true self

Finding myself

When I put out a survey a while back, asking people to vote on what they were interested in reading about, one reader wrote, “liking yourself, being comfortable with who you are, finding a sense of self”. I have slowly been mulling that over in my brain, trying to piece together some words that make sense. This is what I’ve come up with.

I didn’t always love myself. I felt awkward and out-of-place for a lot of my childhood years. So I did what I could to try to feel normal. This included: reading teen gossip magazines, even though I didn’t like them, so I could be up on the latest celebrity news; watching TRL on Fridays, even though I couldn’t care less about music videos, so I could discuss them with peers; buying a shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch, even though I didn’t really like it that much, because that’s what everyone did. As I got older, it became: staying out late and going to a lot of parties; buying Uggs and other “trendy” clothing; pretending I liked watching football and other sports; the list goes on.

During my sophomore year in college, I hit a turning point. For various reasons, my life shifted a bit, and when that happened, some pieces fell into place. It’s funny how once a certain filter is removed, you see things differently. Once the shift happened, I realized: I didn’t like football. I didn’t like staying out late every night. I didn’t like bars. I craved my routine. I liked studying and spending my weekends studying with a friend and a coffee, and my evenings curled up on the couch, watching Grey’s Anatomy with my roommate.

So it was progress. I was realizing what made me feel good, and what made me, well, ME, but I still didn’t always do anything about it. Because honestly, I was terrified. If I showed the world who I was, what if they rejected me? Wasn’t it better to play it safe and at least know I sort of fit in? For a while my answer was yes. I knew some of what made me happy and what made me feel good, but I didn’t always act on it. I kept my mask on. I wanted to belong. And sure, I often felt happy and content. But it didn’t fill me up. It wasn’t as authentic as it could me.

When I started grad school, I started over. For the first time in years, I had a fresh start. I was feeling good, positive, and full of life. I no longer had illnesses or disorders standing in my way between me and happiness. I only had ME. I was my roadblock. So, I began grad school as my true, authentic self. I didn’t always wear makeup to class. I didn’t hide my perfectionism or anxiety. I talked to all sorts of people. I geeked out over things we were learning. I embraced awkward moments. And the result? I made friends. True, wonderful, forever friends. People liked me. They liked me for me. And the funny thing is – making friends and being liked was the easiest it had been, up until that point.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was when I fell in love – and even more so, when a man fell in love with me. When I met Jeremy, and as we began dating, nearly four years ago, I was determined to be me. Enough was enough, I had told myself. There was no point in faking it, in hiding who I was. If he didn’t like me for me, then that was okay, it just meant he wasn’t the one for me. I raised the bar, and told myself that I would not settle. I embraced myself and so somewhere out there, was someone else who would embrace me, too.

And that someone was Jeremy.

He loves me for my quirks. He loves me for my weirdness. He loves me for my personality. He loves me for who I am. He fell in love with ME. Not a shadow version of me, not a fake version of me, but just the real, true, authentic, unique, me. I am a person who was worth falling in love with. I am a person who is worth marrying. I am the happiest, truest, most real I have been in my entire life. He has not only accepted who I am, but embraced it, hugged it, nurtured it, and encouraged it. I blossom with him. I am the luckiest.

And so – I do love myself. I have embraced myself. I know that I love wine, but I don’t like beer. I know that I am a hardcore introvert. I know that despite being an introvert, I have wonderful friends. I know that I still wear mismatched socks. I know that four stuffed animals sit on our bed. I know that I make up words and songs as I go about my day. I know that I’d prefer reading to watching sports. I know that I prefer a few, true, forever friends, over a bunch of casual friends. I know that I love a handful of t.v. shows, but I don’t like reality t.v. I know that I love deep, intense novels, but dislike chick lit. I know that I am sensitive and often tear up. I know that I squeal when I’m outside in nature. I know that I kneel down to take pictures of snails, frogs, and worms. I know that I look up to take pictures of skies, trees, light. I know that I don’t really care about fashion, and often just reach for whatever colors feel right. I know that all of these things make me who I am. And I know that I am okay. That I am enough.

Embracing myself does not mean always being happy. Those things couldn’t possibly be synonymous. But embracing myself does mean accepting all parts of me. Working towards acceptance of where I’m at, in each moment. Having compassion for myself, in a variety of situations. Knowing that despite the external circumstances, I am at peace in my core.

Things I know

I have a lot of little thoughts in my head. (I know, you’re shocked)
These are the things I know.

–Our education system is so broken. I don’t know how to fix it, and I wish I did.

–So much of life is about finding balance. Really about everything. Food, sleep, socialization, work, cleaning….it’s all a balance. Sometimes needing one extreme over the other. Sometimes needing the middle ground. I’ve been thinking so much about that word lately, as it comes up everywhere.

–Writing is therapeutic for me. It also makes me be brave. And Be Real.

–It is the other person’s job to tell me if he/she is upset with me. It is NOT my job to be a mind reader and be able to guess. (*credit to this one is my wonderful, dear friend, T. I cling to this statement when I’m in an anxious or spinny place)

–Blame and anger can be separate equations. (*Also from T. She is very very wise)

–Trauma comes in a lot of different forms. Past experiences that seemed unimportant at the time might have had a lasting impact. You will figure it out and deal with it when life is ready for you to. You get to NOT second guess your experiences.

