6 Reasons Feeling like an Outsider as a Kid Made you into a Bad-ass Adult

Have you noticed how the most bad-ass adults felt like outsiders growing up? While it seemed tragic to be the high-school nerd, or that quiet goth kid, or whatever variety of weirdo you might have been, you must admit, it ultimately helped to grow your superpowers. Unbeknownst to you at the time, you were writing your heroine’s journey, complete with awkward beginnings. Here’s how:

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1. You lived on the edges, where you saw and experienced life differently.

By definition, an outsider has a different vantage point on her world. How do you come to decide that you’re an outsider? You feel different.You were an immigrant, or gay, or one of those artistic kids.I have a friend who felt like a little alien from the time she was a toddler, while for me it really kicked in at puberty. The popular kids might have secretly felt like they didn’t belong, but their identity wasn’t shaped around it.

I had a high school crush on a boy who spoke to no one and hung out alone, literally on the edge of the school grounds. I romantically assumed this dark clothed, brooding figure must know things. When I finally had the courage to talk to him, it turned out I was right. He was smart, well-read, and sophisticated by high school standards. He also had brain damage from a car accident and was extremely self-conscious about the speech impediment which resulted from it. (I never saw him after high school but I’m willing to bet he grew up to be an amazing adult).

I’m counting myself and my dearest friends among these badass adults. How dare I? Because I get to define what it means: To see life as an adventure and one to be embraced as an experiment where we discover what it takes to know ecstasy, connection, and creativity. It’s not about the trappings of success or being defined by societal dictates of “doing it right.”

2. Because you saw life differently you developed an uncommon set of skills.

It wasn’t easy, but you spent years honing a completely different set of skills from the common, “muggle” sort they teach in school. You honed intuition and creativity, and dreamt what some called impossible dreams. You were something of an exotic plant.

My outsider story began when I was twelve and my family moved to the U.S. from Costa Rica. Not only did I turn twelve and move to a new country, but I also got my period all within the same week! I remember standing in front of my new American school that first morning, in agonizing self-consciousness, while all around me kids chirped and giggled in the non-sensical sounds of a language I didn’t speak. I felt as if I were naked, covered in tar, with bugs crawling over my entire body, while everyone watched. The irony is that I desperately wanted someone to see me and be my friend. I hid in a bathroom stall during lunch.

That tough, identity crushing period was painful, but it was also an initiation. It eventually opened me up to possibilities I wouldn’t have imagined otherwise. Part of the adventure was building up an identity of the misunderstood outsider, which I then had to overcome. How cleverly I was crafting my own story!

One skill I developed was seeing through double eyes. I became a hybrid of two cultures, learning from both, able to hold more than one point of view at the same time. It made me able to connect to people from all sorts of backgrounds–a much needed superpower these days.

3. Being in touch with your wounds and the darker realms of  experience, you gained access to true power. 

By true power, I mean power which can only be found through telling the truth and facing your pain, rather than the old paradigm of force or power “over” another. Whatever had you feel different, so much the outsider, even broken; whether you were born with extra sensitive emotional wiring, or went through a traumatic experience, these challenges were all potential doorways to knowledge.

Of course, when we are depressed or addicted, we aren’t necessarily thinking how great it is that this is an entryway to wisdom or creativity. But the possibility exists that through your wounds, you had an initiation and were given access to a broad range of emotions and sensations, highs and lows, and a keener ability to see into life, other people, and your own soul.

 

Crying Ciclops. Antonio Mora.
Crying Ciclops. Antonio Mora.

4. You came to see that your gifts were forged alongside whatever pain and wounds you carry. 

In your deepest knowing you are magic, you are free. Something inside you always guided you to seek out deeper experience and knowledge, no matter the inner or outer obstacles. Whatever conventional success eluded you, this turned out to be a blessing because you had to get really honest about what matters to you, what truly turns you on.

But it didn’t seem as if you had superpowers until you discovered that hiding from your pain never resulted in the connection or creativity that you craved. Nobody asks for a dark night of the soul, or to sit face to face with the shame that causes them to sabotage their deepest callings. It doesn’t make for nice cocktail party conversation, but then you never cared much for small chat.

