“I’m not OK in my skin”

Steven Barnes
5 min readMay 17, 2024

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A student named Robert asked:

“What about when everything is fine or great — and you still don’t feel ok in your own skin…and have no idea what you want? Any thoughts on how to find something you enjoy if it is not obvious? Thank you — good talk you made?”

That first sentence is fascinating. Obviously “everything” cannot be fine or great, but you still don’t feel “ok” in your own skin. Everything EXTERNAL can be fine. You can be healthy. You can be loved, and you can be successful.

But…joy? Self-loving? Having the sense that who you ARE is expressed in what you DO, producing a life you are living day by day that is an external expression of your inner being? No.

Now, in all likelihood, this is just existential stuff, the common sense of “not belonging” or “no one really understands me” or “this isn’t the life I envisioned.” EVERYONE has some of this. And there are paths to deepening your sense of being in the center of your life.

FIRST, declare that “success” for you INCLUDES feeling like you belong “in your own skin”. That your life “fits.”

Then…follow the MAGIC formula. Are there people who seem to you more comfortable in their lives? Identify several of them, and learn what you can.

You might find that they are more likely to be following their dreams. Or, that they have more positive internal voices. Or that they take more time daily to do things that are purely personal and joyful. There WILL be differences, and those differences will be in one of three arenas:

The way they use their bodies. Fitness, health, movement patterns, posture, etc.

The way they FEEL EMOTIONALLY. Our emotions are created by how we move, what we focus on, and our internal dialogue. “Load” this into your Morning Ritual. Your incantations could include “every day in every way, I’m more and more myself” or some such, and focus on breathing, moving, and speaking AS IF you were a person who belongs to themselves and is centered in your life. By studying the people who seem to have this quality,, you will learn.

The way they THINK. How do they hold their disappointments? To they CELEBRATE every day? Or at least their victories? How do they deal with stress? Failure? New opportunities? Do they indicate that they, too, have a sense of “not being comfortable in their own skin” at times? What do they do?

Find them. Study them. Ask them questions. For me, I work every day to deepen my understanding of who I am and what I desire in life. Then, I ask what I need to do TODAY to bring that more clearly into alignment. Then, I live my day. At the end of the day, I evaluate my actions and see how I did, celebrate my victories, and commit to a great night’s rest so I can get up and have another wonderful day tomorrow.

The MORNING RITUAL and MAGIC FORMULA are the key here. My overall goal is to move away from pain, gain pleasure, and be of service. Measure by that, I might have a student…

  1. Be sure they are breathing powerfully, diaphragmatic breathing for 60 seconds, at least 5X a day.
  2. Be sure they have a goal of being JOYFUL and OF SERVICE. You might well find that you have everything you need to be happy at the deepest levels, and lack only internal permission to see it. Give yourself that permission, every day.
  3. FLOOD YOURSELF WITH GRATITUDE. Accept your flaws and negative thoughts. NO ONE stays in that “perfect” zone continuously, but GRATITUDE is probably the most powerful single antidote for fear, anger, and depression. The sense of “not being OK” is human. What do you want, really? YOU WANT TO BE HAPPY. Everything else is a means to that end, NOT the end itself. Money isn’t the goal. Money is a MEANS to a goal, that goal being the relief of pain or the expansion of joy.

M: Map or Model. Disciplines like Buddhism specialize in helping us move through the turmoil of life and see how beautiful we, and the universe, are. Find people who love life, and be sure you have them in your circle.

A: Actions. EVERY DAY, create rituals of joy. And if you want more power, include a meditating discipline, asking “who am I?” and “what is true?” with every breath.

G: Gratitude. DELIBERATELY and consciously flood yourself with positive emotions for 10–20 minutes every day, WHILE IN MOTION, and while chanting affirmations and visualizing your role models.

I: Intention. Your goal is joy. If you have lack of clarity about how to get there, then your NEXT goal is…wait for it…TO HAVE A GOAL. You can say that by your birthday next year, you will have clarity on what you will do for the next five years. That’s enough. It gives you the time and space to relax. Now, spend at least an hour a week specifically writing answers to “what makes me happiest in life?” looking back over your existence, and seeing what patterns you can find. Frankly, if this is a mystery to you, just a single weekend sitting with a pad of paper and focusing on this question, working backwards from “who am I and what makes me happy?” will be powerful. Be sure that your answers are in alignment with the Three Centers (Body, emotions, mind) and the Three Gates (Is it True? Kind? Useful?)

C is Congruence. You have to feel that what you do is in alignment with who you are. This is a lifetime discipline, a daily discipline. And there is nothing more worthwhile in life.

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The hardest of the three aspects seems to be creating financial abundance while doing things that bring you joy and provide service to the world. So we’re exploring the principles of THINK AND GROW RICH, the best “Map” to this goal I know of.

Steven Barnes is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Firedance Tai Chi

Time: May 18, 2024 12:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.