Author, speaker, photographer and blogger Karen Walrond is the kind of person you just want to know. You just want to soak in some of her light and magic, because maybe, JUST MAYBE, you can use it to help make your own. As someone who has worked extensively with Dove Real Beauty and as a leader in Brené Brown’s Daring Way training, Karen is in the business of helping you shine your unique light, no matter WHAT the world throws at you or tells you you need to be.
Losing everything (yep, her entire house and all her belongings) in Hurricane Harvey and how she got through
Having multiple career titles (she was an attorney!) and weaving them all together
Fighting against beauty standards and a beauty industry that is highly unrealistic (and predominantly white, thin, and privileged)
Adoption as a first choice, not a “backup plan,” and creating a family based on your OWN values
…and so much more.
(Fun fact, Karen and I spoke on a panel together back in 2015 – my very first speaking gig with WANT. I could not have asked for a more loving, empathetic person to sit right next to me. I have been in awe of her work and in love with her spirit ever since!)
This is the FINAL interview of Season Three. Our finale will be a solo episode! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on instagram @katiehorwitch to let me know your questions and topic suggestions to end this season STRONG.
As you probably already realized…this episode is a little different. It’s just me today. I’m gonna try something new. It just so happens that by the time a lot of you listen to this, it’ll also be my 30th birthday. I decided that today, I’d jam about 30 lessons I’ve learned in 30 years. I know. A little headline-y. But hey – I always love reading those lists, and hearing what others have to say about the lessons they’ve learned, so I thought maybe you’d like to, too.
Honestly, as I was thinking about it, there is a LOT of overlap in the lessons I learned in season one of the WANTcast, so it seems fitting to honor the end of Season One with this episode. Some of these are pretty deep (think body image and life choices), some are a little more trivial than others (stuff about smog checks, for example), but in the moment, they ALL feel huge.
My hope is that this can help someone else through their first three decades – and maybe, just maybe, set the tone for what kinds of lessons open up to you from here on out no matter what decade you’re in.
Like this episode? Shoot me a comment below, leave a review oniTunes, share it onFacebook, tweet it out onTwitter,or post it onInstagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!
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So, you’re probably wondering about that title, “your vulva is a snowflake,” and the fact that today’s episode has the word “sex” front and center
You might even be thinking, oh this episode isn’t for me, I’m not in a relationship or having sex – or, I AM in a relationship and it’s a healthy relationship – or, I’m not looking for sex advice right now – or whatever might be coming into your brain because this episode has “sex” in the title.
I want to make this clear – yes, we talk about the act of sex a little, but this episode is not about intercourse or partnership. Like, at all.
This is one of the most all-inclusive, body-positive conversations I know I’ve ever had. And probably, you too.
Anne Hodder is a certified sex educator, sex toy expert, and sex-positive PR & marketing pro at Hodder Media. I originally met her at the gym, in a spin class, and since then she has been such a thoughtful, wise, and supportive presence in my life. I knew that when the time was right, I needed to have her on the pod. And today, more than ever, seems like the moment to talk as candidly, honestly, graphically, and altruistically about sex, sexuality, trauma, consent, desire, and body positivity as we do here in Episode 16.
So when you hear “sex educator,” if you’re like me, you probably think about your health teacher in middle school and that one unit they did on the “how-tos” of sex and our bodies.
Talking to Anne, I learned it’s, so, SO much more than that. And while most of us get the birds and the bees talk or maybe get that year or two of classes in school, it’s NOT enough. What Anne does isn’t just talking about intercourse – it’s about owning your body, your decisions, your emotions, and making empowered choices. Yes, sometimes in the bedroom – but a lot of what she talks about doesn’t even have to do with going between the sheets.
In this episode, we talk about shame, what we get wrong about sexual trauma – or at least what I did – and how MUCH that explains when it comes to the way we navigate our relationships and sexuality, her experiences with talking to high schoolers vs. adults, Anne’s journey into the sex journalism and then sex education world, judgement, dealing with embarrassment, body hangups, sex positivity, body positivity, and why no emotion is mutually exclusive. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I especially love Anne’s take on the ideas surrounding “normal,” how clickbait pseudo-science articles on the web screw us up, and how we can all be WAY more accepting of who we are and how we desire.
