I've been thinking a lot lately about authenticity, about how you remain yourself while doing all these things the world demands of you. Network, engage, self-care, lean in, have it all...
At any given time, there are 101 people we have to be.
I, too, am guilty of playing roles: the nurturer, the coworker who always says yes, the cool girl, the party queen, the business woman, the bitch who says no... The list goes on. And I, too, am guilty of coming home at the end of the day, defeated and exhausted, wondering which version of all these versions is the true me.
The first time I became aware of these daily masks was when it was pointed out to me in a prior job. I (wo)manned the bar in a small shop, and some of our regulars were the only folks at the bar. We were chatting about life -- things that don't go the way you expect them to, etc -- when some new customers sat down. I turned away to greet them and tell them about the menu and, when I turned back towards my friends, one of them was looking at me in amazement.
"How did you do that?" she asked.
"It's like you turned on a switch and became someone else. I've never seen someone pretend to be so enthusiastic so convincingly."
A mask, one of my alter egos. A role I play because it's required of me.
Once, as a child, I was given a gift that I didn't particularly like. I was already planning on giving it away when my mother turned to me and asked "Did you really love that gift?"
I shrugged. "No, not really."
"Well you really looked like you were excited about it when you opened it. Thank you for making them so happy."
It's a strange memory to keep when so many others have disappeared from my mind, but I understand why now: it was part of the making of my many versions. We -- particularly women -- are taught that we're supposed to be kind and gentle and thankful.
That's not to say that you shouldn't be kind to others, particularly when they are kind to you. But it's a curious thing that we feel so strongly the need to please, to be meek and humble and friendly regardless of what our true feelings may be. Women take up as little space as possible. We exist to serve others.
And the problem with that mentality is that you do take up space. You aren't required to apologize for your existence or your desires or your needs. You don't even need to be grateful for anything if you don't want to be. The decisions surrounding the things you need, what makes you feel a certain way, and how you interact with the world are yours and yours alone.
It's not possible to be the you that you think you need to be, because that thing does not exist. Who writes these rules? Who claims ownership over your heart, or mind, or body, or soul? No one. Only you.
And it is so, so liberating once you realize it.
You are who you are, whoever that is. Don't ever apologize for being just that.
Want to work on your own path towards self-discovery? Join me and Kimberly Pendleton of Heart Space for an evening of star crowns and poetry-making to celebrate the launch of what makes you soft. Info here.