When I was writing my first book, a dear friend said to me,
“This work is subversive*.”
I was completely shocked. What did she mean?
“But I’m telling people to love themselves and follow their truth!” I said, outraged.
“Exactly” she replied.
[*Subversive, adjective, seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution]
I told a second friend what the first friend had said and she told me her story.
“When I was in my teens and early twenties I wanted to rebel. So, I got a tattoo and smoked and used drugs and slept around. I thought I was defying the system by not being a ‘good girl’.
Then one day I had a shocking realisation.
I saw that I wasn’t defying the system at all. I was occupying another role available to me – that of the rebel girl who self-harms. I was damaging myself to stand up against the oppression of me. I was actually still giving my power to the system by using my own body and will to fight against it. I was supporting the system’s oppression of me!
That’s when I realised, the only real way I can defy the system is to love myself and look after me well.”
(Thank you my dear friend. You know who you are.)
It’s amazing that I can even write these things and publish them and you can buy and read them. I don’t think this sort of freedom of expression has ever been an option before in human history. And in the majority of countries and cultures in the world, it still isn’t.
No matter where you are in the world though, regardless of how oppressive or permissive your community is, there are rules you believe you need to fulfil to belong.
We’ve all been taught to look to external things to meet our needs. We’ve learned that if we please others, we’ll be ok.
Humans are social animals and we seek to fit in with the pack to survive. Being cast out means death.
So don’t beat yourself up about finding it hard to express yourself or follow your Truth, or even to know what it is. Just about everything in our world is telling you to listen to them rather than yourself.
Let me count the ways you are being told how to be…
These systems each deeply impact how you feel you are allowed to express yourself.
- Socio-economic standing
- Mass media
- Body Image perceptions
- Health Industry…
It goes on forever, this list of roles and structures and stories and limitations and prescriptions about who you can or can’t be, how you can or can’t express, what is ok or not ok for you to want or not want.
“Girls should be like this, boys should be like that.”
“A real man / woman would do it like this.”
“In our culture we don’t do that. It’s ok for others but not for us.”
“People of colour / white people are like that.”
“You can’t wear that!”
“It’s fine if you’re rich but we can’t do that.”
“People like us can’t expect that.”
“In our school we don’t…”
“Your body should look like this.”
“In our faith we believe this.”
Ironically, even the New Age movement is imposing another narrative; That you should at all times be happy and thriving and successful and if you aren’t, it means you are failing because you must obviously not be following your truth and you clearly have issues and blocks you need to clear and only THEN will you be acceptable.
So listening to your inner truth and meditating and being happy is just another thing to get right.
How on earth do we even begin to know what we actually want?
How do we find our own unique truth in amongst all those doctrines and rules?
And how, oh HOW, do we even begin to give ourselves permission to express the way that feels right and good to us individually when there are so many pressures around us telling us how to be?
Do you see why you shouldn’t be hard on yourself about finding it difficult to just follow your dreams, speak out, do what you actually most long to do…?
In a way, the whole world is against you doing that.
In another way though, the whole world desperately needs you to do it.
In your own way.
So, step by brave step, ask “If I loved myself, what would I choose to do now” and then be gentle and kind with yourself as you strive to follow that inner guidance.
I’m cheering you on.
Tell me what you think?