If you’re anything like me, then you know what it’s like to not feel at home in your own skin.
I used to hide in bathrooms stalls and watch Youtube when I was too self-conscious about my appearance to go to class.
I used to forgo school events, invitations to hang out with friends and opportunities to make memories because I didn’t know how to act in public (as if there was a “right way”).
I used to keep my mouth shut, keep my head down and keep my thoughts, feelings and true, authentic desires hidden.
I used to sit in corners, shrink behind walls and stay in the shadows, all because my mere existence was enough to embarrass me.
But eventually, I just got tired of living a life less than the one I was meant to be living and shrinking myself down to fit into spaces that were not meant for me.
This wasn’t an overnight epiphany or sudden, drastic change.
I had to coax myself out from the facade of my own fears and insecurities and step into my wonderful, whimsical weirdness. With every small act of authentic me-ness, I slowly started to inhabit the big, colorful, crazy mess that is my truest and highest version of myself.
I started to experiment with my fashion, including a pair of seven dollar black-and-white checkered pants from Goodwill and a wool beret. I started to strike up conversations and express my own thoughts, feelings, and opinions, without apologizing or holding back.
I started to let myself laugh (we’re talking full-on, red-faced, belly-laugh) and find joy in the simplest of moments.
I danced in the kitchen and sang in the car, skipped down the sidewalk and smiled at the mirror.
I started to do all of these things because I realized how empty and monotonous my life felt when I surrendered to the lie that I was not okay as I was.
But the truth is that the problem isn’t with ourselves, it’s with how we see ourselves.
We are brought up in a culture that prides us in our ability to conform and fly under the radar without challenging dominant ideologies of how we should look, act, think, and feel.
Yet at the same time, we are an individualistic society in which everyone must be special, above average, and completely unique.
What I experienced was not unique; in fact, this dichotomy is quite universal. We all feel strains between the dominant culture and our own individual voice, the “shoulds” and “oughts” of the world and wants and needs of our hearts. While it is naive to say that we can always defy our experiences of culture and society and say “eff it” when the going gets tough, life gets too impersonal, inauthentic, and ingenuine when we live it as the smallest version of ourselves possible.
I never realized how healing dancing to Beyonce while making breakfast can be, or how liberating blasting ‘90s pop and singing to my cat can feel. In these acts, I get to be my whole self, unhindered by the expectations of a world that does not get to define my experience of it.
In these moments, I am radically resisting the notion that joy is a luxury and weirdness a waste; I am embodying my emotions and reasserting my autonomy over my body, mind, and soul, and in this I feel free.
We can challenge our negative belief systems and change the way we think about ourselves simply by allowing these moments of pure joy to surface, in whatever way that looks like for us.
After all, life is too short to not burst into song or laugh until we cry. Unapologetic living is our birthright; it’s time we reclaim it.