True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are. –Brené Brown
You know that feeling when something is off-kilter, but you can’t explain exactly what it is? I’ve felt that for a very, very long time now. Nearly six years, I think. This off-kilter sensation has been present and unwavering, and recently it’s felt like I’m about to tip over.
It’s not anxiety this time. Or depression. Or any of the things it has been so often in my life.
Absence of purpose. Absence of a clearly defined understanding of who I am and what I want out of life.
Absence of belonging.
Who am I? What do I want out of life?
In truth, I’m not sure. I’ve been asked that question recently, and the one answer I can come up with is “Well, I don’t know,” and, hi, that’s not really an answer.
I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m an employee. I’m a volunteer. I’m a friend. I’m a daughter.
But I think I’ve spent far too long trying to fit a mold of who I think I’m supposed to be, of what those roles are supposed to look like, instead of what and who I am.
I’m a woman. I’m flawed. Certainly. I’m a very imperfect human.
I can pinpoint the moment in my life where this absence began to creep in.
Several years ago (Yes. Years.) I felt shamed by people in my circle. Not ashamed. Shamed.
I am 98% certain that, despite the anonymity, these women were people I thought of as friends, at least in that sense of “we met on the Internet and I like you enough to friend you on Facebook and share my real name with you” which feels sort of silly now that Facebook has shared our data with the universe, but hey, this was a different time.
Their criticisms, while they held nuggets of truth, festered inside me. Shame turned to ashamed. Ashamed turned to fear. Fear turned to inertia.
I was afraid because I didn’t know who they are. I still don’t. But everywhere I turn online, I see their shadowed faces lurking, ready to pounce if I say something they deem…whatever. Unworthy? Superfluous?
(If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people, just stop pretending we’re friends and leave quietly. It’s okay. You do not have to continue to subject yourself to me. You have free will. Or, if you’ve stuck around and had a change of heart about who you believe me to be and maybe feel bad, you can apologize. Whichever.)
I’d like to cut these women out like a tumor or radiate them into oblivion. And sure, sometimes tumors come back, but at least I’d know that one was taken care of.
Why are we so terrible to one another?
I almost skipped Brené Brown’s keynote last week at Mom 2.0.
“I can sleep in,” I thought. Or maybe I would just go visit the sponsors at the event and show them some love. I just didn’t want to go.
I went anyway.
The day before that I attended Janelle Hanchett‘s session on finding your voice. Theoretically and practically, I know what voice is as a tool of writing, but my voice has been lost for far too long.
Throughout both the keynote and that session, I came to terms with the fact that this absence I’ve felt in my life and in my heart has been allowed to grow because for too long I’ve been afraid to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability, I learned, isn’t spilling your deep, dark secrets to the void. It’s sharing your truth and not knowing the outcome. Vulnerability and courage dance hand in hand. Any risk we take requires us to be vulnerable. The nature of risk is not knowing whether you’ll receive reward.
My mind has internalized rejection, ridicule, and more shaming as the outcome of writing publicly (or even the outcome of sharing things privately, I think) for years now, and it’s time I let that go.
I have to release that feeling of shame and self-doubt to find myself again. When I let the fear of what others may think control my actions, or even of what I think, I’m changing who I am to fit their requirements for belonging. It’s time to be cool with being uncool.
I was happiest when I was writing every day. Or almost every day. I felt most connected to myself as a woman and as a mom and wife then.
I got hurt. I got scared. I tried to be what I wasn’t to stay current with the changing landscape of blogging.
Post pinnable content! DIYs! Recipes! Land sponsored content! Don’t write long posts! Only write long posts! Make sure there’s a picture! More fluff, less substance! SEO the shit out of everything!
(FYI: all of those things are fine and good. I enjoy a lot of those things. Especially getting paid to write. But when it felt like everything around here became about traffic and nothing was about content, my soul died a little.)
Sharing our lives and telling our stories requires vulnerability in a way that writing a post about toothpaste probably never will.
Blogging has always–always–been about community and connection for me. Writing has always been the most honest form of self-expression I know, and right now I’m at a crossroads, once again figuring out who I am in this evolution of my life.
I’m parenting in the middle. We’re nearly halfway to having an Empty Nest (!!!!!).
I have no idea who I want to be when I grow up, so I suppose it’s time I just started being who I am right now.