For a long time, it was really hard to be myself.
Growing up, I always heard that cliché adage, “Just be yourself.” But it always confused me. I remember thinking “But what version of myself should I be?”
It only got more confusing as junior high and high school came along. As cliques started to form and the different versions of being started to take very clear and socially dividing segments of the student population.
Just imagine that scene in Mean Girls when she walks into the cafeteria and talks about the “sexually active band geeks,” the popular girls, or in the case of my teenage years, the added punks and goths. Pretty sure I tried several different states and versions of “being my authentic self” throughout the years. But the truth is, trying out those different versions felt a lot like trying on someone else’s clothes – they didn’t quite fit right, maybe I didn’t like the material or the color spectrum, and more often than not, they just weren’t my style.
I continued my quest to “find my authentic self” – inducing an almost crazy level of anxiety amidst this Instagram culture of everyone-needs-a-clear-brand. Especially when I started teaching Yoga. The pressure to adhere to one specific thing, to one specific love of one specific thing with one specific photographic style and one very clear and specific lifestyle so I could meet this perfect social media ideal of what it means to teach yoga.
Well, I failed at that miserably.
Not the teaching yoga part, just the living up to others’ expectations of what one should look, think and act like while teaching yoga part.
It’s like I repeatedly failed at different identities until I stumbled across my own.
The truth is, when I first confronted my authentic self (and I’m still guilty of this sometimes) I didn’t really like the self I saw there.
Here was the truth of the matter – underneath the clothes, the makeup, the previous coverups I’d attempted through achievements and goals and busy-ness – the real me was a little messy.
A little too raw and real for the “perfect-ness” of social media. A little too honest and blunt and forward for what’s typically considered respectable for delicate females these days.
But my life no longer lets me play any games. As though the past years of abuse, recovery, extreme poverty, death, and ultimately coming back to life, slowly and brutally chipped away at every false claim I’d ever made for myself. Until it left no choice for me but to embrace the utterly chaotic, messy, real, ugly, beautiful thing that is actually me.
The me that is vulnerable and soft and squishy. The me that cares so much about everything but spent so many years in stoic denial of that fact so that I could wall up my heart and protect myself from a world that can often be so cruel to the sensitive child.
The me that can be bluntly honest to the point of offensive bitchiness. Who can at times be biting and sarcastic and witty and energetic and funny and exhaustingly anxious all at the same time.
The me that has no walls because life tore them all down but still feels exposed and vulnerable without their perceived safety.
That me can be hard to come to terms with sometimes. That me feels like a risk. That me fears the judgment and the harsh criticism of others’ and the terror of letting people down.
That me also feels tremendous hope in the shifting sands that breaking down this version of myself that I constructed could perhaps lay a solid foundation for my authentic self to really take root and grow.
After all, once we uncover ourselves from all the bullshit, what can grow in this expansive new space we’ve discovered?