I came to a realization while listening back to this recording: Ann says “There are things we can and cannot say to people under 18. The thing we need to remember when talking with high school kids is that developmentally they’re in a totally different place.” And it donned on me that most of our FORMAL, ACTUAL SEX ED ends in high school health class. Which means that, for most of us, the education ends before we’re actually experiencing the majority of our mature sexual life. The education ends – and the speculation begins. No wonder sex, sexuality, and everything even closely related seems like such a mystery – the information we have was given to us based on what we were actually able to process at the time!
I had “human development class” every single year from kindergarten to sixth grade, talking about everything from dating to kissing to drugs to, yes, how babies are made. And then I got to middle school, and I distinctly remember we talked about sex in 7th grade. And then nothing in 8th, then barely anything in 9th, and that was it. In 9th grade, I was 14 years old.
I was really lucky to have incredibly open-minded and candid parents, especially a mom I could talk to or ask anything. But I know some young women aren’t as lucky growing up. Even with her guidance, I was still being handed a set of experiences and opinions – nothing from anyone actually trained to guide me through things from an educational non-parental perspective. So it makes sense to me that sex and sexuality are most commonly surrounded by shame, mystery, rebellion, etc. And moreOVER!, we only see sex portrayed a certain way in the media – USUALLY heterosexual, usually cisgender, and USUALLY two really young, really pretty people. Very little body diversity, age diversity, gender diversity. We’ve got to see more in order to normalize our own normal.
This should go without saying, but this episode IS for mature audiences – we swear a bit, we talk not GRAPHICALLY in a vulgar way but in an anatomical way, and while Anne was cracking me up throughout the entire episode, it’s definitely not a set of subjects to be taken lightly. And hey, if that’s not your thing, cool – or if you’re, I don’t know, my grandma listening (and she DOES listen) and you don’t really want to hear your granddaughter talking about this, that’s cool too! But on the huge flipside, I would say that this is an episode that should DEFINITELY be shared with anyone in your life who is open to listening, because as we discuss on the episode, we live in a culture that dodges these important topics way too often and to our detriment.
Like this episode? Shoot me a comment below, leave a review on iTunes(the more reviews, the more Anne’s message is spread), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!
It’s been two weeks in my new home across the country, and I’ve felt a shift happen. An actual, physical shift.
In my body.
It feels good.
It sounds superficial and petty, but it’s not: the way I feel is directly linked to the way I carry myself in the world. I find myself waking up earlier, winding down later, walking quicker, smiling more, and marveling at just how wonderful life seems to be.
“Life is so much better right now,” my inner voice coos.
“So don’t sabotage it.”
…Well that got hostile really fast.
That positive voice in my head isn’t an optimist – it’s an opportunist.
Sound familiar? That’s because a little over a year ago, I wrote the same exact words with a different spin in relation to my negative self-talk: when it starts to rear its headstrong head, I’ve got to fight tooth-and-usually-unmanicured nail to not let it take hold and stake its claim.
But today, we’re talking about the positive talk – part TWO of the equation. Seems crazy, right? Why on earth would I want to keep my positive talk in check? If i’m having a “good body day” – or, as we most often think of it, a day that’s NOT a “bad body day,” then shouldn’t I just ride that wave?
I almost feel guilty for loving it here in NYC as much as I do. I mean, don’t get me wrong – L.A. is my blood and lifeline. But being here reminds me how important it is to define myself for myself. L.A. has so much I associate with others – sitting there mold, their energy. Checking myself and my energy to fit to size. Living expectations I’ve set for myself based on the expectations I’ve seen around me. When in reality, I dream bigger, and live bigger, than L.A. really suits me at this point in my life. And I can feel that shift manifesting itself in my body.
