“I agree not to embarrass you.”
I’ve had to sign contracts like that before – agreements binding me to behavior that isn’t too loud or too wild or too crazy or too fun or too Black or too…human…
Some were official legally binding documents; some were impossible cultural implications where every day was a new adventure in shame, humiliation, disappointment and emotional terrorism. You look ridiculous. No one will ever want you. Be more like Michelle Obama. Put your contacts in – people like you better with light eyes. Straighten your hair or people will think you’re uneducated. Tattoos make you look cheap…or criminal. You think you’re so smart. Who put you in charge? Sit down. Oh, you’re not a real author. Wow, you’re so talented you make me sick. Don’t pierce anything on your face. Beauty queens don’t do that. Moms don’t do that. Pastors’ wives don’t do that. Don’t wear bright nail polish – colors aren’t professional. Don’t sit there. Don’t sit there LIKE THAT. Don’t wear that. What if people see you WEARING that? Don’t dance like that – don’t dance at all. No clapping. Smile more. Talk less. Stand up, suck it in, bright eyes, chin up, butt tucked. Shave your legs. Shave everything. Except your head. Don’t talk to that person.
Don’t smoke, don’t swear, don’t talk too long or too loud. Don’t hug someone too long. Don’t kiss anyone. Don’t hold hands – actually, no PDA at all. Don’t even act like you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend and for the love of all things holy, don’t live with them! People might think you’re… doing intimate things together. Don’t read any racy books or visit any controversial web sites. Don’t go into Victoria’s Secret, or shop for anything… intimate. Don’t talk about bleeding or …periods. Don’t let anyone see your tampons. Or leakage. Be discrete. Act like you don’t bleed at all. Oh, really nothing about the bathroom. Don’t let air escape you – no burps or farts. Oh, God don’t fart! Don’t overindulge in… things… Only drink water. It looks healthier. Don’t drink…alcohol. Or at least, don’t let anyone catch you drinking alcohol.
Actually, don’t let anyone catch you doing anything. Just stand still, look pretty, be docile and polite.
Because if I don’t submit to these things, people won’t like me.
And if people don’t like me, they won’t support me. They won’t talk to me or appreciate me. They won’t want to be seen with me. They’re going to judge me and talk about me. They’re going to reject me. Don’t give them a reason to reject me! Don’t disappoint anyone! Don’t let anyone down! Everyone must like and admire me!
But after all of that molding and adapting and cinching the moral corset, guess what? There are still people that don’t like me. There are still people that refuse to work with me. There are still people that can’t handle me doing my best.
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
― Dita Von Teese
So after all of that exhausting (and pointless) people-pleasing, what happens?
What happens when I let someone in? What happens when I open the door and welcome someone into what I really think and feel? Will they be disappointed anyway? After years of trying to present myself as one perfect thing, who is more deceived? The person that thought I was someone else or me — for stifling my personality, silencing my inner voice and denying my own truth?
People say you should never meet your heroes. Because you find out what they present is usually a façade. A sham. An act. An impossible standard even they couldn’t meet. What happens when we grow up and realize even the most flawless looking role models have been leading a double life? Eventually, all skeletons demand release. Eventually, all masks crack. Eventually, pretending isn’t worth it anymore. Who are you, really? Are you putting all your energy into being someone else? Or are you being yourself on purpose?
2019 is my Flourish year. It’s the year that I’m being Octavia on purpose. It’s the year that I stop catching accidental glimpses of my talents and start intentionally bringing out the light burning within me. It’s the year I stop apologizing for being awesome. It’s the year I quit playing small to make others feel better. It’s the year I realize not everyone is equipped to love me, support me and accept me, on purpose. It’s the year that I stop trying to please and impress people that would probably never like me anyway. It’s the year that I stop worrying about how to be one of the cool kids. It’s the year that I finally stop stressing about how to win the attention and acceptance of people that don’t know me and don’t want to know me. It’s the year that I stop trying to be safe.
I’m not safe.
I’m not predictable. I’m vulnerable and real. I am the kind of hero that is graceful and messy and beautiful and flawed