Fun fact about me: I am huge on metaphors. They come to me when I am trying to understand, and help me sort of define and solidify my thoughts and feelings. My latest one is this “cocoon phase” I have been in, in reference to my self-development. Many use the “caterpillar to butterfly” metaphor, saying one day you will turn out amazing and beautiful. But no one talks about the tedious awkwardness of the cocoon phase.
Much of my pubescent life, I was a mess of hormones with slippery control and no direction. Birth control literally saved my life. Since then, I have really had to reevaluate who I was and what I was doing. For the first time, I could really think about where I am and where I want to go. While I have seen vast improvement internally, in my “cocoon’, so to speak, I have seen little outward improvement. I do not look in the mirror or hear myself in conversation and see what I feel on the inside.
Now that I have given this self-development limbo a name, I am trying to navigate it with as much grace as I can. Reading a book about ballet and knowing the names of the positions and movements does not make you a ballet master. So here are some realities about the “cocoon phase” that I have noticed, and am working to surpass.
You Might Have to Withdraw
Something that I found interesting with taking birth control is that I felt better, but did not want to just parade into the world and say “This is me! I have arrived”. Sorry for another metaphor, but it was like a hurricane had just passed. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and I was a mess. So I withdrew from many people and situations to try and figure my ish out. I was learning to care for myself. That meant declining a lot of social situations I would hate, but force myself into to make my friends happy. This brought about the next realization.
Many Will Not Like Like/Understand It
The funny thing about withdrawing is realizing who comes into the dark to find and sit with you. A lot of my friendships were tested when my cocoon phase started. Many either fell apart or proved to be weaker than I had thought. My sister was choosing bridesmaids, and I realized that I had two people I really wanted there when the time came for me. A few friends berated me for never hanging out, and when I explained that I was working on myself or was becoming more honest? I stopped hearing from them. I also realized a good number of my friendships were one-sided, and expected much from me without much reciprocation on their end. While good in the long run, it certainly hurt and felt lonely when it first started, and I labeled myself the bad friend. Now, I am anxious about letting go of the guilt and forming new friendships.
It Takes Time To Express Yourself
So great! You’re in the cocoon, learning about yourself and getting better. But you look at yourself in the mirror and see someone you sort of used to be. Why doesn’t your physical appearance match? Why aren’t you the darkly dressed, red-lipsticked, glamorous creative firecracker you feel you should be seeing? This one was frustrating to me. I figured discovering who I was would equal being confident enough to express that person. But that, like many things, takes work and practice. I get embarrassed and wipe off my lipstick within five minutes of putting it on. My interactions aren’t matching up right, either. I still acquiesce and fail to fully express my thoughts in conversation, and use myself as a dart board for humor. It will not happen overnight. It takes work.
These are simply my observations. Everyone’s journey is different, but there are similarities we all have where we can connect and go “Huh, I am not a total oddball for feeling this way”. And talking these feelings out via blog is helping until I can afford a therapist. Where are you on your journey of self-discovery? How are you dealing with the limbo of applying your insides to your outsides? What methods have worked for you?
I say? Embrace the awkward, learn from the mistakes, celebrate that you are in a sack, developing and growing. As weird as it may feel? This phase is beautiful, too.