Breaking the Invisible Walls
Updated: Jan 15, 2020
Have you ever felt that the present version of you is not the real you? Maybe you feel that you can’t relate with this shell of a person. Maybe you feel that something is missing or something is not right. Have you ever felt like a stranger in your own life?
I had that feeling for years. At first I didn't even recognize it. I thought this is how things are supposed to be when you get married. It is a new phase of life, it’s change and you are going to change with it. You just adapt and move forward. Don’t think.
I was raised with traditional, conservative values where once a girl is married, her whole life is centered around her husband, kids, and home. Her only duty is to cook, clean, and make sure everyone is happy and their needs are met. I love my parents. I am lucky to be born into such a loving, caring home where I enjoyed a carefree childhood. My parents provided for me not only financially, but also emotionally. They were very supportive with all my extra curricular activities. I took part in school theater, school band, played badminton, learned violin, and roamed around town with friends. The one and only thing that bothers me now is that, they always told me that there is no need to work full time after you are married. Now your home is your world. Your husband will earn enough, so make adjustments, and just take care of him and your kids. I was brainwashed with this thought since childhood. So when I got married and moved out of town, everything stopped. It’s almost like a butterfly going back into a cocoon. It took me years to realize that this was not me.
I am sure I am not the only one with this kind of story. So what happens?
It almost felt like I was trapped within the invisible walls of stereotypical expectations, assumptions, rules, boundaries, and responsibilities. The problem is that these walls become normal: they erect themselves before you know it, and are very hard to break through.
These walls exist for all of us. They are there for all people of all genders, sex, ages, socio-economic status, race, and ethnicity, no matter where they live on this earth.
Your self-image and identity are formed by nature and nurture: your education, surroundings, people in your life, and a hundred other factors influence who you are today. You come into this world with some innate characteristics influenced by your genetics. All other traits and talents are molded afterwords. Your expectations from yourself are influenced by your parents, your culture, your gender, and society. Your expectations from yourself are also influenced by the roles you are playing in your life like a son/daughter, a sibling, a friend, a spouse, a parent, etc. Each role demands that you behave a certain way to maintain the relationship. Each role comes with responsibilities, some that you take on yourself and others that are put on you. There are subtle boundaries, nuances, suggestions, and recommendations that put you in a bind. Pretty soon that becomes a new normal. Slowly you start to lose your identity, what it really means to be ‘You’. You give in. You hold yourself back because that’s what you are supposed to do. You are trimming yourself to fit in somebody else’s idea of “you’.
Living this superficial life sucks the spirit out of you. You work hard to maintain the image but it feels like you are living a lie. The fun part is no one knows this but you. So for everyone else, you are living a wonderful life. You seem happy!
And one day this all becomes unbearable. You get tired of yourself and want to do something to change it. By this time, you are in this so deep that it takes a lot of energy to spread your wings again. It takes courage to say, ”Wait a minute. This is not how I want to die, as a hollow image of myself.” And then the real work starts.
How do you break those invisible walls?
Start by taking a good, close look at yourself first. Go back to the days where you felt like yourself. Think about what you used to enjoy, what were your passions, what made you feel whole, and what were you good at. In my experience, those characteristics that make you who you are do not go away. They get buried under all the things we talked about, but the spark is alive. Blow some oxygen into it.
Believe in yourself. I know this is such a cliche, but it’s an important first step. Your journey starts with you. No one else can make the decision for you and no one else can take that step. You need to tell yourself that you can do it and you will! Because feeling like living in someone else’s skin is never a good idea. Let go of self-judgment. Ignore the doubts. Step out of the rigid frame of shoulds, musts and have-tos. Many times, we build the walls around ourselves. Step back so you can see them clearly. Then take the first small step. Gather the courage and go. I know it’s easier said than done. But I also know that no one can stop you once you make up your mind.
Find your support system. When I decided to go back to school to pursue my interests, my husband wholeheartedly supported me, my kids encouraged me, and my friends celebrated me. All of this helped me keep going. The amazing people I met on this journey helped build my courage. Walking on the same path with them made the journey easier.
Celebrate your small wins and recharge. There will be times when we lose the cool. Self-judgments, anxiety, and fear of ‘what-if’ raise their head again. That is normal.
Going through this process has liberated me. I feel like myself again. I feel lighter, motivated, energetic. I feel like I am living a meaningful life for myself and in that process, helping others. It took a lot of dedication and perseverance. And it’s worth it! The feeling of achievement is incredible and I like this version of myself better. Overcoming barriers boosts confidence, which becomes fuel for your next goal. There is nothing like being the authentic and true version of yourself!
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