~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #193
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
“Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.” —Shonda Rhimes
In order to feel good in one’s skin (or to feel well in one’s skin as the French state it, bien dans sa peau), we first must know what skin we are inhabiting. However, it is not about what we see on the surface, but rather what talents, curiosities and passions are within us waiting to be discovered.
I clarify this distinction because the other day someone made the common statement about finding ease within oneself, and they described it as “becoming comfortable in one’s skin”. I immediately responded and shared that at least for me, it doesn’t feel so much as a “trying to make something feel better”, but rather an exploration of what and who I truly have the potential to become, what I truly value, what I innately am capable of, etc. And so it has instead been a journey of discovering “what my skin was” so to speak.
The journey of discovery for each of us will have different lengths, different shedding of exterior skins placed upon us and even skins we placed upon ourselves as we believed we weren’t enough just as we are.
When I came across Shonda Rhimes’ quote, it spoke to me immediately. Here is a woman who has built her own production company inspired by her passion to write, to tell stories. Who, as a self-described introvert, shares in her book Year of Yes how she transformed her life by stepping into it and enabling herself to be her own person. In her commencement address to the graduates of Dartmouth in 2014 she shared a speech titled “Dreams are for Losers”, and she nailed it.
She shares many anecdotes but her revelation about initially dreaming of being a Nobel Prize winning author … Toni Morrison … to be more precise, is a point that caught my attention. As she points out, Toni Morrison already had that job, and Shonda had to be who she was and was meant to be. Funny enough, Rhimes eventually had the opportunity to have dinner with Morrison. And do you know what Morrison wanted to talk to Rhimes about? Grey’s Anatomy. Case in point, your journey is unique, so just keep striving forward and stop dreaming. Just do.
The bigger question is how. How do we each become who we were meant to be?
1. Step away from your life
Often it can be difficult to give a true and helpful life assessment while we’re in the middle of living it. Sonif it is possible, step away from the daily routine, step away even from the town you live in for a short duration – a weekend, but better yet a week, and if at all possible a good month (hello, a grand vacation!). I do often find that I am able to assess my life more fairly when I go on vacation. I come back with a clear perspective of what is a priority and what is not, the worries that I can let go of and what changes I need to make, as well as the relationships that matter and the ones that just don’t.
When we step away, we also step away from the people we hear on a regular basis telling us what they think and perhaps what we should think, and therefore, we begin to think on our own. Better yet, if you are in a foreign country and the language is not your own, you can’t be influenced by what anyone is saying because you do not know what they are saying.
In all sincerity, in order to clear the outside influences, even your own assumed preferences, step away and outside of your daily life and just be with yourself. Journaling out your thoughts is also something I have found that helps me make sense of what I am feeling. Not that I will find an answer, but I will have to think through what is going through my mind because I have to write it on the page.
2. Allow yourself to feel the fear and do not run from it
I can remember vividly when I went to France for the first time as a 20-year-old college junior. I was to be there for a month. It would be the first time in a foreign country in which I didn’t know the language well (if at all), and my first time traveling by myself beyond just a day or weekend trip. I was ecstatic. I had been dreaming about this experience for months. Upon my arrival, once the jet lag wore off, I experienced emotions I had never experienced, and it was uncomfortable to say the least. Little did I know was that I was growing, I was stretching. And part of the reason it brought tears to my eyes during my calls home (of which were few as it was a different day and age) was because it was seemingly painful. Well, it seemed painful in the moment, but it was simply new and simply put, full of unknowns.
I have shared before that sometime during that trip, even though I was extremely delighted to come home, upon reflection, I realize I was broken open. And I am so thankful I was.
3. Shed the layers
As I was watching an interview with Sharon Stone recently on CBS Sunday Morning, she shared an observation that hit home for me: Women of a certain generation (alluding to her own – the Baby Boomer and before her) were raised to be accommodating. And finally I understood why I was so perplexed by my parents’ relationship and how their approach never felt right for me. While my mom and dad are the only two people who can say and know whether they are happy or not, for me, a young girl who was raised to do her best in sports and extracurriculars as well as school, there was a reason relationships didn’t last long for me because the accommodating (which was the only model I had witnessed in my childhood) limited what I knew I was capable of as an individual, let alone in a relationship.
