Be honest about who you are deep in your soul. Do you have a quirky habit? Do you love to wear crazy hats or want more than anything to be something you’ve always been told you can’t be? Be honest. Put it out there. Put YOU out there. The energy you put out into the world when you are opening the doors in your own soul will draw in the beautiful people who will support you exactly how you want to be. So please, reintroduce yourself, we’ve been waiting to meet you…Me
I spent a LOT of time over the past few years trying to fit in the box the people in my life wanted me to fit into. I tried my best to be the doting girlfriend who both honored who my partners were to me and then also the other person they showed to the rest of the world, even though they felt like Jekyll and Hyde. I kept my style conservative unless I was home by myself or in a foreign country where I didn’t know anyone. I made sure I kept my viewpoints I shared blurred around the edges, my strong convictions to myself for fear my compassionate and tolerant view of the world would be met with animosity or misunderstanding. Why, if you know me now, I would ever do this, is beyond me. But I did. I constantly teetered between wanting to share who I was right out loud and being afraid if I did that, if I let myself be completely open and vulnerable about what the inside of my soul looked like, I would alienate and isolate myself from people in my life I cared about.
That, it turns out, was utter horsesh*t. And it was all my own fault.
Let me tell you about something that really rips a person down: allowing room in our hearts for other people’s small opinions and insecurities. People LOVE to encourage you to stay small because it doesn’t threaten the mediocrity with which they live their own lives. If they see you step-up and out into your own brilliance, or they for one second feel they can’t keep up with your evolution, they try everything they can to smack you down to their level, or worse below it.
Over the years, particularly as a result of my relationships with men, I’ve allowed my self to shrink smaller and smaller and grow dimmer and dimmer, to make sure I’m not too big or too bright for the people around me. Even in high school, because of my parents jobs and because everyone knew them, I was kept within a certain set of boundaries. Kids at school alienated me out of the “cool” group because they assumed I was a certain way because of my upbringing. I was constantly judged for who people thought I appeared to be; people didn’t like me because I wasn’t afraid to be me but they didn’t bother to get to know who that person was. I was competitive, smart, hard-working, and athletic, but I was also compassionate, kind, loyal and understanding. I wasn’t afraid to tell people gossiping about one another wasn’t cool. I didn’t hesitate to continue to exchange gifts with the girl everyone else made fun of or to be friends with anyone from any walk of life. People didn’t understand me because I knew who I was, and for whatever reason that was terrifying. People talked about me because they said I was too sure of myself, not knowing inside I was insecure too. They called me cocky, when they didn’t know the pain I carried. I mistakenly didn’t stand in my own light the way I should have. More importantly I didn’t insist the girl inside let them know who I was. And in my years, that started in high school, that lack of proudly doing so cost me so much.
Let me give you an example. I loved to sing. I LOVE to sing. As a kid I was in choir and band and would sing solos in church. At one point I was chosen to sing in all county. But then in high school, I had a male chorale teacher in high school who really did a number on me. Something downright sh*t happened; my teacher told me the singer I was wasn’t good enough. Because I didn’t have chops to sing opera, because I wasn’t the lead in his musicals, this man told me he didn’t have time to give me voice lessons, because I was, in his words, “never going to be a singer.” DAMN. DAMN. DAMN. DAMN. DAMN! I cannot TELL you how awful that made me feel. I shrunk down into this tiny place and rode out the remainder of high school as a voice in the ensemble and chorus, and never the lead I wanted to be, and knew in my soul I could be. I let this man muffle my voice. And I let it stay that way for a long time after.
When I got to college, nearly 5 years after this teacher put doubts in my head, I realized I missed music and singing in my life SO much I decided to take voice lessons. And do you know what happened? My professor there, at an excellent institution, told me I had a beautiful voice and encouraged me to sing with more confidence in the style that worked for me. Over the next few years I learned how to sing opera and torch songs, standards and folk, and I developed a very distinct and proud voice. A few years after I left school I sang back-up at a festival for a band that opened for 5 of the biggest names in country music. When I stepped off of that stage singers from one of my favorite bands, who have won 8+ Grammys and other awards to my old teachers big fat ZERO awards, showered me with compliments and asked if I ever considered singing for a living. What. The. Hell?! WHAT?! Me? Me! After all of the years I felt so small because one person didn’t believe in my voice and here I was being asked by actual professionals if I ever considered doing what they did. I was floored. I sneaked away from the crowd and cried. I cried because I was so happy. I cried because I was frustrated I let this balding, insecure and terrible teacher talk me out of a talent I knew I had, and one I loved. I let that man affect me so much I took a different path than the one I wanted to. I hadn’t known how to speak up for myself and I lost a lot of years doing what I loved because of it.
Every once in a while now I will pop up on stage and sing duets with the lead singer in a friend’s band. Sometimes I will sing for friends at parties, and every once in a very great while I will get up and sing at some karaoke bar and bring the house down. This little girl has a big voice, and it is bolstered by a confidence I found in myself. It took me a while to get over that man’s opinion ruling my life, but once I did, I never looked back.