There is a pitfall here as many never see past the identification with that tragic story of the “broken” kid. These folks can stay addicted to the strange pleasure of victimhood or to self-help and personal development. And the story becomes boring and stale. But if they undertake the deep work to integrate the lessons from their wounds, then it turns out that the gifts are side by side with the wounds and there is a rightness to all of it, even if discovering so was extremely painful.

5. You decided to “fit out” instead of fitting in.

Joshua Rosenthal, who taught me about holistic nutrition and getting out of the matrix, talks about “fitting out,” which is admitting that you don’t fit in and you never will and that is well and good–and choosing to rock that. The all-you-can-eat buffet prize of having followed all the “right” steps, only left you with an overstuffed, numb feeling.  You redefined success according to your own values and began to protect your dream from the dream killers who lack imagination and instead become pushers of fear through numbing entertainment and pharmaceuticals, who would convince you of your powerlessness, and leave you addicted to authority.

Paradoxically, once you embrace fitting out, there gradually comes a letting go of the identity of the outsider, the stranger looking in. While it would be easier to stay out there pointing in at all the absurdity of the “normal” world, you made the choice to find out what you’re truly made of, and to contribute in a way that is authentic to you–a new vision, large or small, but true to you and your gifts.

And so, you grew up to become the sexy rebels, innovators, artists of living, lovers of life, creators.

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6. Your journey came full circle when you owned how much you have to offer the world.

You came to see that you are not truly separate, and indeed what you offer is needed by the larger culture. You’ve grown beyond the outsider box you once used to label yourself. Having re-written your story, you are free to contribute to the very world from which you once felt so estranged, and even to create a whole new paradigm.

You dreamer of impossible dreams, who started to awaken within the dream, thereby unlocking the keys to the Queendom. You know that you don’t need anyone else’s permission to live your wild and precious adventure.

Leading with desire and with every breath casting your spell, you have become the ones described by the inimitable Walt Whitman, “I no longer seek good fortune, I myself am good fortune.” 

 

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I am here, waking up

I am here. I am a woman. I carry within me a little girl who is sensitive and tender and so playful. I carry within me a woman’s presence that is rooted and timeless and knowing.

I’m here for every woman who has ever felt invisible, or not enough, or too much. Everyone who has ever had a dream they put on that shelf, over there, not quite within reach. The more I remember, the more I have to give. I’m here to say you can come back to life, yes, one more time. I’m here to say your sacred body knows, and holds so many stories and mysteries and the deepest wells of pleasure and power. I’m here to welcome the YES, and make friends with the terrified gremlins that run screaming from the yes.

Waking up looks like nothing I imagined, and feels simple as breathing. The tiniest adjustment can open up the world. Permission is mine. I grant it to myself. No more waiting for the circumstance, the teacher, the course, the relationship…I am permission itself. So are you.

The most gorgeous part of it all is that I get to share it, pass it on. Live the questions with you, my dear peeps. See the visions beyond the visions, go deep into the heart of your life and what you are here for. It is so good! I love you.

Return to paradise–or how dancing saved my life

Bird of Paradise Flower
Bird of Paradise Flower

It takes a long time to grow young–Pablo Picasso

This morning I danced to Paradise, while playing a Qoya video. In it, Rochelle Schieck (creator of Qoya) talks about paradise as the state we long for when we imagine life feeling really good. I spent an hour moving, dancing, finding the place where it felt so good and noticing where there was resistance or mind chatter distracting me from the sensation. Having access to that inner paradise, which to me is a feeling of freedom–well, it’s simple now and it was simple as a child and yet I’ve worked fucking hard to find it again. That degree of innocence and pure joy in making circles with my hips, or shaking my booty like a happy pup, it’s something I had to reclaim so that I could know it from the inside, not just intellectually.

I think much of our work as women now is about re-orienting toward what feels good, and that is a revolutionary act. 

To re-orient our compass toward what feels good means that we make it just as important to feel as good now, in the process of getting to our dreams, as we’re hoping we will feel when we get there.

