Feeling like we don’t belong because our views and thoughts are at odds with others can leave a person believing their spirit needs to be caged in order to be accepted and supported.
In the book Attached, Amir Levine and Rachel Heller talk about the relationship research they have done. Recommended by a friend, I found myself nodding in agreement as they explained that the more supported a person feels, the more a person feels they can achieve.
I connected with this message and after experiencing this theory, I now understand that when we are accepted and supported, no matter how different we feel, the more courageous and fearless we are to take risks and be vulnerable.
It can be a life-changing experience.
All her life, she had felt trapped in a cage of standards that she just couldn’t escape from.
She was tied to the idea that in order to succeed, she had to reach some unobtainable standard set by others to be liked and accepted for who she was.
From as far back as she can remember, she felt enclosed by bars by a system that didn’t accept her way of learning. She was expected to sit at a desk and be spoon-fed lessons. The cage door would slam shut if certain rules were not followed.
She was different from classmates and friends.
At a young age, she learned that her unique way of looking at things felt wrong.
In her relationships with others, she would timidly offer herself, only to be frowned at when her beliefs or opinions didn’t match those of her partners. She was rejected time and again because her romantic view of the world didn’t fit with theirs.
So she learned to keep these thoughts to herself.
In the workplace, she soon discovered that she was expected to turn her creativity on and off like a light switch. She was expected to perform in a restricted environment of tight schedules and set hours. When she offered suggestions or new ideas, she was told time and again “that’s just not the way things are done.”
In certain contexts, we must all follow rules—so she had to follow the rules and stop offering herself.
She knew she did not fit into a mold—she was a square peg in a world of round holes. From her viewpoint, others had no problem being and doing what society expected of them.
So she questioned herself.
She was obviously the problem, she figured, so she learned to tone herself down to suit others.
Friends, family, co-workers, and lovers could all live in a way that was acceptable to the rest of society, but she could not. She felt she was to blame for what she now viewed as shortcomings in herself.
At times, she tried to whittle away the edges on her square peg, but this only made her even more sad and distant than before. She almost gave up trying to figure out where she fit in. You would never know it to look at her, though, since she hid behind a mask that she had created to make others think that she functioned the same as them.
“She” was me, only four months ago—only it feels like a lifetime ago. Those thoughts were mine but they no longer belong to me. They belong to her because by chance I stumbled upon an open door in her caged environment—a door that was accessible and inviting.
I felt inspired to apply to a writing program that fate had put in front of me.
For the first time in a long time, I was curious about this open door in my cage. Should I go near it? Should I risk disappointment yet again?
At first, I viewed the open door on that cage as a trick—I figured that, surely if I got close to it, someone would come along and slam it shut. Someone would laugh at my writing and my ideas.
Someone would point out why I shouldn’t trust myself because I had been told this many times before.
I was leery of approaching the door, so I sat and watched from a safe distance. But the longer I watched, the more tempted I was to venture towards this opening, one cautious step at a time.
Wait for the door to be closed.
But no one came to close the door. No one stopped me from risking my heart by reaching the outside of that cage.
In fact, quite the opposite seemed to be happening.
I felt encouraged to dig deeper because I felt supported.
The exact words that were used by the editing team at Elephant Journal were to “dig deeper and tell us your story.”
Someone actually wanted to hear my ideas—so I dug! I dug deeper into parts of me that had long been hidden. I felt inspired to find the courage that I needed to break free of the barriers that had imprisoned me for so long.
This feeling felt foreign to me and it was contrasting to anything I had felt in a long time. That I—a square peg—did belong. With a little support from the editing team, this new world that had unlimited potential was teaching me to empower myself and that sharing my ideas was inspiring others to empower themselves.
Confidence was the sensation I was experiencing and the support I was receiving was allowing me to gain self-confidence to know that my hopes and dreams were okay. I started to see that others could reach for their stars as well if they were offered the same type of support.
If I could learn to rely on myself, so could others. They just needed a little help.
By sharing my experiences, I hoped that others might see that their cage did not have to exist either.
The rose-colored glasses were not feeling like a weight anymore, the edges of my personality weren’t being dulled and I didn’t feel judged for my beliefs. I actually felt like my ideas mattered and the feedback I was getting from people reading my articles showed me that they too were seeing beyond their cages.
I am still cautious about the cage door closing. How could I not be? I have lived my whole life weary of that door closing. But I feel braver than ever knowing I have someone in my corner. I truly feel that I am well on my way to finding where I belong. That with the knowledge I have gained by taking a chance and knowing that there was someone who believed in me, I have the desire and the ability to do this now because I feel supported.
I am ready to accomplish some amazing personal goals. I have finally booked a trip that has been on hold for 26 years. I trust my instincts on becoming the writer I now believe I can be. I am confident to make decisions based on my needs.
It is not that we need a cheerleading team to validate us, we just need to know that we have the support to uncage our spirit and let it fly.
Author: Debbi Serafinchon
Editor: Renée Picard