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Behold, the majestic caterpillar

“I’m not as shiny as some people”, she said.  “I’m quieter and slower.  Deeper and darker.  It takes effort to be heard and noticed.  Sometimes, I just find myself shrinking away.  It’s hard to take my space.

And while it’s helpful to be checked-in on, it’s no one’s responsibility to slow down and reach out and check-in with me – it’s my work to learn to take my space and get my voice heard and my needs expressed.  I just sometimes don’t know how.”

We nodded together through tears, really taking in her experience of feeling unnoticed by the world.

My heart sank.

I love my friend and wanted to understand what that felt like for her.  How I could make space for her.  How I could support her in feeling heard.  And I understood, in my own way, because I felt the opposite.

“I feel like the yang to your yin”, I said.  “I often flit around like a butterfly.  I love to talk, and I talk a lot.  It takes effort to sit down and be quiet.  I have to work to not take up all the space.

I want you to feel heard; I want to hear you.  And in the same way you mentioned, while it’s no one’s responsibility to help me slow down and be quiet and drop in – it’s my work to do that – it’s helpful when you take your space.  I want to hear you, and I really do want to be quiet.”

With tears spilling out of both of our eyes, we squeezed each other’s hands.  We felt connected in our differences.  Honoring of each other’s unique gifts and sensitive to each other’s unique challenges.

Taking space or making space isn’t easy.  If it was, we’d all feel spacious. {tweet}

The challenge with it is that the vast majority of us have so much childhood “stuff” wrapped around the idea of space, that makes it difficult to be, well…spacious.  Most people feel like they weren’t heard or understood at home or school, or that they were seen but not really seen.  

So we developed subconscious patterns, in an attempt to take or make space:
Disappearing acts
Performance personas
Habitual talking
Exhausting listening
Fierce independence
Grasping codependence

Add to that, society’s confusing directives – be confident, be humble, contribute, listen, speak up, wait your turn – and so many people feel at odds with how to create the space that they need in the world or within themselves.

As I spoke with my friend that day, I saw that the butterflies of the world get all the love.  Even the inspirational quotes that feature caterpillars and butterflies are meant to cheer us up, because “one day you’ll be a beautiful butterfly.”

Caterpillars are slower, quieter and less “shiny” than butterflies.  But they’re not less beautiful or valuable or needed, just as they are.

The caterpillars of the world often don’t get heard or understood.

The butterflies of the world are seen as beautiful, ethereal, and perfect.  Somehow these transformed beings have figured out the key to happiness and success.  If you’re a butterfly, you’ve made it.

But being “shiny” doesn’t mean you’re without depth, emotion, or difficulty.

The butterflies of the world get seen, but often not really seen.

It’s time that we look at each other in the mirror and recognize “I am you. You are me.  Neither of us is better or worse, more or less evolved.  We just may be at different places in our journey and I honor who and where we both are.”

Through honoring the unique beauty and challenges of one another, we step into wholeness, presence and compassion. Through celebrating their beauty, we learn from them.  Through it all, we have access to finally find the space we need.

Who are the butterflies and caterpillars in your life, and how can you honor them for the beautiful truth of who they really are? Are you needing to learn the qualities of the butterfly – to stand up, take your space, and be heard and seen? Or, are you needing to learn the qualities of the caterpillar – to soften into the quiet space within yourself?

In the comments below, I’d love to hear what’s true for you.  I am looking forward to “landing” with you here…

 

16 Comments

  1. This made me cry! So powerful. It’s really interesting because I have both butterfly and caterpillar. Sometimes I hide and am shamed by others for that, other times I’m essentially told to not shine so bright. Other times “I’m ok,” neither too much nor too little.

    I’ve been embracing shining as much or as little as I want to, and this is very helpful.

    Love you Nisha!

    xo,
    Lula

    • Mmm…thank you so much for sharing this, Lula love! Making our own pace good and right, while moving with an open heart, is so key to feeling the peace and spaciousness we all so deeply crave.

      Loving you.

      xo
      Nisha

  2. Nisha,
    I just exhaled. This morning I pulled a card from my Goddess deck. It was the Butterfly goddess of transformation. Reading this post sent me into a space of relief. In life, I’ve always been caterpillar. I was the “quiet, sweet one’, the good girl, the silent achiever. I envied the butterflies and how confidently & easily they flowed in social settings, while I shamed myself in my head for not being that open & seen. I was afraid to be seen, judged, not recognized in the light I saw myself in.
    But time & time again, friends and new people would tell me, “There’s something about you that just puts me at ease. I feel grounded & safe.”. For years, I hated hearing that. I felt like I needed to be more ‘out there’. It’s a struggle I’ve been in quite some times. But I’m starting to see the power in being the caterpillar. Not to say there isn’t some form of butterfly fluttering about inside, but I’m not in a rush to dismiss where I am and how I show up. I’ve just seen the beauty in it. Thank you for the synchronicity today. Food for my soul.

