My name is Erika and I’m 44 years-old. My hair is, well, naturally some other color than the one you see (truly, only my hairdresser knows for sure and I pay her solid money to not tell me the truth). My tits are bought and paid for (they just turned 11, thankyouverymuch). The love of my life is in the next room and each day, I wonder what I did to deserve him. My natural voice is a bit gravel-y, which I think makes me sound like a bit of a bitch sometimes. I love doing laundry but I hate folding it. I mix almond milk and coffee creamer in my milk frother every morning and chew nicotine gum while I walk my dogs. I have bunions. I’m also sporting a nice zit on the left side of my nose because, hey, 44 is a fine time to have acne and why not walk around with something on your face that makes people wonder if there’s been a new state admitted to the union?
My iPhone has decided to autocorrect “shirt” to “shit” and if that’s not the shortest story of my life, I don’t know what is.
I find it appalling that the most-trending news on Facebook includes anything about Kim fucking Kardashian but nothing about cabinet appointments, conflicts of interest, Russian hacking, or the Dakota Access Pipeline (because that fight ain’t over yet). I’ve whittled my wardrobe down to 40 pieces and pay an absurd amount of money for fewer clothes that make me feel like a motherfucking YES than lots of clothes that take up space and make me feel like shit.
This is me.
And ME is the hardest thing I have to be everyday when I climb out of bed.
That’s the hard truth — about being yourself. It sucks. And it’s hard. And anyone who says otherwise can go shit right proper in a hat that’s two sizes too small.
Because I don’t know about you, but whenever I finally get to being myself, I always feel something looking over my shoulder or stealing a glance at me, judging what I do or say next.
And yeah, there are plenty of times (more times that not, actually) that I could give two frog’s fine ass hairs.
But there are the times I catch myself caring. Which keeps me, sometimes, from being myself.
But for all this talk about being myself (and you being yourself), maybe we should talk about what it means to be yourself.
Figuring out your YOU
Baby, if I had a shortcut, I would (again) be reading some first folio Shakespeare in my West Loop loft here in Chicago, feeding my dogs scraps of filet mignon while “the gal” tidies-up in the kitchen (well-appointed with appliances that I didn’t even know existed, but were expensive, so I bought them because they came in red and FUCK YOU).
Who are you? And who am I?
The best I can figure is that my ME is the person who operates with little constraint and from the good place in my heart. The person who’s less concerned with what people think of her and more with how she feels. The gal who, if someone asked her what she would do with her life if $7.3 million showed up in her bank account tomorrow, would respond without shame that she’s be a full-time working actor and writer (and funding a few non-profits on the side). The person who, when she stands in front of her love, she’s not afraid to let her messy shine through.
The person who understands that past performance isn’t indicative of future results.
The person who let go of most (not all, because let’s be real) of her childhood bullshit and decided to rise above and find happiness. Even though the darkness creeps in on occasion.
The person who knows the darkness is real and doesn’t deny it by being fake happy.
So what does that mean for you and your YOU?
I think when it comes down to it, being YOU is a process:
- Finding your voice.
- Owning your voice.
- Using your voice.
And now is a pretty good time to call me an asshole because I don’t have an easy button for being yourself. It’s cool. That’s because I’d be an asshole if I told you that there were an easy button.
And I’d be an even bigger asshole if I told you that being yourself is a switch you can flip. Because it’s not. It’s a process, goddammit. Like something in chemistry class where if you miss a step, it all goes to a foamy green pile of shit and you get stares from the other people who apparently remembered to put the ingredients in the beaker in the right order (stop staring at me).
So, now that we know that being ourselves is a process, how do we start?
Here’s where I can actually help.
How to start the process of being yourself
Here’s something to do, starting today.
Put a notebook beside your bed and every morning (not every night, and there’s a reason for that), write down one thing that’s important to you.
Emotional. Global events (fucking Aleppo, y’all). Career-related. About your kids. How you handle money. Whatever it is, the censor button is off. Write it down.
And then read it three times OUT LOUD.
At then end of the week, go back and read each thing you wrote on that list out loud again. And then decide whether those thing are still important to you.
Cross shit off if it’s not important (because sometimes, it’s super fucking important to buy dog food and you don’t still need to buy dog food).
Own what’s important to you — and that it can change.