–We are all lovable.

–Rain can sometimes be soothing and sometimes be sad.

–This will not break me. (Whatever “this” is. Whoever “me” is. It will not break you.) (*Ok, this is also from T. I probably should just write an entire post about all her wise words.)

–People deal with so many things. Look beyond the stereotypes. You can suffer from depression and still be able to get out of bed. You can have anxiety yet get through a day calmly. You can struggle with your body image yet be an “average” weight. You can have a learning disability yet do great in your classes. You can have ADHD and not get up from the table and run around every five minutes. You can be a victim of sexual assault without being held at gunpoint by a stranger in a park at night. You can be a lesbian and love makeup and dresses. The world would be a better place if we saw things for what they truly are – a continuum, a spectrum, a myriad of people and examples, not a one-size-fits-all universe.

What do you know?


On being where you’re at

There is something powerful about being real. And raw.

About answering “Not good” to one of your truest friends who is asking you, and really truly wants to know, “How are you doing?”

About having your friend and teacher ask you, “What’s wrong?” because she just knew you were “in it.”

About cuddling up next to your fiance and saying your thoughts and fears, and having him pull you closer and making you laugh.

About telling a trusted co-worker exactly where you’re at, and having the response be, “You can always come to me. There won’t ever be any judgment.”

About just allowing yourself to BE, wherever it is that you’re at, without hiding, without pretending, without faking. No matter what that means, wherever that is for you.

We’re afraid to be judged, we’re afraid to be seen as “dramatic”, we’re afraid we’re complaining too much. We’re afraid.

But the fear makes us think that we have to BE in ourselves, as ourselves, BY ourselves. And we don’t.

p.s. There’s also something powerful about writing this blog post, and knowing you’re being real and raw in it, and knowing people will read it, and knowing they might have thoughts about it, and that they’ll make assumptions, but also feeling okay about that, because being real and raw is what you believe in, and you’re brave, and part of having this blog is to be true and honest, so knowing it will resonate with people and maybe not with others, but it’s all okay.

New Year’s

I dislike all of the hoopla around New Year’s. I’ve never enjoyed the forced partying of New Year’s Eve. Everywhere I go, the question is, “What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?!” When I was in high school and college, and didn’t embrace my quirky and true self, I would desperately work with my friends to create a fabulous party, where there would be guys and girls and lots of alcohol. Just so I had stories to share after. Just so I didn’t feel “left out.” Left out from what, I don’t really know. But I desperately wanted to do everything everyone else was doing, so that I belonged. No, so that I FELT as though I belonged. Whether or not I did was moot.

So there was that.

I dislike how New Year’s forces everyone to talk about the passage of time, something that already stresses me out enough as it is. I know that days are slipping away faster than I can hold onto them; I don’t need an entire 24 hours devoted to that.

But most of all, I dislike the idea of “resolutions.” I believe in goal-setting. But I hate how everyone waits until January 1st to try to better themselves. Anyone can make a change in their life at any moment of any day. Waiting until the new year seems like a cop-out. And more than that, it sets us up for failure. Inevitably, come February, people already start talking about how they broke their resolutions, so they’ll just have to wait until the next year. WHY?

The moment is now. The time is here. Do it now. Time is precious and there is little to waste. If something needs to be changed, altered, spoken, or created, do it now.

Secret Blog

It’s very strange to me that I have this blog and nobody knows about it. I have never, EVER done that. If I’m being honest with myself, I will say that in the past, especially in high school and college, I wrote specifically knowing people would read it. I said what I needed to say, but also said so in a way that guaranteed me what I needed: help, support, attention, etc.

This blog is a test. I didn’t go public with it for two main reasons:

  1. I didn’t trust that I would be able to keep up with posting regularly, and I know that people tend to only read regular blogs. (And, as it stands, I was correct. Although, not having time-pressure on me to post regularly makes it more fun than a chore)

  2. I wanted to be my true self. And that means not hiding any parts of my personality. And I was scared to do that with everyone knowing it was me, with everyone finding out who the “real me” was all at once. So I decided I needed some practice time.

What I have discovered is that I’m much more ME when I’m writing for me. Nobody reads this blog — my stats generally indicate that — and while part of me wishes that people read it and discovered how brilliant and wise I am (a fantasy, clearly), part of me likes that I don’t have to worry about being judged, ridiculed, talked about, etc. I can say exactly what’s on my mind, exactly how I am feeling, and there’s no shame in it. I don’t have to hide any part of me.

Big insight.

A hugely important realization that I was guided towards is:

When I dread going out, when I don’t want to “be social,” when the thought of being out with friends seems more than I can bear, there is a reason for it. And the reason is: because I am not showing up in my true self. When I show up with my Shadow, with the happy-go-lucky “Hi! Everything is great! How are you?!” I am not being the real me. And that’s exhausting. And quite honestly, I would imagine, unpleasant. I think I’ve done this my entire life, so I don’t even realize when I’m not being the real me.

So I am practicing showing up in my true self, and leaving my Shadow at home. And if that means saying, “I’m doing well — a little down today, not sure why,” that’s okay. I don’t have to have a reason for feeling sad. I don’t have to understand why I’m sad. I don’t have to justify it. To the people who get me, really truly love and get me, it shouldn’t matter.

I’m working on it.

%d bloggers like this: