Most of us start the self-discovery journey that is mind-body healing because we’re in pain. Maybe we’re struggling with vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, or pelvic floor dysfunction. Maybe we have chronic back pain. Maybe we’ve been dealing with depression or anxiety. We come to self-discovery through the back door of suffering, but before we know it, self-discovery in itself becomes the focus.
I’ve seen it time and time again with clients. After a while, we don’t even talk about physical symptoms during sessions. We’re too busy with the self-discovery process. It takes us to new, healthier, happier places. The more we learn about ourselves, the more we discover how beautiful, complex, and fascinating we are.
Of course, I may be biased, since I love self-discovery (both in my own life and clients’ lives). I love it so much that I’ve made a career of it. Yet, we’re all a bit afraid of it. We don’t always want to know what we’re really thinking or feeling. We don’t always want the unvarnished truth. I certainly didn’t, at first. My self-discovery process was expedited by vulvar and vaginal pain, maddening interstitial cystitis symptoms, and other physical pain. In other words, I was drug relentlessly forward into self-discovery, kicking and screaming all the way.
But now—oh, how I love it! Not only because it keeps me pain-free, but because it’s powerful. Yeah, slightly scary sometimes. But oh, so worth it.
Just a few weeks ago, I attended a yoga conference with my friend and business partner. We were there to learn, but also to experience more self-discovery. I took a class about head, neck, and shoulder alignment, which sounds quite banal. I had no idea it would be the catalyst for this year’s biggest self-discovery moment yet.
After just a few short minutes of this class, I discovered that I habitually hunch my shoulders, curl them inward, and let my head droop a little. I was flabbergasted to see that my upper body still reflects old thought patterns of insecurity and fear. Being a mind-body coach, I knew that my mind and body were out of sync, and that I wouldn’t truly walk in my own power and strength until both mind and body were on the same page. I also knew that there must still be lingering thoughts about myself shaping how I hold my body. So off I went, down the road of self-discovery.
As the class continued, we learned how to position the hyoid (a small bone in the throat) right above the shoulders. We learned how to lead with our hearts, literally, by raising the front of the chest cavity and sliding the shoulder blades flat against our backs. It didn’t feel military at all—in fact, it was surprisingly comfortable.
As I played with this new body position, moving through yoga poses, walking, and sitting, a revelation hit me. I have spent a lifetime hunching to try to hide my broad shoulders and seem smaller. So much of my life has been spent trying to be smaller in so many ways. My body has heard this message so much that it has literally changed its shape.
In that moment, I decided I am done trying to be smaller. I am ready to embrace my strong, broad, shoulders. I am ready to be me, exactly as I am. I am ready to take up space in the world, to speak my truth, and be powerful. I am ready to be a leader. So, I stood up, hyoid back and heart up. I turned to Jess and asked her what she thought. She smiled. “You look confident,” she said. I felt confident. I felt my body reflecting my self-love.
Why do we hide ourselves? Why do we try to be smaller? Usually, because we’re afraid of what others will think. We crave love and approval from others, and so we change our shapes in an effort to be what we think others want. I say, no more of this! Let’s take this self-discovery journey and open back up, petal by petal, into the bright, beautiful flowers we already were, at birth.
When we try to hide ourselves, it affects our bodies. Eventually, they protest. Thank goodness! I invite you, today, to come with me in this journey and to be a little more of who you really are, each day. Show the world one more piece of you. I’ll start by sharing another piece of me, with you. (It requires a short story.)
Shortly before the yoga conference, I told Jess something I hadn’t really told anyone yet. I told her I was writing a novel, and that I’ve always felt there’s a novel inside me. As I gave her a quick synopsis of the plot, I hunched over and mumbled, “and, there’s a magic violin in my novel.” She immediately scolded me and pointed out my reluctance to share that tidbit. “Own the magic violin,” she said. So I said it again, loudly, right outside on a public sidewalk. It felt great.
The point of all this is that you’re probably doing the same thing. You’re probably hiding bits and pieces of yourself, here and there. Your body is reminding you to bring them into the light, where they belong, other people’s opinions be damned! (Though I think you’ll be surprised at the support you get when you allow yourself to be you. Our minds usually fabricate what other people will think, when in fact they often love us more, in the end, when we are ourselves.)
This week, your homework is to find one little thing about yourself you can celebrate and share with the world. You might have a little fun and create a mantra for yourself to repeat whenever you want to step confidently into your power. Mine is: “Hyoid back, Heart up, Magic Violin.” I say at least once a day, and then I head out into the world, fully myself. Feeling even more whole than ever, thanks to this never-ending journey of self-discovery.