Houston, we have a problem. I’ve gone through conversations about heartbreaks, love, grief and now I’m tackling self-discovery and authenticity. What’s the problem you ask? The problem is I’m tired of people asking or wanting me to change. Like anyone else there’s a laundry list of things about myself I’d love to alter overnight. Sometimes I wish I was more toned. I wish my hair was easier to manage. I wish my nose wasn’t so big. I’ve even wished I was a different skin color because navigating the world looking like me is not always one big pride party. These are usual insecurities that people have about their appearance. But to change my personality would be asking me to change myself and I can’t be anyone else.
I pride myself on my ability to connect with people past surface level beliefs and ideals. To navigating the world in my own way, with my own style and my own methodology of communication. Simply put it has taken so much time and I’ve lost parts of myself along the way, but I love being me and I wouldn’t change that for anything. This article isn’t a think piece on how to love yourself but rather a reminder to just be yourself and to fall in love with who you are. I’ve spent years trying to be molded into the person that everyone wanted me to be. The perfect son, the perfect partner and to have a perfect image curated so finite to a point that no one can ever say, “I’ve seen you at your worst.” When so many people perceive you living a picturesque fantasy the reality is in living this way everyone has seen me at my worst because the image that you see isn’t always real. How do I cope in a reality where my only form of armor is to never let the world see me crumble? Is my authenticity real or is that part of the facade? There’s a cost to everything.
I often tell people in short to just be authentic. In Queer spaces, on social media and in our friend circles we share these intimate glimpses into our lives in hopes that our stories and narratives that we weave bring us deeper connections and in turn create unbreakable bonds with our fellow humans. For my own part, I sometimes struggle with reminding myself that there is no such thing as being too authentic. Is what you see always what you get? In my case my words always feel genuine, but my emotions may not always be. I was once told that a whole room may know if I’m angry but may never know if I’m happy. That sentence struck a chord with me, and it got me wondering, do I deprive myself of genuine joy in the pursuit of making others happy? Do I focus more on how I’m perceived with these carefully curated stories I share about my life? Or is the real way I connect with others more than just about perception? I have no answers to any of these questions.
In a previous article I talked about how someone in my life once said I care more about my image above all else. As I explored that sentence more, I thought about how often I’ve been asked to change or to tone myself down in defense of said image. Why should I have to be different to fit the image that was created of me in someone else’s head? I’ve been told a lot of things in my time on this earth. I’ve been told how I should dress because someone is always watching. I’ve been told how I should speak because people are always listening. And I’ve been told how I should live because my lifestyle isn’t “traditional”. These sentences go as far back as my upbringing and as far forward as my love life. At some point I had to realize was I living my life for others more than I was for myself?
I want to be loved for me and not for how you see me. The clothes I put on are my commitment to basking in my truth. But as we talk about the armor, we wear sometimes that can be chipped away. What’s underneath the clothing? My skin. What’s beyond my skin? Who am I outside of the surface level things where one I can change and one I can’t? I live the way that I live because I never want to be told I’m not enough. I’ve shared through my writing that it’s okay to shatter into a thousand pieces in the name of speaking from your heart. But truth be told I’ve never been comfortable with the world being able to see so far into my life. So, when the pieces need to be put back together, I ask myself, “Did I still sparkle?” When what I should have been asking is “Will I be okay?” How do I show up for myself more and not the image that exists for others? The truth here is that I have been told I’m not good enough. Whether it be through actions or harsh truths. I wasn’t good enough for a job, I wasn’t good enough to be part of someone’s life and in some cases I wasn’t good enough to continue to be loved. Within those truths came the actuality of knowing my own worth. My existence is not and cannot be tied to that of others and that is the journey I’m learning for myself. I love myself enough to know that the perception that others have should not dictate my existence.
It may be cliché but part of loving yourself is to know yourself. I’m finding new ways to fall in love with life and half of the journey so far is to not live for the validation of others. There’s no such thing as perfection and as I’ve routinely been told, perfection is the enemy of great. Being okay is more than enough. The standards that were created are things that we should dare to defy. So, I ask this last question. Who are you underneath your armor?