Find Your True Colors
Updated: May 17, 2020
Am I Normal? Is that Normal?
Some version of this question seems to circle in the back of our minds creating a preoccupation with trying to determine just who we ‘should’ be.
It’s amazing the amount of energy that we can lose in the pursuit of this notion of becoming normal.
And, sadly, what it is to be ‘normal’ so often does not align with what it is to be healthy or fulfilled.
You’re Better than Normal…
You have a unique story, a unique blend of character traits, a unique blend of talents- and limitations, a unique set of interests that can make you light up, a unique set of dreams and passions, a unique set of hurts that inform your natural understanding and compassion for others.
The last thing that we want is to reduce you to being ‘normal.’
The problem is that many of us lose connection with the parts of ourselves that would naturally reach out toward specific experiences, and dreams and difference-making pursuits that align with who we most long to be at various stages and seasons of our lives; we, then, become confused about how to ‘find ourselves.’
Lost and Found
We frequently refer to the notion of ‘finding ourselves.’
We seem to have a collective understanding, or perhaps I’ll call it a misunderstanding, that we will make a once-and-for-all discovery about ‘who I am,’ that we will arrive at a fixed identity that will not change.
While I believe that we each travel a path of self-discovery and have stable traits that endure over time, I also believe that coming to know ourselves, each other and this world is a life-long journey… an evolution of becoming… and that it can become stunted if there are blocks to its natural progression.
Our relationships and experiences in the world naturally shape our understanding of who we are, who others are, and how the world around us operates.
We come to learn that some of our traits are warmly welcomed into connection and others are not welcomed as readily.
Our experiences of feeling welcomed and turned away often have a deep and lasting impact on our comfort level of ‘being real.’ When we do not trust that we can be real and belong, we often begin (adaptively) to hide away certain parts of ourselves in order to assure our first order needs are met. What do I mean by first order needs?
MASLOW'S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, created a framework for how humans go about getting their needs met.
*The idea in this model is that as the needs are met in a ‘good enough’ way at the base, we move our way up the pyramid to resolving needs at the next level until we have ‘self-actualized.’ To be self-actualized is, in a nutshell, to become all that we are capable of being.
If we buy into this model, we can see how our young selves might choose to hide away parts of our self that don’t seem to be welcomed warmly. Because we are young, and this is complicated, we do not see the contradiction in this ‘decision.’ We do not see that we cannot fake our way into belonging.
Brene Brown explains, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”
In order to fully trust that we belong, we have to find authentic connection. We have to be able to show up as we are and have others receive us into connection. When we approach this backwards, we often end up experiencing a certain degree of ‘imposter syndrome.’ There is a sense that ‘if you really knew me, you would not… (be my friend, think so well of me, etc.).’
Of course, this level of awareness is pretty sophisticated. At young ages, we simply do not have the capacity to grasp these abstractions, at least not without a warm, supportive adult guiding us along the way. And, even then, our journey as humans seems to be partially characterized by our efforts to continue coming into being with our own authenticity.
More About Getting Lost
We look to the faces and responses of the people around us to determine if we are being received well. When we receive cues that we read as disapproving, we may determine that the behavior, expression of emotion, shared thought, or engaged interest is somehow not acceptable. We typically do not send a ‘part’ of ourselves into hiding after just one difficult encounter, but often when we repeatedly experience a non-welcoming response, we will decide to hide or even disengage ourselves from that ‘part.’
Public vs. Private Self
We’re all familiar with the ideas of having a public and private self, of wearing a mask, of becoming a chameleon. These ideas would not be so ubiquitous if they were not such an integral part of the human experience.
One way to conceptualize this is that we have one body and many ‘parts.’ Perhaps, we tend to allow the parts of our self that have been routinely welcomed to be ‘worn on our sleeve;’ these are the parts of self that we will allow to be known and witnessed by most everyone. Then, we might have ‘parts’ that we are less certain of… they are sometimes well received, and other times, have not felt welcome; these parts might be tucked into a middle layer where only certain types of people get to know these aspects of our personhood. And, then, we might have parts that we tuck into our interior most layers, some of which we might try to avoid ourselves.
Consider the drawing below.
*This is a fictitious representation of how someone might sketch a 'parts' map.
Of course if we were to each create a map of which ‘parts’ of our self we keep at which layers, we would discover the vast differences between how we each see or experience what is and is not welcome. The way we map our parts is unique to our experience.
Finding Our Self, The Inward Road
It can be helpful to consider what ‘parts’ of our self we may have tucked away in ways that are now interfering with our experience of authenticity, belonging and movement toward self-actualization.
Are there parts of your self that you may need or want to reconnect with?
Of course, it is not always easy to do so. We may find that we still experience complex feelings about re-engaging with a certain part of who we are (whether that is our artist self, our sadness or grief over a meaningful loss, our desire to not always have to strive, an adventurer part that was told travel is self-indulgent). We may need to consider our history with how those parts came to originally believe that they were not welcome.
Is there a way that you can welcome them now?
Remember, you are a one-of-a-kind. We all benefit through each of us bringing our unique gifts, abilities, talents and interests into the world to share. Consider what you have to bring while you listen to True Colors.
You with the sad eyes Don't be discouraged, oh I realize It's hard to take courage In a world full of people You can lose sight of it all The darkness inside you Can make you feel so small Show me a smile then Don't be unhappy Can't remember when I last saw you laughing This world makes you crazy And you've taken all you can bear Just call me up 'Cause I will always be there And I see your true colors Shining through I see your true colors And that's why I love you So don't be afraid to let them show Your true colors True colors are beautiful I see your true colors Shining through (true colors) I see your true colors And that's why I love you So don't be afraid to let them show Your true colors True colors are beautiful (they're beautiful) Like a rainbow Oh oh oh oh oh like a rainbow Ooh can't remember when I last saw you laughing Ooh oh oh oh This world makes you crazy And you've taken all you can bear Just call me up 'Cause I will always be there And I see your true colors Shining through I see your true colors And that's why I love you So don't be afraid (don't be afraid) To let them show your true colors True colors are beautiful (you're beautiful, oh) Like a rainbow Oh oh oh oh oh like a rainbow Mmm mmm Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Billy Steinberg / Tom Kelly True Colors lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC