When I was younger, my sister and I would walk through parks, zoos, malls, you name it: holding hands. Her idea, not mine. It was an exercise in not caring about what people think. She has always been the free spirit, while I’ve taken a bit longer to get here. Worrying about what others think of me used to take up a lot of my mental energy. But I’m learning to let that go.
I was the quiet kid in high school. Going to five different schools before graduating high school will do that to you. Or at least if you’re an introverted kid like me.
Each new place I moved to, I tried to study the cool kids and figure out how to get them to accept me. The thing is, I’m such a brutally honest person, that being anyone but myself never felt right. The result was a pit in my stomach when a social requirement was coming up. I always had so much anxiety about what they would think of me. What would they think of my love for reading? My deep connection to my dog Marley? Or my super close relationship with my family? Wasn’t I supposed to hate reading and push my family away for time with friends? There was always this tension within me, trying to decide which side of the line to fall on.
I realize this all sounds like I led a stressed and anxious childhood, and that’s definitely not the case. The truth is, I had a great childhood. I love my family, not only my immediate family but my extended family as well. I’ve lived up and down the East Coast, and Colorado after college. The chance to live in a variety of places, with different cultures and interests, has shaped me into who I am today. Someone who can relate to a variety of people. Who can connect with where they are from because I’ve probably lived there, or somewhere like it, at some point in my life.
There was a shift in me during my senior year of high school.
I’d been in Richmond, Virginia for almost four years, and was starting to feel pretty comfortable with my classmates. I had my solid group of friends, marching band was keeping me busy, and I just felt happy. It began to matter less what others thought of me, and more what I thought of myself. Yoga, working out, and an interest in following cool recipes I found on the internet started to fill up my free time. Fun fact, I used to pick a cool dinner recipe to make while binge watching Top Chef with one of my best friends. (Hey Bubba!) I started to tune into what made me happy, regardless of if it was the cool thing to do.
Ever since this shift senior year, I’ve slowly settled more into being who I’m meant to be. I’ve moved quite a bit since graduating high school, and never back to Richmond. While some retreat back to their hometowns after graduation, moving around taught me that I can easily adjust to new places.
I believe that people don’t change, they just become stronger versions of themselves.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve slowly stripped away my insecurities to reveal my core self. Doing something because it’s what everyone else is doing is never going to make you truly happy. Sure, you might be accepted by the “cool kids,” but now you have to keep up that persona. How is that going to make you feel? Is it really worth the energy? I’d argue that it’s not.
Instead, be unapologetically you. Being authentic seems to be a 2017 trend. Which I think is great! But it also makes me question who’s real and who’s just pretending to be. If you’re pretending, I want you to know that it’s okay to let your guard down. When you let go of the pressure from others, and are 100% you, you’ll attract those who are meant to be in your life.
Find your tribe. Love them hard. And all that jazz.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ~Brene Brown
Let’s show up for ourselves. I know it can be scary to let your guard down. Just know that when you let others see the real you, it’s amazing to feel seen in return. Letting your true self be seen will relieve you of so much stress and anxiety. You can take that mental energy, and funnel it into something much more productive. Like working toward your ultimate dream of owning a wellness center in the mountains. Or working from home so you can travel the world and immerse yourself in new cultures. Whatever your dreams are, they’ll happen more quickly when you let your authentic self shine. So be brave with me and let everyone see the real you.
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