Lion Heart

Around this time last year, I started to become more out-going, more extroverted. I’ve chalked it up to working with kids and having to yell and be enthusiastic all the time, but when I re-examine 2015, I just happened to have become exhausted with being silent. I grew weary of waiting for my turn to speak. I knew that I had so much to share with others, and I wanted to be around others more. I grew to love the constant stimulation of different voices, opinions, ideas, and stories. And I came to expect and crave that interaction.

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test several months ago, and got INFP, same as usual. But deep down, I wasn’t 100% okay with that. I felt a strong need to continue asserting myself, to connect with others more.

When I re-took the test a couple of months after that, I got ENFP. Huh. I thought I was quiet, introverted, private. Wasn’t I shy growing up? Didn’t I redirect the spotlight whenever it hovered close to me? I was confused and refused to accept that result (even though I am fully aware and appreciative of how a test cannot define me, that I am more than four letters).

But then, I realized that I shouldn’t let my past define me. Just because I was a certain way before doesn’t mean that who I am was set in stone in that period of time. The people around me accepted this fact so easily that it made me realize that I was clinging onto something that may have been true then but is not now.

Around the same time, I also became more of a Gryffindor. Growing up, I knew that I wouldn’t completely identify with that House, even though I desperately wanted to be bold and brave. I suppose the extraversion and the Gryffindor-like tendency to stand up for what I believe in came into play last year. What’s cool is that my friends have been telling me that it makes sense for me to have Gryffindor as a secondary House, because I do stand up for what I believe in, and I have a strong moral compass that I like to think always points north.

Thinking about these two developments has made me wonder if I’m finally developing that idealistic lion heart that I’ve seen in my favourite characters, especially women. Hermione, Anne, Leslie… they’re so fearless in what they want and what they believe in. They keep pushing forward despite all the obstacles and failures, and I admire that so much. I hope I’m reaching that point. I hope that people compare me to these characters, with the newest addition from Hamilton: An American Musical.

Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton, or Eliza as she’s called in the musical, is such a lion heart. I strive to be more like her. She’s fierce in her convictions, she doesn’t take bullshit, and she always asserts herself in every situation that life puts her in. And yet, she remains soft. In the way she sings and speaks, in the way she interacts with her husband, sisters, and everyone else around her. And her line, “look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now” is aligned with my personal philosophy of gratitude and awe.

I love being able to surround myself with inspirational, strong, fierce women, both fictional and real. I love exploring these parts of my identity, especially since I admire these traits in others. Perhaps I could use some falling in love with these parts of myself.

Because I Care

I wrote last year in The Opposite of Apathy about how I care a lot about a lot of things. That’s just who I am. It’s been a lifelong struggle of figuring out how to balance letting this passion lead me and letting it be. Notice how I didn’t say “letting it go,” or “leaving it behind.” I know myself well enough that there is no off switch for my feelings or passion, that I cannot simply just let it go, as much as I want to. And I have wanted to let my feelings go and disappear so often that it’s become a part of the cycle: I care a lot, I become disappointed or get rejected, I feel hurt, I want out of this body and out this personality, I step back, I heal, I become myself again. It’s been difficult to navigate at times, but what usually brings me back to a sense of peace with myself is the realization that this is who I am and that I should accept it for what it is.

I’ve gone through this cycle so many times over the past few months, and during the healing process, I’ve come to realize the beautiful things about this part of me. The enduring empathy, the fiery passion, and the full-blown rainbow of feelings.

I have realized that not everybody cares as much as me. Yes, it hurts. Yes, I feel misunderstood and sometimes lonely as a result. But – and this is actually something that my best friends have told me – not everybody is capable of caring this much. This is actually quite rare to witness in another human being. What I have may just be a superpower. And it’s something that is completely mine.

