With Halloween right around the corner, I went to my local Party City store and was amazed to see the assortment of elaborate costumes and feathered accessories littering the shelves. But, what surprised me even more was the abundant selection of masks. Some were gruesome and scary while others were ornate and very beautiful. I imagined myself hiding behind different ones. I realized people’s reactions to me would vary greatly depending on which mask I chose. I could frighten or impress – make people want to know me or make people run away. The power of a mask was simply remarkable.
Recently, I went for an angel card reading. And whether or not you believe in angels, that isn’t what this week’s message is about. It’s about the messages we receive (though they can come from many sources) and what we choose to do with that information.
One of the cards I drew during my reading was the “Express Your Individuality” card. It really made me realize how much I had conformed to the world around me without even noticing it. I realized that my thoughts are often focused on the things I need to accomplish and my wardrobe resembles that of most other people I know: yoga pants, jeans, plain t- shirts (most of you probably have these things somewhere in your closet). I guess I never really wanted to stand out too much. But somehow, in the midst of this, I had lost my individuality. The little girl inside me was trapped. She wanted to come out and express herself – to be creative. She wanted to wear exotic flower patterns and have short, pink hair. Clearly, I expressed myself much more when I was younger. But, then social norms and other people’s expectations got in the way. Funny, how it happened and I never even seemed to notice – like a shroud slowly encompassing me, smothering my originality.
In a world dominated by social media, people’s opinions matter more than ever. Why do we care so much about what other people think? Why does someone else’s opinion matter more than our own? And, should it?
Authenticity is a word I have come to value. It’s about being who you are, always. It’s not changing your ideals based upon who you’re with. It’s about acceptance of who you are and what you believe. But in that acceptance, you also accept others exactly as they are – no judgment, no snide comments – just people trying to find their way.
As I look out my window this morning, the trees blow gently in the breeze and the birds flit joyously among their branches. Yet, what draws my attention is the large blue jay that suddenly darts out of view, his azure plumage whizzing past. Moments later, he returns for only a second or two. He streaks by the window and then disappears for good. I cannot make him come back. (Unless I have a few fresh peanuts I want to part with.) He has simply moved on.
As I begin my new journey of writing full-time, I know something about a word that we all deal with every day. It's the word fear. For such a small word, it packs an incredible punch. I find almost any excuse I can think of that will prevent me from doing things I'm afraid of. I might watch a movie, go out with friends, read a book, complete household tasks, or even clean the house (which is saying something because that’s never on top of my to-do list). Avoidance and distraction are great deterrents. But neither of them diminishes my fears nor makes them disappear. So, why do I try so hard to keep my fears at bay? And, why don’t I want anyone to even know that I have them? The answer of course is fear: fear of failure, fear of disapproval, fear of rejection. Those are all pretty big motivators for keeping my life status-quo. For if everything stays the same, I can avoid the biggest fear of all, change.