By eighth grade, I recognized that no one was going to make room for me on either side, so I decided to create my own space. I zeroed in on the one thing I could control—my appearance. Instead of dressing urban trendy or suburban trendy, I opted for what I’ll call middle school runway chic. I found clothes that made the most of my lean, boy-like body and wore them in a way that no one else was wearing them. I maximized accessories: cool blinged out pins, long strands of pearls knotted and/or draped, scarves tied in unique ways.
That year, everyone, black and white, loved what I wore. I received compliments all around, and somehow that erased boundaries that had existed before. I was invited to many more parties, by both black and whites, and although it wasn’t perfect, it was definitely better than the year before.
I had previously thought that blending in was the way to survive my situation. Ironically, just finding a piece of myself that I could connect with that actually made me stand out had helped me become more accepted. By the time I reached high school, I had perfected the art so much that I was voted Best Dressed in my senior class. From then on, I used my appearance as a vehicle for acceptance.
Dressing to please others and be accepted worked for a while—a long while. But nothing lasts forever. Although dressing to the nines at all times was an easy way to garner acceptance from others, it grew less easy for me to accept myself. I felt like a fraud.
I remember taking a new job at a startup. All these cool, hip Millennials overran the co-working space, but I noticed that even the Gen Xers and Gen Yers looked cool and hip. When I walked in with my semi-corporate wardrobe, I felt stodgy and stale, like I didn’t measure up. Middle school was happening all over again. This time, changing my wardrobe was not going to help.
Fortunately, I left that job realizing it was not a good fit, but I felt lost at sea. Like I didn’t really fit in anywhere. Caught in the in-between, yet again.
During a yearlong job search, I dove into my writing, the one area that still fit me well. I committed to blogging once a week about my thoughts surrounding energy and how it relates to our emotional and physical health.
During this time, I also dove into myself. I didn’t have to go to a 9-to-5, so wardrobe was never an issue. It was just my laptop and me. I wasn’t worried about what anyone thought of me. I focused more on being of service and what I could offer up to others to help them learn how to perform self-care. I was less concerned with the external world and how it was impacting me and more concerned with my internal world and how it was creating my external one.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
For years, I believed beauty was what the world force-fed me: straight, long blonde hair, blue eyes, perfect skin. I had none of these elements, so for the longest time, I thought I was ugly, outside and in.
My hair and eye color were pretty much set. My skin color too, which I wouldn’t trade for the world. But I held out hope for achieving perfect skin. Alas, that was not in the cards either.
As I child I had seborrhea. This terrible, itchy, scaly skin condition that required oatmeal baths and tar shampoo. As I grew older that cleared up, only to be replaced by chronic eczema. So when I’m not careful with my diet and stress starts to take hold it flares up with a vengeance. I’m also sensitive to artificial dyes in colored soaps, which make me break out in a terrible rash, and I have keratosis pilaris, a skin condition that causes chicken-like skin on the back and arms. I am in a constant battle with my skin, which used to put me at constant odds with my self-worth.
My mom would say, “Honey, sometimes you have to fake it ’til you make it.” And as I began as a Medical Intuitive working with energy to help others heal themselves, I would relay this very same advice to clients who were struggling with self-worth. I would give them exercises to help with this, but I had never actually done them myself.
I recognized that I couldn’t very well preach what I was not practicing myself, so I began the exercises as well. I distinctly remember the first moment I performed the exercise I encourage my clients to do on a daily basis: at 44 years of age, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and said, “I love you.” Tears began streaming down my face. I knew it was a lie, but I kept hearing my mother’s words echo in my head: Fake it till you make it. From that first experience, everyday I would look in the mirror and repeat the words. Maybe two weeks into the process the tears grew less, then eventually they stopped altogether. Slowly, the smile that came after the phrase felt genuine—and natural. A few weeks before my 46th birthday, I looked in the mirror and absolutely loved what I saw staring back, eczema scars and all.
My quest for authenticity throughout my life has led me to help other women learn how to find and express their own. It began as an ebook I co-wrote called Shifting Into High Gear where we teach readers to learn how to listen to their bodies because they are designed as radar detectors for what is really going on within us. If you ever want to tap into your authenticity, listen to your gut. It’s your soul’s way of sending you a message that you need to heed so you can show up as wonderful, incredible you.
This book has served as an incredible springboard for us to create courses, retreats, workshops, coaching and healing sessions all dedicated to women who have been spoon fed ideas about what it means to be authentic, yet they haven’t experienced it for themselves. It’s all about serving and helping women prepare themselves to start shifting into high gear so that they’re able to be their best selves.
What’s interesting about this work is that the more women I meet and work with, the more connected I become to my true self and this mission to help others find their true selves. When you can truly connect with yourself, your entire experience expands and your life along with it.
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