Many years ago I was driving down an Edmonton street when I saw something that stayed with me all these years. A little boy, about six years of age, wearing a snowsuit that was too big for him and a batman toque that fell over his eyes, frenetically dancing on a street corner. I slowed down to watch him and thought to myself, “don’t ever lose that kid.”
I vividly remember the day I lost “that.” I was 11 and my friend and I went to A&W for a root beer. There was a booth next to us filled with teenagers. After awhile I realized they were laughing at me. I asked my friend, “why are they laughing?” She said, “Tracy, they’re laughing at what you’re wearing.” I had on my black and white checkered flood pants, my brother’s buckskin jacket (with the fringes) and a red kerchief tied around my head. In retrospect I would have fit right in with the Grunge crowd so, really, I was ahead of my time, but at that moment I was confused and embarrassed. Welcome to adolescence when everyone’s opinion matters, except maybe our parents’ opinion.
Now that I’m in my 50’s I find myself reverting to the uninhibited me who wears what I want, says what I want and explores all kinds of weird and wonderful things to see where it leads. So, what’s behind the change? Part of it is maturity and having a clear sense of self. Society expects less of us as we get older and I wasn’t blessed with children which means the pressure of raising a child to conform to societal norms amounts to watching my P’s and Q’s around my nieces and nephews.
What if we can forgo the age factor and get back to our uninhibited selves sooner? We’ve all heard inspirational phases like “dance like nobody’s watching”, “speak your truth”, but these are just words. We need to start by asking ourselves, “Why don’t we dance like nobody’s watching and what holds us back from speaking our truth?”
Our emotional memory is stored in our limbic brain and our emotional experiences determine our connections to others and where we fit within our social groups. If we faced judgement for being outspoken or different, that memory can impact future actions. In that sense we’re somewhat hard-wired to fit in as opposed to stand out, but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse.
Our brains are wonderful organs capable of far more than we can imagine. There is freedom when we challenge ourselves to move beyond our comfort zone. It isn’t easy, but we can create new and positive experiences.
Think about something you want to do, but you’re reminded of a related unpleasant experience. Now think it through and answer these questions honestly. What assumptions are you making? What if the opposite were true? If the opposite were true, what would that look like? How does that make you feel? What do you need to move forward? How will you get that and when will you take that step?
Practice answering and ACTING on these questions when something is holding you back. The process moves you from a place of fear and judgement to one of discovery and inspiration. Maybe enough inspiration to don a batman toque and bust a move.