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Finding Your Niche in Life
By Suzanne Falter-Barns

Have you ever felt like the life you are living is not the one you originally had in mind? Back when you were a kid, there might have been other things you thought you were going to be, like a Broadway diva or a country doc. That was before so-called reality hit, back when the only voice you listened to was your own.

Fast forward to today. If you're like most of us, you lost track of those dreams and ideas some time ago. Other factors came into play, like earning a living, the impossibility of going back to school, or the queasy fear of looking stupid. You might have even heard your parents in the background, quietly chanting. "Get a good job, honey. You need the security." "You expect too much from life!!" "Who said work was supposed to be fun?"

In her book, Losing Your Parents, Finding Your Self (Hyperion), Victoria Secunda interviewed 94 men and women who had lost at least one parent about the impact their parents' death had on their lives. What she found was that after that parent's death, 50% of the respondents changed their career -- and 69% of that group did so as a direct result of the death. The reason? Respondents no longer had to worry about pleasing or displeasing that parent. "The credit, or blame, for their success and failures fell almost entirely on their own shoulders," says Secunda.

When we begin to listen to our own voice, and throw off all those other helpful ones in our head, life really starts to make sense. Not only do the wheels of progress finally turn in the direction we want, but we begin to put more and more credence in that small, lesser known part of ourselves that is the seat of both our vulnerability and our power. This is the place where our creativity, our imagination, and our own unique 'I-ness' really lives. It's also the place we operate from when we're truly connecting with others.

Having the courage to live up to your own ideals is truly refreshing. When you move from thinking about it to actually doing it, you are amazed by the flow and the ease with which you can suddenly operate. You may also be struck by how long you waited to finally get on with the real joy in life.

Getting there, however, can be the hard part, because it all begins with awareness. Often those voices in our heads, whether they belong to parents, well-meaning friends, former bosses, spouses, or even nosy neighbors, may have been playing so long and so loudly we can't even hear them.

Emme, one of the world's top plus-size model, grew up listening to the abusive voice of the man her mother married when she was 5. At age 12, he instructed her to strip down to her underwear, then circled in indelible magic marker all the places on her body where she needed to lose weight. Even though she'd tried to scrub them off, her next trip to the local pool was a humiliating nightmare. "After that," she told an interviewer, "I didn't allow myself to feel ... Finally I went into therapy and said, 'I'm angry. I need to find out why.'" Emme's work with a therapist gave her a fuller understanding of the influences she'd been spending a lifetime silently wrestling with -- voices she has since moved beyond in her work as a model, and role model, for plus size women everywhere.

Ultimately, unplugging all those inner know-it-alls rests on nothing more than your desire to be who were you always intended to be in the first place. Are you willing to rise above everyone else's agenda for you, and carve out the niche that is rightfully yours? Are you willing to let go of what others will think, and honor your greater self instead? Are you willing to be known as the tremendous, quirky soul that you are?

Perhaps the best example of this is Roger the Jester, a wonderful, original performer based near Great Barrington, Massachusetts. After unsuccessful stabs at psychology and photojournalism, Roger landed on jesting by asking himself what he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing. "What I really liked was making people laugh, and goofing off. Once I got booked for a show and they told me, 'We'd just like you to carry on.' Well, that's what my mother used to yell at me -- 'Will you stop carrying on?' And now, here I was, carrying on and getting paid for it."

Take a moment right now to complete the following questions in a journal or notebook. They will help you clear the many voices in your head, so you and your niche can emerge…

I would complete my dream, except that my father _________________________________________________

When I think of my dream, I think of my mother _________________________________________________


Everyone keeps telling me _________________________________________________


I don't pursue my dreams because _________________________________________________


The truth about my dreams is that _________________________________________________


If I could truly do anything I wanted to in life, I would __________________________________________________


Now write down a list of everyone in your life you truly does honor your own, unique spirit. This is your new list of voices -- be sure to ask for their support when the going gets rough. And then, of course, listen.

©2002 Suzanne Falter-Barns.

Suzanne Falter-Barns is the author of How Much Joy Can You Stand? She also leads teleclasses, e-courses and offers a free ezine, The Joy Letter, at her website, http://www.howmuchjoy.com

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