During my first few years of college at Stanford, I differentiated myself by proudly stating aspects of my identity that I felt were exotic, given the environment.
One of my most proudly stated aspects was being born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, known for its high crime and poverty rates.
Whenever I said, “I’m from South Central,” what I really meant was, “I’m tough, don’t mess with me.”
What I said far less was, “growing up, I rarely left my house on my own because my parents feared I’d either be assaulted or forced into a gang.”
I bought into those fears, too, and felt them return whenever I came home for visits.
Outside my hometown, I challenged them and felt them dissipate in layers over time. I discovered the unrivaled freedom and pleasure of late-night solo walks, and the comfort and confidence that security in one’s environment provides.
I became used to this feeling of comfort and advocated for a person’s right to be able to experience it. I longed to experience it at home, too.
A couple weeks ago, I felt just that.
I had flown home for the holidays and my desire to be outside alone roared. For the first time, I listened.
I stepped outside and let my intuition guide my steps, as I had done on countless occasions in other cities.
The relief in my body was palpable.
As I walked, I mindfully reflected on the unexpected beauty of my surroundings and on my internal processes. I thought back on my journey and I wondered what was now allowing me to walk so peacefully.
I thought back on my initial escapades alone, in college. I thought on the years of “spirit walks” that had brought clarity and balance. I thought back on my experiences living alone, and finding a place where I finally felt safe to do so.
I thought on my last year at work, and how my learning to stand up for my needs as an employee was now bringing its power to this journey. I thought about all my previous trips home, especially my recent trips, and saw the progression of events that had led to my being more myself at home.
Those last two, those were incredibly important to my now moment in time, but who would have thought they’d be connected?
But they were.
My becoming more self-assured and self-aware at work, and my becoming more comfortable with revealing more of my true self with my family, were now allowing me to walk freely alone, at home. I smiled, grateful for the experience and the knowledge that this had led to an unexpected trickle-down. When I arrived home, re-balanced and refreshed, I held new perspective.
I felt more grateful for my experiences with work, and for all the times that growth in one area of my life had translated into freedom in another. Knowing that something was possible in one city, in one aspect of my life, allowed to me to see it was possible elsewhere.
Likewise, knowing that something was possible for someone else helped me to believe it was possible for me.
The trickle-down effect of self-empowerment is vast and spreads like wildfire, even among strangers. When a light is ignited, the act cannot be undone, and in seeing another’s light, I recognize my own.
Marianne Williamson said, “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.”
The same is true for the different “selves” present within us. As we let our light shine in one area, we give ourselves permission to do the same in another. It takes purposeful application and a good measure of self-love and self-care, but gaining that permission – it’s like no other.
For the new year, I invite Peaceful Dumplings to explore their own journeys of self-empowerment, to give themselves permission to shine their lights brighter and with greater freedom than ever before:
What growth or breakthroughs did you experience in 2014?
Think back on this year of triumphs and challenges. What most stuck out to you as notable growth? What challenges did you transform, whether big or small?
Trace back some of the roots of that growth – what experiences led to that growth?
Take one or two of those breakthroughs and hold them in your heart. Recognize that it they are gifts you gave to yourself, and to anyone else that may have been watching as you experienced them. Your influence in your world is far greater than you know.
What events or insights helped pave the way for these breakthroughs?
What inspirations did you receive from someone else that contributed to your own growth?
We are all mirrors of each other, looking for (or inadvertently finding) reflections of ourselves in others. Who made these breakthrough seem possible for you? These can be family or friends, literary characters, or even sitcom personalities.
If this isn’t clear, then explore who may benefit from your ignited light. Perhaps someone has come to you to tell you they were inspired by you, perhaps you can imagine someone being grateful for the exposure to your journey.
What breakthroughs would you like to herald in the coming year?
Just as there were breadcrumbs for your previous breakthroughs, so too are you paving the way for greater growth in the future. What breakthroughs are you looking forward to stepping into in the coming year? Focus on the feelings you would like to feel and hold them close to your heart, recognizing that each time you feel that feeling, regardless of the circumstances, you are heralding the coming light-ignitions that your heart seeks.
Have you ever had an experience where you shed your old “identity” (like I did) and had a breakthrough? How do you hope to evolve in 2015?
Also by Amparo: Why Being Selfish is Important for Your Spiritual Growth
Photo: Israel Sundseth