When I met my future husband's family, I was so nervous. It was my first time meeting the parents of someone I was dating. What if they hated me? What if I hated them? What if it was really awkward and everyone wished I wasn't there? And what if it ruined things between me and him? I knew he was really close to his family, so if this didn't go well, there's a good chance we could be toast. So I put on my best face and was my sweet and charming "performance" self.
When we are trying to impress someone, we show a particular version of ourselves. It's not fake, but it's not really real, either. We put on our best manners. We spend time on our hair and clothes. We wear make-up. We don't want the random acquaintance to see us lounging around in sweatpants, eating Cheetos, pony-tailed hair matted in baby food (at least that was me when my kids were babies). We don't want to be seen crying at work. We say we're fine when we aren't. All of this is an attempt to protect ourselves from judgement or criticism. It's very natural. Necessary, even. After all, we've all known people who are catty, and would actually say snotty things.
But putting on a good appearance in a particular situation, in front of a particular crowd, is not the same thing as hiding who you are. And yet, sometimes we do that, too, don't we? We don't say what we think. We don't wear what we'd truly like to wear. I recently took this free online class about embracing your unique beauty through your appearance, and what struck me the most was how many people in the class used to present themselves to the world in the way that felt beautiful to them, but after getting criticism from the world, they learned to bury their personality and conform to what society told them was beautiful. Watching these lovely women reclaim themselves was one of my favorite parts of the class.
I think so many of us are not being our real selves on a regular basis. As women, we are told we are too loud, or too passionate, or too unique. We are told to be quiet, and not draw too much attention, unless it's in a sexual way. But only if we don't look too sexy. We are so used to criticism, so used to burying who we are. The idea of reclaiming ourselves is really scary, because the fact is not everyone will welcome it. People will criticize. People will want you to go back to sitting on the sidelines, being meek, and focusing your attention on letting other people shine. I know this because I've experienced it myself. I've heard the comments, usually said in a passive aggressive manner, implying that I should be less than myself. This generally happens when I speak the truth as I see it. Not everyone wants to hear that. Not everyone will listen to your opinion. Not everyone will be able to hear your truth.
Say it anyway. Tell your story. Let your unique beauty shine. Not because you are looking for praise or inviting criticism. Do it because the world needs you. The world doesn't need the polite, shiny version of you. The world needs the real, honest, gritty, loving, complicated, gorgeous you.
Over time, as I got to know my then-boyfriend's family, I started to let my true self come out more. They were a little surprised to see the spirited, passionate woman hiding behind the polite, well-mannered girl they knew, but thankfully they embraced me as I am. By the time we got married, I knew that they loved me for who I am, not for a well-designed impersonation of myself.
This doesn't mean that I have this figured out, though. I still have to remind myself to be authentic, to not put on my sweet and charming "performance" self in my daily life. It's an act of bravery to go out in the world as yourself, and many people are not up to the job. But let's take a deep breath and give it a shot anyway.
**A word of caution: you can probably sense the times when it's just not smart to say the thing you want to say. There are times when the wise thing to do is sit back and observe. Sometimes, holding back a little, for the sake of self-preservation, is actually healthy. This is not the same thing as being inauthentic. It is simply trusting your inner wisdom.
I am so glad you are here! Welcome to my blog. This is your space, too. My name is Amy, and I am no stranger to the ups and downs of life. Join me as we search for beauty, authenticity, tell our truth, and hold space for each other in the messiness of life.