Who you gonna be, if you can’t be yourself?

I am writing as I am coming out of a very tiring season of life… one that I have undoubtedly grown in, yet one that has drained me of my usual inspiration and emotional stability. My defenses are down because I don’t have any energy to nurse them. My perfectionism is loving my present state and is seeping in like oil from a marine rig spill. It seeps it and it is thick, impeding my soul from inspiration and joviality.

So perfectionism becomes my norm and not an exception. I am not strong enough to resist societal and personal pressures of perfection from my surroundings. Why am I writing this? Because I think you probably, deep down, can identify. We live in a world of scarcity, which greets us in the morning, telling us we didn’t sleep enough last night, then accompanies us through the day. Not enough. We don’t have enough money. We aren’t put together enough today. We aren’t fitting the cultural gender norms enough (for females: nice, thin, & modest; for males: emotional control, primacy of work, violence, and pursuit of status) . We aren’t thin enough. We aren’t smart enough. We aren’t working hard enough. This line of thinking quickly turns into… ok, well, I should do this more, I should work out more, I should be working at a better paying job because most of my peers my age have surpassed my station, I should be a “better Christian”, I should run to the store because this shirt is so 10 years ago, I should be more interested in this popular hobby, I should have made first team, I should appear to be more invincible, I should act like I care who Justin Beiber is dating, I should be having children right now, I should be prettier so I won’t get bullied, I should be shorter, I should be taller, I should be married by now, I should have the latest iPhone to keep up with the times, I should, I should, I should.

Where am I getting these ideas? Oh my friend… from many, many conversations carefully dancing around the topic of scarcity, without every calling it out for what it is. I’m not going to be silent or sugar coat today. I don’t have the energy to do either. Just enough energy to write my truth.

These “shoulds” take over and honestly, we listen to them, we conform, and we become a shell of who we really are deep down… we become a shadow of who we want to be. And let’s not fool ourselves… the shell looks ok on the outside, but hideous in the inside. It sucks our energy out of us to be someone or something we are not.

Who are you going to be if you can’t be yourself?

Dr. Brene Brown, a vulnerability and shame researcher writes in her latest book, Daring Greatly: “We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.”

I frankly don’t have the energy to compare myself to someone else any longer. I am my best when I love who I am. I am able to help and love and change things when I am at my best. I will not become a shadow. This is me. Accept me or move along.

As I pen this post, I am reminded of some chillingly appropriate lyrics from: “Pick Yer Nose,” by Ani Difranco, a folk music lyrical genius.

How come I can pick my ears
But not my nose
Who made up that rule anyway
How can you say that’s the way it is
That’s just the way it goes
Why don’t you decide for yourself
What you can do
And what you can say

I think shy is boring
I think depressed is too
I think pretty is nice
But I’d rather see something new
All these plastic people
Got their plastic surgery
But we got a big big beautiful
We got it for free
Who you gonna be
If you can’t be yourself
You can’t get it from t.v.
You can’t force it on
Anybody else

‘Cause I’m not going to pretend
That I don’t pick my nose
That’s just the way it is, my friends
That’s just the way it goes
This is who I am
What I do
And what I say
If you like it, let it be
If you don’t, please do the same

I fight with love
I laugh with rage
You gotta live light enough to see the humor
And long enough to see some change

So today, I will celebrate myself for who I am. I will honor all of the parts of me. My gifts, my talents, my body, my smile, my knowledge repertoire, my spirit, my spirituality, my laugh, my passions.

I freely admit I am imperfect, I don’t know everything there is to know about biology, I do not have a huge bank account, I may not have the wittiest response, I do not have the strongest arms or fastest mile run, and I will probably screw up something in the next hour if given the opportunity.

But I can promise you that I will be kind to you, that I will hug you, and I will respect you for who you are. I can promise you I will fight for equality with my hands and my faith. I can promise you when I say I will pray for you that I will. I can promise you that when you speak to me, I will be present and attentive. I can promise you that I will give you dignity. This is me; I am Kate.

So see me. See right through me. And let me be.

I always welcome comments. Even on personal posts like this. Tell me your story… tell me how you pick your nose.


So I’ve been thinking about the power of words this morning and ironically decided to use a few words to convey those thoughts. Words are powerful. The written word provides many people yearly salaries as they devote themselves to various online and written publications. The musical word is passed from generation to generation and has a distinct way of connecting otherwise disconnected peoples. The spoken word as it is communicated can have a tremendous effect on the receiver. Words can be life-giving or they can be shattering. Words can build one up or let one know that he/she isn’t worthy enough of the time it takes to produce a kind word. It is all to easy to insert one’s negative opinion about one’s self in self-deprecating humor or one’s negative opinion about others in sarcasm laced with subtle, hurtful innuendos. It is often times much easier to demean others for their opinions, looks, beliefs, endeavors, and attractions than it is to listen and love them for or in spite of their opinions, looks, beliefs, endeavors, and attractions. I often see grace presented in the church from the pulpit, but then that grace is abandoned… lost to preferences, self-righteousness, and pride. I’ve seen and experienced the same in relationships, often times finding myself the guilty perpetrator. So I am reflecting on extending grace through words–though I certainly don’t mean to negate the importance of grace through action.

If you agree that words can be life-giving or shattering, consider the magnitude of messages that the media extends to girls and young women that let them know how thin, tall, and tan they must be. Some of these messages are subtle and some not-so-subtle, but they are all words expertly used to convey an apparently necessary image. Having experienced this message via the uncanny number of hours teens spend watching television (a whole other blog post for another day), the girls then walk the halls of a school where fellow students who are trying to live up to the same image recreate. In the midst of this striving, unkind words are spat back and forth and everyone is left feeling that he/she is not enough in some way or another.

What if someone were to come along and tell that girl, “Sister, you are so beautiful!!! … you are beautiful in your uniqueness, you are beautiful because you stand for justice and mercy, you are beautiful because of the way you love people, and you are enough. Don’t you dare let a television commercial or a show like Toddler’s and Tiara’s tell you who you have to be. Be a woman who cares, who fights for justice, who shaves her head if she wants to. Because that is beautiful. Not air-brushing and the newest mascara.”

Let’s get some truth out there and use our words to give life… to fight for equality, to express love, to illicit change in our broken country and political system, and to build each other up. We can disagree, but don’t demean me because you can’t reconcile my beliefs with yours. Keep your beliefs, just give me words of grace. For summation of all these thoughts, here’s a powerful Ani Difranco line:

“I’ve never tried to give my life meaning by demeaning you”