Growing up I always felt different. I just didn't fit into the expectations of the community my family was immersed it. I couldn't figure out why I seemed at odds with others, or understand how they slid into the rhythm of it all with ease. Was I broken? Was I missing an ingredient?
I know many people who had fairly positive experiences growing up, but I honestly know way more that struggled like I did. I thought my brothers and my friends from my youth were doing fine, that I was the only one suffering. I was alone. This couldn't be further from the truth. I only began to realize this as an adult, when I began listening to other share their stories.
It turns out my brothers were struggling too. While I was all out there in my battles pushing for acceptance for who I was as I was, they hid behind a mask of acceptability and managed to act outwardly in ways that made it appear they fit in. While this made the feedback they received from the community surrounding us more positive, I am not sure burying one's unhappiness and denying your truth is a healthier choice.
In the end, it doesn't matter which path was the better choice. The struggles of feeling different growing up unfortunately tend to stay with us our whole life, even after we find our community, one that offers us full acceptance for who we are. Those feelings of being alone hide in the shadows of our soul and bubble up during low moments of self-doubt to torture us.
Over the years I have learned to not deny these emotions when they arise. The more I try to suppress them, the more power they seem to gain. Instead I have learned to allow them to move up and through me. When they are spent, I then turn my focus to the truth of my life. I have an amazing family and wonderful friends who support me as I am. I have a great community that appreciates my support. This truth leaves little room for old stories of being alone.
As I look back at the society I grew up in, I understand how heavy expectations were. The box we were supposed to fit in was very small, especially for women and children. Men didn't get off scot free either. They were to work hard and provide financially, period. While we still have a long way to go, I look around today at my community and see people living widely varied lives, having families defined in new ways and a lot more acceptance for the beautiful diversity surrounding us than I saw growing up.
Globally I know this is not true in many places, but I am hoping the trends I see become an unstoppable tsunami. In the meantime, if you are finding yourself surrounded by a social group with a negative focus, it's time to move on. Choose your friends purposefully. Find those who share your goals and in which support is offered mutually and unconditionally. Let anyone who pushes for you to become someone you are not fade away.
You are not alone. There are oceans of people that have had the same experiences and struggles, that will understand how your feel. Keep your heart open and listen with your whole being when others talk. Build your community one person at a time. Cherish each and everyone in it.