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On being you

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently I attended a conference where I met someone whom I can only describe as “my people”.

For me, a relatively introverted, insecure woman, it’s always a revelation when you meet someone you so readily connect with. It makes me think I mustn’t be such a bad person.

This lovely woman and I hung out over the two days of the conference, laughing and telling stories and getting to know each other. At dinner on the final night, she turned to me and said, almost shame-facedly,  “I know we’ve chatted on Twitter and email before, but in person you’re nothing like I expected. I actually thought you’d be a bit boring.”

Some people might find that offensive, but I didn’t. Because I knew she was right.

I put up a facade online, one designed to tell a particular story to a particular kind of person. But that facade isn’t me. And really, it’s no longer the person I’m working to be either.

The real me is less bland and more human.

  • I laugh at inappropriate moments.
  • I have perennially messy hair.
  • I would prefer to clean the toilet than do the ironing.
  • I get really, really obsessed with ideas, people, and stories.
  • I protect my alone time fiercely and don’t react graciously when it’s taken away.
  • I talk in an American accent when I’m quoting movies.
  • I am a Walking Dead fangirl.

And I’m coming to realise that, really, I’m OK with all of this.

In fact, when I embrace the real me – the one I am being when I don’t feel the need to be another version – I feel good in my own imperfect, weird skin.

When I look at the people I am drawn to, the stories I remember, the ideas I share, they are all imperfect and weird and human and non-bland. It’s what makes them interesting.

For a long time, I removed my own “interesting” in favour of “palatable”, and then wondered why I never felt fully comfortable in my own skin–when the truth was, I was wearing someone else’s version of my skin. Or, rather, I was wearing my version of what I thought someone else thought should be my skin. (Sounds exhausting.)

Now I still battle my insecurities, but as I get older I’m beginning to realise those insecurities are universal and they’re OK. We all worry to a certain extent about being liked, or at least being likeable. But what I’m learning, and what I believe many of us would benefit from understanding, is that walls come down when we allow ourselves to be, well…ourselves.

Can I say that last piece again?

Walls come down when we allow ourselves to be ourselves.

This post was first published on September 19, 2014.

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