Almost exactly 2 years ago, I woke up early and lay groggily on my back, trying to will myself to get out of bed and start getting dressed for my executive position as the assistant general counsel of a relatively large software company. As I lay there, staring at the ceiling, feeling somehow pinned to my bed by my bedclothes, I said out loud, almost without thinking:
At the time, I had what on paper seemed perfect -- a successful and lucrative career, a warm home, a supportive family. And yet, something was off -- I was spending most of my days dressed in clothes I found stifling, doing work that not only didn't fulfill me, it felt counter to my value-system. I had worked hard, bought myself a rather expensive education and was reaping all the professed tangible rewards of doing All The Right Things, but the truth was that I was dying a little inside every day.
So on that day, almost exactly 2 years ago, I decided that it was time for me, at the ripe old age of 41, to stop dying. To stop constantly trying to be what I thought was expected of me, and instead, relax into being the person I knew I could be. To quit trying so hard to fit into a mold that there was no possible way to contort myself to do -- but instead, create my own mold. And maybe, just maybe, I would learn to celebrate those aspects of myself that were so different, that I'd spent so much of my time trying desperately to hide, in order to behave The Right Way.
That was the day I started making concrete steps toward living a more authentic life, and celebrating the beauty of my Different. Make no mistake: I didn't make this decision lightly. In fact, I was petrified. Making such a decision meant possibly risking the love and support of the people who were close to me. It meant shaking the very ideas and paradigms that shaped the way friends and family had viewed me all these years. In my case, it meant giving up a lucrative career and foregoing financial stability in the hope of gaining emotional stability. Even more frighteningly, it meant changing my view of myself: closely examining the things with which I found fault, and seeing if there was a way to shift how I viewed them. It meant determine which of my oddities were actually my gifts -- gifts that could be used as superpowers.
Two years later, I'm thrilled to say I made the right decision. My life is filled with much more joy: I do work which invigorates me every day, and I have a newfound comfort in my own skin. Far from disappointing my close friends and family who love me, I found that they instead cheer me on, celebrating my successes and happiness. I've found that as a result of relaxing into my true self, I became a far better wife, mother and friend than I could've ever been when I was measuring myself against a manufactured standard of What I Should Be.
It wasn't always easy. But needless to say, the last two years have afforded me a lot of opportunities to make observations about other people who have discovered their own beautiful Differents, and lived happily to tell the tale. Most of these observations are chronicled in my book, The Beauty of Different, and today, I'm thrilled to announce that I will be collaborating with BlogHer in their Own Your Beauty Project. Together with the support of the brilliant blogs Operation Beautiful and The Shape of a Mother, Own Your Beauty is an initiative that will help empower women everywhere to reexamine the things that make them different, and claim them as the sources of their own beauty. Because wherever we are in our journey to living more authentic lives, it's always good to revisit and celebrate the things that make us beautiful.
To kick this year-long initiative off, I spoke with my dear sweet friend, Brené Brown, the author of The Gifts of Imperfection, to discuss the concept of authenticity, and the practice of living an authentic life. I invite you to watch the video below to hear what she has to say -- and then once you do, we're going to have a bit of fun.
Isn't she great? And so, as we begin everything here on Own Your Beauty, I invite you to think about Brené's words, and then do the following: grab a pen and paper, and list everything you love to do that fills you with joy and/or grace. It can be shooting photographs, or cooking, or taking a shower, or running a mile, or singing or whatever. Write deeply profound things, or silly little things, like organizing the junk drawer in your kitchen. Write until it exhausts you. Just write whatever fills you with joy or grace.
Then once you're done, keep that list somewhere where you can find it at a moment's notice (and if you're moved to blog about it, I'd love to read it! Please share it with me -- and everyone else -- in the form below). You're going to want to refer to this list again over the next year. Possibly even for the rest of your life.
If you happen to blog about what you love to do that fills you joy and grace, please share by leaving your URL in the widget, below!
And remember: you are different. And you're beautiful.