Radical Authenticity & Self Acceptance
As I mentioned a couple posts ago, I spent all last year working on radical authenticity. Really getting honest about who I am, what I want, where I'm going, and how I'm getting there, outside of what anyone else wants or expects of me. Stopping apologizing for who I am, my sexuality, my choice of language, my field of study, my music preferences, my work ethic, everything. And it was really good for me. I didn't grow up with that concept, and it was a very long journey to figure it out for myself. But here we are.
This year, while I am focusing on non-duality, the effects of my authenticity study are still apparent (as well they should be. Long-term changes are part of the point). And there is something so freeing about being exactly who you are, openly and honestly. And while it's freeing, it can also be hard. Because, guess what? Not everyone is going to like who you are. You're going to rub some people the wrong way. Or intimidate them. Or just make them uncomfortable. And that's part of it. But as Ricky Nelson once said, "You can't please everyone, so you gotta please yourself."
I have never been comfortable in my own skin. I spent a large portion of my life trying to be literally anyone but myself. Because who could possibly love/want/respect/appreciate me if they knew who I really was: nerdy, awkward, sweary, depressed, sexy, quiet, direct, anxious, introverted, bold, opinionated, smart, creative, unstoppable. What if they got angry at me, hit me, shunned me? And during all that time, very few people did love/want/respect/appreciate me. Probably because I was trying too hard, I people-pleased, and it was all quite disingenuous. I'm kind of ashamed of that period of my life, to be honest. But it was a survival mechanism, both literally and metaphorically.
Over the last 5 years or so, and especially in the last 1-2, I've been really working on figuring out who I am. And embracing that. Not hiding, or apologizing for any part of me. And that's hard, because I'm weird. Unconventional. I'm not what society expects or suggests a successful, accomplished, desirable woman is supposed to be. And that has been very isolating. I've faced a lot of rejection and criticism over the years. But the thing is, after the initial sting of rebuke dies down, I can see even more clearly who I am. Why did that hurt? What part of me am I still insecure about? What area needs my attention? Where can I continue to improve, strengthen, and nourish? What still needs to heal?
I have had my heart broken SO MUCH in my life. It's a little embarrassing, to be honest. I always fell in love with the emotionally unavailable ones, the people who weren't "in my league," the unrealistics. And when I love, I love hard, deeply and completely. I've loved more than one person at a time, and even then I loved each of them with every ounce of my being. Love is not finite like water or sand. But even so, I was rejected a lot. Often for being "weird" or "dorky," occasionally for being intimidating (as a very quiet and gentle person, this still confuses me), a few times for being too ugly, several times because of my disability, and for a myriad of other reasons. And every time, it hurt like a motherfucker. I'd cry for days. I told a boy once, my ex in fact, that "he broke me." I have thought a lot about that, and all my heartbreaks over the years, and I have come out the other side with the conclusion that no one gets to break me. I am just putting my foot down and not allowing it! Life hurts sometimes, sure. It can even kick you when you're down. But you wipe the blood from your lip, knock off the dust, and laugh: "is that all you've got?" Pain can break us, or it can make us stronger, more resilient. Don't get me wrong, I still feel very deeply. I still cry over things all the time. But feeling something strongly is different than letting it dictate how you get to experience your life. Because screw that!
When we face critique, be it romantic rejection or professional criticism, it can hurt. We can get defensive, but that doesn't help anything, really. We can crumble, apologize, and wallow in devastation. But fuck that. That's not healthy or actually beneficial for either party. Not really. Or we can look within ourselves and say "is there truth here?" We can find that place that hurts so badly, and ask why. We can work to be better, by our own standards. Life is full of critique and criticism, and just differing taste. And that's okay. We have to be able to roll with the punches and keep moving, onward and upward, like the gods and goddesses we are, and not have to rebuild from the rubble of ourselves every time someone doesn't like us. That's exhausting, ridiculous, and honestly, who's got the time?
As a female, I am criticized, ridiculed, talked down to ALL THE TIME for my lack of procreation (and all my childless female friends said "YESSS QUEEN!"). Guess what? It doesn't hurt me anymore. I'm down with my choices. I used to feel like something was broken inside of me because I didn't want offspring. I realized one day that something is broken, but it's not inside me. It's with our society that feels free to condemn someone they don't know for a choice they made (or may have been made for them by things they had no control over) that they have zero information about. But, see, I had to go through a lot of hurt, a lot of societal rejection, a lot of chastisement and ridicule from friends, family, and strangers to identify "yo, this isn't my problem!" and steel myself against that bullshit. Same for people who are rude about my disability. It makes me angry, but it doesn't hurt me. Same with my divorce. Or my politics. Or the amount I work. Or just being a woman who owns businesses and takes no shit. Or my choice of attire. Or how I choose to speak out against or for things. Or any of a hundred other things.
You'll never make everyone happy. You just won't. You'll never be the right person for everyone. No matter how hard you try, you will always offend someone. Regardless of what you do, someone somewhere will always think you're trash. Or unintelligent. Or a hoe. Or arrogant. Or ignorant. So, with that in mind, you may as well be as unapologetically you as you can be, right? I dunno. That's my logic at least. And I'm not sure how well it's served me in the grand scheme of things, but I do know that I hurt less than I used to, and I can for the first time in my life say that I love and am not ashamed of who I am. So for me, at least, that's worth far more than all the adoration and approval of others in the world.