Do You, Boo

Raise your hand if you have every felt like you had to squeeze yourself to fit into something. Oh it could be anything, a pair of pants, a narrow aisle, an ill fitting role…

Did it feel comfortable?

My answer is a firm, “No”!

I have lost count of the number of times I have compromised myself and compressed all that I am to fit into spaces that were simply too confining for me. Now I know someone is going to read this and say the we all make compromises and that’s a part of life. But I submit to you today that there’s a difference between making minor or occasional compromises and succumbing to the virus that is compression sickness.

Compression sickness, also called “the breaks” refers to injuries, both psychological and physical, caused by repeated compromises of goals and internal self worth in either work or personal life. It occurs most commonly inpersons belonging to marginalized communities, although it also can occur with members of privileged classes when certain conditions are met.

I am not a medical expert but I label this sickness as a virus because once it infects you all you can do is treat the symptoms and manage the flare ups. I can speak from my own experience when I say that this sickness has the capacity to steal the joy out of life, if you allow it that power.

Need help recognizing the signs of whether you’ve got this? Here are a few ways to check:

• I have a great idea for a business, but now just doesn’t feel like the right time to leave my job because my absence would hurt the organization.

• I don’t agree with the way my supervisor treats me and my co-workers, but I need this job so I’ll just keep my head down and hope for the best even though I dread going to work everyday.

• I’ve been dating Paul for five years now and he really knows how to work my nerves, but I’m too old to start over with someone new so I guess we’ll get married and try to make it work.

• I finally have enough money saved to quit my job and travel the world, but what if something happens while I am gone and my parents need me. Maybe it’s selfish for me to spend my money traveling.

• I love many things about my church but lately I’ve become uncomfortable with some of the rhetoric I hear that is contrary to the fundamental tenets of my faith and I feel like I might need a change, but I’ve invested so much time in this place and I love the people. Maybe this is just a season that will pass.

This is not a comprehensive checklist but it is enough to get started on some self reflection. Are you compressing all that you are into socially acceptable boxes for the sake of fitting in? Is this getting in the way of you living fully in your purpose-driven life?

Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit

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