If you do not enjoy being you, then you have some work to do. As I approach my fourth decade, I feel only one thing is being asked of me: that I let my true self take root and live authentically—with no qualifications or apologies. Not conceit—just love and acceptance of self and confidence.
My first decade was marked by an abundance of self-assurance. As a child I was confident (perhaps even conceited), bold, brave, and out-going. I had no antagonistic or ambivalent feelings towards my body. I had an unlimited well of faith in my abilities.
However, puberty proved to be something of a Trojan horse for me. At first (mostly thanks to Judy Blume books), I saw no reason to be any different. I would (as my pediatrician commanded) shy away from nothing just because I had my period. Menstruation would never be an excuse I used for stepping back from something I wanted to do—neither would my gender. I was fiercely feminist—proud to be a girl and looking forward to being a woman.
But then my bodybegan to visibly change—thickening and rounding in very non-ballerina-esque ways. I ceased to see the physique I’d come to esteem and associate with beauty when I looked in the mirror. And that’s when the Trojan horse of puberty burst open—insecurities pouring out of it like an armed and hostile regiment then attacking my identity along with all the confidence I’d cultivated.
My second decade contained a cold war between me and my body. I tried to will it and then deprive it back to the lean and lanky way it had once been. I hid it under bulky clothes. I regretted the veiny appearance of my arms. I appreciated my body’s speed, agility, and strength, but I wished it looked different.
College proved to be a summit of diplomacy. I negotiated a cease fire and then true peace in the company of diverse bodies. I began to focus less on what my body looked like and more on what it could do. I stopped having any feelings of guilt connected to food. And as others made their appreciation of my form known, I began to appreciate it too.
Every decade since has been a journey forward to get back to the unabashed confidenceI had as a child. There is still more internal territory to reclaim—still further to go and grow in loving and being who I truly am—both the exterior and what’s inside. But each day, as I age, I try to take a few steps past my comfort zone and to be even more comfortable in my own skin. Each day I seek to love myself more—and this body I’m in.
“As a child I was confident. . . . I had no antagonistic or ambivalent feelings towards my body.”
I spend a lot of my life straddling a dichotomy. I am simultaneously assured of my greatness and afraid of my mediocrity. I am at once full of despair and hope for our world and our country. I am both … Continue reading →
Sometimes my greatest obstacle isn’t my lack of ability but my insecurity. It is mostly my fear of failure or inability to believe I’m great that keeps me living or acting like I’m inferior. It happens to me all the … Continue reading →
There are parts of myself that I’d like to abandon—pieces of me I hope will wither up, detach, and die like that extra bit of umbilical cord on a newborn child. I want to put as much space and time between these parts of myself as possible—distance myself from them by as great a margin as I can muster.
Fear: I don’t want to waste undue or unwarranted amounts of time fearing the imagined or hypothetical. I don’t want to fashion shackles of inaction for myself out of trepidation and worry. Fear has stilled my tongue when I should have spoken up. Fear has rendered me inert when I should have been reacting, acting, or moving forward. Fear has partnered with doubts to plant stifling insecurities. It has expanded to occupy too great a portion of what I can imagine or foresee. I want my counterproductive fears uprooted—ripped from my life like weeds and burned to nothing.
Judgment: I too often and too comfortably recline in a position of judgment over others. It is a sinister and counterproductive approach to self-soothing or feeling better about myself that I excessively engage in. Who am I to stand in approval or disapproval of any person, action, inaction, or life? It is contrary to love for me to judge—especially since I almost never have the whole story. Given more information, I tend to find that everyone—even those who appear to be failing—are doing the best they can with the resources they have. I want to take my judgmental tendencies, coat them in cement until they can’t float, and sink them.
Envy: What a caustic poison. What a self-destructive emotion. To look at what another person has (or has accomplished) with jealousy or resentment is self-defeating and futile. When I indulge envy, I act as though an increase in someone else’s good requires a proportional decrease in my own. Jealousy demands that I blind myself to the fullness of another person’s life—which includes joy and pain, successes and failures, peaks and dark valleys. If my dreams come true for someone else, I should feel more motivated, not sorrowful. At its core, envy is at its worst a lie and at its best an illusion. Another’s gain does not necessitate my lack. I want to smother envy in its sick bed. I want it to suffocate until it’s dead and lets go—no longer able to hold me back or down.
I want to enter 2014 open to opportunity. I want to live and love honestly—able to see people as they truly are without judgment or jealousy.
I want to enter the upcoming year with hope and faith in good things. I don’t want to allow the pessimistic side of my imagination to grow too big.
I want to live instead of just being alive. I want to act on my own behalf, move forward with confidence, and thrive. I want to be fully and honestly myself in all situations—not overly censored, apologetic, or deferential. I want to speak the truth rather than just saying what is easy to hear or expected.
I don’t want to get lost in a digital quicksand that pulls me down and away from authentic and meaningful connections. I want to look people in the face and have evocative conversations. I want to invest in friendships that go deeper than Facebook. I don’t want to just “check in;” I want to be fully present.
I will not proclaim these New Year’s resolutions. I have no faith in the practice. But when I think about what I’d like to see left behind in this year and the manners in which I’d like to grow in the next, theses are the things I will work to embrace or let go…starting today, starting now.
