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Permission to be Introverted, Sensitive and Different:Thanks to Adele, Jason Mraz and a Non-Mainstream Upbringing

girl alone on bench

 

Adele 25

Adele

I sit watching Adele Live in New York City. I should be working but I can’t resist the chance to get lost in her voice and presence. The British singer’s return after a four-year absence, feels like a much-needed drink for the authentically and artistically thirsty. I watch and listen as the curtain goes up and she opens with her first single off the new album, Hello.

Breathtaking. Tears pool in my eyes. Is there anything more moving than a pure voice filling a canyon of depth that’s so often left empty? Her rich tones and lyrics pluck my emotions and heartstrings and it feels absolutely delicious.

Between songs Adele mentions how nervous she is, how she took note of the exits as she walked on stage, and how even before it started, she couldn’t wait for the performance to be over.

She has all this fear but does it anyway.

She’s real. She’s vulnerable and she is beloved.

She embodies two things we all crave: The ability to express ourselves openly and the ability to connect intimately with others.

Both involve the courage to let down your guard and be exposed to judgment. The courage to truly be yourself in order to let the inner world out and  find others who connect with you.

Don’t let people ‘should’ on you

The idea of transitioning from someone you should be to who you really are is a common theme in my coaching practice. I guide and empower individuals to toss their old life scripts and find joy in their true traits and interests, even if they’re non-mainstream or weird. Even if their sensitivity, intuition or introversion shows.

A friend of mine recently told me her family was known around her hometown for being weird. She farm rolling cloudsgrew up in a small town. Her family’s big picture thinking, expansive ideas and introspective natures set them apart from the majority of the local population. As I thought about it, I realized my family was fairly non-traditional as well. My parents were divorced (which was rare in our small community). We didn’t attend church regularly. My dad lived in the middle of a cornfield with a quarter-mile driveway. We didn’t belong to the country club or even golf. My dad wasn’t a banker, factory worker or farmer. He owned shoe stores and did his own radio ads. As I thought about it further, I realized that my family’s non-mainstreamness was something I tried to hide or abandon for most of my life, until I was about 37.

In high school, college and throughout my 20s, I played the game extremely well. I ditched my plans to be an English Literature teacher or a Child Psychologist in favor of a more practical and readily accepted business degree in Materials and Logistics Management. I dated and married a man with a promising career in finance. We were perfect citizens, buying cars, homes, and saving for retirement. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those lovely achievements. The only personal issue I have is the distraction this path posed. It held my attention and didn’t leave me any energy to seek further self-awareness. I was so busy following the blueprint given to me by the mysterious “They” of society, that I became almost unconscious.

Permission is priceless

Then slowly around age 35, bits of authenticity and artistry started slipping into my world. Guitar lessons with a refreshingly real and open teacher, were the first smelling salts to help me re-gain consciousness.  Writing classes with observant, creative and primarily introverted individuals showed me a feeling of home, I hadn’t truly felt before. Suddenly, it was OK to want time alone. My eyes opened and my brain gulped in the inspiration and encouragement it so needed. I was so grateful for those settings and the people who touched me with their satisfying weirdness.

After watching the Adele special, I turned to listen to Jason Mraz on iTunes. If you haven’t listened to

Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz

him beyond, I’m Yours, I encourage you to do so. Go deep into his Live at Java Joe’s album. Mraz was a big part of my transformation too. I hate to get all puppy-dog groupie sappy but his words and gentle message of love, depth and creativity, gave me permission to think and love differently.

Permission is priceless. Even unspoken, never-met-before, permission-by-example only.

Please be your introverted, intuitive, sensitive self

You have to be your introverted, sensitive, intuitive self. Someone or some project needs you to be you. I needed my guitar teacher, writing classmates and Jason Mraz to be open, introverted, sensitive and strong. I needed them to say “Go ahead, reveal your true feelings and take action.” They said that through their own vulnerability and actions. Their transparency and permission made it safe for me to make mistakes and be soft and honest.

Your home is different and that’s cool

I believe I currently provide a sufficiently weird home life for my kids. They, not surprisingly, try to buck that non-normalness.

embarrassed blondeMy almost undefinable job as a writer and personal coach is not mainstream. I, admittedly, make it up as I go. No real blue-print. Most of our neighbors work in business, finance or are stay-at-home parents. I stay home alone all day and love it. I write about introverts and sensitive people. My kids are a little embarrassed and wish I’d blog about something cooler.  I imagine they feel like I did when my dad wore sleeveless t-shirts and purple corduroy bell-bottoms in public in the 80s. Love you Dad.:)

I strive to make our kitchen table a safe space for idea sharing and personal story-telling. We debate occasionally and that’s OK, as long as no one leaves feeling squelched.

Sticking up for humanity

The other night the topic of intelligence came up in regards to college applications. The boys/men at the kitchen table agreed that science and math were the ultimate gauges for intelligence. If you are strong in science or math you are the most smart. I argued that a degree or competence in literature or essay

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

writing is equally as intelligent.  The ability to write, understand and expound on humanity is equally as valuable and intelligent as prowess in math or science. I don’t think I swayed their opinions but I at least relayed my true feelings on the subject. Perhaps someday, 20 years from now, my kids will feel a subtle permission to give literature more credit than their friends or colleagues do.

Artistry and sensitivity, so valuable

At the closing of Adele’s special, she rushes off stage and into the arms of a man (presumably her husband). We catch a glimpse of her unabashedly sobbing in his arms as the elevator doors close. Her sensitive soul pours out in her music and in the safety of her lover’s arms. I’m so grateful for her candidness and realness. It feels a little safer to be me.

Do you have any role models who give you permission to be your full sensitive and non-mainstream thinking self? Do you allow yourself to freely express your feelings? Where do you feel safe?

 

 

Screenshot 2015-09-11 03.48.31

 

Just a little note to say there will be no new post next week on Christmas day, Dec. 25th. I plan to enjoy a slow, meaningful week on holiday. gold-abstract-holiday-lights-18978298

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5 Comments

  1. Jola June 20, 2017 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Thank you for this post. I really needed it 🙂

    • Brenda Knowles June 24, 2017 at 10:23 am - Reply

      You’re welcome! Glad it was helpful.

  2. ilona December 18, 2015 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    Great post. I grew up with scientist parents and once believed that science/math were the ultimate gauges of intelligence. It was one reason I majored in math, so that I’d be perceived as smart. Now that I write, I see that writing takes a very different kind of intelligence. Not better or worse, but different.

    • Brenda Knowles December 19, 2015 at 1:37 pm - Reply

      That’s what I always say, “Not better or worse, just different.” 🙂 Thanks for sharing Ilona. Nice to hear from you. Hope you are enjoying life Ms. I.:)

  3. Lauren Sapala December 18, 2015 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Very interesting on the debate about which field of competency means someone is “smarter.” I have heard that people who are more strongly left-brained (rational thinking, science/math, etc.) tend not to question the rules as much as right-brained people (intuitive artists), who always want to know why they’re doing something, and will only follow a rule if it stands up to scrutiny.

    Perhaps the dominance of the science/math bias in our society functions as sort of an unspoken rule, and so it’s much more difficult for those with a left-brain bias to think about dismantling their belief systems around this.

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