Here’s what I’ve learned: When you can be out in the world fully as yourself, when you refuse to let the judgments you feel from others (real or imagined) limit what you’re willing to do around other people, and when you’re committed to living a life filled with ease … when you can do the work to get closer to these things, your people find you.
In my 20s (and possibly even a bit into my 30s), I engaged in many years of what I affectionately called “renegade dating.” I loved getting to know new people, and I went out on a lot of first dates. It was fun! It was also terrifying, and I spent most of that time hiding the deepest truths about myself — that I needed to be loved, that I needed to be wanted, that I yearned to be seen, and yet I was pretty sure that allowing myself to be seen would end in immediate, harsh rejection.
The people who I attracted during that time? Well. One of my favorite friends at the time frequently joked that I was “fly paper for freaks.” (No offense, those of you who came into my life when I was in my 20s.) I did have this interesting habit of collecting the oddest people within a 50-mile radius. Again, I had fun … but I wasn’t exactly drawing in the people who would reaffirm all the good I wanted to see in the world and in myself. I was mostly just finding other people terrified that the world would see who they really were and reject them in the most hurtful way possible.
When I started on my current path toward body
positivity liberation (thank you Jes Baker for this fabulous improvement on an it-was-becoming-trite phrase!!!), I couldn’t have possibly anticipated how profoundly my life would shift just by learning how to make peace with myself. As I continue doing the work to excavate those parts of me that I’ve kept most buried, most hidden from public view, I continue to be amazed at what happens when I show up fully as me, when I’m willing to let all of my fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities be seen. Namely, my people find me.
Through my late 30s, I had vanishingly few female friends. I made two fabulous, close friends in college, but the three of us now geographically form a triangle that covers well more than half of the lower 48. In my many iterations of grad school, I’d find one or two women with whom I felt great affinity and affection, but it was never the sort of sisterhood where you felt completely seen just by showing up.
It was really only when I started my Curvy Yoga teacher training that I started to see a real shift. Showing up in a space with women in similar bodies and with similar life experiences gave us all permission to let our truest selves shine out. Over the course of 2016, I felt the tight bounds of self-imposed restraint start to loosen. My light began to shine out. I found myself wrapped in the warmth of true sisterhood, and it legitimately changed my life.
That small movement toward being seen and letting myself live fully as me … it started as a small ice pellet rolling around in some snow, and today it’s a pretty damn sizable snowball of authenticity. I remember a moment in fall 2016, after starting a new job and feeling confident that everyone around me had decidedly meh feelings about me, when I consciously said to myself: “People can sense what you expect from them. What if you just expected them to like you and behaved like you knew they would?” I resolved to do just that, and within a week’s time, I could feel a huge shift in the energy around me at work.
Last Thursday, I arrived at the Winchester Swimplex, where I teach a twice-weekly aqua yoga class. After starting with just a small number of semi-regular students last fall, it has grown into something of a phenomenon, with an average of ten students per session, roughly half to two-thirds repeaters and always a couple of newbies. From the moment one of the newbies last Thursday walked in, I just knew, with every bit of spidey sense this decidedly NON-woo girl possesses, that she was My People. I didn’t need to know her story or anything about her to know that we would get on like old friends.
Not only is she amazing (and she is !!), but she’s also in the sort of place in her life where it felt manageable to say to me after class, “Can we be friends?” I thought I was the only one who randomly resorted to second-grade friend-making tactics, but apparently I’m not! I love her for that.
And this is the lesson I’ve taken from the accumulated experiences of the last few years, and especially this week (we went for brunch after yoga this morning; ah-MAZ-ing!): When you find ease in your world, you lower the gates that allow your people to find you. You can find your people. And the validation and rush of love that comes from that? Best. Feeling. Ever.
(I still like my freaky friends, though. To be clear.)