THE BRAVERY OF BEING YOURSELF
One of my biggest challenges in Bravery has been my lifelong quest to be my Self, fully and without apology. The rewards are obviously quite fulfilling but there is a distinct risk that may put people off.
Stepping outside the box.
At work, within relationships, and with friends, there are often lines drawn to establish your place. Women, especially, are often sent the pointed message that they should note those clearly drawn lines and tuck themselves within someone else's perspective of who they should be.
A few years back, I posted a meme that showed a stylish lady of the 40's smoking a cigarette and saying, "If your friends are appalled when you swear, then you have the wrong f%@&ing friends!”
I chuckled and reposted it.
A guy took great offense.
His first response was, "Or perhaps I have friends with a little more class…."
To which I responded, "Perhaps you do.”
He then began ripping into me. Offended by the smoking, offended by the language, offended that I was refusing to remove the meme, offended that I dared to not acquiesce to his demands.
Although my fingers shook as I typed, I didn't attack in kind, I simply refused to go along with his program. He wanted me to accept that "being a lady," meant I should follow his rules and bend to his rule.
To him, I was out of line and not acting like a lady. To me, he was crossing my boundaries by insisting that I change to please him. This was a classic example of someone deciding who I should be, when the reality is the only one qualified for that position is me.
Unfortunately it's not neatly organized and printed out, this unseen plan of exactly who we want to be. We're all just winging it, figuring our Selves out as we go along.
One thing is certain though. The decision of who I want to be is definitely up to Me. I'm bound to make mistakes and step on toes or sometimes hurt people I love, which makes it mandatory to be aware enough of the vulnerabilities of those I cherish to be able to be accountable.
Often, people simply want to put you in a box because it's more convenient and comfortable for them.
They want people to mirror their behavior (not uncommon) and they don't want to be challenged. Large swaths of people in this political divide have formed packs with clearly established rules based on preconceived notions. They too will try to push their preferences on us based on their convictions.
What's true in life is that the only person qualified to decide who we should be or become is ourselves. It's an inside job, after all, just like happiness.
Yet to make that choice can be scary and overwhelming. We are vulnerable creatures and rejection or worse, ostracism is humiliating. The irony to me is that even in that classic film of class separation, "The Breakfast Club," there isn't a character to whom I fully relate.
I'm not a jock or a brain, a "sosh" (what my high-school called the social queens) or a nerd, an outcast or a rebel.
I'm simply me.
I can relate to all those characters in part--I loved shooting hoops, I've read more books and studied more subjects than I could count, I've often been nerdy, I've rebelled against social norms, I've been cast out of circles for being too different, and despite my differences, I often wondered how it would feel to be one of the social queens who felt as if they belonged.
After decades I realized that "to behave" simply means to follow someone else's rules.
To be my best Self instead requires me to embrace accountability, to allow myself to be vulnerable and authentic even if that means I face rejection, to try to know myself honestly despite my trembling fear, and to embrace that Bravery is an ongoing commitment.
Grab a crayon and draw your own damn lines. Then, when you're feeling particularly frisky, step out of those too.
Go ahead, make history. 😎
“Well-behaved women seldom make history."
--Laurel Ulrich Thatcher