Shock Yourself: Loosen the Labels that Bind You

Photo courtesy of Flickr Hive Mind.

“I am not the type to let people in.”

“I am the least domesticated person you’ll ever meet.”

“I can’t save money.”

“I always let fear stop me from what I want.”

“I hate when attention is on me.”

“I’m not ever putting myself in a vulnerable situation again.”

“I could never do that.” (Insert your “that” of choice.)

One of the most pervasive and restricting things that keeps us from living life fully, and experiencing our own fullness, is not our circumstances, it’s not our budget, it’s not our past, it’s not our external limitations.

It’s the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.

I hear them all the time. Sometimes, in my own head.

Here’s one I used to tell: I am not the domestic type. I felt strongly about this, because I wanted to feel “wild and free” and to me, being domestic was the opposite of these feelings. I feared it would feel restrictive. Lame, dull.  If I surrendered to domesticity, I’d lose my feminist card, and turn into some sort of Stepford wife.

On a deeper level, the last time I really, truly embraced domesticity was my very short, and very shitty first marriage from the time I was 19 to 21. He had turned out to be an abusive, controlling monster. So maybe on some level, I tied the two together and promised myself, never again, not me.

It wasn’t until very recently I began to challenge this old story, and realized, to my amazement, I can feel wild and free AND domestic. These days, I’m certainly less “wild” than I used to be, (thank goodness) but I’m creating a new definition of who I am. And I love it.

I am domestic. There, I said it. In fact, this is new. It’s just been sinking in, the last couple months.

Like most mornings, this morning, I spent the first few minutes out of bed tidying up the house. My fiancé, Matt and I just moved in, almost three months ago, and while that “honeymoon phase” newness of the house has slightly worn, I still find this act of tidying up to be a meditation of sorts. A blessing, a gift. A prayer.

As I fiddle around, arranging pillows on the couch, throwing in a load of laundry or wiping down the kitchen counters, watering a plant, I feel a giddy sense of joy at the simplicity of my newfound domesticity. See, I was notoriously a self-proclaimed “non-domestic.” Sure, I kept my apartment tidy before the house. But I never cherished tidying up. That is just friggin’ weird.

But here I am, doing it. And when I do, I notice a presence, an awakeness, peppered with gratitude, to be alive, to be sober, and present, to be clear-headed, to be home. In myself. I’m home.

And then, I find wiping the counters, arranging pillows, watering a plant, these simple acts of keeping house, become an act of devotion, a way of saying “Thanks, God.” Me. And upon realizing this, I shock myself.

So how can you shock yourself today? How can you challenge your own binding labels of who you are, and who you are not?

I don’t think it’s just cool or interesting to challenge and loosen the labels that bind us. I daresay, these are acts of defiance, radical acts of revolution. Evolution. And doing so may be imperative to your growth.

Granted, no one knows you better than you, I won’t argue that, but when you definitively declare, out loud to the world, or quietly inside, who you are, or who you are not, you create a box around yourself. Your own little personal prison- how cute! You might decorate it, hang pretty curtains, but as long as you refuse to leave it, as long as you don’t dare explore what might be outside of its walls, you’re in a self-inflicted prison. Isn’t it time you broke out?

Guess what? The box is made of cardboard. Grab a butter knife.

Pretty much every day, in my work, and in my life, I hear definitive declarations of what people think they are and what they think they are not. I listen to stories of limitation and people fighting passionately to live by them, hanging curtains in their cardboard boxes and yes, like I said earlier, now and then, some of the stories I hear are my very own.

Thankfully, almost every day, I also see people defying their own stories and limitations. I see women bravely doing what they thought they could not do. I see courageous souls willing to risk what they think they know about themselves, and the deceptive comfort that comes with that, to explore the other side of that cardboard box. And wow. When they do, amazing, miraculous, transformative and powerful things happen.

Magic happens.

I challenge you today to choose a label or a story or a definitive declaration you’ve held on to, and shock yourself. Do the opposite. Be the opposite. Open up to the possibility that what you think you are is not the be all, end all of who you are.

And watch the magic happen.

You are all things. You contain multitudes.

Why not experience as many of them as you can, in this fleeting moment we call life?

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