I’m pretty sure I’m classified as a Highly Sensitive Person, one who just feels the world and is acutely and terribly aware of other people’s energy and emotions – including their pain. Which is why I sometimes want to fix other people’s problems and inspire them to reach new heights. I know that they’re capable of doing it, and I hate to see people settle for lives that are less than the ones they are capable of living. It actually hurts to see that happening. I see it all the time with my family, friends, colleagues, and people I meet every day. I don’t understand why they’re not going for their dreams, why they’re not even trying, and (God forbid) why they don’t even dream in the first place.

The fact that I feel all of this means that my line of work is something that I take seriously (in hopefully the right away. Life’s too short to be taken too seriously, after all). I want to do well, to do good, to make a positive difference. And I can frame it so that I am actually doing this every day, and I probably am. But I know that I am capable of doing more. I know that I am meant for more. And this, my friends, is the source of my stress and pain. I feel stuck in my life, and I’m constantly in the aforementioned cycle of caring and hurting and healing – and this is making me feel like I’m the one who’s settling for her current situation. But I know that I’m not! I’m constantly striving for a better me, because I know that she’s in reach.

Perhaps, then, the stress and pain is coming from this constant struggle in becoming this person. Existential, metaphysical growing pains, if you will. I have actually felt impatience with my situation, which is not good. I need to learn to be as caring and empathetic and sensitive to myself as I am with others. Perhaps this whole “caring too much” thing should be more directed at myself.

So, because I care about my well-being and want to become the best version of myself as possible, I’ll do my best to show as much compassion and empathy to myself as I do to others.

Half-Assed Kindness

I’m not one to half-ass kindness. I either love fiercely, or let it drop. I don’t like to keep my feelings hidden, although that’s what I do on the daily. It’s hard when you’re scared or hesitant to let people know how you truly feel.

But when I do, it’s mostly in my actions: I share food. I ask people how they’re doing, and listen. I try to be fully present for them, to be a listening ear or a sounding board. A shoulder to cry on when necessary. And I think the world of them. Yes, we all have our flaws and we’re imperfect – but I love my people anyway.

I think that the one thing that sums up how I show my love for people is time. I give my time, I share my time, I divide my time between those I care about. Simple enough, right?

But lately, it’s been difficult to care. I like to be authentic as possible, so it’s hard when people I know are not being authentic. They’re being kind on the surface, but I know that they’re not genuine in their actions or words. It’s disheartening to know that they’re half-assing their kindness. It’s not real, what they’re doing. And it’s a shame, especially for somebody like me who loves whole-heartedly and whole-assedly (yes that’s a word).

It’s a shame because I mostly am afraid of showing people how I truly feel, and so not being kind at all scares me – what will they think? I already know that they don’t really think the world of me, and I should be okay with that. But deep down, I know I’m not. I’m so used to pleasing everybody and having them like me, so whenever things like this happen, it’s off-putting to say the least. And so I half-ass my kindness. I selectively care when I have the energy to do so. I lie and pretend. It’s exhausting.

So where does this leave me? Do I choose to spread as much kindness as possible, knowing that in some cases it won’t benefit anybody? Or do I let these cases and these people go, with as much compassion and patience as possible? I already know the answer, but it’ll be hard to put it into action. Even though giving something your all is exhilarating. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Let’s whole-ass this thing.

2015 Again

It seems as though every social media website that you are a part of does a recap or annual report at the end of every December. WordPress just sent me my report, which was lovely and well put together. Facebook, on the other hand, just placed the photos that I’d posted that had the most likes. And most of those photos weren’t even of me or my loved ones, which was hilarious.

So, I’m going to do my own recap. It’s a bit of a “behind the scenes” post, since I didn’t really document these things here. Anyway, as promised, I’ve listed the highlights from this year – and there are a lot:

