I did a thing. A pretty big thing for me actually. And, it only took me 49 years and 281 days to decide that I was ready. I realized I genuinely DESIRED to have permanent ink branded on my body for the rest of my life. Growing up, tattoos, in my mind, were for “bad” people–people that didn’t have their act together. Body art was for wild and crazy party animals, criminals, and druggies. Sounds harsh, huh? But, honestly, that’s the actual mindset that was instilled in me through my upbringing, and I was quite literally AFRAID of people with tattoos. And while I’ve done a total 180 on that mindset, as a “recovering pleaser” (still in therapy mind you!) deciding to partake of this “witchcraft” art form has had me in all sorts of turmoil. I mean…what will people THINK?!?!?
Allow me to back up a bit. I’ve struggled my entire life with doing whatever it takes to fit in. Be it underage drinking, having sex at a very young age, cheating, fabricating stories and scenarios (sometimes with not an ounce of truth in them) and lying to my parents about things I did (or didn’t do) with friends, boyfriends, etc. I was a chameleon. I would try so hard to blend in and fit in. I felt that in order to belong, I had to forgo my own thoughts, ideas, concerns, and wishes to be a part of the group. Little did I know that the more I behaved like this the further and further away I would drift from my true, authentic self. So much so, that I’m now constantly working on undoing old patterns of thinking and behaving which is slowly allowing me to really find out WHO I AM. I still struggle with fitting in. While there are a few times here and there that I don’t give a flying flip about what others think, there are many times where being liked and accepted by people is still a huge deal for me. I’m learning that when I sacrifice who I am in an effort to fit in, I’m actually betraying MYSELF and becoming further away from belonging.
In the past I’ve tried many things to remind myself that it’s okay to have my own beliefs and opinions. My “adult and intellectual brain” knows it’s perfectly normal, acceptable and healthy to have different ideas from the rest of my family, group of friends, co-workers, and clients. And even more than that, it’s totally OKAY to (dare I say it?!) DISAGREE with these folks (ugh…I’m sweaty just typing this…) However, my “young and emotional” brain feels scared, afraid, and unworthy when I don’t fit in. I’ve written previous blogs about belonging. I’ve bought jewelry, and T-shirts with inspirational and motivational quotes reminding me that me and my opinions matter. I’ve meditated and journaled for countless hours. I’ve talked endlessly to my patiently tolerant husband about my struggles. And while I will say that I’m doing so much better I still know my road is long, and the journey will most likely be for a lifetime.
In addition to this lovely pleasing attribute that I possess, I’ve come to understand that I also can be quick to judge others who AREN’T like me. This creates an even more difficult loop to untie. I want to be like others, yet, if they aren’t like me I think I’m better than them somehow???? What is THAT all about?! I’m tirelessly aware of my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and words. It’s exhausting. However, It is a piece of my inner workings that I’m learning to LOVE rather than resist. It’s pretty tough work. Honestly, there are many moments when I wish I had zero self awareness, but I quickly realize that if I want to keep growing and developing myself I’ve got to do the hard work.
Which brings me to my new and beautiful tattoo. I decided that I wanted and needed a daily reminder about my work. I want to be keenly aware on a regular basis that not only do MY thoughts, ideas, opinions, and actions matter, BUT (and this goes back to me not judging others) ALL thoughts, ideas, opinions, and actions matter. In other words, just because I’m working on unveiling my true authentic self with my voice and actions doesn’t make it okay for me to not allow others to do the same. While I am practicing loyalty to myself and less to the groups that I am in, I need to bear in mind that even though we are all different in many ways on the surface–underneath it all we are connected. Everyone matters. We all belong.
We often think of the term “belong” as being connected to property (that bike belongs to me); or being a part of a group (I belong on the volleyball team); to being included in something (what group of friends do I belong with); or to be a part of something (I belong to the garden club) But what about the concept of belonging to one’s self? This was a VERY new concept to me a few years ago when presented to me. But man did it resonate! I. Belong. To. Me. I am not the things that I have done, and neither is anyone else. This concept helps me with developing a true sense of love, forgiveness, and belonging. Not only for myself, but for EVERYONE.
Choosing my tattoo design has been years in the making. Let’s start with the colors. Green and blue–the colors of the earth and sky and water. I am drawn to these colors, and I don’t feel it’s at all by accident. GREEN represents the Heart or Anahata Chakra. Anahata roughly translates to “unhurt”. It’s the center of compassion, empathy, love, and forgiveness. The Heart Chakra is associated with balance, calmness, and serenity. Green has ALWAYS has been my favorite color for as long as I can remember. Anahata serves as the center of love for oneself and for others. I want to embody this chakra by keeping my heart center open and my love for all (including myself) free flowing.
BLUE represents the Throat or Vishudda Chakra. Vishudda is the body’s communication “hub”. It’s where you find your voice, and speak your truth. A BALANCED THROAT CHAKRA HELPS TO SET US FREE FROM THE FEAR OF JUDGMENT OR NEED FROM APPROVAL FROM OTHERS. The throat chakra is responsible for communication, the expression of thoughts, feelings, and ideas, a healthy internal dialogue, and striking a balance between speaking AND listening. I want to embody this chakra by keeping my mind open to everyone’s truth while still staying loyal to my own. I desire to be present with people without sacrificing who I am.
The shape of my tattoo is a circular mandala design. This shape represents balance, and I’ve chosen the word “belong” to be at the center of the circle. I belong to myself. I belong to the earth. I belong to my family, my friends, and even my animals. Hence-circularly-the earth belongs to me. My family, friends, and animals all belong to me. We are ALL connected. We are ALL WORTHY of love and BELONGING.
While I never really quite see me being the type of person that walks around not worrying about being liked, fitting in, or feeling connected to groups of people, I DO see me working towards being genuinely authentic. I feel the best way to do this is to LOVE myself like a mother unconditionally loves her newborn-through patience, guidance, persistence, and forgiveness.
I’m currently reading a great book called Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown. She describes belonging as an extremely powerful feeling, and as humans we are hardwired to needing connection. She goes on to say that when we aren’t accepted, included, respected, or feel as if we aren’t contributing to the group it’s so difficult to not change who we are in order to belong. We are hardwired, as humans, to be in community. However, TRUE BELONGING does not mean sacrificing who we are at our core. She says, “Be here. Be you. Belong.”
When I glance down at my forearm and see what I have done I feel proud. Not because the image is beautiful, or trendy, or “artsy”, but because it’s ME. A daily, and lifelong reminder, that I belong to me.