Self Healing

The Limbo State

written by: Adreanna Santos     |     October 29, 2021


I remember learning about caterpillars in elementary school. I would stare at the posters around the classroom and admire the fact that the caterpillar somehow just knew when it was ready to begin metamorphosis. How it builds a cocoon for itself, and when it has spent the necessary amount of time inside, it breaks out of its shell as a new, beautiful butterfly. And so it begins its new life as a new species.

I think we’re all aware of this process, but do we ever stop to wonder what it’s like for that caterpillar to navigate the world as a new creature? They make it look so elegant, flapping seamlessly in the air, but at its core, it’s still a caterpillar learning how to be a butterfly. It’s adjusting to a new diet as it’s now eating different foods. It’s learning how to fly, and seeing the world from a new perspective. We appreciate the beauty of the transformation, but we fail to acknowledge its limbo state where it begins its new life as that new species.

I believe the same can be said about self healing journeys. The identity crisis state that happens in the limbo phase isn’t talked about; the feelings of loneliness, uncertainty, misunderstanding and fear that arise. But I think anyone who has gone through a major personal development growth spurt can attest to the importance of the limbo phase.

That in-between is emotional.

It’s when you start to shed old layers of your identity, but haven’t fully grown your new ones yet. Where you’re not quite the old you anymore, but you haven’t fully stepped into a new you either.

The limbo state is when you realize the things in your life that aren’t serving you anymore. And so you begin to make new decisions. You let go of fears that were holding you back, and you begin to set bigger goals. Gossip no longer satisfies you, so you start to connect with others through deeper conversations. Working for a company who’s vision no longer aligns with you, so you start to pave your own path.

One by one, you start to leave behind old parts of yourself. Friends, family members, things, places, hobbies that no longer align with you. You start to see the world differently, and it causes you to navigate the world differently. And along the way, you realize that the people around you don’t get it. People are questioning you, and you try to explain yourself, but there doesn’t seem to be any words to make them understand what is going on in your internal world. They stop understanding the vision that you have for yourself, and the new ways you’re acting. Because they no longer see the world the way that you do.

But because you haven’t fully grown into your new shell yet, you start to question yourself. You feel so much like an outsider, you start to question if it’s worth it. If there really is a reality where you won’t be so misunderstood, where you will be accepted for this new you.

This limbo state is a terrifying place for me because it triggers all my old wounds around feeling misunderstood. I make decisions as a new me, but then the first uncomfortable moment I experience, I crawl back into my old ways. Those feelings of being misunderstood make me act in whatever way possible to feel accepted again. For me, that looks like deleting the post or sharing a funny meme directly after a deep quote. It looks like making a joke after starting a deep conversation, or worst of all, pretending new me doesn’t exist.

Considering how being accepted is one of our basic human needs, I stay in my cocoon to keep myself safe from those unmanageable feelings of being misunderstood. And every decision I make to show up as this new version of myself, is a way of breaking out of that cocoon, little by little. And with that shell no longer protecting me, I feel raw.

But here’s what’s important to remember. There will always be rawness when you’re shedding your layers. And that’s because you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. And with anything that’s new, you don’t know what it feels like. What to expect. How to act. It’s no different than starting a new job, or meeting new friends.

And we can’t underestimate how much time and effort it takes to fully embody this new you. It takes time to grieve those parts you’re letting go of to make space for the new. And it takes effort to push through the discomfort.

The moments we experience in that limbo phase are crucial. Because what happens in that limbo state is that you have a choice. How are you going to deal with the discomfort of showing up as a new person? Are you going to navigate the feelings of being misunderstood? Or are you going to hide back in your cocoon?

Because the thing is, the limbo state never goes away. We just cycle through new limbo states with each stage of our growth. We are constantly shedding old layers, which means we are constantly becoming new versions of ourselves. And with each new up-level, comes a new limbo phase.

So if we continuously let feelings of being misunderstood guide our life decisions, we’re never going to break out of our cocoon. We’re never going to spread our wings. We’re never going to grow, and we’re never going to step into the lives that we want. Because we’re always going to play small.

Understanding this doesn’t make the discomfort of the limbo phase go away, but if we can remember that being misunderstood is all a part of the process, we can then choose to show up differently. We don’t allow those feelings to mean that there is something wrong with us OR our journey OR the person that we’re becoming. We don’t allow it to be a representation of our worth. And if we are able to keep the space between those feelings and our worth, then we are able to make decisions that align with our goals.

That’s how we navigate the limbo phase. We acknowledge how uncomfortable it is to show up as a new person in our old world. We honor that. We validate that. And then we keep going.

That’s how we break out of our cocoon. That’s how we navigate the world as a new, beautiful butterfly.

That’s how we begin our new life as a new species.

I’m an expert at subconscious reprogramming, a nerd when it comes to human behavior, and my obsession is teaching others how to be their best selves (without all of the resistance and self-sabotage).

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I'm Adreanna.

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