The real you never stood a chance. All this time it has been pushed and prodded into this narrow little box. Societal norms, familial expectations and peer pressure were responsible for much of this pushing. Through your formative years you were no doubt part of an education system that was quite in favour of the box. Throughout your life you have also been exposed to constant advertising, telling you of this box’s fabulous desirability.
Box living can feel safe, familiar and ever so normal. After all, everyone else appears to be living in similar little boxes and they are all doing just swimmingly, right? A quick scroll through Instagram absolutely confirms this. People are parasailing, performing yoga poses and eating blueberry pancakes (sometimes simultaneously). Nothing could possibly be amiss!
Still, sometimes this box can start to feel uncomfortable. It can be a little too narrow, a little constrictive, a little…. not you. So, what are you going to do? Will you bravely break free of the box? Or will you stay in this box, until eventually they put you in another less metaphorical one?
To fit within our cramped boxes, we make our lives smaller. Box living doesn’t always allow space for our dreams, our secret joys or some of the things we most truly value. Instead we surround ourselves with a whole world of entirely useless crap. It’s common to have a corner piled up with shame and another with limiting self-beliefs. For many of us, there is a great big section taken up with worry about what other people will think.
To fit within our box, there’s also a tendency to become a little one-dimensional. This is unfortunate because you are a fully-formed human being, not a Mr Men character. You can’t always be strong. Sometimes you will be messy. Sometimes you will be topsy-turvy. Try as you might, you will never be perfect.
If we wish to break free of the box, we must master the art of self-acceptance and take to heart a very simple message.
You are worthy, just as you are.
This simple statement is something most of us aren’t told nearly enough. Instead, we are constantly bombarded with messages about how we must dress for success, turn that frown upside down and unleash the power within! Billions upon billions are spent by advertisers to convince us that we are not currently good enough and that we will only find true contentment once we have shinier hair, puffier lips, the right clothes, the right job, the right address and the million and one other prerequisites for some wonderful ‘platinum’ box they have on offer.
All of it is nonsense. You are worthy, just as you are.
You are human and infinitely fallible. No doubt, you have messed up, fallen short and done things you weren’t proud of. You may well have invested a lot of time, energy and resources pursuing a higher status box, rather than pursuing what truly matters. Instead of punishing yourself for these past mistakes, it’s important to offer yourself the type of kindness that you typically reserve for everyone else. Whatever your supposed shortcoming, you are worthy of your own kindness, care and compassion.
You are not your postcode, your trouser size or your bank balance. You are not your job title, your wardrobe or the number of likes on your last social media post. You are much more than any of that. It is only when we stop defining ourselves by these things, that we can finally break free of that horribly constrictive box. We can then acknowledge our inherent worthiness. We can realise that we are okay, just as we are.
Breaking free can be tremendously liberating. Outside the box, we can stop pretending and start being our authentic selves. No longer will we have to feel like bad actors, struggling to play roles that we weren’t really born for. Instead, we get to show our true characters, play to our own scripts and move in the direction we want.
6 tips to help break free from the box
1. End social comparison
Spending hours comparing yourself to Photoshopped fitness models and carefully curated Instagram profiles undermines self-worth and breeds little but discontent. It can be very helpful to limit your exposure to advertising, social media and anything else that is trying to tell you that you are not enough.
2. Consider why you are doing what you are doing
You have no shortage of things to do. So, is what you are doing important to you? Is it something that will take you in a direction you want? Or is it something you are doing because it is expected? Is it something you are doing for the approval of someone else?
3. Spend time just being
In our ridiculously rushed 21st century lives one of the most revolutionary actions we can take is to stop. Stop all the doing and spend some time just being. This is not only healthy and restorative, it can also give us the chance to re-connect with ourselves, rediscover what’s important and re-find our creativity.
4. Prioritise what’s really important and give up what’s not
Many wait until they are on their deathbeds to realise their priorities were all wrong. Procrastinate no longer. Put those things that you truly care about at the top of your to-do list. Free up some precious time by giving up those things which don’t really serve you.
5. Become a bit punk
You won’t have to stick a safety-pin through your nose, but you will have to get comfortable with not conforming. Doing things differently may surprise, challenge and confront other box-dwellers. Expect them to strongly suggest that you get back in your box.
6. Be brave enough to be vulnerable.
While life outside the box may feel scary, the far greater danger is remaining confined within that comfortable little space. You have one precious life. It is only by experiencing vulnerability that we can grow, connect and pursue what truly matters most.