My body feels so much better here in general. To be completely transparent, my clothes fit better, I’m way less inflamed, and get this: I’m actually proud of my legs! And because I’m highly sensitive to the shifts within myself, I’ve got this spring in my step that makes me oh-so-tempted to say, You’re BACK, baby.
But did I really go anywhere? I know – because, life – that it’s not like I’ve been gifted some magic solution. Yes, this body that feels amazing IS my body – but so is the body of yesterday. So is the body of Los Angeles. So is the body on her period, overtired, overworked, overtaxed. So is the body that will go up and down in weight, feel secure and insecure, poof up and slim down. My body is not a fixed object, nor will it ever be.
I’m not jumping to self-sabotage or encouraging anyone to gloss over the times we feel particularly fabulous in the skin we’re in. Far from it. But the second I give my highs the power to define me is the second I give my lows the power to do just the same. For us to develop truly long-lasting, loving relationships with our bodies, we must be willing to accept neither extreme as finite, and instead probe deeper for ways to carry our worth with us always (and subsequently remind ourselves in those moments we’re tempted to forget).
So how do we keep that positive momentum of our “good body days” going, reveling in our fabulosity without overly linking our worth to them? And moreover, how do we use those feeling to help us out when we’re feeling LESS than stellar?
Here’s how to stretch a good body day for yourself so it lasts for the long haul:
1) Notice the tangible things that have contributed to this feeling. Have you been doing anything out of the ordinary – or maybe even been doing something consistently? Maybe some of these things you just started. Maybe you’ve been doing them for a while. But the first step is to know what they are.
For me, I’ve been walking almost everywhere for the last two weeks, which means I’ve been getting more fresh air and sunlight (p.s. I knew smog was a thing in L.A, obviously…but who knew the air would seem SO much clearer here? Metaphor much?).
I’ve also been on way more of a balanced schedule than usual. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum just in the last year: having very little time of my own and having basically the entire day to decide what I do and when I do it. In the last two weeks, I’ve been filling my schedule with the most important things first, professionally and personally, then allowing the time to figure things out in between. This city is still new to me, and I don’t want to jip myself of experiencing that newness.
2) Notice the emotional effect that all of those tangible things have had on you. How is that thing that’s making you feel good actually making you feel good? I don’t care if the scale says a number you like or your jeans fit better. Because there are many days we weigh X amount or our clothes fit better or we haven’t changed at all and we STILL feel like crap and pin it on our bodies. What is the emotional effect that whatever’s happening right now is having on you?
Back to my example: I’m walking around a lot, so maybe my legs are getting more toned…but hey, maybe I’m just noticing it for the first time (funny how we don’t always see ourselves when we’re right in front of our own eyes). What’s making me feel so good is the fact that I’m using my body – that I’m moving, period. I’m moving without my movement being tied to exercise or steps-per-day. I’m using my body as my vehicle instead of something I’m just toting around.
In regards to my schedule, I’m filling my days more intentionally. Maybe not every decision is within my preferred time frame per se, but every decision DOES serve a very distinct purpose. I’m realizing that in this city, there is no room for wishy-washiness. It will keep moving without you if you sit and stew. But hey, maybe this has been how life has been all around – I’m just letting it sink in for the very first time. I’m still not the spontaneous type, but when I’m forced to go out and make decisions because I’m beholden to simply the expectations I’ve set for myself, what do I do? That feeling of making shit happen – at least striving for it – makes me feel good from the inside out.
One more thing? I’ve had more present interpersonal time. Friend dates, work meetings, and definitely within my relationship. I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilling it is to be experiencing this all alongside Jeremy. We’re both pretty mindful and introspective, but this journey is really reminding both of us how much every day can be an adventure if you open your eyes in wonder to the world around you. Sure, we’ve had some tough moments since we’ve been here – picking up and moving your entire life into a new environment will definitely trigger any pair to test each other on the basic tenants of who they are – but we’re beginning to find our own perfect balance between enjoying both the familiar/routine and the exploration (instead of making routine our default when we’ve got time to spare or forcing exploration when we’d rather curl up with a movie). We’re both still busy. But our time together doesn’t feel like in-between moments – it feels like THE moment.
