Trying To Fix My Self When I Was Not Broken
As my dad drove up the interstate from Florida to Pennsylvania, heading to Grammy’s house for Christmas, I rolled down the window in my backseat refuge and let the wind pound on my face.
Dogs do this for sheer joy but I was doing it with an agenda, a silent prayer to God that he would somehow reshape my face into something beautiful. I thought my face was like sculptor’s clay, malleable and still wet…able to become more than what it presently was; I was only 12 and so it seemed possible (please God, it had to be possible) and not just some crazy idea.
It’s not that I was ugly necessarily; it’s just that I wasn’t special.
On this particular trip to see Grammy she would coin the phrase that I would embrace as my whole personality—“mousy brown”—nothing spectacular, kind of dull, unremarkable. Of course, she hadn’t been describing me when she used the phrase, but I embraced it nonetheless. She was quite loving and doted on me, always having my favorite cereal, Apple Jacks, in the white washed cupboard every time we visited (even when I was 24 years old).
I was born a brunette introvert and my sister, the exact opposite, a blonde extrovert. Although this probably isn’t uncommon, I often wonder if our extreme differences fed our personalities even more. During our teens, she became more and more rebellious while I became more passive and what I would call invisible, never causing my parents problems or concern.
My sister, naturally beautiful, exuberant, smart and outgoing, was everything I wished I could be but instead, I was mousy brown.
Being an Air Force Brat I took every move across the country as an opportunity to reinvent myself, long before Madonna became famous for doing so. I would tell myself that I was going to be known as Susanne, my middle name, because Lynn was far too boring and obviously holding me back. If I could change my name then I could change who I was completely. But, in the end, I always chickened out and would blurt out “Hi, I’m Lynn!” afraid that the other party would somehow know I was an imposter.
Over the years I read numerous self-help books that promised to change me into who I was really supposed to be, which I’m sure was a table-top dancing socialite who also happened to be BFF’s with Jenn Aniston. But these books never took into consideration that which I already was.
I was always trying to fix myself even though, as I look back, I’m not sure I was even broken.
Had I just embraced my personality at an early age, I might have saved myself from years and years of living an inauthentic life. I believe that this fight, which persisted in my mind, led me to much of the depression I suffered as a young adult. I was constantly comparing myself to my more outgoing sister and friends, often forcing myself to project that image although it grated against my very existence. It was exhausting and left me feeling hollow and unable to define who I really was inside.
It makes for a hard life, this denial of our true self.
Making decisions based on who we wish we were rather than embracing who we really are leads to shallow relationships, stressful work situations (if you’re an introvert who accepts a position geared toward an outgoing, extroverted personality, it can cause you to dread waking up on Monday morning) and, perhaps worse of all, it can mean missing out on opportunities that help introverts thrive.
This is the same issue I take with self-help books and magazine articles whose sole purpose is to convince us that we are never quite good enough.
It’s a fine balance and one that is in constant flux. However, if we fight against our inherent personalities, seeking to change those very things which define us as who we truly are and buy into the billion dollar self-help industry we will forever be at war with ourselves.
Granted, there is nothing wrong with trying to increase our compassion, overcome our addictions, break our bad habits and enhance our goods ones but change must come from a place of love and acceptance, not of loathing, self-hate or denial.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned to accept myself as being exactly who I need to be, in the place I am at that very moment and to look at these moments and circumstances as opportunities that can either enhance my life, open my mind, validate (or invalidate) a belief or even offer a major life-changing revelation.
Learning to meditate helped me realize that right inside of me is perfection…to accept that “God” is in all of us is to accept that there must be perfection in us as well.
Like sculptor Michelangelo, who brought out the beauty that was already inside the stone without destroying the entire stone, we too must search for our authentic selves without destroying everything that makes us… us.
Lynn Bonelli was born in Japan and grew up an Air Force brat in the 70’s and 80’s. Spending half her life never really grounded she is often found rearranging her life, or at least her furniture, whenever she feels restless. Having recently met and married her soul-mate (third time’s the charm) and hitting the road as a full-time RVer Lynn is on a quest to rediscover America and feed her restless heart. Visit me on my blog here.
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