Her prison is small, but to her looks limitless. She has tried to dream dreams and plot escapes to get out, but with disuse her tools have been misplaced, decayed, or rusted out. Each link in the shackles that bind her was forged in fear and hardened with doubt. And so, resigned to make this dark box her home, she has tried to make it more habitable. She has decorated it with cozy concessions, hung hesitations and second-guesses upon the walls, planted pretty practicals in the yard, and painted the whole exterior an unassuming shade of doubt.
She lowers her head and lives a minute and unassuming life. She’s just too afraid to wield her weapon and fight. It lies in the corner losing its luster, collecting dust and ambivalence. The ideas and dreams that once sparkled and gleamed with newness and potential are becoming dull and coated with cobwebs. She is stuck in the quicksand of self-criticism. She is sinking in the mires of regret and self-condemnation. She longs to be noticed and wants to be heard, but she’s too riddled with insecurity to show her true self or speak up.
Once upon a time her fears were just fleeting anxieties—flitting and fluttering in and out of her mind like impish fairies. Now those fears have grown into giants—big brutes that routinely assail her walls of confidence, storm her creative castle, and mock its contents.
It has been so long since she’s ventured out on a limb that she’s forgotten how well one can live on a dream and a whim. Didn’t she used to be big and uncontained? Didn’t she used to run and sing—dance and speak—live and think with impunity—unhindered by shame? In her bolder days, nothing could hold her back, or down, or in.
Recalling those freer days, she walks distracted down her memory’s lane. Forgetting to watch her step and limit her stride, she steps on a small doubt and it dies. Emboldened, she progresses until that dark box is just the shadow of a speck on the horizon of her recollection. She may look back to see how far she’s come, but she will not turn back now that she’s moved on.
Her future is full of freedom not foreboding. She will not be paralyzed by panic, curtailed by criticism, or impeded by insecurity. She finds fear less terrifying now. Failure is a teacher, not a monster. She resides in love, laughter, and light. She is going to dream her dreams and live with life.
This question was posed in writers’ group yesterday: Why must you write, and when did you discover you wanted to be a writer? I am grateful to have been asked that question at such a time as this (a season where I’ve let my writing lapse), and below is the answer…a work in progress.
Why do I write? I write because my love compels me to—my fascination and infatuation with the potent potential of words requires that I play with them. I must exercise new and glittery ones at regular intervals—I must find their meaning, absorb them, and receive the transference of verbal power. I am in awe by the idea that with a few strokes of the pen—or taps of a keyboard—I can search my personal lexicon quarry and build a structure that previously never existed. Writing is my Adam and Eve creation story—taking a piece (or pieces) and making a new and unique whole. I like sewing words together as a designer makes couture—fashioning them into something beautiful and bigger than life and odd…having the freedom to show off and hear applause.
Why do I write? The finite confines of my mind require it. Thoughts press up and against the perimeters of my brain like straphangers on a rush-hour train. The pressure must be relieved, or there will be pushing. The thoughts and words that carry them must be freed. They have things to do and people and places to make seen.
Why do I write? My introverted self-awareness demands it. Through the written expression of my thoughts, experiences and ideas, I come to know myself. Writing helps me to see me more clearly. When I stop writing, the shores of my self-understanding begin to erode. I must write to see and understand myself and my world.
Why do I write? Art moves me to it. I am inspired by the inspired. Creativity begets itself. A striking dance, an emotive song, a book I can’t put down, God’s painted sky at dawn, all these set my desire to write aboil—churning them up from deep down. I write because I enjoy reading, and I want to make what I love. It is a great joy to turn a page and learn something or find myself in someone else’s world. Writing is my ode to writing—and to everything beautiful.
I write in pursuit of honest communication. I write because I want to be able to mean what I say when I tell people I’m a writer. I write so that you’ll know me. I write to exist in minds beyond my own. Because a small part of me knows that my thoughts matter (as do anyone’s), and I want you to know what I think. My humility is both a lie and the truth. I am both insecure and haughty. The words that escape my mind’s grasp in conversation congregate more readily when I sit with pen and paper or computer. I write so that I can choose my words carefully, so that I can weigh them, hear how they sound, and see how they look together. I write because I talk faster than I think, and writing helps me to go slow—makes it more likely that I’ll reach my intended destination and not get lost down some tangential road. I write to avoid the roadblocks of my insecurity; writing makes me more bold. I’m stronger on paper that in person.
Writing is something I’ve done since childhood. It was how I entertained myself when I was bored. I remember sitting on my grandmother’s veranda in Grenada on summer vacation and writing plays for Barbie. I wanted my dolls to have character development and plot when I played with them. Now I enjoy writing non-fiction—using my hopefully growing lexicon Legos to build in miniature how I see the world.
Why don’t I write? Why do I hesitate, procrastinate and hide? There are so many critics, and most of them reside in my mind. They tell me I can’t do my own thoughts justice—as if. They tell me I haven’t yet learned to discern the difference between faith and foolishness in myself. They tell me failure is imminent, persistence futile. Superego, please don’t fill me with fear. There are enough critics on the outside. I need my internal space to write my way out of doubt.