For a long time I bought into the story that I had to suppress and hide who I am to be accepted. This meant playing small rather than going for my actual desires in life. Don’t be too loud, don’t rock the boat, behave and be good, don’t let people know you are actually brilliant. Hide your witchiness and true femininity. Stay out of the limelight. Attention, even positive attention, is bad. Don’t express how you truly feel or what you see around you. And never say No.
Suppressing who you really are takes an enormous toll, emotionally and physically. The body does not know what to do when you do this. It knows your mission is to be fully you while you are here on this Earth. Myself, I developed severe allergies to just about everything – including water. In fact, I even developed a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE) where my throat closes up when I eat, which is specifically triggered if I am eating while stressed. Notice the connection: if my throat closes up, then I can’t say what I think or feel.
I went to great lengths to keep myself from being heard or seen. Along with the bizarre allergies, I also gained a lot of weight. I love to work out and feel strong and powerful as well as be able to do anything that I desire, so this was not a good addition. It happened because I felt unsafe in my body.
I still recall vividly a day when I was 20. After an evening final exam, a man followed me across the college campus. It was dark, with just the glow of the lights across campus. When I first walked out, he was leaning against a tree smoking. I could not see what he looked like. As I walked past the tree, he dropped his cigarette, went around the tree, and began to tail me. It was in the middle of finals, he had no books or bags with him, and this was not an area where people would just randomly hang out for fun. Whenever I sped up, he sped up. If I slowed down, he slowed down. When I passed close to a male dorm he started speeding up to catch up with me, but thankfully someone came out of the building and he disappeared. I quickly made it across the street to my boyfriend’s dorm and told him. He wanted to go with his friends to go find the guy, but I could not tell him what the person looked like and did not want him to go.
That experience significantly changed how I saw the world. I developed panic attacks and blanked out on all information for the tests after that. No matter what, I had to be the first or second person out of the room when I took a test. If I was not, the panic would overwhelm me. I also could not go out at night alone.
My boyfriend also started leading me to believe that men were not safe and not to be trusted. I did not realize at the time the slippery slope he started, nor the toll our relationship would have on me in the long term. I broke up with him a few times as I knew we were not a good fit, but I would always get back together with him because my panic attacks and insomnia, when I was alone, were so bad that I was non-functional. I took this as a sign we were meant to be together, although everything and everyone around me verified otherwise.
I had created the perfect storm. I felt unsafe in the world, but did not understand why as nothing had really happened. I had allowed someone (my boyfriend) to further undermine my trust in myself and my ability to keep myself safe. Through our relationship, he required me to suppress myself more and more. I had to stay away from friends he did not like, and male friends who were not mutual (as obviously they want something more). I had to shut down my witchiness and my femininity as they are wrong and bad and scared him. I had to share everything with him and hide nothing, even when it was none of his business and was something shared in confidence.
This was a relationship where I literally gave him all of my power and energy. After we were married, I had to give him all of the money I made as well (as I could not be trusted) and he took my debit card to the bank away. If something was not about him or centered on him, then it was not okay. Any attempt I made to lose weight was jeopardized by him, even though he hated that I was not thin, as that meant more people would find me desirable and he could potentially lose me.
For my thirtieth birthday, I made a deal with myself to do something new and different each and every year that I had never done before. In doing so, I had started a spirit quest to bring me back to my inner power, although I did not realize it at the time. I did not even know what a spirit quest was. That first year, I jumped out of an airplane in a tandem jump. The following year, I discovered I was pregnant. The next, I navigated the deep depths of having a progressive, undiagnosable, chronically ill child that ended with his demise. This experience changed me. I learned what true unconditional love is, at a deep level. It is a very profound space to love someone so much that you are at peace with letting them go. Through this, I also connected back with my power and my ferociousness. I used my profound grief as a catalyst to create things to help others in similar situations.
While I was growing, my husband was regressing back to a child. He was ticked that I was not giving him the love and attention that I poured into our infant. Most of the time, we were ships that passed in the night, not talking or communicating. Occasionally, there were fireworks; on one occasion, he shoved me into a wall in his anger. Our relationship decayed, and an unhealthy, toxic pattern emerged.
Sixteen years after the night I was followed across that campus, I finally found the courage within myself to shake off all of the crap in my marriage and walk away. Each violation of my boundaries and my No had turned a bit of my love for him to dust. Now, my No was loud and clear, as I knew that otherwise I would never be free.
Since then, my relationship and my definition of freedom has evolved. For a while, I believed that what I desired most was to be truly loved unconditionally. To heal, I started showing myself unconditional love and doing things that I had loved as a child. I re-discovered dance through 5 Rhythms and Ecstatic Dance, and through this I fell back in love with my body, its strength, how it moved, and how it healed. I discovered Shamanism and opened back up to my witchiness. I discovered women’s groups, and opened back up connection and acceptance of my feminine that had been cut off for sixteen years. I started doing strange practices and learning about things that, not that much earlier, I would have been a strong No to.