3) Ask yourself what you can replicate when you feel crappy. No, not everything will be able to happen at the snap of your fingers. Maybe it’s pouring outside. Maybe you’re slammed with meetings all day. Maybe you’re stuck in a 3-hour commute. But take a look at what’s helped you feel so wonderful: what can you replicate for yourself when you’re having a bad body day?
With this one, it’s important to dig deep and be brutally honest with yourself. The easy answer for me, in this case would be to “take a walk” and “make time for my relationships.”
But I know that forcing myself to take a walk around the block does NOT work for me. It feels manufactured, like a chore, and far from anything enjoyable. But walking to run errands instead of driving or taking the subway? That I can do. Because it’s not really about the walking. It’s about feeling useful. About feeling like I’m my own vehicle.
Sometimes, as an introvert, the mere act of making more plans than I already have on tap makes me feel depleted. My go-to solution? Talk about the deep stuff. Whether that means calling one of my girlfriends for a no-holds-barred phone sesh or jamming with Jeremy over a glass of wine and the tough questions that make us think, finding the nuance and newness in the small moments always helps me feel better about everything in life.
4) Celebrate the moment like it’s the last time you’ll feel this way. What if we shifted our focus around our bodies like we do around the special events that happen to us? What if this great body day, just like our meh or even “bad” body days, was just a part of our story?
I’m not saying to negate how you’re feeling and tell yourself that this is the only time this will happen. I’m saying that the gratitude and #blesseds we use when we recognize the high highs in our lives should be applied to our bodies, too.
When we are feeling awesome, we tend to either downplay it or associate it with our “true” selves. We are back. This is who we really are.
And when we are feeling like crap about our bodies, we place blame like it’s betrayed us. We’ve strayed from the norm.
But if our bodies are always in flux, then what IS the norm? We might prefer to feel bangin’, but that doesn’t mean that that’s our default state. We have no way of knowing our default because we are constantly in transition. Even if you’re feeling awesome about your body, it doesn’t mean you’re “back to normal.” Just like with money and feeling like a broke joke when your account is low, you can’t build up your abundance if you don’t know what makes you feel abundant in the first place.
The more we practice gratitude for highs and allow them the space to shine, the better we become at bringing them back when we feel they’re lost.
Getting into slumps, funks, and ruts is a part of being human. So are successes, flying high, and feeling badass. It’s how we choose to approach these moments, the high highs and low lows, that determines the lasting effect they’ll have on us. In our bodies and in our lives. They’re the same, really.
Each day, you’re handed opportunity to navigate it all. I hope you seize it.
You know those hours, days, moments when everything seems to just click? Those times when all the shaky transitions, all the nights wondering what the f you’re really supposed to be doing with your life, all the instances in which you feel like too much or too little somehow meld together to remind you that you are just right, just the way you are?
That’s what this weekend was for me.
On Saturday, I had the immense pleasure of chilling beachside with fifty WANT Women from all over SoCal: eating delicious food, drinking wine and green juice, soaking up sunshine – and most importantly, diving in, digging deep, and discussing what it means to truly move forward fearlessly in life.
Yes, I was there to play hostess at the most perfect venue ever (Creative Visions Foundation out in Malibu – check out that view!), moderate a killer panel of power women (Lynn Chen of The Actor’s Diet, Jordan Younger of The Balanced Blonde, Audrey Bellis of StartupDTLA and WorthyWomen, and Rachelle Tratt of The Neshama Project), and hopefully be able to inspire at least one person by adding my own voice into the mix. What I didn’t expect was how each person attending would inspire me beyond measure, in ways I wasn’t even able to describe until I was sitting in silence in my PJs hours later, stunned by the impact.
