“In the Month of June” by Laurits Andersen Ring, 1899. (Public Domain)
I always both feared and idolized confident authenticity in others. It seemed dangerously self-indulgent to just be out there in the world, unguarded. I preferred the incognito approach for myself. I watched everyone around me and tempered my every action to please as many people as possible. Invisibility would have been ideal, but I settled for nice.
Let others go first. Let others choose. Take up as little space as possible. Apologize for having needs. I was really good at this.
I still am. Mine is not a midlife rebellion story. I still choose to be polite, but I am now being honest too. Pretending to be someone else only spares temporary conflict; it does not lead to true peace.
I still try to fit in, but I now accept that I will seem out of place in some settings no matter what I do.
I am grateful for what is offered to me, but if I have strong preferences against something, I will speak up now. No, thank you. I’m not interested. I have learned to say no.
I used to feel powerless. I used to seek protection and approval from men and people in authority, as if getting them to like me would keep me safe somehow. I have learned that such safety is an illusion, and that giving my power to others is a worse threat than risking independence.
My voice and my wishes were buried so deep that I had lost them. The change came with becoming a mother, and realizing that I want to raise girls who are stronger than I was. The change came when I had faith that if there is a God of Love, my whole self would be loved, not just pieces. The change came when others saw through my pretenses and loved the pieces of me that I thought were unlovable.
True grace changes you. It gave me the courage to unearth the roots of my dormant self.
No more filling my days with what other people want, nurturing their wishes for me and tending to things that choke my soul. No more living in someone else’s eyes.
It’s time to let my whole self have its chance in the sun.