I was investigating which boundaries of mine were healthy, and which ones were no longer serving me. I even developed a friendship that ended up evolving into a relationship. When I told this man about my experience so long ago while walking across campus, his response was: I must be wrong. I must have misinterpreted what occurred.
This felt really bad at the time, of course, but I did not realize how much it affected me. I began to shut down my feelings again because, once again, I was feeling unheard. Every time I would shake it off and grow more into my power, he would do something to get me to play smaller. Once, he went out of town for a few weeks and, while he was away, I grew more into my power and myself. I became more extroverted and energetic. I was working full time, about to start a Masters and other courses, and in community all the time. When he returned, he freaked out and yelled at me for how I had changed, because he felt he no longer had a place.
This is when I should have ended things and moved on, as we were not compatible anymore. Instead, and I have regretted this every since, I played smaller to appease him. My growth could not be stopped, however, and trying to hold it down only meant that, when it came through, it came through like a freight train. To get me to stop and do what he wanted, he went to extreme measures and attempted suicide twice in a week. He really wasn’t that much different from my ex-husband, just in more subtle ways.
Since then, it is comical how many people have stepped up to interview for that position with me in my life: my emotional vampire. I was a No to having any males take that role, so a female that was living with me did so instead. While I was still grieving and in shock from my boyfriend’s attempted suicides, this individual used every manipulation and bullying tactic they could to get what they wanted from me – refusing to pay her share of the rent; using my clothes, shoes and laptop without asking; leaving town and expecting me to provide food for her son. A few months before, I would have had a strong No and strong boundaries, but I had not found my stable footing in the world again yet and was afraid to be alone. Again.
Three months later, while at the coaching program I was attending, I saw this man that I was attracted to. It is rare for any man to get my attention. I asked this friend about him and she told me that he is one of those guys with tons of girlfriends, so I lost interest. For months I did not see him again, and then one weekend we ended up in the same practice coaching group, and I fell in love. This was crazy for me as I did not believe in love at first sight. He also lived half-way around the world from where I was, so I discounted it as just a fun flirty thing.
Within a month, we were talking about seriously being together as well as what that would look like. I enlisted friends in assisting me in detangling from the brat living with me and her toxicity. I asked her to leave my house, and she threatened me, so I asked for assistance from the people I knew who called themselves coaches and community leaders, and boasted that they knew how to navigate with someone like this. They failed epically to help me and, instead, decided to label me as being in my victim.
When I was finally able to remove her, with the assistance of a good friend, then my life significantly began to shift. All of my hang ups about love and relationships came to the forefront. I had to work through all of my fears to be willing to let go of the entire life and world that I had created. I sold everything I owned, including my house, said good bye to all of my friends and family, and moved with 2 dogs and a cat half way around the world to begin again in a country where I did not know the language with a man who, not counting Skype calls, I had known for one week and three weekends.
Within our relationship, I am free. My power and my strength are seen as assets and beautiful, rather than things to fear and shut down. I have not been forced into any box by him in what I can or cannot do – the only boxes are those that I create for myself. You would be surprised at how many boxes I attempt to create for myself! For the first time in my life, I am truly allowed to be fully and unapologetically me – no holds barred. There are ramifications in life for this, as there always are, but I have all of the tools necessary to navigate them.
Since then, we have moved to two additional countries and are getting ready to move to where we believe we will be settling. None of them has English as its primary language! I could not be happier, but it is also an incredible amount of energy and work to navigate. While I cannot specifically say yet how this all will unfold and what form our business will take specifically, I am staying present with each and every step with curiosity.
Each of my feelings now is both fully felt and also expressed – both the (perceived) good and bad. They are all just feelings. When I need to slow down, I slow down. If I need to climb into bed and huddle under the covers, I do it. When I need to speed up, I speed up. My witchiness and feminine are as beautiful as my masculine and structure. In fact, they all now work together to create what I desire in my life. I no longer feel unsafe in the world. When men approach me, I appreciate their attention and tell them,”No thank you, I am very happily married, but if you are interested in relationship coaching I am available.” I recognize that they are wanting a taste of the freedom, joy, and love that I have, and I share that I hope that they find that in their relationships and life.
This is what I learned through this journey. Freedom is unconditional self-love. Power is unconditional self-love and unconditional self-acceptance, no matter the circumstances. What we have been taught is power is simply a smoke and mirrors illusion. Taking back your power is connecting to your unconditional self-love and your freedom to be unapologetically exactly who you are. In the process, you are going to screw up. Epically. You are going to have to apologize to people and give amends at times. You are going to be messy and chaotic. Some people will not be able to handle it and will walk away. Others will try to knock you down and shame you. Honestly, it’s because you are doing what they are too afraid to do. You’ll become a cocky condescending jerk at times and feel smaller than a gnat at others. Standing in your power is not easy to do. It is a balancing act, especially with your ego. And it takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. It is also so worth what it brings into your life and the lives around you as it is what you are actually on this earth to do – be fully and unapologetically exactly who you were created to be.