Here were my five biggest lessons from the day:
My relationship w/ you is a direct reflection of my relationship w/ myself - @audreybellis Click To Tweet 1) The relationships we have with each other are a direct reflection of the relationships we have with ourselves. Community builder extraordinaire and WorthyWomen founder Audrey said it best – our connections with others are intricately tied to the way we view ourselves. One of the all-time most popular posts on WANT is the Making Friends As An Adult piece, and I’m not too surprised why: we are starved for genuine, soul-stirring connection. The question is, if we’re all thinking the same thing, then why aren’t we all just finding each other and frolicking off into the land of besties – nay, soulies – somewhere?
Whether we’re fiercely independent or thrive in groups, it’s easy to blame others for the reasons why we’re not moving forward in our own lives. And on the flipside, the easy-to-grab focus on superficial gains and surface-level commonalities (we both like movies! we both like tacos! #bff) is leaving us starved for true connection even when we think we’ve got it. But at the root of it all is the relationship we have with ourselves. Are we honoring ourselves fully, both our highs and our lows? Do we respect our own choices and stand by ourselves through thick and thin? It’s nearly impossible for someone else to have your back if you don’t even have your own.
What was incredible about this weekend was that every single person in attendance came with a wide open heart, an eager mind, no filter, and no judgement. Very few of us knew each other going into the day, but somehow, as we gathered under the springtime sun and laughed/cried/empathized in unison, it felt like we’d all been strategically chosen to be together in that exact place at that exact time. And that’s the power of honoring who you are at your core: you’ll find others who honor it, too.
Lynn got super raw this weekend and talked about her career, her attempt to get pregnant, her father’s death – and at the core of it all, landed on the invaluable piece of wisdom that we need to say yes to what is actually going on in our lives instead of sitting around preparing for something that isn’t. We toil away prepping our bodies for a season, we put off projects because of what might happen six months down the line, we don’t go on that date because we’re moving and they’re here and oh my god how would it ever work so why even bother? There are way, way too many instances for each of us, in our own unique ways, that we put our lives on hold and wait for that “Okay, all clear!” from the universe. Instead of waiting for those signs, we could be spending that time actually making shit happen. When we do this, it turns out, everything seems to fall into place. Even though we had no clue what that “everything” would even look like.
It doesn't have to be sunshine+rainbows, but you've got to know you'll be okay - @balancedblondie Click To Tweet 3) Sometimes positivity isn’t even about seeing a silver lining – it’s about knowing deep down in your core that you’ll be okay. When Jordan was being viciously attacked online (trust me when I say it’s horrible stuff), she didn’t mask her feelings in mantras and she didn’t not internalize what was going on. As she shared with us, sure, some of the comments were/are laughable – but many were downright frightening and a threat to her safety. It would have been easy to rip her blog off of the internet or go AWOL – but she knew in her heart she was meant for more than that. And with a lot of help and a lot of self-awareness, she was able to continually remind herself, Yes, I will be okay.
Maybe you haven’t dealt with bullying or death threats like Jordan unfortunately has, but I’ll bet money on the fact that you’ve had something not go as planned. Maybe not go your way at all. Hell, maybe you’ve hit what’s felt like a personal rock bottom. If I have learned anything from the women (andmen) I’ve met through WANT, it’s that nothing is ever insurmountable. Not saying it’s easy, and not saying it’s automatic. But that knowing, that sense that you will be okay, no matter what happens – that is the kind of potent positivity that gets you to the other side.
The reason I love Rachelle is that through incredibly tough times, she’s always come back to her intuition. As she told us, we’re all intuitive beings – yet sometimes we get distracted and ignore that pull in our gut and heart to do the thing that makes us feel absolutely iridescent. The “have-tos” and “shoulds” come in and dance with the Ghost Worries and they screw us over, convincing us that the pull we feel is less than worthwhile. Other people have a pull, the have-to-should-dancers say. Who do you think you are taking up space and following yours? The Ghost Worries chime in, telling us it’s too risky, too dangerous. If we take a cue from someone else, it’s a whole lot safer. If we take that cue, then it’s not on us.
But here’s the thing: that cue never comes. And even if it does, we’re not stepping into our own lives, we’re just assimilating to someone else’s. Rachelle’s words were a powerful reminder for me to claim my space, own my power, and step into my own light – because waiting for someone else to make it easier also means I’m putting myself on an endless hold.