    • Yes, Mia, we need our beautiful and caterpillars in the world!
      Have you ever read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”?
      It could be a good one, as you journey into deeper and deeper embracing of your natural gifts 🙂

      With Love,
      Nisha

  3. Oh I love this! I was actually out on my mediation walk today and was in awe at all the catepillars that were out… doing their thing… being seen! I usually just see the butterflies but today I saw all the caterpillars and then I come back and this beautiful post DIVINE 🙂 I mostly always feel like I am a caterpillar but others (usually my very best friends and supporters) always see the butterfly in me and I am grateful for that.

    • So divine, Pat! Thank you for sharing. Loving the caterpillar AND the butterfly in you. xo

      With Love,
      Nisha

  4. Perfect timing. My husband and I just finished a heated argument. I had mentioned a secret desire for us to one day just pack up everything and move to our dream state…. I do this often; present grand ideas, big dreams, and how the world will change when we will it to (because we have 100% control over how we perceive it). My Husband’s perspective on Life is much different. Yes, we have the same desires, but the “How” that follows the dreaming causes significant stress for him. He internalizes what I have expressed as a literal “we must do this” and feels angry and disappointed if he can’t provide or relate. After reading this post, I realized that it’s not that we just can’t “click” or that we can’t rely on each other for the support we need (I like emotional support and cheerleaders, he likes more stable forms of support such as financial or consistency), but rather we are just in two different manifestations of the same ultimate being. Him the caterpillar, me the butterfly. There can’t be one without the other and both are vital to the process of evolution. I am going to share your quote with him right now, and honor both him AND I as one 🙂 thank you!!!

    • Ah, Rachel, I LOVE this awareness! My guy and I have recently
      had the “Duh-ha” moment (a really obvious a-ha moment 😉
      that we simply have very different operating systems.

      Both vital, as you said. Both valuable and necessary.

      Thanks for sharing here. It reminds me that we are all in one beautiful tango.

      With Love,
      Nisha

  5. Hi Nisha, thank you for the lovely post. I’ve always been the caterpillar and have always had some sort of shame around that, never feeling quite adequate enough compared to all the confident butterflies around me. As time passes however, and as I learn and evolve, I’m beginning to feel and appreciate that being a caterpillar isn’t bad, it’s just different. I am learning to embrace my strengths as a quieter, introverted person, and I’m finding a deeper liberation within that.. I’m also learning from some beautiful butterflies how to be a bit bolder and take up a bit more space – with no guilt attached – which is also feeling good! Thank you for this timely post! Xx

    • Charlotte, hi! Thanks for being here, and thanks for sharing.

      Have you ever read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”?
      My more introverted friends seem to LOVE it. Powerful stuff.

      Sending you much love, as we learn from each other.

      With Love,
      Nisha

  6. Hi Nisha,

    Like all your posts, I love what you have the ability to see. This particular post really resonated with me, as it’s something I’ve been feeling (as a caterpillar) for a long time. Many of my friends and people I admire are butterflies and although I like who I am and my secretive nature, I’ve always longed to be more expressive, especially creatively. This comes as a challenge because of my fear about being heard, which probably stems from childhood, as you say.

    I have mentioned this to several friends and they don’t seem to understand why it takes so much effort to do what I say I want to do. I am so grateful that you, as a butterfly, can see that it isn’t easy to simply take space. It’s a process and it comes one post, one song, one word at a time.

    Thank you for seeing us, for including us and supporting us.

    • Thank you so much, sweet caterpillar, Amy.
      We need you in the world!

      With Love,
      Nisha

  7. You are always such a welcome joy in my inbox, and this was lovely to read. I can really associate with the subconscious attempts to ‘take or make’ space. Apparently most of my friends and family see me as a social butterfly, lively and outgoing. It feels forced and it doesn’t come naturally for me at all. I often feel very socially awkward and anxious. Do you have any suggestions for making space that doesn’t involve puffing yourself up like a puffer fish? It’s uncomfortable to always make yourself look bigger than you feel.

    Much love poppet xx

    • Oh, thank you for sharing this, Rachel!
      Happy to be received so warmly in your inbox.

      I think part of this thing that you’re describing
      is connected to making space for yourself.
      Breathing deeply, listening to yourself, not shutting
      down your ideas, grounding your energy. So in this
      way, it’s less about taking up space “out there” and
      more about taking up space “in here”. From that place,
      there seems to be a greater opening to feel graceful
      in expressing yourself.

      How does that resonate?

      With Love,
      Nisha

  8. Oh so inspiring… And sometimes I’m the butterfly and other times I’m the caterpillar. It kind of depends on the situation or environment I’m in.

    What also happens is that others see me as the butterfly while I still feel as the caterpillar thinking i need to do/be more to be seen. Taking the time and the space to daring to see the real truth about myself is liberating.
    Thanks for challenging me reflect on that Nisha!
    xokatie

    • Love this, Katie, and love you! Thank you so much for sharing.

      I think so many can relate to feeling like a caterpillar inside
      while others perceive them as butterfly-like. Such a good insight.

      With Love,
      Nisha

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