Sounds easy enough. “Follow your bliss” and all that, but unless you’ve deliberately chosen a practice where there is an emphasis on pleasure and enjoyment–which isn’t most people out there, then this notion might feel pollyannaish or even infuriating! I mean, you have shit to do, bills to pay, and important things to attend to. And when someone comes along and says you ought to prioritize feeling good, maybe you think “who is this hippie anyway and what does she know about my life?” There’s a part of me that still, after years learning to trust the feeling of pleasure and aliveness as a sign that I’m on the right track, recoils and gets resentful at the idea that it’s really ok to, like, feel good. Usually, the bitchier I get the more I need a dose of feeling good.

As women, we’re raised to bond around our complaints. We’re kind of suspicious of people who feel “too good”. It pisses us off, which is a clue. And when we dare admit that we want it because we’re burnt out and hungry and dying on the inside, then we wonder how! How do you make the time? How do you decide that it is ok to put yourself first? It’s a huge question to which I offer a simple medicine. Move. And find a way to do it that feels good to you.

Here’s a little story about movement and dance and how it saved my life.

When I was thirteen and beginning my teenage obsession with NOT GETTING FAT! I used to do aerobics. There was this show called the 20-minute workout. It was super eighties–leotards with panty-hose and leg-warmers. Big hair. These chicks moved like smooth barbie automatons. They didn’t seem to sweat but they all had skinny, toned bodies like I dreamt of having. Ah, the irony, because I wasn’t even chubby. But that’s not the point, since in my mind anything less than idealized perfection meant I was a disgusting pig and who needed to work harder and strive to be better at denying myself. I was starting my training in numbing out hunger and pushing my body like a machine. I would hop on my bike after school and do endless loops of the neighborhood, or get on the stationary bike at home and pedal away. The thing was to clock miles and keep the ugly fat at bay. This was not about enjoyment!

But there was a time before all this self-flagellation. As a little girl, before the self-consciousness and worry about getting fat, I remember climbing trees and tumbling on the grass with my little brother. There were afternoons doing cartwheels with friends, and days at the beach splashing around and waiting for the next wave. Moments where the joy of pure play was simple and completely mine. My family lived in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The cliches about tropical places and paradise exist for a reason. So in my memories of playing on the beach where the world around me really did look like “paradise” are also where I experienced the inner freedom of being totally at ease in my body. But that didn’t last very long, just a few sweet years before puberty.

I’m not sure when exactly I discovered that I actually liked moving and that it felt good? There were the times in eighth grade after school, doing silly interpretive dances with my best friend in her living room. There were those times in college, dancing all night at the little club where I used to go with my friends, or going to shows in New Orleans and getting sweaty to down and dirty blues. Through all the years of body hatred, of obsessing over every calorie, of doing my best to eat the least possible amount, through all of that there was always something in me which remained intact–the part that loved moving! I’m not saying that I embraced pleasurable movement with open arms. I didn’t have such a concept. Back then I put in my time. I walked, ran, pumped iron. But the thread of pleasure through movement was never totally severed. And bit by bit I found my way back. There were those very first yoga classes where simply breathing and paying attention to breathing was a revelation. A return home. It’s not that I discovered that I liked moving but rather that I re-discovered it as I grew up.

So why do I say movement and dancing saved my life? It wasn’t one particular incident where I danced out of the way of a moving train or any such literal thing. But I cannot tell you here the countless times when I found my way home to my self and my own heart through dancing and movement. When my ex-hubby and I divorced, I found connection and passion and a healthy obsession through tango. I became a regular at Triangulo studio in New York City. When I lost a baby after a tough and complicated pregnancy, I found my strength again and let myself move through the grief dancing in the forest in Costa Rica with Parashakti and her Dance of Liberation. Those were some big transitions, but movement has also been there for me in quieter, slower ways, like learning how to do walking meditation or getting to a 5rhythms class and sweating my prayers. Whenever I feel “off” or when I feel great and want to celebrate, I move. No matter what else is going on, the body is home, and moving and dancing is a direct way to connect with self and soul.

Here’s the video, in case you feel like getting up and shakin’ it:

What’s your idea of paradise? Where does movement and dancing figure into it, if at all? I’d love to hear your comments. (Comment at the top of the page).

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/41510540@N03/5080052040″>Bird Of Paradise</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;