  • I shared this blog with my friends
  • I wrote blog posts every month this year
  • I got the push to do the above from Anita Wing Lee, my coach who had helped me so much with my career and mindset towards money, success, happiness, and fulfillment
  • I made more big purchases (such as the above) which have been worth it
  • Learned how to do EFT/tapping, meditate, and do an intuition reading
  • I had 3 jobs, all of which I at least really liked and helped me to grow
    • Between the first job this year and the unfulfilling job from 2014, the gap was around 4 months of unemployment and uncertainty
    • Between the first and second job this year was a nonexistent unemployment gap
    • Between the second and third (current) job this year was a 2 week unemployment gap – such a difference!
  • Did a lot of networking – calling, e-mailing, going to events
  • Volunteered for a great organization for 6 months and met wonderful people
  • Cooked dinner and did the laundry for my family for the first time
  • Watched Potted Potter, The Sound of Cracking Bones, Once, and Kinky Boots
  • Watched Good Will Hunting, The Fault in Our Stars, Ides of March, Big Hero 6, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Amélie, Into the Woods, The Artist, Romantics Anonymous, Django Unchained, the Star Wars series, Wet Hot American Summer, Jan Austen Book Club, Naruto: The Last, Age of Ultron for the first time
  • Watched Pitch Perfect 2, Inside Out, Mockingjay Part 2, and The Force Awakens in the theatre
  • Finished Parks and Recreation – 7 seasons of my favourite show. What an amazing workplace comedy that poked fun at politics but also emphasized the importance of being kind and working hard with people you love to do good
  • Watched Agent Carter, another great TV show which I will be following
  • Read some more books for the first time – not as much as last year, but still felt proud of myself
  • Ran my first running race – a 5k
  • Painted my nails and put on makeup more often, and overall made self-care more of a priority. This did wonders for my mental health and well-being
  • Discovered James Bay, an incredible musician
  • Continued with yoga, started running outside more often, and went to the chiropractor a few times
  • Went to High Park, Glen Rouge, and Algonquin Park for the first time – beautiful places where I discovered my love of hiking
  • Got home super late from a house party for the first time
  • Went to a cousin’s wedding and cried. (First time crying at a wedding!)
  • Actually dated!
  • Got signed Avatar: The Last Airbender comics
  • Happy and hopeful for my country’s leadership

So while Facebook didn’t really do a good job with capturing this year’s best moments, that’s okay. They can only do so much with the few photos I had posted. What matters is that 2015 was good to me, and I was in a good place in my life.

Here’s to an incredible 2016! ❤

Why I Stopped Being Sorry for Speaking

I was never much of a talker, growing up. I was told that I was – and in turn, believed that I was – shy, quiet, reserved, serious, you name it. I preferred to listen and then speak, instead of the other way around. It’s too bad that society – school, work, etc. – prefers the other way around. Being loud, speaking right away, giving an answer when called upon… it’s what I’ve been conditioned to think of as the right way to communicate with others. I thought that speaking loudly, boldly, and even out of turn was what it meant to be confident or popular or smart. Not listening intently, paying attention to others, and mulling over one’s answer.

I had tried to become that ideal confident, popular, smart person. Speaking out of turn in a matter-of-fact, “hey look at me” tone of voice happened every now and then, but it always felt fake. Putting up my hand to give an answer to the class didn’t feel natural to me. But I still believed that I wasn’t mature or brave enough to do those things. It was like I was building up to being that kind of person, because that kind of person was the ideal.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t realize that I was fine the way that I was. That it’s okay to be quiet, to think before speaking, to speak only when you deem necessary. That it’s okay and normal to be introverted. That’s the word that I didn’t hear throughout my childhood. People tend to associate “introverted” with timidity, when it has to do with where we get our energy and how it gets used up. Introverted means that you get your energy from within (a nice, lovely thought), and that being in very social situations (parties, concerts, big crowds) uses up a lot of your energy and so you have to get away from those situations in order to recharge. That’s me.

And while I’m becoming more and more comfortable with being an introvert, lately I’ve been becoming bolder in the way I speak to others. Whether it’s at work or with friends and family, whenever I think I have something important to say, I say it. Before, I would have not said anything. And whenever I did, I would feel bad and apologize for speaking out of turn or speaking so boldly – that might be another reason why I didn’t say anything. So, there’s two parts to why I didn’t speak up as much.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that while I am still introverted, I’m not shy or scared to speak my mind. I’ve been dubbed sassy and blunt because of this, which I am definitely proud of. I have actually stopped apologizing for adding my opinion to conversations when other people are talking. I had thought that this was rude at first, but it turns out that people actually invite that kind of thing. Who knew?

