I’ve been reading the book, Untamed by Glennon Doyle. If you’ve read it, or are familiar with it, then you know it’s a story about a woman who colors within the lines, or tries her darnedest, for a majority of her life. Then, something magical happens. She decides to be unapologetically herself and unapologetically happy for it. Naturally, this has me thinking a lot about my currently over-apologetic self and how I came to be this way.
You see, society conditions us (men and women, but for these attributes I’m speaking specifically to women) to be seen and not heard. To be polite and pleasant and always put others before ourselves. We pride ourselves and base our entire worth as a woman on how helpful we are, or at least how helpful others perceive us to be. We feel guilt the moment we share an opinion that might come off as “too strong”, or when we want to do something that might disrupt our own, and others’, comfortable way of living. If we speak too loud, hurt someone’s feelings, do something for ourselves over doing something for someone else, we are pushed into a shame storm that lasts until we can finally redeem ourselves and someone by the grace of God comes along and tells us just how “good” we actually are. That feeling of validation for being someone society wants us to be, is exactly what keeps the vicious cycle going.
The idea of jumping off this wild carousel ride feels intimidating, almost impossible. As humans, we so badly want to be “liked.” We want others to think we are good. And we’ll do anything to get that stamp of approval. Of course, we don’t want to be running around like a bunch of assholes, but to what extent is making others happy causing us to lose ourselves? If we aren’t careful we might just end up as shells of humans with pretty hair, pretty smiles, and our entire existences spent searching for the next validating moment that tells us that we, indeed, have succeeded as the figure of a woman society so happily constructed for us.
I find myself lately asking for validation way more than I’m comfortable with. Way more than I think many of us would feel comfortable with. Confirmation to ensure that I’m not being too much, but also reassurance that I am still enough. A tight rope I’ve walked my whole life, that I have only brought myself to question a handful of times. I have put the responsibility of making sure others feel comfortable, that others feel happy, before myself. I will feel uncomfortable, I will feel unhappy. So long as others around me don’t. So long as they think I’m nice and pretty and pleasant.
But within those lines is not where great things happen. Life, real life, cannot happen there. There, we do all the things we think we’re supposed to do. The things we think we “should” do. And then a whole life passes and you look back and realize you never really did anything you actually wanted. You never really lived your life for you.
We’re told that we can’t be contradictory or controversial. Everyone is much more comfortable with us being calculated, careful. But we can make mistakes and still be good. We can have strong opinions and stick by them even when it makes others uncomfortable. We can exist in our fullness without being sorry for it. What we cannot do is survive in a life where every little action and reaction is given all of our energy to think through it first in fear of how it’ll be perceived. Or where we would rather live with caution, never putting ourselves out there, in fear of rejection.
Our existence is not purposeful in making others feel comfortable. Our existence becomes powerful when we give others permission to live their lives fully, by living ours fully too. I can think back to many times when society has tried to keep me locked in a perfectly finished little box. It still does. And I still feel the pressure of those walls. Every time I think of myself as lesser I am reminded that they are still there. But there’s a way out of that box. It’s not locked. We can choose to challenge those thoughts and feelings and decide that we are both not too much and more than enough, all on our very own.
We are all capable of amazing things. No favors are done by shrinking into “should.” It is a great disservice, to yourself and to the world, to be anything but you. A you that lives life how they want, on their terms. A you that loves themselves, unconditionally and unapologetically. We must forgive all the apologies from our past, people-pleasing selves, and trust ourselves enough to make way for the new, shiny, unapologetic being that’s been here inside us all along. Just waiting to break free.
She is loved. She is you. She is perfect.