21 months ago I renounced the culture I was raised in. I don’t know how to express the significance of that except to say that, even as a 34 year old woman who is a solid ENTJ and usually falls on the bold side of things, I was scared to tell my parents. It took me four months to tell my family. I was feeling so much happier and freer and better than I had in years, but I was afraid to share it.
When I finally did tell them THAT was freeing too. And in the months that followed I’ve felt increasingly comfortable with letting my authentic self show.
There are things I’m still a little private about...but for the first time in my life I feel allowed to figure out who I am—not just who I’m supposed to be—and more than that I am learning to feel comfortable letting others see that me.
I had a fascinating conversation with my therapist about a year ago about three photographs.
We'd hired a photographer for a session to get pictures of the whole group. We'd taken family by family, all the grandkids, all the boys, all the girls...and then we gathered the siblings. We all lined up and took what one might call a 'normal' photo, and then for some reason I got it into my head that we should all get on each other's backs. I'm the oldest and when I suggested it (while grabbing my brother and pulling him onto my back) they all just sort of did it within a matter of moments...and this photo resulted. In those few moments I felt something between us that I hadn't felt since childhood. (That's funny to say, because we weren't even all children at the same time, but it's how I felt.) I don't know how to describe it except to say that it was a feeling of camaraderie and knowing that we all had each other's backs.
This was a moment where I felt unfiltered family, and it shows on my face.
But my little guy was cuddly as I carried him out (I carried kids the whole hike, but switched out which one many times. Yay babywearing!) So on impulse I snapped a selfie. And in that moment--in spite of feeling a little bit miserable--I felt genuinely happy. And it shows. That wasn't something I'd seen much of in my photos from the prior few years, and it wasn't until I saw this one that I realized what had been missing.
This was the first time I'd ever worn something strapless, and not only doing it but then sharing the photos publically on facebook was definitely something new. Mormons have an easily recognizeable dress code (based upon the temple undergarments which cover significantly more than 'worldly underwear'), and this gown blatantly doesn't meet it. I hadn't hidden my exit from the church but I hadn't really announced it to anyone except my family, so I knew that sharing this photo was going to 'out' me to many people.
Part of me really wanted to share this photo and part of me about had a panic attack...but I finally posted it.
And you know what happened?
Comment after comment after comment about how lovely the gown was, how good I looked, and how happy I looked. Not a single negative comment. In that moment, I felt accepted for me. Not because I fit within some mold or matched some expectation, but just because I was a person who picked a pretty, sparkly dress that matched my eyes, and who looked nice in it.
That felt so good. ☺
This authenticity thing is certainly much broader than clothing choices or body acceptance, but that's been an important part of it because it's bringing my outside to match my inside. I'm not opposed to modesty at all, but I think a person should be able to be comfortable in their body--not ashamed of it--and that is a journey I've had to take. Taking ownership of my body has been an important part of my authenticity.
18 months before that strapless gown I'd taken two pictures but only shared one.
Wanna guess which one?
Look at those scandalous double-pierced ears--which I'd had done just hours earlier.
And those bare 'porn shoulders' tsk tsk.
This week I did something else new: I've been wearing strappy tank tops to exercise in for a few years, and after a while I started wearing them to/from class without always taking a shirt or jacket to cover myself en-route. I happen to think I have very nice shoulders, and I wasn't willing to feel guilty about it anymore. I started making friends with my cleavage too, instead of hating it and fighting it, and that spared me a lot of grief.
Recently I've been taking a pole fitness class. I wore yoga pants/capri leggings the first couple of times, but discovered that I needed my legs bare to above the knee because the fabric gets in the way of holding on to the pole. So I got a pair of shorts that are shorter than anything I've ever owned. After several times of covering them up to/from class, this week I just went to class. (Yes, folks, I went in public with all this skin hanging out. How scandalous.)
And you know what? This time I didn't have anxiety over it. That feels pretty good.
Hello world. This is me.
Just me, myself.
No more filters.