Authenticity: the courage to be yourself

21 Oct

self-pic

Earlier this week I attended a women’s empowerment/networking event and directly after that I scooted over to a fundraiser where a famous Canadian cook book author was speaking.  I didn’t think the two events would collide topic wise but they did.  The author didn’t speak about creating recipes or testing them – she focussed on talking about loving yourself, believing in yourself, following your instincts and having a sense of humor along the way.  She continued to talk about the psychology of getting skinny/being skinny – it is a whole lot harder to do when you have negative thoughts in your head about yourself and you’re hanging onto things that happened to you in the past.

I was born with a very large mole on the side of my face.  Not just a flat one, but a raised one with hair and a nice brown ring around it which made it even bigger.  Awesome, just what you want on your cheek.   I had a very special grandfather – he was a big gentle giant type and even though he passed away suddenly when I was 7,  I can still clearly remember him.  He would tell me that my mole was my beauty mark and it made me different from others.  I believed him.  I also have 3 older brothers who loved to, ummm, what words should I use, mentally torture me when we were kids.  After Grandpa passed away I only recall hearing them say I had shit on the side of my face and a rat was going to come gnaw it off when I was sleeping.  Kids would point in the grocery store and ask their parents ‘What is on her face?’  The parents would say ‘shhhh’ and awkwardly steer their finger pointing kid away.  I ended up having the mole taken off when I was 13 as it presented quite a risk for skin cancer  (and I hated it).  As much as I hated that mole it helped me develop a thick skin at a young age and also feel empathy towards others who looked a little different.   I hit puberty pretty early and when it hit I got big boobs and some blubber overnight.  That blubber has not been easy to lose.  I love food – I get great JOY from a delicious meal shared with others.  My metabolism isn’t the same as some of my girlfriends who can seemingly eat whatever they want, not exercise a whole lot and still be a size 4.  A few years ago when I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro I lost 5 pounds.  Yup.  Everyone else was like ‘oh my god I can barely keep my pants up with the training and then 6 days on the mountain’.  I’ve learned to stop comparing myself to others who are not like me.  I walk at least 8 km a day: if I wanted to be a size 4 and not an 8,  I would have to run 20 km a day, only eat air or maybe get a tape worm.  But then I wouldn’t have big boobs and would probably wish I had bigger ones as it seems girls who are flat want some.  So you know what, I still have a scar on my face from that mole,  I have big boobs and a bit of a muffin top, but I try to love what I got and work with it.  There are so many other more important things to think about.  And honestly, I always find girls who are overly concerned with what they eat and what they look like… boring and not all that much fun anyway.

I also have a very loud voice.  My parents, in fact, thought I was deaf when I was kid and took me to get my hearing tested.  Nope, I clearly heard all of the buzzes and beeps that the audiologist tested me with.  My hearing is fine.  My voice is just loud or as teachers would put it nicely ‘it projects well’.  In grade 3 we had an old Battle-axe substitute teacher for a few weeks as Mrs MacDoanld (our oh so lovely teacher) had a pneumonia.  This was just before our Christmas concert which was such an enormously exciting night for someone like me – getting up on a stage was my jam.  We had to rehearse our songs with the mentioned Battle-axe.  So we got into our spots and started to sing.  She stopped everyone and pulled me out.  She had my class continue to sing without me.  At the end she said something like ‘that is how the songs are supposed to sound.  You are too loud and you’re ruining it’.  Just as I can recall my Grandpa making me feel so special – I can also recall clearly how small and completely embarrassed she made me feel.  But ya’ want to know what… I shook it off because even at that young age I recognized that her opinion was not one I respected and my Mom/Dad would have told me to just go and be yourself – she doesn’t matter.   I went to that Christmas concert in a dress that I loved (I’ve always had a love for fashion) and I sang my bloody heart out.

I’ve always loved to talk. I have a fascination with other people and love learning new things.  As a kid I was told to be quiet.  A lot.  You know that old rule about children should be seen and not heard.  That rule stinks. I used to love going visiting with my Mom as I got to hear and participate in adult conversations.  In fact, I did a speech for 4-H when I was maybe 12 called Born to Talk and that speech won me a provincial championship.   It seems my loud voice (which projects well) is great for public speaking and my love of talking is too.  Yeah baby!   When I feel my most authentic self it is when I am connecting with others and having great conversation.  I am not quiet and being quiet doesn’t bring me contentment.

I really enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert.  Not the Eat, Prey, Love stuff (I didn’t even get through the eating end of things), but some of her guest articles and blog entries really get me jazzed.  One in particular had me nodding while I was reading it.  Life isn’t about what happens to you. Life is about how you perceive and react to what happens to you.  A lot of the things which I was criticized for as a kid are my greatest assets as an adult.  I generally care little about what others think about me – after all what you think of yourself is far more important than what others think about you.   I choose to spend time with people who like to build others up (that includes my brothers – they don’t mentally torture me anymore) and not the types who tell people what they ‘should be like’.  Unsolicited advice from people who are not inspiring is never beneficial.   Yesterday the CEO of the organization I work for (who is someone I greatly admire for always being true to who she is) posted a great quote and it reminded me of a quote I love by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful.”

So ladies and gentlemen (that’s right this isn’t just for women).   The last page of O Magazine is always a column by Oprah called What I Know For Sure.  I will close this in Oprah Style.  What I know for sure is: that we all have insecurities, we all have body bits which we don’t love and we’ve all had cruddy things happen to us.  But we all have amazing and unique bits about us, we all have totally gorgeous parts of us and we’ve all had wonderful things happen to us.  The more you focus on your talents, what you like about yourself and the positive things in your life – the more confident you will feel, the sexier you will look and I can guarantee amazing things will continue to happen to you.  As I was told so many times before- just be yourself. If you have kids hammer that into their heads.  Your life is your story.  Make it one others want to read.

 

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