Often in the past few months I've held this inward conversation with myself asking, am I afraid to live up to my full potential? am I afraid to be successful? am I afraid to be well liked and noticed? am I afraid to be myself, to be authentic? am I afraid to be happy? The scary answer following all these questions was Yes. I've made a few efforts since asking, to change the answer to Hell No!
One of them was taking my barbie blond hair which I loved and dying it dirty dish wash blond so that I could grow out my natural color without looking like a skunk. I've also been making an effort to wear make-up less, like you know to the grocery store doing the mundane. These were the first baby steps to being authentic, and let's be honest physical changes were the easiest place to start, the mental changes are the tough part. I feel like making the physical changes is a step in the right direction to being authentic, and will help, (just as this blog does) to train my mind not to worry what others think about me.
Usually Sundays are a day when we get together with family. I began to be aware that although I am happy, I formed this habit of keeping to myself, observing, instead of interacting, and it appears that I am unhappy and not having fun. To change this, I'm attempting to smile more. It's strange but by smiling, I actually feel happier, even though I thought I was happy before, and smiling does contribute to having a more enjoyable time.
Then there's how many times do I self-sabotage? The many times I remember to pray but don't, eat the wrong thing when there are plenty of healthy choices in the fridge, stay up late even though I could go to bed early. These are little things, and maybe it sounds like I hold myself to an impossible standard, because really, we all eat the wrong thing sometimes, fall into spiritual ruts, and do things in general that we know aren't good for our bodies. Still, I like the idea of striving for something better, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it when I don't choose the best option. Part of that also lies in the goal of authenticity, and owning who I am without being ashamed.
Something else I've meant to do over the last decade is become better at conversation. I've always admired Mike's Grandma on how she is a great conversationalist, especially her ability to make you feel like you're the most important person in the world. I once complemented her on this and she told me she really appreciated the complement because it's something she's worked on her whole life, and it didn't ever come naturally. From that day I knew I wanted to be like her.
I can't rely on my past experiences to help me out. Sure, I had lots of friends in high school, but in high school you're thrown into social situations every day you can't avoid. I've found that as an adult, especially since getting married and having kids, oh it's very easy to avoid all social situations, until you've forgotten how to mingle and do small talk.
This will take time as I have spent the last decade enjoying my cocoon, and i'll admit, I didn't even care about making friends. I was perfectly happy to stay home and enjoy my alone time. I secretly love (well not so secretly anymore) to be alone. However, going through depression made me realize I had no support system outside of my husband. That turned out to be a scary place, but I only have myself to blame for avoiding every opportunity I had to make new friends in a new place. So I've come to the amazing conclusion (and I apologize if this is very mundane and old news to a lot of people) that to be a healthy, functioning, happy person, friends and social circles are actually important, even though I don't naturally crave them.
How does one do this? Especially when you're married to an introvert like myself, so you don't really have an example close at hand? I love to read, and I'm a very practical person. I love stories that teach me something, that have an impact on the way I see the world, even when I'm reading fiction. So this translates into my current book How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends. Did I just admit that? Yes, the title does make me sound desperate, and socially awkward, but I'm not above reading about something I'd like to get better at. Now I'm only two pages in, but I found page 1 very enlightening,
OMG! you mean that is why I don't meet people? Really? I thought keeping my arms folded was a way of saying I am totally uncomfortable in this situation and I just really need a hug right now so I'm hugging my self for comfort, nope! huge surprise.
So if I see you in the grocery store, or church, or on the street, wherever, and attempt to make conversation, be kind, I'm a beginner, I promise to get better with practice. And just in case you need clarification, I'm not coming out of the rainbow closet. I'm coming out of the closet you pass through to become authentically you, to be unafraid of who you really are, and share that person with others because you tell yourself that anybody would be lucky to have a friend like you, and it would be a waste to stay hidden.