It took me a long time to get comfortable being me.
In fact, it’s only recently that I’ve taken a step back, looked at myself and my life, and thought, “Well, hey. This is good stuff, here.”
It was a long road of comparing myself to others, feeling frustrated at not being perfect, focusing on what I didn’t have, trying to be at the “next level” (whatever that means). All of this can be found in a deep, dark hole that is REALLY easy to fall into.
A lot of things have shifted in the past few years, so I can’t be sure what exactly shifted my mindset. I fell in love and got married to my best friend, I became part of my dream company/team, I figured out what I was really good at in my career, I changed my eating and developed a love of healthy cooking, I started doing a lot of handstands…
Ah, that must be it. Being upside down so much definitely jiggled something in my brain! *lightbulb moment*
After a bit of reflection, I realized what has made the difference for me.
For me, it always comes back to community.
Experiencing people loving and celebrating you for being you is a powerful thing.
There’s this awesome thing that happens when you’re part of a community. You belong. At the same time, others belong. So you end up belonging together with other people. That’s literally the definition of community, but take a moment to really think about how lovely and meaningful that is. It’s incredibly meaningful to belong.
It doesn’t happen immediately, but when you start to really feel like you belong, and when that is validated by the other members in your community, you start to get more comfortable being yourself.
You’re able to start showing your goofy side, revealing what you nerd out over, being okay with speaking your mind and trusting your opinions.
For me, being myself is standing in tree pose when I’m talking with people. It’s sharing how much I LOVE playing board games and word games (I’m a full-blown Boggle nerd and I’m not afraid to admit it). It’s sharing that one of my hobbies is doing paint-by-numbers. It’s excitedly talking about vegetables (kale, cucumbers, green beans!!! See, I told you).
I’ve come to realize — the moments in life when I felt truly able to be myself without trying to be someone else were always when I was part of a community.
I can think back to one of the first moments when I felt this way, which was when I was part of my dance group in college. I remember what it felt like to share the same passion with these people, understand each other’s challenges, vulnerably open up together, and fully accept each other. Through being part of this community, I learned how to teach others, became inspired to step up as a leader for the first time, planned my first event, and even ended up founding a dance festival.
That community propelled me in ways I couldn’t have imagined, all because I was accepted and supported for being me.
We naturally move in and out of communities throughout our lives. We can find community in our hometowns, at college, through a sport or hobby, in our neighborhoods, through something we’re passionate about, and in our careers.
You might have the potential to be part of several communities and not fully realize it. So how do you feel the benefits of community? How do you start belonging? When does the “feeling comfortable being me” mindset kick in?
All of you have to do is start contributing. Start sharing your voice. Offer your help to others. Listen to others. Do something to positively impact the community as a whole. Let others in. Participate. Connect.
That’s when you feel truly part of a community. And it’s an amazing feeling.
I’ve been quite lucky to be part of some really incredible communities, and I feel SO lucky to get to build community as my career. I am part of the Buffer community (where I work and the community I build for my job), the Jewish community in Philadelphia, my coworking community at Indy Hall, the online CMX community of community builders (very meta), and I know I’ll be part of others as time goes on!
If I could offer any parting advice from what I’ve learned over time, I’d encourage you to look around yourself, identify the communities you’re part of or could be part of, and find a way to get further involved. Even if it’s just going to an event/meeting for the community or saying “hey” to someone new this week.
I promise, it’s very much worth it. :)