I’ve been into self-development from the age of twenty and I’ve learned so much about myself and others and have come to learn some pretty valuable teachings. If I were to boil everything I know down to three key takeaways for you, they would be that:
We, humans, we’re so much more alike than we are different.
We struggle with navigating life, some people are just better at masking their struggle while others are just well-practiced at moving through the struggles more fluidly.
We think we’re way more weird and out there than everyone else and in reality, our weirdness is simply unique to us.
Uniqueness is all relative, I’ve had the pleasure of working with people from all walks of life and I’m fascinated by my clients and their self-identity. Sexuality is one of my favorite topics of discussion, I’m forever fascinated by it in so many ways. See, I’d experienced early childhood sexual abuse and started out with a jaded view on sexuality. I most definitely attached shame to my own sexual pleasure until I discovered personal development, began loving myself and met my now husband who had a healthy relationship with his own sexuality.
It was through a personal development workshop called “Understanding Yourself And Others” where I learned that we are all more alike than we are different. In that course, for the first time ever, I’d shared my shame-filled story of sexual abuse and to my surprise, I was SO not alone. I discovered that nearly every single person in the room had experienced some variation of trauma, while the severity may have been different, the emotions were all relatively similar and we all could relate to the shame that we carried around our experiences in feeling like we were damaged or broken.
That weekend, I began to feel a new sense of freedom knowing this dark and icky thing I’d been carrying didn’t just happen to me and I wasn’t alone. Later, after many moons of therapy and workshops, I enrolled in a life coach training program; talk about drinking from the self-help firehose. My program was unique in that we would open up our training to the public to observe us as we were learning how to become coaches. On this one particular day, the observers sat behind us in a very professional board room type of set up. The room was very quiet and as we took our seats, our trainers very calmly asked the question, “when did you learn the world was a scary place?” I can not begin to tell you the level of fear that had just coursed through my body, was I really going to be this f*ing vulnerable? In front of complete strangers?
One by one, we went around the room and each of my colleagues shared painful stories of neglect, abuse, abandonment, and trauma. We were all met with the same responses; compassionate eyes and “I’m so sorry, that should never have happened to any little girl.” and on to the next person. Then it was my turn. I began shaking uncontrollably and crying as I shared, I barely muttered the words “I was f-f-four, and he (a man, from my past) was in his thirties and he would make me play a game called bounce.”
I can’t tell you the rest of the conversation because it went back to its home in my unconscious mind, and again, I was met with the same audience of compassionate eyes and apologies. Then onto the next. After everyone was complete, our instructors looked at each of us with that same gaze. “You guys, look around the room, do you see that this stuff happens to everyone? In some variation? You can use your story to stay a victim, you can let it eat you alive. Or, you can use this experience to tell your story and fuel your purpose in the world. There was no hugging, no consoling. Afterward, I had people come up to me and express their support and share that they appreciated my vulnerability and bravery in sharing. I felt broken open. For the next week, I stewed in raw emotions, from anger to bitterness and everything in between.
A week later, it hit me like a ton of bricks, up until that moment, I had never known that there was something available to me other than being a victim or survivor, but that I could actually use that early experience to fuel my purpose. I no longer had to identify with my crappy story, they were profoundly standing for the most powerful version of myself to emerge.
I remember that weekend sitting down for lunch with a colleague and we did a deep dive into a conversation around her sexuality. One of the more common quotes I get from clients, colleagues, and friends is “Oh my gosh, I’ve never shared that with anyone.” I know the reason I often get that is that I’m now a very open book, I spent the first twenty years of my life harboring a secret like it was an evil spell that was cast on my soul to carry around in shame. I’ve since spent the latter twenty years as open as they come about (mostly) anything under the sun. I’m open because of the three key philosophies I wrote about above and I know through this work that ultimately, we humans, we’re so much more alike than we are different.
Sexuality fascinates me and I’m very open about it because I’ve worked through the trauma and shame around it. I’m now able to hold safe space for my clients to arrive exactly as they are and I’m able to hold that same level of a stand for them to be the most powerful versions of themselves despite whatever shame they may carry because of their past.
Sex and the City was also a huge game-changer for me sexually, I always identified with Samantha because once I found liberation in reframing my relationship with my past, I was able to begin enjoying sex and sensuality. I became so liberated with sexuality and by default began working with clients to begin their own liberation and sexual freedom. Nothing really surprises me these days when comes to humans and our weirdness. One of my favorite conversations with people is regarding masturbation. It fascinates me because obviously sex in our culture can tend to be a taboo topic and I get it, depending where you are on your sexual journey you may still find the topic extremely uncomfortable, especially if you started out with a disempowering sexual experience or if there was a dysfunctional view of sex modeled for you. I’ve heard it all though when it comes to sex and masturbation. Countless people sharing their shameful masturbation stories, everything from trying to get it with a hotdog, dogs and peanut butter, couch cushions, inanimate objects, the base of the toilet, the spa/shower/bath water jet, the edge of the bathtub, a laundry basket corner, a pillow, the arm of a couch; it’s all been done and it’s all good. No judgment. I’m in that story somewhere too. If you weren’t taught healthy ways to be with yourself, you may likely have gotten creative and that’s awesome, we all started out exploring our parts with different user guidance. Hopefully, if you’ve gained some maturity and knowledge you’ve moved from the hotdog to something a bit more Samantha approved.
So to conclude, not just in sexuality but in all areas of our lives, we humans are so much more alike than we are different. We all likely have had some form of trauma or experience that has had us feeling like the black sheep of the world but we’re not, we are all so much more connected than you might think. There is so much power in using that trauma or experience to fuel your purpose. It’s where true emotional freedom can be discovered.
Photo Credit, @anniespratt