Our outward persona -- the way we present ourselves to the outside world -- is so often our perfect, happy, evolved self; full of love and light. But deep down (or not so deep down), we have a dark side. The side that we are ashamed of; the side society has taught us is unacceptable and inappropriate -- that our shadows should be hidden. My coach, Lisa, asked me this: What happens when a picture has no shadow? The answer, at least to my artistic eye, is that it has no depth, it is flat -- it is dull, to be honest.
No one wants to talk about this. I never wanted to talk about it. Well, that part of me -- that angry girl (my hidden little vampire) -- she needs to be heard.
Most of my life, I struggled with minor depression, anger, perfectionism. I judged myself constantly. I told myself over that I wasn't pretty enough, I wasn't smart enough or cool enough. I certainly wasn't skinny enough (coming from the tiny gymnast who would eat less than 1,000 calories a day while training 5+ hours per day). I was a nationally competitive gymnast for 15 years, and when you are performing half-naked in a leotard in front of thousands of people live and on TV, of course you want to come off as perfect. When our only goal is to score a "Perfect 10.0" -- and we learn this at the age of 6 -- anything less means there was something wrong with your performance. "Perfect practice makes perfect," some coaches would say. One minor slip or bent leg would haunt me for weeks, months, even. I would dwell on all I did wrong; rarely acknowledging the things I did well -- the accomplishments I still achieved with the bobbles or falls, including competing and qualifying to the Junior Olympics in high school; understanding and embodying that you could still "win" with mistakes.
I judged that girl in me who could not appreciate or even acknowledge the positives of a situation. I have hung onto guilt for years for ever feeling sad for no reason, or total anger when a cab driver takes a route that I do not agree with. These uncontrollable rushes of emotion (whether outrage or weeping) -- what do I have to be sad about? I have an incredibly blessed life. I have an incredibly close, loving family, a wife who adores me, a business that allows me to travel and explore the world and help others... who the hell am I to cry? Who do I think I am? I don't deserve to be down, to cry on a beautiful sunny afternoon at home with my family. You do NOT deserve to feel negative feelings, I would tell myself. You with the skinny body, beautiful blue eyes, soulmate, supportive family -- you have it "ALL." What is wrong with you that you hold onto childhood pain? You are an adult. You have been to years of therapy. So let it go.
I deserve ALL of these feelings. I allow others to feel them, so I can too. I finally give myself permission to feel and to voice them. For I am you and you are me. I am a living, breathing being, and I am automatically given the right to emote unapologetically -- for any reason, at any time.
When I delved deep into my "dark side" in Panama, the angry girl, she came forth with a frown and was in all black -- goth-like. While Lisa guided me, we talked to her -- we asked her what she needed and what I was not giving her. Her answers were what we ALL need -- she needed acknowledgement and validation. All she wanted was to be seen and heard. It was beautifully tragic that I hadn't been giving that to her. She asked me to speak of her. To share her in order to help others.
We then asked her why she was a part of me and what is it that she gives me. And this pure love shone through. She gives me compassion. I am compassionate to others, but I do not give that to myself. She also provides me with growth -- growth in releasing my emotions -- providing me a wide range of emotions; granting me the ability to help a vast variety of women because I have felt quite a wide spectrum. This little girl, one that I have been ashamed of and pushed deep down, has been a blessing all along. Growth and compassion -- what gifts. My own internal alchemist.
After this communication, she became closer to me -- in proximity of my vision and in connection. Her clothes turned to a light light gray -- almost white -- color. And then, she curled up into me, resting her head on her hands on my lower right chest; cuddled up, finally allowing herself to rest as she was heard.
Having a few days to reflect on this, I realized that as a total extrovert, external and elemental (e-cubed), I am more comfortable outside of myself. Turning in for too long causes pain. My body goes into survivor mode and would turn numb so that I wouldn't feel or hurt (not too surprising for in gymnastics, if you got hurt, you ignored it and kept going). I never fully realized that by doing this, I was actually prolonging the hurt and the pain -- burying it wasn't dealing with it (intellectually, I got that, but I just lived in my head and not in my full being, so the brain was as far as it would flow internally) -- so years later, the pain is still there, and all I know is I have pain, but cannot fully remember why. It was a disservice to myself and others.
Ultimately, energy could not flow past my root chakra up to my shoulders -- it was like an energy-dead area -- this prevented me from fully appreciating or experiencing (for prolonged periods) immense positive emotions. I thought I was just suppressing the painful feelings, but I was also preventing myself from the pleasure.
A few things I have learned and am committed to practicing:
Face the fear
Welcome the pain. It will pass more quickly
Express gratitude for the pain because it means you are alive
Embrace the full spectrum of feelings and the various forms they may take. Do this unapologetically
Weep and cry like a hungry baby
Scream with the force of a lion's roar
Love intensely and fiercely with no boundaries
Do not judge others around you for their emotions
Accept yourself -- including your invisible wounds -- as you are
Be present in every moment
Be gentle and patient through this process
And with all of this, have no shame. Babies and animals express themselves with no judgment. Allow yourself to move through the feelings, not past them or an attempt to circumvent them.
Be unattached to a result, the fear, the pain -- it is all an illusion. It is created in our mind; a story manifested by our own individual selves -- a haunting story that repeats itself over and over.
What if we changed that story? What if we were to script a new story? A tale where only positive images and prose danced like a film in front of our eyes.
Others may call you naive. I call you brave.
Be brave, my love. Release and fly.