As I watched the Michelle Obama interview earlier this week, I was struck by a few things.
Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of our First Lady. I think she has acted so beautifully in the face of some pretty nasty treatment. She has brought a dignity to our country, a beauty, and a strength that is undeniable. She has been a role model, not just for African American young women, but for all young women – I’d even say “all women”. Moreover she has done it all while being true to her own nature.
Mrs. Obama is no shrinking violet and she has taken heat because of it. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie so beautifully wrote*: “Because she said what she thought, and because she smiled only when she felt like smiling, and not constantly and vacuously, America’s cheapest caricature was cast on her: the Angry Black Woman.” As women in this climate, we can all empathize. I have, for my whole life, been “too loud, too big, too bold, too ballsy, too brash”, you name it. Just for being me. Michelle Obama moved me with what she said and how she said it; by who she, simply, is. And that really got me to thinking…
How are we Living out Loud?
How can we be true to ourselves and be who we truly are? Living Out Loud is not a cookie cutter concept. You may not be literally “loud” – you should still be Living Out Loud. It’s not about actual volume, it’s about authenticity – but for a lot of us, the volume is an issue. I know it is for me. I’m what you might call, “too much”. Too much hair, too big, too loud, too opinionated, too much everything. I can not begin to tell you how many times I thought how much easier it would be for me, if I could just shut up. It wasn’t just me thinking it, either. I’ve been told by more people than I care to count, to “tone it down”, “dial it back”, and there were even times I tried to comply. I would gear up for an encounter, silently coaching myself to not say or do something, not stir the pot, or whatever idiom was currently being used to tell me to shut the fuck up. But I couldn’t. I would inevitably end up saying the thing that shouldn’t be said, or doing the thing that shouldn’t be done, sometimes both.
in the past couple of years I’ve gotten better about being visible, but for most of my adult life, I have hidden from cameras, and audio recordings, and sight, and on and on, and and you know what?
Finally I realized that I can’t shrink to someone’s idea(l) of me. And you shouldn’t either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating being unkind, I’m not talking about chasing down the person who cut you off on the road, but I am talking about being you and calling bullshit when it’s served to you. If someone wants you to change who you are, they don’t deserve to be in your life. It’s that simple, and that complicated.
In 2017, I’m looking for an authenticity like I have never lived before. I’m working on stepping into the fullness of who I am, unapologetically. I’m not going to shrink from experience in the fear that someone might think me too big for my britches. Next year is going to be a year of adventure, of serendipity, of authenticity. Of complete and total acceptance of who I am, warts and all.
How about you? Care to join me?
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*Please, go read the whole piece. It’s beautiful.