Lots of people reading these words know what it’s like to feel we have to justify every feeling or need we ever experience.
Many of us grew up feeling that we don’t “deserve” to breathe the oxygen we breathe, or to take up the space we consume.
Some of us grew up being told, again and again, that we’re being “dramatic” or “attention seeking” when we try to get our needs met.
When we tried to be ourselves, we were told— either explicitly or implicitly— that we were “too much.”
So we grew up feeling guilty.
We grew up feeling “wrong.”
We grew up believing we had to rein it in. Rein ourselves in.
Some people reading this became obsessed with reducing the size of their body and making their body conform to a shape that other people find more acceptable or desirable.
It’s hard to develop a strong, stable sense of who you are if your attention and energy is constantly hijacked by thoughts about your weight or appearance.
We were sent the message again and again and AGAIN that we only have worth if somebody else finds us funny, or interesting, or attractive. Then, when we got preoccupied with what other people thought about us, we were told we should’t be so “insecure.”
How are we supposed to learn and develop who we really are, in the midst of all…that?
The truth is, you are not “wrong” for existing.
You do not have to earn or apologize for the resources you consume. The space you take up. The air you breathe. The food you require to live.
There will ALWAYS be people who try to reduce us to how well we fit their definition of “attractive” or “worthy.”
There will ALWAYS be people who will try, hard, to make THEIR opinions and preferences, OUR rubric for how to live life.
But EVEN IF we lived up to EVERYBODY’S expectations and preferences ALL THE TIME— which we won’t, which we CAN’T— we STILL wouldn’t be guaranteed happiness or success.
You— yes, you there, you reading this right now— have a right to define what “success” looks like in YOUR life.
You have the right to value what YOU value— whether or not it conforms to anybody else’s idea of what’s “valuable.”
You have things that YOU like. That YOU find interesting. That YOU find fun.
You have the right to make your life about THOSE things.
Yes, of course we’d prefer other people find us attractive and interesting— especially those people WE find attractive and interesting.
Yes, of course we want to have things in common with other people in our sphere, including interests and values.
But we can truly lose ourselves if we make other peoples’ interests, needs, and preferences the ONLY things we pursue.
There might be a part of you reading this right now thinking, “If I made MY life about ME, I’d be in trouble!”
It’s true that someone might want you to think that. Someone might want you to keep making your life about THEM— and they might very well threaten you with disapproval if you choose to make your life about YOU.
What can I tell you? Maybe it’s time to get into a little bit of trouble.
Make your life about YOU, you little troublemaker.
Make some people mad.
Let’s start figuring out who YOU are.