My New Mantra for Moving Through Discomfort

I have a new mantra these days: Embrace your weird. It has become my touchstone. It helps me get through all kinds of uncomfortable things. It reminds me that everyone has something that brings up feelings of shame and inadequacy. We all feel weird and we’re convinced that no one will accept us if they ever find out. It could be our unusual childhood or our anxiety disorder—the details don't really matter. But that shame holds us hostage and prevents us from living fulfilling lives. It zip-ties our hands to the radiator and keeps us from truly connecting, truly being seen. That gets lonely as hell. Hiding and feeling ashamed just doesn't work. Our desperate desire to fit in only makes us small, feeble, and invisible in our lives.

But when we embrace the things we think we need to hide, when we learn to use them, we get so much more powerful. We can be our true selves and bring our own unique perspective and experiences to the world. Not only is this better for us—it's better for the world. When you get comfortable with your weird, you no longer feel the need to pick on someone else for theirs. We notice the things that connect us, instead of our differences.

We sometimes feel we are showing a weakness or asking for something we don't deserve when we open up, but think about it from the other side: When someone reaches out to you, how does it make you feel? If you're like me, it feels awesome. I'm honored when someone trusts me and I'm happy for the chance to help out. So maybe you'll make someone feel good, not burdened, by the fact that you shared with them.

Sometimes it helps to let people know that you don't need them to fix anything. My husband has a tendency to go into fix-it mode; he wants to make it better, which is sweet and admirable and sometimes makes me want to kick him in the kneecaps. Because really I just want someone to nod sympathetically while holding my hand. Saying something like, "You are not required to do anything about this, I just need to vent" lets people off the hook if they feel like they are responsible for your well-being. But if you want to talk through your options and get perspectives and ideas, tell them that, too. Be honest about what you need.

If you don't have that go-to person, you should know that you’re still not alone. More than 20 percent of Americans, or 60 million people, say that they are unhappy with their lives due to loneliness. That number almost doubles for older people. This is a big problem; social isolation comes with health risk factors comparable to smoking. And while social media can make this feel worse—seeing all those casual acquaintances frolicking in (likely manufactured) social bliss—it's possible to turn it around and use your screen time for good and not evil. Creating a connection with those you might not meet otherwise is one of the coolest uses of the internet, other than baby goat videos.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

Find out about upcoming programs with Lisa Jakub at Kripalu.

Excerpted with permission from Not Just Me: Anxiety, Depression, and Learning to Embrace Your Weird, © 2017, by Lisa Jakub.

Lisa Jakub is an author, yoga teacher, and retired actor. Her latest book is Not Just Me: Anxiety, Depression and Learning to Embrace Your Weird.

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