Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's okay to be different as long as I'm me

Alfred Lunt, who along with his wife Lynn Fontane was considered one of the greatest acting couple's of all time, once said, "There is nothing I need so much as nourishment for my self-esteem."

When I was a little girl, I hungered for praise. I desperately wanted to be a "good" little girl and not one of those pesky, mis-behaving little miscreants who kept getting into her parents' bad books because of her irrepressible ways, avid curiosity and her tendency to go it alone when seeking pathways into, or out of, trouble.

"What Katy Did" was my favourite book. For those who never read it, Katy was a young British girl who while playing with her siblings, climbed upon the garage roof, fell off and became wheel chair bound. Confined to wheeling her way through life, Katy never let her disability hold her down.

I understood Katy. I wanted what she had. The approval, appreciation and love of everyone around her, just the way she was.

Lucky for me, Katy was a great role model. No matter what happened, Katy's irrepressible nature got her in and out of adventures where trouble abounded and Katy always saved the day. No matter the circumstances, Katy never cried, woe is me. She always asked, what can I do to fix this?

That was me. Loved adventure. Attracted trouble. And never cried. The only difference was, my adventures often took me onto the wrong side of my parent's temper. I sought approval for my ingenuity in fixing a problem (even if I happened to have created it) and got some really good questions I could never answer. "Why are you so determined to be bad?" "Why can't you be like the others and just do what we say?" "Why can't you be different?"

Those questions plagued me. While incomprehensible to a five year old child, as puberty led to teen riddled angst, I would read anything I could get my hands on in my quest for understanding of what it was that made me so different from who my parents wanted me to be. I was constantly dissatisfied with who I was and struggled to be someone else -- better than me, other than me, different than me.

As I grew into adulthood, my parents' questions became the impetus for my quest to understand my discord -- Was I so different? Was I wrong to want to do things my way? Was being different bad? "What was wrong with me that I kept wanting to be different?"

I have been blessed with a lot of good fortune, and a lot of talents. I've had lots of opportunity to have my self-esteem fed. Unfortunately, my disbelief that people could be telling the truth, mixed with the cocktail of unanswered questions from childhood, left me in constant search of emotional sustenance. I was hungry for more -- and mostly I went searching for it in some man's arms.

And yet, through it all, I stayed true to my quest to understand me.

Today, I know the truth. I'm not different. I'm not other than. I'm not weird or unusual, a miscreant or a trouble-maker. I am me.

When I look back on one of my mother's favourite questions of me, "Why do you always have to make trouble?" I see the gift in her words. My creating trouble, while uncomfortable for those around me, was part of my journey into acceptance of me. I never gave up. Even when the pressure to conform was pushing me into acting out in yet another relationship gone bad, I held onto my irrepressible nature, and never gave up on seeking the answer to my question, "Who am I?".

Now, it could be said I took it a little far with the Conrad episode -- and I would agree. But, as the great Bard once wrote, "All's well that ends well." Can't change what I did. I can only commit to doing better today.

Long ago I searched for praise to feed my insatiable need for approval. Today, I step lightly through my day, knowing I'm okay, just the way I am. Like Katy, my childhood idol, it's not what happens to me that makes the difference in how I move through my day. It's what I do.

I can choose to be irrepressible, or I can repress my nature and feel the emptiness of knowing I'm being untrue to who I am.

Me, I choose to be Me, feeding my self-esteem at centre stage of living my one and only life in love with the best me I can be.

The question is: Where are you holding yourself back from claiming centre stage of your life? Where are you letting the questions keep you stuck in searching for the answer you already know -- you are awesome, exactly the way you are.

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