This post is going to be all about my struggles with embracing my innermost ME and letting my Authentic Self shine. This topic has been a theme of conversations I’ve had, articles & books I’ve read, and lessons I’ve been learning in the last few weeks, and I really want to start talking about it here -- I know, however, that I’ll be covering this topic muuuuch more than once [even if this post does end up being another novel, which, let’s be real, it will]. The Merriam-Webster dictionary online defines the adjective “weird” as follows:
weird (adjective \ˈwird\): unusual or strange1: of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural : magical 2: of strange or extraordinary character : odd, fantastic
For the purposes of this post, I’ll be ignoring the first definition [although, in reference to #1, I look forward to sharing more about my spiritual journey of the last few years with you in future posts]. I find it particularly interesting that one of the synonyms for the second definition is “fantastic,” because I’ve learned to think of “being Weird” as a negative, but think of fantastic as a positive.
- Being Weird means I’ll stand out [and that's a bad thing].
- Being Weird means others won’t accept me.
- Being Weird means I’ll be judged.
- Being Weird means I’m not “cool” [more on cool-ness in a future post, too].
- Being Weird means I’m not lovable.
- Being Weird means I’ll be laughed at. …and so on.
So, naturally, I did everything that I could to squash my inner Weirdo.
I don’t want to be judged! I don’t want to be an outcast! I don’t want to be *gasp* UN-COOL!
Now, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about when I say "my Weird", I’m basically referring to anything that I decided wasn’t “cool” based on my upbringing and such. Everyone has their own definition of Weirdness, and one person’s Weird is another person’s normal -- I totally get that. A few criteria that fall into my own definition are [or have been]:
- sharing my opinion, even if it’s different from other people’s
- not judging other people when I’m around other people who are
- dressing like a boy or wearing striped clothing, wearing hoodies & jeans all the time
- speaking loudly in a quiet restaurant
- making goofy faces, walking silly-y, speaking in funny voices/accents, making strange noises
- inventing words & speaking in nonsensicalities
- just generally being different
- wearing my “frizzy” hair down [versus slicked back in a bun]
- honestly telling people what I’m thinking
- asking for clarification versus letting people assume that I know what they’re talking about
…and this list goes on and on and on and on and on as well.
So really, my Weird is nothing more than my Authentic Self -- but in a society that mostly trains us to be anything but our Authentic Selves, I still think it’s WEIRD that I want to be embrace the ME-ness that makes me ME!
[here I am at age 13, dressed for my 8th grade graduation in 1999]
And BOY does that way of thinking take a lot of energy! Growing up, I was constantly chameleon-ing to the people around me. If they liked X, I said I liked X. If they hated Y, I said I hated Y…even if the opposite was true for me.
Over time, I became a chameleon-ing master. To the point where I’d even convinced myself that I really did like/dislike the same stuff as the people around me. I talked like them. Dressed like them [or at least, I tried to]. Acted like them. Etc. It was a pretty grandiose ruse -- I’d even had myself tricked.
I went to three personal development seminars as a teenager [you can actually see me in the main picture for the teen seminar website here]…at ages 13, 14, and 16. At each one, the facilitator(s) helped us [the teenager participants] to create a safe space where we could be our totally Authentic Selves. I didn’t even know “who" to be because I had spent so much time being other people, hiding away my Authentic Self for fear of judgment and standing out.
From the first to the third seminar, I spent increasingly more time being my Authentic Self, in all of my Weird glory. But as soon as I’d return home, I’d snap right back into my old ways. I found it difficult to keep being Weird, when everyone I returned home to knew me as somebody else -- even though I wanted to embrace my Weird....I didn't want them to think of me as weird. -_- HILARIOUS, right?! Luckily, though, it was the glimpses of my Authentic Self that I’d had in those seminars that came back to me as an adult, motivating me to truly embrace my Weird and show the world who I really am.
I wish I could say “and then I embraced my Weird and lived happily ever after, dressed in a striped boy's hoody and a stretched out pair of jeans, silly-ly walking into the sunset [while making goofy faces & strange sounds]!”
UMM, but that’d be a huge lie.
I still struggle with accepting myself on a daily basis.
I’m still undo-ing over two decades of hiding my Authentic Self, and it’s not easy. Not at all. I am constantly worried about what other people will think of me. Even [and perhaps especially] strangers!
- “If I go out with frizzy hair today, what are people going to think of me?”
- “What was that ‘rule’ about wearing black and brown together...?”
- “Are people going to think I have a saggy butt if I wear this stretched out jeans just one more time before I wash them?” [or realistically…three more times]
And those things really did and do matter to me. I know that in theory they "shouldn't", but they do. And that's what I'm talking about with my daily struggle. There are a lot of societal standards regarding what’s “normal” and “attractive” and even "what's ok to wear and what's not." We have entire TV shows dedicated to the beration (that's totally a word now) of poorly dressed people. Nearly everything that I enjoy wearing falls on the "what's not" list.
I’m a hoody & jeans girl through and through.