I’ve also allowed myself to feel very small in the romantic relationships I’ve had with the men in my life. I’ve been made to feel like I needed to shrink my accomplishments to make them feel better. I’ve been told to take a step back in conversations with other people so as to make that man (boy) feel more confident and masculine. I’ve been told my convictions on what is wrong or right, the standards I have for my partners, the common decency I expect not just humans to have for one another but especially in intimate relationships, is wrong or overwhelming. And for all of these reasons, I have whittled myself down so many times I ended up nearly in a pile of wood shavings, to be blown away any time the wind blew.
I once went to a Hollywood party with an ex who not only flirted with the female star from his show, that was closer to his age than I was, but who allowed her to stand there resting her arm on him as if he wasn’t someone’s significant other, much less mine. Later that evening I stood at a bar talking to his boss’s boss, a man who was not only much older than I and to whom I couldn’t have had less attraction to, but also to whom my ex introduced me to and was having a conversation with as well. At the beginning my partner was holding me around the waist and smiling adoringly at me, the two of us playing a brilliant game of conversational tennis as a team. After a while the conversation turned to the topic of the south of France, a place my ex had never been, and he excused himself to use the bathroom. After ten minutes he didn’t come back; I was anxiously looking for him, eager to get out of the conversation with his boss’s boss, but also eager to stand by my partner’s side. When I finally found him, my ex was standing in the doorway, a look of disgust and rage pulsing from every cell in his body as he glared at me from the door.
Now I will admit, of all of the people in that place, this boss was the one person I enjoyed talking to. It wasn’t because he was the boss, it wasn’t because he was attractive (he wasn’t at ALL), it was because I finally felt like I was talking to someone who had gone through schooling and education and was intellectual and well-traveled; he wasn’t a boring entitled little sh*t like so many of the people I’d been introduced to that night. I talked to that man my ex introduced me to (and then walked completely away from the conversation) because I was thrilled to be talking about future plans of travel with my ex and how incredible my ex was at his job and how smart, funny and talented he was. I was networking and doting on my ex, without being suggestive or annoying to his boss, and without touching him, and I was doing a bang-up job with it, until I caught my ex’s eye over in the door frame.
Now I want to tell you this was all a misunderstanding, but the jack and ginger fueled anger that accompanied my ex’s behavior this night suggested otherwise. He felt attacked. He felt like I was flirting. He told me all of his peanut gallery friends, who were too afraid to talk to their boss for fear of God knows what, told him it was inappropriate that I DARE talk to their boss. Now listen, I am an attorney. I went to great schools. I’ve worked in Fortune 100 companies and went to college with and have had conversations with people so much smarter than I it often made my head spin. I have met presidents and CEOs, janitors and billionaires, and I wouldn’t treat a single one of them any differently than I did his boss that night. I also would never, ever, ever make myself so small to assume I didn’t belong in a conversation with a man just because he happened to be someone’s boss. To the contrary, of all of the people at this wrap party I may actually have been the ONLY person not trying to get this guy to do something for me; my career wouldn’t be affected by him because I worked legal at the studio that paid him, and he had no influence over my job or department. I genuinely enjoyed his conversation and loved that he was saying wonderful things about my ex’s talent. And I didn’t for ONE DAMN SECOND believe I didn’t belong at the damn table talking to him. I wasn’t ashamed; I knew my motives were to meet a wonderful people I didn’t need anything from, and perhaps put a bug in his ear about how incredible of a person I was dating if it felt natural and relevant to what we were talking about. I wasn’t fearful I didn’t belong in the conversation with this man; I’ve been in conversations with world leaders, doctors who have cured diseases, and billionaire businessmen and women far more intellectual and successful than this man was and I knew I had the chops and pedigree to be standing exactly where I was. Proudly.
My ex did not feel the same. For some reason that night I was expected, by my ex and his strange, passive and odd friends, to watch all of the people from the sidelines in the room as if I didn’t belong there. I was expected to be small because that’s how they remained. And when I didn’t, I caught absolute bloody hell for it. My ex left me at the party after telling me I was being overtly sexual (by leaning against a bar in three inch heels because my feet hurt) and when I followed after him I was berated in front of his friends. He said everyone kept saying I looked like I wanted something more from his boss, when he knew from standing with us during the entire conversation that was so far beyond the truth it was laughable. The reality was my confidence and boldness to believe and know I belonged talking to any person in that room burst his bubble because he didn’t feel the same way about himself. My accomplishments had given me a spine. And he didn’t like it because he didn’t feel the same way about himself.
