21 Sep Being true to yourself
Like so many women of my age, I had a hard time believing that being true to yourself was socially acceptable. Magazines and popular culture made it clear to my forming mind that being female was less than being male, and that being overweight made me even less acceptable a a human. As a result I learned early to edit how I presented myself to the world, and carefully worked out what I had to hide. As I became an adult I had internalized these ideas so thoroughly I didn’t even realize I had done so, and it was only by becoming the mother of two daughters that I had those ideas challenged. They grew up in a different age and culture, so felt free to challenge my assumptions.
One of my many internalized beliefs was that I was good with my hands, that is, useful for doing home duties like cooking, sewing and mending. My brothers learned how to work on cars and biles, to build sheds and boats, while I stayed inside learning how to tend a house. I was given the freedom to develop my creativity on many fronts, from music lessons to books and toys – that taught a wide set of creative skills – but it was all with the tacit expectation that I would use all said skills to build a home for my husband and family.
It has only been in the past decade or so as I have had to take responsibility for myself that I have moved from being creative for practical reasons, to being creative because that is who I need to be. Who I am. The liberation began with taking design classes, and has grown into running a graphic design studio, an Etsy business, and this site where I use what I have learned to help other people. I have finally become free to be my authentic self – because who else really cares who I am? Who I present as? Being true to myself is what has allowed me to take strides that my cowering, uncertain, self would never have considered.
Fortunately as the pendulum toward self-acceptance has swung back, I have been able to see threads from my past that managed to persist. The strongest of those is my need to create, to daydream, to let my imagination feast on new ideas, as it is in doing these things I come alive and feel acceptable. I no longer need look to others to say whether I am OK, and have learned to trust my internal compass instead – my ‘gut’ check. That internal compass was a bit battered after so many years of neglect, being ignored and put down. But it has cleaned up beautifully and is now a wonderful thing to check in with when a decision has to be made. If my gut says ‘no’ then instead of forcing myself down a path that I may come to hate, I decline and save everyone the stress of me (round peg) being forced into yet another square hole.
So as you venture forwards, how are you being true to yourself? Are you also hiding your skills and true essence under masks of social acceptability? What would it cost you to let go of those masks – gently, one by one – and become comfortable being true to yourself – your own authentic self?