Lately I’ve been embracing who I am and practicing the habit of owning what makes me different. Throughout high school and college, I was really embarrassed of certain things about myself. I was embarrassed of my height, my career choice, my culture, my tendency to be a homebody, my religion, my love of writing. Basically, I was embarrassed of everything that made me stand out. I was embarrassed of all of me.
I admitted this to my mother one day. I came home ashamed because I told some friends I didn’t like to drink and they teased me the whole night about it. I was being super sensitive, and I was embarrassed of that too.
My mother looked at me with a surprised face in response to all of this and said, “I thought I raised you to be stronger.”
That’s my mother, always taking my failure as a sign that she had done something wrong. But this is not on my mother, it’s never on my mother. It’s on me. My response to who I am is a testament that no matter how much we can grow up feeling loved and valued, it’s inherently part of our nature to think less of ourselves. To have so much doubt, even among so much truth.
When we’re embarrassed of who we are, it’s mostly because we’re afraid of how people will respond to us. We’re afraid of being isolated or not listened to. But it’s more exhausting to pretend to be someone you’re not. When you allow yourself to be you, loudly and unapologetically, there’s a sense of freedom. And you begin to free others, too.
I remember one instance in college in which I was (oddly) very talkative and bold in class. I would raise my hand and ask as many questions as I pleased. My professor, who would later become my mentor as a consequence of my outgoingness, called me into her office and thanked me. “For what?” I asked her. “Because of you,” she said, “everyone in class started speaking up, when they saw how freely you spoke up.”
Although I am nowhere near as confident as I’d like to be, I recognize that confident, bold people have some sort of power. When they are themselves, the people around them begin to feel safe in expressing who they are, too.
Embarrassment and weakness will get us nowhere. Throw away the sorry’s and flushed faces. Be unapologetically yourself. Be loud, be sensitive, be incredibly flawed. Be foolish, be a romantic, a dreamer, a lover, be yourself, be yourself, be yourself, whoever that is, even if you don’t know yet. Find out. Then love yourself by choice.
This post was originally published on my Medium blog.