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Friday, May 28, 2004

Permission to be

The older I get the more I'm enraptured by the sheer interconnectedness of human beings. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we are influenced by those around us on a daily basis. Sometimes those influences are manifest outwardly, in the clothes we wear, in the places we frequent or the lifestyle we lead.

Sometimes those influences are felt in a far more intimate way. I had a lengthy driveway discussion last night with my mom. (Don't we always do our best visiting as we are leaving?) I'm not really sure how we got on the topic, but she told me that it always worried her that my sister and I never viewed ourselves as attractive. I'm not sure what that stems from…perhaps from developing early (to my sheer horror) when all I really wanted to be was invisible. Maybe it was the insecurity of frequently being the new kid. Or, quite simply, maybe it stemmed from the realization that I never really felt comfortable in my own skin.

I always felt lacking in sophistication, grace, knowledge...pretty much everything that I associated with beauty. But I am older now and—I hope—a little wiser. I've realized that real beauty is how you feel inside after you've made a bit of peace with yourself. And that's something I only seem to grasp with age. Although this may not seem like any big revelation for many, for me it is huge.

This has been a time of intense self-reflection. I'm standing at one of life's crossroads, unable to see the path precisely but willing to take the journey anyway. And I'm willing to take that journey now because I've developed some strong friendships with people who haven't necessarily given me courage, but have given me permission to be who I am and share that person with the world. Sometimes it's these people, outside of our normal circle of loved ones, who shine the mirror best. People who aren't obligated to tell us we're talented, but who reflect our gifts even when our own mental blinders are obstructing the view.

The result is that through this process of self-examination, of pushing myself creatively to places I've never considered possible, I'm also becoming more at peace with the physical me. Although I doubt I'll ever be graceful or sophisticated (sorry, mom), I've also discovered that I hold within me a lifelong desire and openness to learn. And that's a beautiful thing. I don't need all of life's knowledge at my fingertips—only to have the chance to discover and explore it at my own pace.

Beauty comes from acceptance. Although I am my own worst critic and probably always will be, I'm also learning to forgive myself for past mistakes instead of letting the fear of reliving them drive me to immobility. I'm scared to do that, but it feels right, even as I struggle with what the "right thing" means. On its most basic level, I think it means being true to yourself. And that has been the most amazing part of this introspective journey—discovering myself.

So after traveling a circuitous route—bursting self-confidence as a child followed by decades of self-doubt—I feel as if I'm home. I'm not completely settled mind you. I couldn't be because I still feel as if I don't completely fit in. But that's okay—and giving myself permission to be okay is the most beautiful thing of all.

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