Author’s note: When I wrote these pieces, I did not do the self-education that I needed to about some very problematic social justice issues in a pervasive culture of self-care. In the pieces I’ve written, I was not aware of how problematic and dangerous that white, privileged ideologies can be; and ally-ship includes taking responsibility for my role in the perpetuation of oppression, disentangling the toxicity of oppressive notions (especially in regards to healing), and bringing awareness to other white people to call out emotionally- and spiritually-bypassing culture
I wrote these articles with highly individualistic language, and cannot remove them according to Elephant Journal policy—but I hope that whoever decides to read them that has suffered from any marginalization or systemic oppression knows that I am committed to shifting rhetoric within my communities and am now involved in social organizing groups working towards a more rehabilitative and transformative culture.
Today, in a coffee shop, I thought I knocked into the leg of the woman across from me.
When I asked her if I did, she said, “No, don’t worry. If you did I would’ve screamed. I just got a hip replacement.”
She paused, and then said, “I think my fear of getting hurt is actually worse than the pain itself would be though.”
I responded, “That’s usually how life goes, isn’t it?”
And she said, “You’re so young, how do you know that? I’m 49, and I just learned that this year. I work in business. All of my clients are so scared of judgement—they can’t succeed how they want to, because they get in their own way. They’re so scared of what others will think of them for pursuing their wants and desires in business.”
She continued, “My whole life I’ve done that. I’ve been so hard on myself. I needed my hip replacement because of bone degeneration. I didn’t eat right and ended up here, all because of external judgment that I had internalized. All out of fear.”
I responded, “Once you lifted those conditions of worth, you found yourself, huh?”
Her eyes welled up.
She said, “Are you a writer? You sound like someone who knows.”
I nodded, hesitantly.
“Let me tell you what you need to do. You need to get your words out there, just like I do. Don’t go for the following. Go for what you know to be true. Do you have a struggle? Share it.
Don’t try to connect with anybody but yourself first thing in the morning. Your success may not be immediate. Being yourself, out loud, will be the hardest thing you ever do, but it will come back to you.
If people don’t like you, they don’t matter. Not everyone will understand.
Your belief in yourself has to supersede your current state of success.
Act as though a light is shining out of your chest. At the grocery store. In line for your coffee. I see you sitting with your shoulders slouched—change that.
You want to be successful, like anyone else, right? This is how it’s going to happen for you: Be yourself out loud. Be your struggle out loud. Now I’m going to get back to work.”
A light bulb went off. The knowledge from this conversation was irreversible. She taught me lessons just by sharing her story—by being herself.
How does one become less affected by fear?
I think it means getting naked, and being okay with it.
It means shedding the clothes—ideas of worth and value placed on us—that we’ve enveloped ourselves in and figuring out what we look like underneath them. Facing ourselves bare, and then loving the crap out of what we see.
There are going to be things that we don’t like.
Making amends and becoming okay with these things is the big work—that’s what this woman meant by saying being yourself will be the hardest work you ever do in your life.
When she said “be yourself out loud,” what she really meant was to live out the truth we find underneath. It’s one thing to get naked and understand what we see, but we also have to live out what we find.
It doesn’t mean we have to get naked for the world, but it does mean we have to get naked for ourselves, honing in on strengths and weaknesses and accepting both.
I had never considered myself a strong speaker, but now I do. I acknowledge this, and will work to embody it in my life.
I’m going to believe this, even if it’s hard.
I have a hard time maintaining healthy habits. I acknowledge this. I know it doesn’t serve me, but none of this is good or bad. It’s just me.
We change the world by being good and true to ourselves. By being transparent and honest. By saying “f*ck you” to fear. That’s all it takes.
That’s what Gandhi’s famous words, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” really mean.
This woman changed a life today, and in so doing, she inspired a person to want to change the lives of others. She gave me the confidence and ability to do so with my voice.
It’s a ripple effect.
A single person can change the world. And they can do it in a coffee shop, as a result of someone thinking they knocked into your leg.
Author: Gabrielle Dominique
Editor: Callie Rushton