I’m just returning from a fabulous trip to my old stomping grounds—the Twin Cities, in Minnesota—where I gave a talk on blogging at the Bloomington Writers Festival. Afterwards, an attendee emailed me (let’s call her Kat), thanking me for giving her permission to explore whatever topic she wishes on her blog. She often holds herself back, she explained, for fear of what others will think.
“So here’s what I’m thinking of covering,” she wrote, then listed incredibly unique and insightful topics. “You honestly don’t think people will think I’m weird or crazy for these? Sorry to ask again, but I’m nervous and could use some reassurance!”
What a kick-ass woman, right? I love that she’s planning to step out of her comfort zone and reached out for support. She didn’t need to apologize, of course, but I imagine most of us can relate to what she’s experiencing—that apology included.
On the plane ride back to LA, I spent some time
daydreaming preparing for upcoming radio segments (okay, same thing). Tomorrow, I’ll interview Stephanie Berman, creator of an intimacy product that helps lesbian couples get pregnant.
Amid controversy and criticism, Stephanie has succeeded, and continues to better the lives of many. I plan to ask her how she’s managed to deal with naysayers, answers to which I think will apply to the most brutal type: those that rise up within ourselves.
I’ll also answer a few questions from listeners,’ which happen to tie into this theme. Nearly every email I receive from listeners features similar lingo, and while the specifics vary, they ask virtually the same question. Women want to know, “Am I normal?” I think they’re really asking, “Am I okay?”
We want to be extraordinary and unique, but without ruffling anyone’s feathers; to feel beautiful just the way we are, but without others judging us harshly against their standards; to live full, authentic lives, but without letting others down by not living up to their expectations.
If we truly want extraordinary, authentic lives in which our dreams not only come true, but better the lives of others (which is exactly what authentic lives and dream-work do), we’ve got to kick those BUTs and ‘their’ worries out the window. It’s not often easy, but learning to shift the focus from self-doubt to self- awareness and embracement may be the closest thing to magic I know of.
Ask questions and seek support, particularly when it comes to important yet wrongfully taboo topics like sexuality. When you find yourself asking questions that have more to do with doubting yourself than a particular thought or behavior, though, dig deeper: Why are you doubting? What’s the worst that could happen? Does what others think of you matter more to you than leading a happy, healthy life?
My Minnesota trip ended with a visit with my first modeling agent, Teqen, who I hadn’t seen in years. He was one of the first to offer support when I was diagnosed with anorexia, regardless of the fact that my hiatus to focus on healing meant that I wouldn’t be bringing any cash or esteem to their company.
“What you do isn’t important to us,” he said back then. “What matters is who you are.”
I’ve held those words close to my heart ever since. More than a decade later, Teqen and the Vision crew continue to embrace me as family. I feel the same way about them.
The reunion was another illustration to me just how powerful self-embracement is. Gone are the days when I let insecurity cloud my days, keeping me from living, except from a distance. Back then, I’d have worried that he was judging me, that I’d say the wrong thing or simply would not have shown up. I certainly couldn’t have written authentically then.
Instead, I reconnected with a friend of the truest variety, the kind who cares more about your soul and well-being than your details.
We’ll always doubt ourselves on occasion; it’s part of being human. What’s important is not letting it stifle us. Doing away with a self-doubt mindset allows us to be more present and grateful in our lives and for others, rather than caught up in, “Am I okay?” Because, quirks and all, there’s never a doubt that we are. The only permission needed to get there is our own.
“…and the day came when the risk to remain tight, in a bud, became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Elizabeth Appell