In A Stranger to Myself, I wrote about discovering my own personal values and belief system. I got to know myself a little better and came to understand myself more deeply. I recognized my many assets as well as my shortcomings. I now want to continue this exploration of self.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word authentic to mean: “not false or imitation, real, actual; true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”
Over the years, I’ve allowed my trauma to create for me a life of fear and uncertainty. But when I think back, I wasn’t always afraid of living in the world. During my late teens, twenties, and thirties – even though I had suffered through years of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse – there was a part of me that remained fearless. I saw the world as full of promise, a world of possibilities open before me.
I think back to all the things I wanted to be when I was younger: a flight attendant, a photographic journalist for National Geographic magazine, an archaeologist, an oceanographer, a helicopter pilot, a hang glider and skydiver, a world traveler. For me, the one thing that these lifestyles have in common is a sense of adventure. That is what’s been missing from my life.
I’ve allowed my life to become very small because of fear. For some reason, the older I’ve gotten, the more fearful I’ve become. Perhaps it’s simply the realization of my own mortality that keeps me from venturing out into the world.
I don’t go into the city for fear of my car being stolen or my being mugged, raped, or killed. For me, cities have become a dangerous place, full of dangerous people. But cities are also wonderous places full of intoxicating sights, sounds, and smells. Cities have art galleries and museums, theater, music, dance, and restaurants galore. So much to explore, so much to experience.
Perhaps I can entice a friend to venture into the city with me, perhaps on a day excursion, so it won’t be as frightening. We could see a theater matinee and stop for a late lunch at a quaint bistro. Even though I live on a very tight budget, I can set aside a few dollars each month until I can afford to treat myself.
Writing and publishing my book about my experience as a trauma survivor has been an adventure of sorts. It’s my intention to offer readings and book signings in public libraries, churches, and bookstores, and to attend writers’ conferences. To do this, I’ll need to step outside my comfort zone. I’ll need to work through my fear of failure and rejection. It won’t be easy for me, but I feel up to the challenge.
Another aspect of my personality that I’ve allowed to be diminished is my sense of style. When I was younger, I wore clothes that mirrored my unbreakable Spirit. I wore bright colors and garments that expressed my uniqueness. I used to scour consignment stores and vintage clothing shops for just the right outfit or dress. But for years now, I’ve wanted to be invisible, so I’ve worn clothes as camouflage. I used to wear beautiful long flowing skirts and dresses. I have some in my closet, but I’ve gained so much weight that none of them fit me anymore.
Since I’ve gained weight, I’ve become comfortable wearing capris and t-shirts in warmer weather, long-sleeve shirts and jeans in colder weather. That’s it, that’s my wardrobe. I tell myself I have no money to buy clothes, and it’s true that money is tight, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put ten dollars aside each month until I can pay for one new article of clothing.
I also tell myself that it’s pointless to spend money on clothes now when my goal is to lose forty pounds. My friend tells me, “Dress the body you have, not the body you want to have.”
Part of getting reacquainted with my authentic self is owning my true personality, setting free what lies beneath my fear. My true personality is outgoing, creative, independent, strong, loving, and vibrant – it’s even a bit quirky. While I express these traits to some degree, I often hold myself back. I need to embrace my strength and allow my authentic self to shine. It’s time for me to stop hiding.
So, these are the goals I will set for myself: each month I’ll set aside money toward purchasing new clothes that express my authentic self. I will summon my courage and venture out into the world – even if it’s just a city a half hour from my home. Every day I will face my fear and open myself up to all the wonderful possibilities that life holds for me.