Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I don’t know about you, but the poem I quote here was required reading for me in high school, and it has stuck with me ever since. Considering that high school academics are kind of a blur for me at this point, the fact that I still remember this excerpt speaks volumes!
I guess those three lines could be a sort of anthem for how I’ve lived my life. I have always felt different. And for a lot of my life, that feeling was horrible. After all, in our world, “different” isn’t always embraced or celebrated the way fitting in is.
As I look on the events of today, I’m reminded of how powerful a motivator that fear of not fitting in can be. The country, it seems, is dividing into a handful of groups, and if you didn’t already feel the pressure to align yourself with one or the other, everybody from your Facebook
friends to the news anchor is telling you it’s time to pick a side.
The pandemic has brought many things to the surface. Things that have been bubbling over for quite a while and were either put on the back burner or ignored altogether. Well, there is no ignoring them anymore.
As the upheaval rages on, there are ways that we can reduce the impact and negativity on our lives and come out the other side strong and ready to move forward. One of the most important ways to do this is by turning our attention inward. When we work on ourselves, we become empowered to handle whatever comes our way without feeling like we have to grab onto something external. This is especially important at a time like this when so many of the external factors and influences are not only negative but may not resonate with us if we actually think about it. (How many of us have overlooked those feelings just to experience the sense of belonging? I know I have!) But when we do the inner work and become solid with ourselves, we no longer feel desperate to belong or fit in elsewhere.
Self-reflection allows you to refine YOUR thoughts, YOUR beliefs, and YOUR path. It is only after you sit with these thoughts and feelings for a while, after you examine them from all angles after you question all your assumptions, that you can really know who you are, what you want to
be aligned with and what you want to fight for or against.
So what does that process look like? A good place to start is to pick a topic or movement that you’re either really uncomfortable with or that you’re really into. Think about it. What do you know about it? What feelings do these facts trigger? When in your life have you felt these feelings before, and what do those scenarios have in common with the one you’re contemplating?
It is only when you go inward that you can master your own self and step into your true power. And only then can your impact be long lasting. For me, simply admitting to myself when I didn’t feel happy, satisfied, or comfortable turned out to be the first step in shifting away from societal
expectations and toward that road less traveled. Sometimes the road was painful and difficult, requiring me to shed the layers and masks I’d worn to “fit in” with a group. Sometimes it was resonant and easy because it simply felt right.
Today, I know who I am and where I stand. I know that, even when it’s difficult or I’m hurting, closing my heart is counterproductive. I know that approaching life with an open heart is the way to live.
And I’m not done! Self-reflection is an ongoing process, which is a good thing because you get to experience different and better versions of yourself as you take the leap of faith and do the work. You will have clarity during moments of unrest like the one we’re currently living in. You will find – dare I say it? – a resonant, authentic kind of happiness. And even if you feel like you’re all alone on that road you’re traveling, rest assured you’re not. You bring yourself wherever you go and, whether you know me personally or not, I am always here cheering you on.