothers/friends”, “not complain (i.e. bitch)”, “be thin”, “be beautiful”, “be sexy, but only at the right time”, and most of all “be grateful”. If we do not live up to the expectations society has placed on us, we feel like we are not enough. If we are not grateful in our “good enough” lives, we feel guilty. But what if deep inside we feel like the cheetah? Like life is supposed to be different and more beautiful than this?
I have let my inner Glitch tell me a ton of lies over the years and I have believed them. Lies like, I don’t fit in because I am not enough; I am not pretty enough; I am not smart enough to contribute, I am not polished enough to be effective. The cumulative effect of believing these lies is that I distance myself from work and personal obligations and goals to avoid failing at them. After all, I’m not enough. I have told myself I am not valuable enough to contribute and kept quiet even though my gut told me I was right. I have told myself I must have some type of defect because I don’t act or want to act like most women. I perceived that this was true because when I do act on my instinct, the reactions I would receive were mixed reviews. I have questioned all of this over and over and over and over. Ultimately, I asked myself if I was crazy.
As I ran listening to the podcast with Brene and Glennon and I heard the cheetah story and the questions being posed, I stopped running dead in my tracks. I immediately began to cry. Not sad tears but tears of relief and joy! For the first time in my life I KNEW what I had been trying to figure out about myself. Inside I am like the cheetah! I want a life more beautiful and different than what I think society has said I am supposed to have. I AM NOT CRAZY! And most importantly, I AM ENOUGH!
Turns out I am not a fish out of water!! I have been in the wrong water. It is time to jump out of the small, tame pond and to jump into the ocean where I belong! It’s no wonder I have a fascination with the ocean and mermaids. It is where I know deep down that I belong!!
This is a scary and thrilling revelation for me. It is very freeing as well. I can be exactly who I feel inside I should be. I know I am a SMART, BEAUTIFUL woman with a lot of wisdom to contribute to the world. My optimism is contagious. I value authenticity and humility. Ambitious, altruistic people are my people. I am intimidating to some and my bluntness can be cutting. But I LOVE BIG and care more about humanity than myself. I deserve BIG LOVE in return and won’t ever settle for less; even if what I have is good enough. I am grateful for what I have but am more grateful for what will be. I won’t temper my feelings, actions or words anymore because society says that is not how a woman should behave. I have a lot to give to the world that I have been holding back because I have feared what others might think. I did not trust myself enough that I could stand in my true self and be successful.
Look out! I’m not a cheetah, but I am Gina. It’s time to really let her shine!