Yes, it took me over 30 years to understand that this layer was one I needed to shed, but it’s gone finally, and I can breathe much deeper now as I am aware of what values a partnership needs to embody for me to step into a commitment.
Now this is just one example of a layer that needs to be shed, but there are many more. Upon closer examination we can identify them, but they are easy to miss if we just go about our lives as we are expected. As a woman here are a few more that have come to my attention: that I must be covetous, desired and sexually appealing, that I am supposed to have children because women supposedly are innately nurturing (please read this study by the American Psychology Association on the realities of how society conditions both men and women) and that career paths are better suited for certain genders. All of these and so many more are myths and layers that need to be shed so that your true and brightest light can shine, offering the world what only you can innately give.
(Much more is shared in the podcast on this point. I would encourage you to listen if this issue caught your attention.)
4. Follow your curiosity
In many ways, our curiosity is our Linus blanket. In other words our security, our foundation that we can trust when it comes to knowing where to take our lives. As I shared last year in a post about our unique journeys and knowing how to navigate them successfully,
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” —Joseph Campbell
We cannot know what hasn’t been written. We write our journey to become who we are truly capable of becoming by trusting our inner compass, by trusting our curiosity. So follow the simple, yet significant wonders of your heart. Be brave enough to step out and try something grand that no one else you know as attempted. For when you do, you gain information about where to go next, and that is part of the journey toward yourself.
5. Read, experience, observe
I recently read an article encouraging more reading as an everyday habit. Speaking about Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, one quote that was shared was stated by Charlie Munger – self-made billionaire & Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero” and he has a point.
With regards to being wise in life, but also being wise about who we can become, we need to keep learning through the books we read, the theater we enjoy, the travels we take. Information surrounds us offering guideposts as to where to go next and what we are capable of achieving. We just have to be brave enough to say there is so much more to learn in life and each of us is only getting started.
6. Attain the skills necessary
Susan Hermann Loomis shared in episode #192 the reason she went to cooking school in France was that she wanted to learn from the best. If she was going to do something, she was going to do it right and well, thus France or Japan came to mind, and France was her choice.
7. Follow Shonda Rhimes’ advice: Just keep moving forward
With each step forward, as we follow our curiosities, as we do what we have to do, as we let go of what no longer is serving us, we bring ourselves ever closer to where we are meant to be. Let go of the desire to have absolute control of your life and you will unlock the greatest gift of discovery: who you were truly meant to be.
The world swirls around us, seemingly at breakneck speeds it can seem, but we are the constant in the whirlwind. When we ground ourselves in our truth and understanding of who we are and what we can offer to the world, we may bend every so slightly, but we will be strong enough to reach our destination even if we don’t know where we are heading as we put one foot in front of the other.
I too am stepping what feels like somewhat blindly forward. However, I am following what provokes my curiosity, I am following the creative ideas that pop up when I least expect it or can’t explain to the outside world as to why they arrived. And with each step, with each book, with each experience, the exterior layers that are not me are being left behind and the journey is all the more enjoyable and my confidence gradually strengthens that I am traveling the right path.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Give Yourself Permission to Be Awkward, episode #185
~The Importance of Finding Contentment, episode #181
~How to Let Go of Self-Imposed Limitations, episode #186
~Remodelista, The Organized Home: Simple, Stylish Storage Ideas for All Over the House by Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick
~Remodelista blog post worth reading . . . The Organized Pantry: 8 Rules for Decanting Dried Goods
~See how I put some of the ideas shared in the book to work in my kitchen: 9 Ways to Organize Your Kitchen, Improve Your Health & Help Out the Planet
Sponsor of this week’s episode: Lifesum
~Visit the Top Ranked Health & Fitness app and receive 30% off the Premium Membership.