Which isn’t to say that I NEVER wear anything else -- I just loooooooove wearing hoodies and I looooooooove wearing jeans. It’s my most comfortable outfit. It’s my go-to. It’s my safety blanket. Sure, as I’m getting older, my taste is slightly changing and I DO want to wear other things every now and again, but my baseline is the same: hoodies &jeans.
- Does anybody notice that I mostly only wear hoodies & jeans? Probably.
- Do I worry that people are judging me for my outfit choice? ALL THE DAMN TIME.
And that is what I’m talking about here. I’m so busy worrying about what other people think of me that I’m not just BEING me. Or worse, I AM being me [because I choose to wear my favorite outfit], but I spend all of my time worrying about what other people are thinking of me. Ay ay ay. *facepalm*
Here’s the role that Weirdness has played in my relationship with Eric:
I’ve known Eric [my hubsband, for you newbies who might not have read about him yet] for a little over six years now, and we’ve been together for a little over five [actually, yesterday was our 5.25 year anniversary!], and I’d graph the revealing of my Weirdness like this:
[yes, this is very much happening right now. Fun fact about me: I love numbers & dates, charts & graphs, and Microsoft Excel]
To be clear, my Weirdness levels have always been off the charts, it's just that I didn't really REVEAL those parts of myself before this most recent year -- or if I did, I'd only do it in little moments or short periods of time. Not consistently/all the time, as I am working on doing now. A lot of my limitations in revealing my Weird to the public were as a result of not truly embracing my Weird within myself.
We started off as friends and I was fairly revealing of my Weirdness. I didn’t think that we would ever date, so I was as authentic [as I knew how to be] with him. We’d talk about life, school, our families, and the relationships we were in at the time…and we’d fart in front of each other. I SAID IT: I FARTED in front of him [everyone does it, haven't you read the book?]…tooted, passed gas, broke wind, foofed, did a tummy shame…whatever you want to call it…I did it. And so did he. And we bonded over conversations and cheese cutting. [Yea, I just talked about farting. Deal with it.]
[I've opened the floodgates now...there's no turning back]
After we started dating, I dialed my Weirdness back a bit. I didn’t want to scare him off with how Weird I was, especially since he was also learning about my Crazy!! I only showed him the parts of me that I thought he’d approve of. I didn’t always share my honest opinions about things and I sometimes pretended to like the things he liked [like going to the gym - HA!] so he’d like me more.
We took a personal development seminar together in our 2nd year of knowing each other, and after that I started to seep a little bit more of my Weirdness into our relationship. I shared my thoughts & feelings more honestly with him, and really, more honestly with myself as I started to really work on discovering who I am.
Over the years I continued to let him in on more and more of my Weird. And then in this most recent year I broke down my walls and let my Weird out in ALL of its glory [and no, I didn’t wait until after we were married to suddenly surprise him with my Weird! But I DID already have a ring on it...I don't encourage holding back your Weird until engagement for couples, it's just what happened to happen for us].
My biggest turning point was in February of this year when we attended Listening Heart together up in Oregon. For the first time in our relationship [yes, despite being engaged and 6 months away our wedding], I truly started to understand that this man was in it for the long haul. He was making the choice to love me for all of me [including my Weird AND my Crazy!!], and he wasn’t going anywhere. So I made the choice to BE all of me, to trust that he would love me all ways, always, and to get committed to showing up fully in life, for myself, for us, and for the little bubbas we plan on having in the future.
And guess what happened? I feel free! Or more accurately: I’ve tasted freedom! But it still isn’t easy! Every time I’m about to reveal something new and Weird that he doesn’t yet know about me, I get super nervous and my “self-preservation” alarms rooted in my past start going crazy, “WHAT IF HE STOPS LOVING YOU? WHAT IF HE THINKS HE MADE A MISTAKE BY MARRYING YOU? WHAT IF HE IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU?” This literally just happened a few days ago.
And that’s when I get to make a choice: give in to chameleon-ing, take the “easy” way out [in quotes because while it might seem easier now, it’ll be way more shitty in the long run], avoid discomfort and continue to hide my Weird? Or get uncomfortable, risk being seen, and put my Weird out there, regardless of the outcome? I’m getting a lot better at choosing the latter…but the former still has a death grip on me, and is still usually my initial go-to when it comes to decision making.
Here’s some food for thought:
The second agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements is: Don’t take anything personally.
“What causes you to be trapped is what we call personal importance. Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me.’ During the period of our education, or our domestication, we learn to take everything personally. We think we are responsible for everything. Me, me, me, always me!
Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”
That was a real eye opener for me…but I still battle with taking things personally every day. At least I have some level of awareness and a desire to change it -- I often remind myself of this agreement when I get up against feeling offended!
All in all, the biggest lesson I'm learning on this journey of embracing my Weird is this: being Weird is a wonderful thing; my Authentic Self is what makes me unique in this world, and when I let my true Self shine, I feel free and connected.
So here's to BEING WEIRD!
Much more on Weirdness/Authentic Selves & reputation oriented thinking to come in future posts!