How A Serial People Pleaser Got Back In Touch With Her Heart

[A partially fictional essay - Originally posted on May 7, 2017]

For years, I had been living in a fog, going through life avoiding myself. My feelings, my pain, and my fear. My whole life up to this point had been controlled by an incessant need to please others. My family, my friends, the world. As a kid, my family was constantly falling apart, and being the “perfect” little girl that I was, I became the fixer. I was the glue holding everybody together. I was the rock. The dependable one. I was a chameleon, changing myself to be whoever the people around me needed me to be.

Flash forward several years to a young girl, living on her own, incapable of making a decision without confirmation of approval from the people closest to her. I was constantly afraid of doing things that made me truly happy, worrying it would only end up disappointing someone. Feeling like I wasn’t allowed to struggle with my own shit because I had to be there for everyone else. I couldn’t fall apart; they needed me. So, I shoved my feelings down into the pit of my stomach. Hid my pain. I was moving through my life not really sure of who I was, only who everyone else wanted me to be, always trying to live up to the standard of the “perfect” girl I believed they all saw me to be.

One day, I woke up tired. Tired of holding everyone else up when all I wanted to do was fall. Tired of not being able to know how I was actually feeling anymore because I had been silencing myself for so long. Tired of being the supporting character for my loved ones and never being the leading lady of my own life.  I knew I must go on an adventure, alone, attempting to allow nature to heal my soul. Attempting to feel something again. Allowing myself to take a step away from my family and the people I love. Allowing myself to discover who I actually am and who I want to be.

I set off alone into the wild - destination unknown. Hoping the Universe would guide me. A few hours into my journey, I sat down to have a snack. I closed my eyes, truly enjoying the sunshine on my skin, the silence, and the serenity. I was beginning to feel something. I couldn’t be sure, but it felt like joy. I opened my eyes, and in the distance, I saw a mountain. I’d seen this mountain through my bedroom window for years, but this time, it looked different. And it seemed to be calling to me in a language only the two of us could understand. I had been hoping for a sign like this, searching for a place to belong. Just like that, the mountaintop became my new destination.

It took me another two hours to reach the base of the mountain. It wasn’t very tall, but the surface was violently rocky. I looked up, and I heard the mountain whisper. He was inviting me into his heart. I took off my backpack; I took off my shoes. Somehow, it seemed disrespectful to bring anything but myself. This space was sacred, I could feel it. I didn’t want to do anything that might offend the mountain, my new friend. I’d never climbed without my gear before, but somehow, I had a feeling it would be okay. Just myself and the clothes on my back, I took a deep breath and began my climb. Before long, I had reached the top. My hands and feet were bloody. My legs were bruised. Arms weak and exhausted. But I made it. I was home.

The wind began to blow and swirl around me. I understood that this was the mountain embracing me, welcoming me. All of a sudden, almost as if a light switch had been turned on, I began to feel. I became overwhelmed with everything I had been trying to hide, all the feelings I’d been silencing for years, all the desires deep within my heart. Tears began to fall uncontrollably down my cheeks. I had come out here to make myself feel again, and here I was, feeling everything all at once. It was intense, and I was literally trembling with emotion. The mountain whispered into my ear one more time. He said, “You must let go.”

Right then, I felt that I knew what I needed to do. It was like I was moving in a trance, like I already knew what was to come next. Just as I’d hoped, the Universe was guiding me.

All of a sudden, my clothes began to feel heavy, like they were weighing me down. Immediately, I stripped it all off. Every single piece of clothing. I wanted zero distractions. This was about me and only me, nothing else. Back to basics. Back to my natural state. Completely naked, completely vulnerable, I stood on the edge of the mountain, closed my eyes, and screamed at the top of my lungs. I screamed for my pain. I screamed for my sadness. My anger and my fear. I screamed for lost loves, lost dreams. For mistakes and misunderstandings. I screamed for my family. My disappointments. My failures. I screamed for self-doubt, insecurity, and self-hate. I screamed for the world. I screamed for myself. And just like my friend, the mountain, insisted, I let it all go.

When I opened my eyes and gazed out over the world below, the beauty of it all took my breath away. The colors were so vibrant. The trees, lakes, and hills were all just so beautiful. And my city, the place where I often felt so lost and misunderstood and trapped, shined like a diamond in the distance. I had been surrounded by all of this beauty my entire life, but I never saw it. All these memories and pains and emotions that I had been holding hostage, stashed away in my inner dungeon so I’d never have to face them, were actually imprisoning me. I was locked in a jail cell of my own making. I was trapped and living my life in a fog. Never feeling, never appreciating, never seeing beauty. Never living.

Our feelings and our experiences are all justified. They all happen for a reason. We have to accept them for what they are. We have to accept the way they make us feel, no matter how painful that may be. All of these things exist in our lives to teach us something. We have to let them in. We have to let them change us and shake us so that we can become the people we were meant to be. Keeping our sadness, our anger and our pain locked away may be tempting at times, but in doing so we sacrifice the ability to live a true, authentic life. And in the end, we sacrifice the ability to see beauty in the world around us. Think about it. What kind of life would that be?

We must allow ourselves to feel. Everything. Only then can we discover where we belong. Only then can we discover who we really are and who we want to be. Only then can we stumble upon our mountaintop. Our home.

I took a deep breath in, soaking up everything I had just seen, everything I had just felt. I wiped the tears from my eyes, grabbed my clothes, and headed back to my life with a new perspective. From that day on, all I had to do was look out my window at the mountaintop in the distance to remind myself that whenever I’m feeling bogged down or lost in my life, there are only two things I need to do. First, I need to feel everything. Anything that bubbles up inside of me, I must feel it. I must sit with it and really feel it. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me. Secondly, I must let it all go. I might take a few deep breaths, do some yoga, create something, or scream at the top of my lungs. Whatever it takes. But I must let it go. I must not let these things control me or my life. I must come back to this moment. Here. Now. I must let it all go.

Soon after returning from my adventure, I discovered that there really is beauty in everything, and every single day I am reminded that finding a place to belong must begin inside of me. I still struggle sometimes with living my life for me more than for anyone else, but since that day on the mountain, I began to live my life fully and honestly, listening to all of the cues from that quiet place inside of myself. And now, anytime the wind blows and swirls around me, I am reminded of my majestic friend and the adventure I once took to the center of my heart. I am reminded to let it all in and to let it all go.

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