I have spent a lot of time in my life figuring out how to fit in. How to blend in with the crowd. I struggled to look like everyone else, act like everyone else and make people believe I was no different from them. When I was younger, my only wish was to not be different. I didn’t want to be defined as anything other than regular or ordinary. Of course, this is because my life growing up was anything but regular or ordinary. My life was abnormal. My family was broken, I was broken. I did not have the opportunity to have a childhood like so many of my friends did. I never had the chance to be carefree and explore all the “normal” experiences of youth. Instead, I was hiding, I was covering, I was shielding.
When I would write stories as a kid, I would create characters that resembled what I believed to be ideal. They had two loving parents, lots of friends, beautiful dresses, and practically lived in castles with rooms filled with magical toys. I always gravitated towards the girls who embodied this image…and they never liked me because I was so very different. I was a square peg trying to contort myself to fit into a round hole. I refused to openly hang out with the kids who were outsiders because I could not comfortably admit that I was really one of them. It is probably why I was friends with so many gay boys who were deeply in the closet. We had so much in common – we were hiding out together.
Fast forward the clock. I’m now nearly 46 years old. I have hiked up and down metaphorical mountains in my life, searching for my place, looking for answers, trying to identify my own identity. I have explored every aspect of my personality and tooled around inside my mind in an effort to understand what makes me tick. I have confronted my demons (and continue to) and revealed my vulnerabilities in order to force myself to come out of hiding and show myself to the world. And, in the end, I know for sure that I do NOT fit in, I will never blend. I am not a face lost in the crowd nor am I a voice drowned out by the chorus.
And, guess what?
I love that about myself.
Today, just today, this very day, I acknowledged something about myself that I never have before. I accepted and honored the fact that I am different and I am so totally ok with my difference. My difference makes me unique and makes me talented and makes me special and makes me ME. And ME is pretty awesome. I know that to be true. It does not make me perfect. In fact, part of my uniqueness is my ability to be so unbelievably imperfect and yet so extraordinary at the same time. I don’t have a very big ego but I believe, without a doubt, that I am special and that I have gifts and talents that are so uniquely mine that I cannot try to compare or contain myself to anyone else’s paradigm.
Yesterday I was reading a really interesting article about how successful entrepreneurs have such distinct identities and how their embracement of their distinctions ultimately is part of their success. I felt liberated in the very moment that I read those words because I realized that I have been trying to conform to so many other people’s idea of who I am. For years, my mother would tell me that she knew me better than anyone and she would choose words – words that no mother should choose for her daughter – to describe me. I was labeled with unkind words and suggestions that I was dishonest and deceitful when my heart told me that i was sincere and authentic. Because I have a penchant for gravitating towards narcissists, I tended to be marginalized in my professional environments because I was always so gifted at elevating others while I was squashed underneath the weight of the massive egos I was bolstering. I was rarely recognized for my talents but, instead, scolded for my unwillingness to continue to be cast aside or passed over. When I tried to stand up for myself, I was brutally diminished because my needs to be whole were in direct contradiction with the narcissists need to be all-encompassing and overbearing. I was left to feel small and minimal.
When I read the article yesterday, I felt light and airy. I felt empowered to embrace my individual identity and explore those traits that are so uniquely mine. Now, of course, yesterday was not the first day that I figured out that being unique was a good thing. I have not been living under a rock for the last four and a half decades foolishly believing that blending in was the right strategy. But, sometimes, the smallest thing – the simplest of words – causes a piano to fall on your head. Sometimes a basic concept seems out of reach until suddenly it is not.
Once upon a time I was 45 years, 8 months and 15 days old and I stood up and believed in myself. I was confident and strong and brave and realized that there is nothing I cannot do and no trail I cannot blaze. I am different and unique and quirky and, sometimes downright odd. And I am me. Great, awesome me.