Saturday, July 7, 2012

Being true to who you are

One of the most important lessons I've learned in this life is to always be true to who you are. The younger that you are when you learn that, the better off you are. Deep down I've always known who I am, but there were a lot of bumpy roads to be traveled before I could truly allow myself to simply be me.

I was not the kind of daughter my mother wanted. Don't get me wrong, she loved me, but I knew at a very young age my way of thinking, doing and being was not up to my mom's expectations. She wanted a daughter who was what I call girly; into make-up, hair, cloths. I couldn't have been more opposite. I never wear make-up, I simply run a brush though my hair and I dress for my comfort not for fashion. I've been that way ever since I can remember. Sure my mother put me in cute little dresses up until I was about seven or eight years old but that's when I started rebelling.

T-shirt and hair cut
I'll give my mother credit for at least listening to me. She didn't like it and I had to listen to her cry like a baby when I got my hair cut short, then yelling when I wore a t-shirt to school on picture day. But she didn't really try to change me. I mean, she very well could have put her foot down and forced me at that age. She didn't. But I did have to hear comments about my differences throughout my childhood.

My grandmother didn't overtly want me to change, but like my mother there were comments here and there. I remember Christmas day 1976. My grandmother bought me a blue dress. She wanted me to wear it for dinner. I refused. There was no way she was gonna get me in a dress. Well, my grandmother could be pretty persuasive, especially with my mom and aunts to back her up, so we compromised. I wore what I wanted for the day, then after dinner I changed into the dress. I was so uncomfortable. Honestly I hated it. That was the last time I wore a dress. I think it was difficult for my grandmother to understand why I wasn't like other girls my age.

The dreaded blue dress
Even with the female influences in my life trying to tell me how I should be I never gave in. In fact it made me stick to my guns even more. I can be stubborn. I get that from both my parents. But the thing is, because of all the pulling in the opposite direction I became insecure. I felt as if I was being told I couldn't do anything right. Those exact words were never spoken, mind you, but the things that were said had the same affect. I didn't know why I was so different, I simply was. All I could do was be who I was but as I got older I began questioning everything I did and felt.

On the one hand I was confident. I knew who I was, what I wanted and how I wanted to live. On the other hand I'd constantly question myself. It caused a lot of internal pain in my youth. There were a lot of suppressed feelings that took a long time for me to be comfortable acknowledging to myself, let alone anyone else. I feel like I went through my teens and twenties as half a person. Until I could be completely comfortable with who I was, every molecule, no matter what my mother, grandmother or society said, there was a part of me missing. I had to keep parts of myself hidden from everyone, even from me for awhile.

I had to embrace every part of me. Once I did that I became whole again. I liked who I was. That made handling whatever life threw at me a little bit easier. It was okay to be me.

I look at my nephews today and I hope that they find out who they are and also feel free to be who they are at a young age. I also hope my brother and sister-in-law allow their sons to discover for themselves who they are, with no expectations forced upon them.

If I could impart one piece of advice to my nephews it would be the same advice I would give my 10 year old self. Always be true to yourself. Don't let society, or even your parents, dictate who you will become. Deep down you know who you are. Believe in that person. Be true to you.

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