And when you make a list like this over a few weeks, a few months, or even a year — it’s pretty astonishing to look at what’s important to you now versus what was. And what has remained important.
That’s a great first step to start being yourself — having the balls to admit what’s important to you.
Not what you’ve been told has to be important. Not what you’ve thought is important.
But what is important to you.
This is the process of finding your voice.
Once you’ve found it, you can do some pretty cool shit. Like owning your voice.
How to begin owning your voice
Look at the world’s leading voices. From keynote speakers you see at conferences to people who give a fuck about the environment who are pooling their resources to save the fucking planet (because climate change isn’t a liberal conspiracy, yo).
These are people who aren’t afraid to say what’s important to them. They OWN their points of view.
And they couldn’t speak out on these issues if they didn’t first own the fact that yes, these are the things I give a shit about and yes, I am cool with giving a shit about these things.
That’s what it takes to own your voice.
And y’know, it’s not about being a dick about the things that are important to you. It’s about weaving them into your life. Your actions. Your relationships.
And sometimes, people find that the people they had in their lives before they admitted what was important to them and before they began the process of owning that knowledge…aren’t people they need in their lives after they come to those realizations.
Which sucks. Because jobs have to be left. “Friendships” left behind. Marriages and relationships ended.
But how cool would it be to look around your life and know you’re surrounded by people who love that you know what’s important to you, respect what’s important to you, and in turn, you dig what’s important to these people, too?
Because that’s when you can truly share your voice.
A bit on sharing your voice
Internet comments are the urinal wall of humanity. They’re the public toilet seat that the squatting ladies can’t be bothered to wipe off, even though they would bust up a dinner party in their own home to find the sprinkle-when-you-tinkle culprit.
Sharing your voice doesn’t come from a damn-the-consequences attack on a keyboard with an internet connection. The world has too many trolls in it and I doubt you’re looking to join their numbers.
Sharing your voice is about first, respecting that others have a voice as well. While some voices might be louder, there is no one that’s more important. I mean, maybe there is if you’ve got religion in your life and that’s cool — but if that’s the case, I’d like to think that you’re not using religion as a club to beat others into submitting to accepting your voice as supreme.
Respect for other voices comes first.
Knowing you’re going to piss some people off comes second.
People unsubscribe from my blog and leave my Facebook page all the time. They’re tired of my voice (cool). They don’t like my politics (also cool). They’re tired of looking at my tits (cool, but weird). And quite often, they fid they disagree with me on a point so either silly or important that they can’t respect me anymore.
Also quite cool. Here — lemme get the door.
But if the way I see life and love and being a better human and the daily struggle of being me in a world that wants me to be anything but really pisses you off, I’m also cool with the fact that it pisses you off.
And I won’t apologize for it.
Sharing your voice has consequences. Like, people knowing what you think and feel. And then you get to be the target for their reactions to your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes it’s like being force-fed a plastic sack full of dead goldfish. But yeah, consequences.
What I realized is that when I’m afraid to share my voice, it’s not the sharing that scares me. It’s the consequences.
And all I can tell you is that the consequences are scary at first. And then dealing with them gets easier. The shitty emails are by far outnumbered by the ones thanking you. The clients who finally heard you say what no one else would tell them come calling. Your subscriber list grows. Your wake up one day and realize you have real friends because some shit just went down and people are actually there for you — in real life — and not just words of support on a Facebook comment. Your dates are better because you’re quicker to pick up on people who aren’t in love with their THEM (so how could they possibly love your YOU?).
So, maybe the consequences aren’t so bad. They’re just scary.
And being YOU is a scary thing to be. Not like in a holy-shit-get-away-from-him-honey-grab-the-kids-and-call-Dr. Phil kind of way. But in a
If I dare to be ME, what else could I dare to do and be?
So, yeah. About being yourself. It’s the hardest thing you’ll have to do every day because life comes along and, as always, it has other plans.
But each day, you get to go to sleep as you. Which means you get to do something that no one else does.
You’re fucked up in glorious ways.
You are strong.
You made it this far.
And you changed someone’s life today, whether you realize it or not.
My name is Erika. I’m 44-years-old. I’m a mess. But I’m a beautiful mess. And that’s cool.
Thank you. I’ll see you again tomorrow.