When he apologized the next day my ex told me I looked so much more beautiful than any movie star in that room, and that it had made him insecure. He admitted as he got more intoxicated he felt more and more like he didn’t deserve to have me, and any other man in the room was a threat to our relationship because he didn’t feel good about himself. So he resented me, because he thought if he felt like he could lose me, that I would want to leave him. It couldn’t have been further from the truth; my only reason for being at that party was to build that man up and help him soar. Because he didn’t understand that in his own heart he was good enough, nothing I did could make him feel better, and as a result he projected that onto me. I was forced to minimize me to make room for him, instead of being proudly held as his woman by his side. It was an incredibly terrible night, and one I don’t think we ever actually recovered from. Somehow after this it became a constant conversation, him not being good enough, and me being too much. Talk about taking the wind right out of my sails.
When I was in law school another person I spent my precious time with reacted almost the exact same way to me; he was pissed that his professor and I were carrying on a conversation above his head, and he was angry I wasn’t bowing out of the conversation to make room for a change in subject to something he was better versed in. Instead of standing back and letting me be smart and charming, he stood glaring at me and later yelled at me for being too much, for being too talkative, for being too bright in the face of his utter dimness. He couldn’t stand to let me shine, even knowing in his heart I was doing it for him too. He knew why he started dating me. He knew my brain and intellect was the thing he was attracted to me for, and he proudly brought me to that party for that reason; he knew I could handle my own. But the reality is, what people think they want, and what their ego can actually handle, are two completely different things. And I learned that night I was allowed to be smart, outspoken, pretty and fun, but not any of those things more so than he was. I had boxes I was allowed to fit in, but wasn’t allowed to break out of. I wasn’t allowed to be me.
I tell you all of this so you can see, I have been told, most of my life, I am not enough or I am too much. I have been told my tattoos were a bad idea. I have been told I need to settle down on everyone else’s terms. I’ve even been told I had to go to law school even though I was living in DC, making great money at a job I got on my own, and in which I was thriving, and had a relationship that had I not left I would still be in and probably very happy with to this day. I have been told I need to shrink to not overshadow all of the people living in mediocrity around me. I’ve been told to sit down to make room for people more talented than I. I have been told by my schools I will be admitted once all of the other kids who scored higher on tests decided to reject them, even though I eventually graduated with honors while those other people failed to thrive. I have been made to feel small because every one else around me didn’t feel big. They didn’t vibrate on my level. And I let myself get absorbed by them instead of allowing myself to be exactly in my own vibration or higher.
But guess what, now all of that has changed. I AM ME. And after all of the heartbreak and bullsh*t I’ve experienced these past few years, it’s time for me to shout right out loud exactly who I am, and to be DAMN proud of it.
I have decided to no longer be ashamed of my voice or hesitant to share my opinions and talents. If someone in the room can’t handle that, they can leave. My therapist recently told me “we resemble with whom we assemble,” and I took that into my heart and started cutting out the people I didn’t want to look like. I don’t want to look like my ex’s friends who were never accepting of me or supportive of our relationship. I don’t want to look like the girl I went to high school with who has constantly lied to people and gossiped. I don’t want to look like old lovers who don’t love the house they’ve built inside of themselves, and in turn have unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, lying and belittling. I don’t want to look like the woman who became small because I didn’t want to sit idly by while the people I loved destroyed themselves with doubt and feelings of not deserving. I do NOT want to look like the people I wouldn’t go to for advice, so why should I bother sharing my good energy and precious time with them? I shouldn’t! And you should take a deep, hard look at the people in your life and have a come to Jesus about that too.
When I look at my close circle of friends now I see good humans, good parents, successful professionals, non-drug or alcohol abusers. I see people full of compassion, kindness, tolerance and intellect. I see healthy men and women who talk about mindfulness and having life goals, who reiterate how incredibly important it is to be a good person, a good friend and a good human. They go to therapy. They listen with an open heart. They volunteer. They build myself and others up. They CELEBRATE me inside of trying to diminish me the way so many people have done in my life.
And so this is the delicious discovery I’ve recently made: I am going to proudly, loudly, confidently and boldly tell this world exactly who I am. I am going to stand in my power and walk into every damn room like I deserve to be there, because I for damn sure do. I will continue to believe in people’s goodness and hope for their discovery of the bigger, greater human I know is in their soul, even if they have yet to discover that in themselves. And most importantly, I will work harder every single day to be the person I want to meet and bring the energy I want to feel. Eventually I know, if I stand proudly and erectly with this spine I have fortified through failures and triumph, I will change the world around me for the better. And so can you.
So find your voice. Don’t wait for permission or an invitation from anyone else. Wear that f*cking hat you’ve always felt too unsure to wear. Shed the people that don’t support and uplift and cherish you. FOLLOW YOUR DREAM AND DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU IT’S NOT POSSIBLE FOR YOU. And NEVER, EVER, EVER, allow ANYONE to tell you who you are or who you are supposed to be.
Be you and do it on purpose. You are enough. And this world is waiting for you to show us your damn self in all of your beautiful and incredible glory.