Why being YOU is the best gift you can give yourself.
As a child, I never REALLY identified as “low income”. I do remember pulling up to the Check-2-Cash parking lot with my Dad as he tried to pull dollars out of his social security early and make ends meet. I remember wearing the same pair of black pants every single day to the point that I had a hole in the knee.. And then finding out one day that some of my friends were keeping a tally of how many times I had worn them. I remember my Mom talking to my dance instructors in private about our financial situation so I could take classes that I loved so much even though money was tight. I tried to pretend like I didn’t know what was going on. I was ashamed that we had to ask; none of my friends had special requests.
But as a child, it was never the money that felt important – all I reallywanted was to fit in. I wanted to belong without requiring special assistance. I wanted to do the things my friends did. I didn’t want to think about yet another thing that would make me different.
As time went on, I pushed past the societal boundaries: I hustled my way through junior college and worked to support myself. I chose practicality over passion and got my bachelor’s degree in Business (instead of Theatre), swearing to myself that I’d never go back to the world I came from.. I needed financial security and I knew I’d need to create it for myself. In my first real job out of college, I felt so stiff, so out of place. I felt like I was living a version of myself that was so much less than everything that I was. I just wanted to fit into the corporate world – I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to say the right things, live the formulaic life, move up the ladder and be recognized. I saw people in business suits who could speak to topics with legitimacy.. while I secretly Googled 90% of the terms used in our business-oriented conversation. It was a new vocabulary in a new world in a new cultural space that I had never belonged in. My exterior had changed, but I was still me on the inside: the confused girl who was happy with a single pair of worn out black pants. I felt like I was losing myself. I had hustled myself to the bone and I was feeling the burn out of an inauthentic world that I created out of a magazine. I wasn’t being me.
I spent the next few years doing what so many of us aim to do in our 20s – we go on a quest to find ourselves. I realized that I managed to lose the one person I was born on the planet with: myself. It seems silly to paint the picture that way, and yet that’s exactly what happened. I got so caught up in societal expectations; none of it felt meaningful to me at all. I got myself the higher paying jobs. I earned the luxuries I always felt were only for window-shopping and starry-eyed gazing, but this income didn’t give me my authenticity. This new life challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone, but all in all, it ultimately allowed me to be a chameleon in another walk of life that still didn’t feel like home to me.
There were parts of my performance-oriented, silly, witty, love-to-make-people-laugh and bust-out-in-song-when-the-moment strikes personality that didn’t feel like it fit into my new lifestyle.. So what did I do? I abandoned my creativity like it didn’t belong to me – as though that side of me wasn’t as real as the disciplined, attentive, and hard-driving side that I had embraced as a staple of my corporate persona.
I took some time, did some soul searching. And ultimately, what I discovered is likely not revolutionary, but it may still be hard to swallow:
BEING YOU IS THE BEST GIFT YOU CAN EVER GIVE YOURSELF.
Why? Because as soon as you neglect pieces of yourself, you’re subconsciously sending yourself a reminder that there are parts of you that are unworthy of the limelight. You are a spectacular, living, breathing piece of art and every morsel of your being helps to add texture and color to enrich your world.
Maybe there’s a part of you that knows this inside. Maybe you’ve thought about embracing the “you” you keep trapped, and just when you muster up some courage, you back out. You convince yourself you know exactly what will happen if you take that plunge.. Admittedly, you know it sounds silly to think that you’ve assumed you can predict the future – but hey, this is what we know for sure because we’ve allowed fear to dominate our rational thinking.
In some situations, maybe you do know how the same story will go. Maybe that’s a good indication that you’re not in a place that is best suited for all the awesomeness you possess. Maybe you’ve placed yourself in a box when everything you are is way too big for that box. You’ve secured your own entrapment, deciding that it feels safer to live in a box that you think aligns your purpose and what society wants from you, but ultimately you’re forcing yourself to conform to your environment rather than finding an environment that makes sense for you.
THE TRUE YOU WILL ATTRACT PEOPLE THAT ARE WELL ALIGNED FOR YOUR LIFE.
If you ever walk up to someone being something they’re not, you can spot it from a mile away. You can sense that there’s something disingenuous, something you can’t truly trust. It forces you to keep your guard up. How can you anticipate what is coming from someone who hasn’t spent time focusing on finely crafting his or her own character?
If you spend your whole life pretending to be something you’re not, you’ll attract the people who align with the fake you, meanwhile the people who actually resonate with all of the greatness you possess will pass you by. I know in elementary school it may have felt like the right thing to strip yourself of your uniqueness just to have an extra friend or two, but as adults we have OPTIONS. We can find new jobs, move to new cities, make friends on the internet and literally find a companion with a swipe of our fingertip. Stop settling for people you have to pretend with and be yourself in all walks of life. That way, you’re more likely to find the friends, lovers, audience members, colleagues, jobs, whatevers, that work best for YOU. Commit to yourself first. You are worth loving.
If you read that last sentence and immediately thought to yourself “I’m not so sure about that one..”, this next part is for you.
YOU CAN BECOME A PERSON YOU’D WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH.
Some of us spend our whole lives looking around trying to find someone else to be happy with. This is not to say that we shouldn’t focus on finding love and companionship. But how can you expect to find the people who fit properly into your world if you haven’t taken the time to identify the central node in your universe? You’ll never be able to identify what you’re looking for if you haven’t already found your wholeness inside of yourself.
Let’s think about this logically: you spend more of your time with yourself than any other individual on the planet. You internalize your thoughts, you navigate your life path, and you create your own achievement — or you stand in your own way. You are the one person you are capable of changing, and for many of us, you are the one person who’s love can be the most difficult to earn. That self-love is something only you can provide, so be intentional about WHO you are and don’t leave that up to chance and circumstance to define.
And if you’re like many of us who arbitrarily decide that you’ve just got to “be better”, step away from the vague adjectives and force yourself to do a few minutes of real work to DEFINE what “better” means. Which leads me to my next point…