I’m tired of feeling like I have to fulfill some expectation of how I should look or feel or express myself. I am tired of being ashamed of my past, my trauma, my pain. I am tired of being anything other than little old authentic me.
At the end of Marge Piercy’s poem “What are big girls made of?” she writes, “If only we could like each other raw. If only we could love ourselves like healthy babies burbling in our arms. If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed to need what is sold us. Why should we want to live inside ads? Why should we want to scourge our softness to straight lines like a Mondrian painting? Why should we punish each other with scorn as if to have a large ass were worse than being greedy or mean? When will women not be compelled to view their bodies as science projects, gardens to be weeded, dogs to be trained?”
For most of my life, authenticity scared the hell out of me. Being truthful felt like such a huge risk! I was convinced that if I chucked the makeup and heels, chose being a stay at home mom instead of putting my Ph.D to use, spoke up and said NO sometimes and shared the darkness and pain of my childhood trauma, I would be rejected. So for too many years I buried away my voice and kept my truth to myself. I lived some version of who I wanted others to see. Until I couldn’t anymore, and, As Anais Nin has written, “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
In her life-changing book, “Unbound”, Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement, courageously shares the shame she lived with for so many years as a victim of sexual abuse. By starting #MeToo, she hoped that others would find the strength to tell their stories. And as we all know, more and more people continue to come forward, say “#MeToo” and fight for justice. Whether you are a survivor of sexual abuse or not, it’s impossible to read “Unbound” and NOT be unaffected. We all have stories that need to be heard. As Brene Brown said in a recent interview with Burke, “Reading ‘Unbound’ made me braver with my story and less willing to soften up the hard edges that are uncomfortable to talk about”.
What is your story? What have you been softening for the sake of not offending your family or your community? What have you been afraid to risk? Only you know when it is safe to tell your story. Be gentle and wise. But let Burke’s book, and the millions of people coming forward and unraveling their stories and sharing their truths encourage you to ask yourself what you are made of, and maybe begin to let go of the shame and false narratives and begin to have some uncomfortable conversations. I’m starting to. It’s hard, but honestly, feels so much better than pretending to be something I’m not.
Courage dear fellow-traveler, you are not alone.