When I was younger I was all about romantic love. You know like in the movies. Where the girl is finally seen and fulfilled by the guy. I’ve watched Dirty Dancing countless times and knew it all by heart (also because of the dancing, but that’s another story). I just dreamed of finding that kind of love and my happy ever after.
I clearly remember how part of growing up was plain out scary for me. I felt afraid of the future – I think to some extent because I am a sensitive and emotional being, and in my late teens and early 20s there were so many emotions that felt overwhelming, which I didn’t know how to hold and process. I think it’s not that uncommon, and luckily I had strong support from friends and partners. But I feel like it’s been a journey of discovery, trial and error that has led me to understand more clearly what it means to be human, and especially what it means to step into my own power.
There’s a pattern that has followed me unconsciously for many, many years, which was about expecting others to make me happy. To pave the way for my desires and needs. I would dream of doing things and arriving somewhere in the future, but I would feel like it was up to others or outer circumstances to get there. Often a guy.
Ever since I was a teenager I dreamt of moving to a new country, to live in a foreign place. There was this part of me that longed to be free and act boldly. But looking closer into my choices I see that for a long time I would think “I wish my partner would want to move to a different country” or when being single; “I hope I meet a man who works internationally so we can live somewhere else”.
Especially in romantic relations so much of what I felt was projected onto the other person. I would feel lonely, empty, or afraid and instead of owning these emotions (I don’t think I was even really aware of them) I would react outwardly creating drama to distract myself or experience some other emotion instead.
It wasn’t until I felt like I lost everything that I started to see what was happening. My partner of seven years and I split up and as nauseating and heartbreaking as that was, somehow I came out stronger and more aware on the other side. I think for the first time in many years I really started to see what made me truly happy - without making it dependent on a guy.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” – Aristotle
In 2011 I went on a weeklong trip to Sicily on my own. I had been nudged to take some time to think things through by my dear friend and, at the time, co-founder of our common non-profit organization. What had started as an amazing adventure and exhilarating project of creating a non-profit together had begun to feel like a place where I couldn’t be fully myself. Looking back I see how once again I was expecting things of her that weren’t hers to own. I made it her problem to help me feel confident when all of my insecurities started to surface. Once we had this fun and light partnership, now I was, more often than not, being passive aggressive and taking my frustrations out on her. And that’s when it became clear that it was time for me to look within – to look at what I hadn’t been willing to look at.
In the airport, before heading to Italy I grabbed the book ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen, simply because of the title. I spent an intense week reading the book, which became like a conversation partner to me. While I was having a deeper conversation with myself about my choices, needs, and desires, it became clear that I had to leave our projects and start doing what I really dreamed of: to travel.
Not too many months later, I went on my first longer solo-backpacking trip to Thailand, which included a four-day silent meditation retreat. I’ve never experienced such clarity about what made me happy, how I could find wholeness by going within, and what I needed to do, than during those four days. It felt as if I had come home to myself. I fell in love with Northern Thailand and knew I had to live there.
In November 2012 I traveled to Chiang Mai, unsure of when I would return. And the rest is history as they say…
I now know that it’s not about being alone or not needing other people, but it’s about creating self-awareness, gaining the actual skills to be in an intimate relationship with myself and learning to express my own needs, desires, and boundaries. I can make requests of others, but I can’t expect or demand them to do anything, and in the end, I’m the one who needs to make sure that I listen to myself.
I’m still a romantic deep down, and at the same time, I can’t tell you how liberating it feels to actually take the power back and take full responsibility for my life.
Some of the questions I ask myself these days that help me stay in my power include:
What makes my heart sing?
When do I give my power away?
Am I expecting others to do it for me?
What about you? Are you in a place where you take responsibility or do you often find yourself blaming others? I’d love to hear how you find your personal power and in which situations you’ve given it away. Tell me in the comments below or send me a message.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
– C.G. Jung