'Fearless' is when the fear is less than the faith. - @katiehorwitch Click To Tweet 5) Fearless is when the fear is less than the faith. Okay, this one’s my own. If there is one huge lesson I’ve learned through my life, through WANT, and through orchestrating this past weekend’s festivities, it’s that “fearlessness” is NOT about being unafraid. Because if that was so, then there would literally be NO ONE out there who is truly fearless.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many things trigger that “fearful” part of my brain on the daily. Traffic that threatens missing a class I’m teaching. Interviews with people I admire. Tough conversations with Jeremy, friends, or my family. Financial worries, life purpose worries, I-said-the-wrong-thing-and-now-that-person-will-hate-me-forever worries. I’m an HSP – a Highly Sensitive Person – so I’ve found that I can either accept my fear or I can acquiesce to it.
I choose neither.
I respect my fears for what they’re trying to tell me. I honor them for their reminder of my values and goals. But I do not accept them as constants in my life, nor do I give in and let them take over.
Yes, I know I’ll always have things that make me afraid, but my fear barometer will always be changing.
And my definition of “fearless” is when my fear is less than my faith.
It always happens, I’ve learned. The faith will always outweigh the fear, eventually. It’s just that sometimes, we don’t give it the chance – I sure haven’t, at times.
Moving Forward Fearlessly, to me, is the act of pursuing that faith, even if it’s a small glimmer. It’s working towards those hours, days, and moments when everything seems to just click – the times when all the shaky transitions, all the nights wondering what the f you’re really supposed to be doing with your life, all the instances in which you feel like too much or too little somehow meld together and remind you that you are just right, just the way you are.
HUGE thank you to M Café for the delicious lunch spread, Beaming for the juices and sweets, ONEHOPE Wine for the for-purpose Pinot, Sauv, and bubbly, Meghan Gallagher and Creative Visions Foundation for the most unbelievable space in the world and for making the process an ocean breeze, S.W. Basics/Pure Vida/Luna/Barnana/Philosophie for a swag bag that set the bar high – to Lynn, Jordan, Audrey, and Rachelle for shining your light and being the very best first WANT panel I could have ever wished for and completely blowing me away with every single word – and to YOU, the WANT peeps, for being the reason this community is as powerful as it is. I am eternally grateful.
When I was twelve, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. A sort of Brave New World for the tween set, it’s about a confined society in which everything is Just So all the time. A society that’s been converted to “Sameness” – a plan that’s eradicated pain and strife.
Everyone is identical. No one feels. No one judges. Not ONE is flawed. No experience, no emotion, no hunger for life.
Apparently, I needed The Giver to awaken me to this thick sheet of cardboard being pulled over our eyes.
Perfection? It’s a hoax.
The allure of “being perfect” is the greatest con, the greatest scheme ever devised. Forget about the Photoshop, the glossy pages, even the high-def television. Perfection is a stagnant ideal and a consummation of all we find unsatisfactory, even the smallest parts. It’s an artifice to fool ourselves into believing there’s an excuse or that we’re failing. They are perfect, That is perfection is internalized and morphs into I am not perfect, This isn’t perfection.
Perfection is a pile of crap from both ends of the spectrum, no matter how you look at it. We live in a world where the sweetest apples are discarded for a touch of brown, where we inject plastic into the lines we’ve earned from reading novels late into the night, where we over-sterilize our doorknobs and under-appreciate our windows. No gray hair must be left unplucked, no thigh dimple dismissed without a vigorous rub of some magic oil that guarantees tightness in ten days or less. There’s too big, too small, and way too undefinable. We’re screwed no matter what we do or who we are.
And then there are the others: those people who seem to be constantly extolled for their beauty, their wisdom, their achievements. Their existence is idolized, their lives an exercise in perfection maintenance. And that…that is a huge burden to carry. It’s immense, unreasonable pressure to stay at a certain age, look, job and caliber indefinitely. Because what if we don’t? What happens when we falter – or maybe just aren’t astonishingly mind-blowing every single second? Will we still be loved?
