Wanna Live More Authentically? Summon Your Inner Diva.
I’ve lived my entire adult life surrounded by other people’s stuff.
My first job out of college was as an English teacher at a boarding school. I was given a garage apartment and a yearly salary of $13,500, which felt—to my 21-year-old imagination—as though I’d won the lottery.
Over the next 25 years, I moved another 13 times, only one of which was into a home I owned (albeit briefly; my marriage split up a couple of years later and the house—nothing more than a “joint asset” at that point—had to be sold).
The circumstance behind each relocation is unimportant; the point is that I’ve pretty much lived with things the way they were—decade after decade—because properties weren’t mine to change, or I wasn’t going to be there long enough for it to make a difference, or the money was needed elsewhere.
At least that’s what I told myself.
I graciously accepted hand-me-downs from family members, and brought home bargains from Goodwill and Craigslist. True, they weren’t exactly what I would’ve chosen for myself—the colors were a little too dark, or the fabric had faded, or the style was slightly old-fashioned—but the tables, chairs, artwork, dishes, and rugs were cheap—or better yet, free—and they got the job done.
Who on earth was I to say no a deal, or an offer of kindness?
A few weeks ago, my husband and I purchased our first home together. It’s what folks would generously refer to as a “fixer-upper.” As in, the house is in a desirable neighborhood and has great “bones,” but it’s ugly. Like, you’ve-never-seen-so-much-wallpaper ugly. Blood red, wall-to-wall carpet in the bathroom ugly. Faux brick accent wall in the kitchen ugly.
Yes, I watch too much HGTV, and no, I wouldn’t have taken on such a large project if my husband weren’t a project manager for a construction company. That being said, this undertaking has revealed me to myself in ways I never thought possible.
As anyone who’s ever done a home renovation knows, there are a million and one decisions to be made: Grid lines in the windows or no grid lines? Peel-and-stick flooring or hardwood? Khaki Oak or Brushed Oak Taupe? Elongated toilet seats or round ones? Brushed nickel finishes or stainless steel? Painted stairs or carpeted? Frigidaire or Whirlpool?
Hmmm, I wondered. What is my style? Do I even have one? At almost 50 years old, I’d honestly never given it a thought. My preeminent concern has always been practicality. For the first time in my life, I asked myself (to quote my teenage son), what’s my vibe?
As I began to make my way through the quagmire of decisions, it was a revelation to discover that I actually had opinions on a whole range of topics that had absolutely nothing to do with common sense. No to grid lines in the windows! Yes to round toilet seats and painted stairs! Sure, throw a turquoise backsplash in the kitchen, and a vintage-inspired vanity in the hall bath!
It turns out that the inveterate people pleaser and bargain hunter—the woman ready to swallow just about any offer whole—actually has a sassy little diva in there. And she’s done making compromises.
Okay, maybe not completely done. We do have a budget to consider, and of course I’m open to others’ opinions (although, thankfully, my husband has precious few related to decorating). But to finally be able to embrace words like “me,” “my,” and “want” instead of “you,” or “need”—it’s been completely freeing.
I feel as though I’ve finally been given the lead role in my own life. How many of us have made prudence and pleasing such lifelong habits that we’ve lost huge chunks of ourselves along the way—or never even developed them in the first place? How many of us dare to ask questions such as: What is my heart’s desire? What would I be doing in this circumstance if no one cared and money were no object? Is this something I chose, or something I’ve been conditioned to choose? How much of my life is a social construct, and how much is authentically mine?
WWBD? What Would Beyoncé Do?
“I’m learning how to drown out the constant noise that is such an inseparable part of my life. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, I only have to follow my heart and concentrate on what I want to say to the world. I run my world.” ~
Taking others’ feelings and opinions into consideration isn’t all bad, but when it becomes the dominant factor in a majority of our decisions, authenticity is inevitably lost.
What would embracing your inner diva look like? In what ways could you become more authentically yourself by throwing caution to the wind, or listening more closely to your own voice? Would you reconsider your job, your partner, or the way you cut your hair? Would you experiment with the music you listen to or the car you drive?
Think on it, and I look forward to hearing what you come up with in the comments. In the meantime, I’ve got some paint colors to choose.