My biological mom got me my first car. It was a junky black GMC Jimmy and the license plate she got for me was ‘FREEBME’. People would ask, ‘What does Freeb Me mean?’ Growing up my Bio Mom embarrassed me. She was colorful, spontaneous. She had her challenges, but she was on a mission to find herself.
It wasn’t until writing this blog right now that the significance of that license plate is sinking in. My mom passed away last summer and so many things have been sinking in. ‘Free to be me’ – What a wonderful message.
Have you ever held something back? Kept something in? The fear behind it being judgment from others or criticism. Being visible is scary, and starting my online business this last year has brought up ALL the feels!
In February’s Blog ‘I’m Just A Girl In The World’ we learned about the ‘Invalidating Social Environment’ that is ALL around us, and makes it hard to ‘know, like and trust’ ourselves. Authenticity is a huge topic these days and we’re taking it a step further this month to talk about ‘being visible’. Being visible as a woman can mean different things to different people. For some it might mean rising into leadership in some area of life, for others it’s advocating for a cause or simply showing others what’s possible. It might even mean speaking up more in your family unit and advocating for your own needs and preferences.
Growing up in a very conservative Christian household I was taught that women should be ‘demure’ and ‘timid’. Speaking your mind or being too opinionated was discouraged. ‘Humility’ and prioritization of others above yourself, was held up as the optimal standard. Basically shrink yourself for the sake of others.
Even when it came to outer image, we were taught to not do anything to bring attention to yourself. Uber-modest clothing, no makeup, no jewelry, not too bright of colors etc. And although this may be a micro-experience that I had, I know that the subtle messaging to withhold yourself is a sweeping experience for many women!
Being visible as a woman is HARD. At times it feels like a ‘lose lose’ situation – and I am a white, middle class woman which comes with a LOT of privilege, so this experience is even more magnified for my sisters who are a part of any marginalized or minority group.
Dare I bring up the ‘S’ word? What if someone is offended? And thinks it’s over the top? Ah hell with it, SEXISM is a tale as old as time. Now I’m not saying that men don’t also struggle with visibility and authenticity, but I’m talking to my girls right now.
Recently I read a post on Instagram by @sammybelove that said,
‘We’re only 50 years into a world where women can legally have their own bank account & be financially sovereign. Of course you’re scared. Your success is an act of systemic rebellion.’
Being visible or divergent as a woman has a long list of risks and repercussions. Hell a couple hundred years ago we would be burned at the stake and called witches if our lifestyles were outside of the normal prescribed roles.
You may be called a ‘bitch’ or a ‘slut’ or any other shaming labels if you give any indication of loving your body or speaking your truth – these labels of course meant to keep you invisible and keep you in a powerless place deprived of self-efficacy. ‘She just wants attention.’
Oof my chest feels heavy just thinking about it… let’s get to the good stuff.
The emotion that we have to address which holds us back from being visible in our authentic self is shame. Let me preface this discussion by reviewing that ALL emotions are important, there are not good or bad emotions. Each emotion has a survival purpose for us.
Shame is a community based emotion that activates when our thoughts or behaviors may get us rejected or disapproved by ‘the tribe’ which makes perfect sense because once upon a time our physical survival strongly depended on staying within the tribal circle for shared resources.
In modern society the tribal network is MUCH broader and we have more of a choice when it comes to what tribe we want to be a part of. So, if you WANT to stay fully belonging to a group that will reject you for certain behaviors, then shame gives you the action urge to hide things about yourself and you may want to choose to do that if you really want to belong to a certain group/culture.
I would like to introduce another option. It starts by assessing with mathematical probability whether in fact you actually WILL get rejected for living your truth (often we estimate we will, when in actuality we won’t), if not… then live your truth girl! If SO, think about whether or not that group/culture is really the group for you. If they’re approval is really what you want. Because guess what… we can find new tribes! We can find the tribes that fully accept and celebrate our authentic selves!
As I’ve grown my business, I’ve loved seeing my fellow female digital entrepreneurs confirm the value of ‘losing followers’ or getting ‘unsubscribe’ notifications. Those people just aren’t your people, and that’s OK! If you’re living this life attempting to please EVERYONE and fit with EVERYONE, you are fighting an uphill battle that you WILL lose. Because the greatest cost of that is you lose yourself. And your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship that you will ever have.
I’ve seen a lot of posts online saying to keep your success and hard work private because people will envy you or doubt you, and while at times I’m fully on board with that I also feel conflicted about it because the flip side is that quote by Marianne Williamson,
‘As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.’
But here is where authenticity really settles in. You don’t have to go shout yourself from the rooftops if that is not what feels authentic to you. Being quiet & private about yourself and your life is 100% OK if that’s what suits you.
The idea is that we get away from the ‘am I enoughs’: Am I outspoken enough? Am I smart enough? Am I interesting enough? Am I clear enough? Am I fun enough? Am I experienced enough? Am I serious enough? Am I … No more of that.
Feminism at its core is about women having freedom to be themselves, whatever that means. If you’re ‘girly’ & love makeup, GREAT! If you prefer not to shave, GREAT! If you want to be a stay at home mom, Go You! If you want to show your body to the world, BEAUTIFUL! If you’re private, Perfect! If you want to be a career woman or wear multiple hats, YES! No more shaming each other (that’s even more insidious than shame from outside the gender).
I didn’t always fully understand this concept, and I’ve hurt people along the way which is part of my hesitance in visibility now. It has been a process in my adulthood to begin to find my way towards what it means to live authentically and be visible as a woman, and support other women to do the same – especially if it’s different from your choices. I’ve put myself out there in ways I haven’t always been proud of. I’ve been criticized, I’ve been unfollowed.
One of the fears that has come up for me is that when you speak up advocating for certain principles, people will be quick to highlight your own mistakes and imperfections. But that’s what this is all about.
Permission to NOT BE PERFECT.
Permission to forgive yourself and move forward.
The goal is not to promote self-love by demonstrating perfect self-love. Or promote mindful, balanced living by demonstrating a perfect expression of that. Hell no! It’s about promoting all the things at the same time as acknowledging personal struggle, imperfections and mistakes along the way.
As much as I hesitate at times to be visible or make my ideas known, I would rather be free to make mistakes and live authentically as I am, than suffocate myself in trying to appease others. And the hope is that if even one person finds solace is the camaraderie, it’s worth it.
So here’s my words for you: give yourself permission to BE YOU, because nobody else will do it for you. And I’m right here by your side sis! FREEBME!
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