It feels good to speak up. I feel important. I feel confident. I feel smart. And most importantly, I feel me.

Finally.

2015

As this year is drawing to a close, I can’t help but become more reflective than usual on what 2015 has meant to me. I know that this has been the best year of my life (so far), because while I’ve experienced so many lows, the amount and quality of highs has been phenomenal.

I had 3 new jobs that challenged me and made me a better person. Two of these jobs involved working with kids and the second one involved working with youth leadership, which I loved. I didn’t expect to work with kids again, but I now realize that I needed to do this in order to really become confident in speaking in front of and giving directions to others.

My current job is permanent (or at least, not part-time or contract) and I love it. I get to work with elements of activism and social service, and it’s with young (kind of) people. Also, while this is definitely a downside, there are a lot of petty politics to deal with. But I feel like I’ve been preparing myself my whole life to reach this job and deal with the shit – because I definitely would not have been brave enough to speak up for myself and be okay with others not liking what I have to say.

I finally, finally reached that point where I became comfortable and confident enough to be myself. I am no longer nervous to go to interviews or to speak in front of crowds. I am no longer afraid of letting myself be vulnerable in front of people. I am loving my body and my physical appearance more.

Of course, I know myself well enough to recognize that these feelings of power and gratitude will go away. There will come a time when my courage will break and I will want to disappear into the ground so that I can avoid my feelings and the unknown. But that time, too, will pass. These things come and go in cycles. And hopefully those cycles will feature more positive and less negative. I’m still trying to re-frame my perspective and re-train my way of thinking.

And this is all okay. I know that I’ll continue to experience lows and highs, but 2015 has taught me to view the lows with optimism and the highs with gratitude. Just being present in those moments has been so helpful in getting me to calm my mind and spirit. So I think that the overall theme throughout this year was being able to experience the present for what it is. I honestly believe that this is the best way for me to live, since it seems to be working in my favour so far.

I’ll write another post with more fun and specific highlights of this year later, but I really wanted to take a moment to reflect on what 2015 has been to me. 🙂

Imposter Syndrome, Part Three

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
– Marianne Williamson

I made a post on Thoughtful Minds United about not feeling good enough. This is something that everybody comes across at least once a year. For me, it’s about once a month. (Whenever I don’t have a job, it happens once a week or more often.) Before, I had thought that this was abnormal, that I was still deeply insecure about myself and my (in)abilities. Now, after reflecting on this imposter syndrome and how common it is in people, I don’t think that feeling inadequate once a month is wrong. That’s the thing about feelings: they’re never wrong.

Sure, they often suck. Feelings are pretty damn awful and can get in the way of you living your life. But feelings are a part of life and you need all of them to live a full life (as you find out in Inside Out – great movie!). The unpleasant feelings are especially good at letting you know what’s actually going on inside your head, or in your subconscious, or in your heart or soul. Are you feeling insecure? Maybe you’re really afraid of taking a risk in your career. Are you feeling lonely? Maybe you’re sad that you haven’t made a meaningful connection in a while. Maybe you’re afraid of getting hurt if you try to make such a connection.

I find that fear is often an underlying emotion, at least with me. It takes some digging, but whenever I get pangs of loneliness or inadequacy, I discover that they’re both fueled by fear. I’m afraid of being alone and not being understood or loved. I’m afraid of not living up to the expectations that others have for me or to the dreams I have for myself. And fear is a powerful thing.

I’ve even felt afraid of what will happen once I make more changes to become that person I want to be – even if it means becoming a better person. Yes, I am afraid of being great. I am afraid that I’ll be so successful that I won’t be myself again and I’ll lose my family and friends.

So what happens when fear takes over?