Perfection is conditional love. It’s an invisible benchmark and a thick glass ceiling. It’s the expectation and the idealization of the absolutely monotonous. It’s a lonely, one-dimensioned load of bullshit, really.
The word “perfect” has haunted me my entire life. When I was in middle school, I would be called perfect as a taunt. I did not have braces, I liked to color-coordinate, I got good grades. Remember those multi-colored capris The Gap sold circa 1999? I owned a pair in every color, with shirt, shoes, and butterfly clips to match, natch. My middle part was striking, my bangs worthy of a New Girl cameo. I was easy to be around and nice to everyone. My awkward stage was mostly just awkward in my mind – or so I’m told.
Sounds great, huh? Yeah. Not really. Being teased about being “perfect” gave me a complex and a pressure unlike anything I’d ever known. I felt detached and alone. I felt I could not be myself; God forbid I spoke out of turn or mismatched a sock. There was an immense discomfort in knowing I was looked at as someone who had everything together. Who was “perfect.”
And then the taunts turned into praise and I just didn’t know what to do with it. Some would have rebelled. But no – I didn’t want to rebel. I just wanted to relate. So I downplayed my assets and kept them locked away. At the root of it, I feared loss. I wanted to guarantee love, and wanted to be normal. Please let me be normal, I’d silently beg. Do not love me for my light, because it sometimes gets dark in here and I can’t bear the loss when you realize that.
If we are what we believe we are, and we are what we tell ourselves we should be, then I guess the silent begging worked. I became a shell of myself, and in a small way I think I liked it for a second there. I am flawed, I seemed to say. Now you can see it on the outside, too. But it didn’t feel good after that hot second – and the reversal of my efforts proved to be even more trying. My attempts to feel good in my body were admirable at best, laughable at worst. I needed to feel good in my soul, first. I needed to stop equating imperfection with submission and perfection with isolation. I needed to just be.
And so I did. Slowly – what seems like so slowly – I owned those parts of myself that were both admired and that people raised eyebrows at, both abnormal and completely innocuous, both snowflake-distinct and Giver-cookie-cutter. I became myself.
I am wary of perfection. The ones who make it their life’s mission to be perfect, I’m onto them. There is something deeper there, there is something hiding and some voice inside that once told them that the only way to be is to be flawless. The ones who base their mission on being aces all-around 24/7, I don’t fault them for it – I empathize, because all of us have been conned at one point or another. Oh how I wish they could see how exquisite they all are, right now, even in their struggle – no – journey to finding out who they’re really meant to be in this world.
In The Giver, the conversion to Sameness wipes out each person’s emotional depth. And when the hero of the story is given the task of experiencing that depth, he finds he can’t force it. Because that sort of exquisite uniqueness cannot be forced. It must just be.
And when that happens? Oh my god. Those people are fascinating. Smart. Quick. Funny – no, hilarious – without even knowing it. Those people who are absolutely flawless in their quirks and nuances and extremes, who aren’t afraid to mismatch their socks or disagree with the world, or color coordinate all their outfits down to the shoelace. Those beautiful souls, who are extremely and unquestionably themselves? Those are the people I love, and the people we are all ultimately drawn to in the long run. Not the ones who homogenize their lives to be Just So.
Because let’s get real: this is not Sameness. This is life. In all its extremities and nuances. We are all those unquestionably flawlessly flawed people deep inside – we just need to be brave enough to dive deep and get there.
Be on purpose. Be a force – quiet or blazing, whatever you prefer. Whatever you are and whoever you are, be extremely you. At the end of the day, what else is there left? Find those tiny details and idiosyncrasies, and use them to support and enhance the extreme you-ness of YOU. It isn’t about the jarring highs or lows of “perfection.” It is about being unquestionably yourself.
Forget about the hoax, forget about utopia. There is no better person to be, no better place to live, than Oh-So-On-Purpose.
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