You meet it with curiosity and patience. You don’t hide from it, push it away, or bring another emotion to distract yourself from it. Because it’ll still be there to haunt you until you fully and authentically acknowledge it. And when you do, you can learn from it. You can push on, walk run crawl go forward – as long as you keep going. You can take breaks when needed. But giving up on finding that fulfillment and holding on to it? Not an option.

Easier said than done, obviously, but I’m working on it. Are you?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The Opposite of Apathy

Growing up, I cared a lot about pretty much everything. I cared about being a good daughter, sister, student, classmate, friend, and person. I cared about school and getting good grades and pleasing everyone. I wanted everyone to like me.

Now that I’m witnessing firsthand (yet again) how young people think that it’s cool to not care about anything, I’m becoming confused and frustrated. It’s like high school all over again, except I’m the adult and (this is a stretch) the teacher. Now that I’ve grown more confident and sure of myself, caring “too much” is something that I am proud of being. So it’s really interesting to see the gap between people who think it’s cool to be apathetic and people who think it’s cool to be empathetic. We do our best to meet halfway, and sometimes we both get there. Sometimes, we don’t. And I’m learning to be okay with that – which might be another aspect of becoming even more empathetic, or at least patient and understanding.

Working at this particular summer camp has been transformational in a way that I would not have expected. I seem to be surprising myself a lot this year. I’ve been discovering just how patient and understanding and empathetic I can be. And – get this – creative, out-going, open, and well-spoken. Younger Camille would not have believed that she would come to love speaking in front of other people, let alone leading other people and wanting more of that kind of role.

Another thing that surprised me as a result of working at this camp is how much I’ve come to care about the campers. I want them to do well in life. I want them to come to camp everyday, even (and perhaps especially) if they don’t want to. I want them to become genuinely good people who will make a positive impact on the world.

This was hard for me to accept. I had grown weary of the daily routine of programming and engaging the campers, and putting so much energy and emotion into the job. I had wanted to just do the work and never see those campers again. And, of course, I was mistaken.

I’ve pretty much stopped wondering why I care so much. I’ve accepted that the reason is simply because it’s who I am. I’m always going to care about others and care for others. I’m not going to stop being invested in their personal development. I’m going to continue being in that role of a parent, counsellor, mentor, boss, leader, you name it. And if people have a problem with that, then too bad. I’ll eventually make them like me and want to do well in life. 😉

Imposter Syndrome, Part Two

I had written about not feeling good enough back in July, and thought I’d revisit the topic. I’ve noticed in between these two posts that feeling like an imposter comes and goes. That feeling has never really left, to be honest. It’s like it’s taken a vacation knowing that it will come back with regained strength.

I’ve been ready for it, though. Just yesterday, I was about to browse through strangers’ LinkedIn profiles fully aware that I would push myself into a downward spiral of guilt and inadequacy – but as soon as I knew what was about to happen, I stopped myself. It was one of the strangest “about to” encounters I’ve ever had with my ego. Yes, I was proud of myself, and that I had come a long way in how I compare myself with others… But I knew deep down that I could be better, and fully rise above that downward spiral and avoid that cliff fall into what we know as the imposter syndrome.

Which brings me to this video of Natalie Portman delivering the commencement address to Harvard graduates. She talks about going through the various stages of life (school and work and the transitions in between) and how she had a nagging feeling about how she wasn’t good enough to be where she was.

We’ve all been there. I had felt the same way when I was in school and other students talked to the professor at the same intellectual level, while I struggled to complete the readings. I had felt the same way when I started any job and saw how much of a family my colleagues had, while I felt like an outsider about to push the boundaries. Whenever these situations arose, I did my best to be as likeable and hard-working as possible. Often, those two things conflicted, especially when it came to my relationships with co-workers and superiors. Achieving a balance only came naturally when I was able to be myself.

“The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self.”

This one line from Natalie Portman’s speech really stood out for me. I’ve always thought that being brave enough to be yourself was one of the most spectacular things that a human being could achieve. And developing your own self takes a while – often a lifetime – to accomplish. But is it ever worth it!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3