Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Still Taking Myself Out of the Picture

Every time we get together, we do a group picture, as if to remind us that, although our building is gone, our hearts remain connected. All too often these days, I’m not in the picture, even those times when I’m there.

Maybe I was in the bathroom, or outside trying to pull it together because I was having a rough time. Maybe I didn’t go at all because funds and circumstances didn’t permit. Even if I was fine with not being there, seeing the group pictures where I’m missing hurts.

Yet there are plenty of times I’m there, sometimes right in the middle, my red curls standing out amidst the browns, blonds, and subtler shades. I paste a smile on my face and my eyes close to small slits when the person wielding the camera says “say cheese”. When I’m overly visible, I try not to critique; to notice how much heavier I am than the women who surround me, or that my clothes aren’t as carefully pressed and attractive. I try to ignore how thrown together I look, despite the time I took fixing my hair and putting on makeup.

Trying to Fit in When It’s No Longer Necessary

As often as not, I’ll hide in the back, my face partially covered by someone’s head, my body https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffsand/3871415191/in/photolist-pcGBET-kFToD-6qGVED-qNy62T-68V6FA-in6U7u-in73Zi-in67pq-2X39ED-in5RhJ-in62bm-6U71RM-qNCNQf-6VFXCi-p5tBS9-oZtmEp-7aBWmV-pmWp5N-in7Paa-qNys8v-in78S4-in6ZkK-in66L2-in5VK1-pcDpbn-qxEYaihidden so my natural unkemptness is less obvious. But I wonder, why don’t I take more care? Why don’t I pull out an iron or wear something more flattering? Sure, I’m dancing, and I sweat a lot. I tend to wear clothes that are lighter, cooler, and not always classy. I stopped wearing boots because they made my toes hurt, so my clunky dance sneakers at the end of long, slender legs look like Mickey Mouse feet. Is it any wonder I so often take myself out of the picture?

The pictures tell a different story than the hard fought confidence I try to exude. They deny the progress I’ve made, though the mere fact I’m in some of them is a giant stride. The 20 or so pounds I’ve managed to keep off aren’t obvious from the photographs, but when I stop being critical, I know.

What also doesn’t show is that when I’m missing these days, I’m also missed. That’s something I didn’t have until maybe the last couple of years. Until then, I’d have to be gone for weeks before my absence would be noticed, if it was noticed at all. Now, it’s often a matter of minutes, even while I’m telling myself I’ve managed to slip away without making a ripple.

Why Do We Try to Blend In?

I may still have some of the barriers up; excess weight, untidy appearance; but I’ve lowered others, allowing people to get closer and see the real me. When I’m missing from the picture or the gathering, people not only notice, but let me know I was missed. It’s crazy how good that feels to a woman who spent a large portion of her life trying to be wallpaper.

Which begs the question, why would anyone want to blend in with the walls and go unnoticed. To answer that, I’d have to go back to my childhood when I didn’t know how to embrace and love my differences. Back then, my mother nagged at me about my weight and my acne-ridden skin. The neighborhood kids found ammunition in my glasses and zits, and eventually, the steel bands forcing my teeth into a more aesthetically pleasing symmetry. Nothing was out-of-bounds for kids who were, in retrospect, trying to draw attention away from their own flaws.

Embrace Your Unique, Quirky Self

I grew up believing I needed to fit in, yet having no idea how to go about it. I didn’t know then my own personal style was all I needed, and that fitting in was, and still is highly overrated. Someone wiser than me said if we are simply ourselves, we’ll attract the people who accept and love us as we are.

But more teenage tears are shed from being excluded. More angst is formed from being marked as “different”. Many of us carry that into our adult lives where we continue trying to force ourselves into an uncomfortable, ill-fitting mold. We never quite manage to conform, but however much we do is itchy and uncomfortable, often leading to irritability and further self-abuse, because where are we going to direct that irritability but towards ourselves? We’re the ones failing to measure up, right?

Finding Myself When I Stopped Trying to Conform

In my 20’s and 30’s, I dressed the part, and tried my hardest to avoid conflict and https://www.flickr.com/photos/125303894@N06/14365669046/in/photolist-nTrNV5-2f5PCUZ-28knBCQ-bSRpwg-hSnPyx-otGuDp-azqvRQ-D2QXQh-YVh4U5-8ZJcE3-26bTzFo-eeaBEi-occovQ-9i7bQ5-23CJvTx-rhV1XQ-26LZPM6-nrsG7K-bmnvub-8rRn4C-MZDGbT-HuqYEh-27342hV-HrkwAE-ehfTPF-2734sEP-LgusiG-272GRGH-25DqddG-25Dqn1m-Y2VH7U-LXKfra-LguvaJ-25Dqnoq-25DJuL5-2f1ci9J-25DqbXL-28povan-Lm2wcx-HkMrNJ-2dYUsVs-oaeobo-ZR9qTn-rtFBMa-24ZPYXp-R78K1f-Dymseq-24W5BDs-23CJCE8-21DkYfLconfrontation, but all too often, it found me anyway. I’d come home from work,  immediately strip off the trappings of conformity, and sigh as I sank into the soft comfort of t-shirts, sweats and bare feet.

By my 50’s, I gave up trying to fit in and accept my isolation. I was still taking jobs which fit my skill set but not my mindset. It took a few more years for me to see I didn’t fit into Corporate America at all. Still, when I finally saw it, I threw away the baby with the bath water, so to speak, and lost my work ethic and ability to manage a schedule for awhile.

Now I’m slowly climbing back up; re-engaging old skills like setting deadlines and keeping commitments, not to anyone else, but to myself. I’ve never had a problem honoring those I make to others, so my clients haven’t suffered during this period of rebirth. Instead, I’ve had to learn I’m as important (if not more so) than my clients, and to treat myself accordingly. In other words, I am responsible for keeping myself in the picture.

Pouring from a Full Vessel

https://www.flickr.com/photos/blueyeda73/462237282/in/photolist-ERQi6-4QJhoE-dze2go-72vcw-Ewfmrv-z5pHh7-yNMLkm-z7eorD-5m8ZsL-eLzyW-4zDPn4-oaHUt5-sixfS-GR63j-BQbZtq-GmyPM-AUZ1vW-AUYQqq-dEZ72-wr2n7s-djYJn3It still surprises me to see how much my clients benefit when I’m taking care of myself first. Their work gets done more quickly and with even greater attention to detail. I see things I might have missed if I was still glossing over my own needs and requirements. It really is true you can’t pour from an empty vessel. If you don’t take care of yourself, everyone suffers, even if it’s not readily apparent.

Part of doing a better job for clients is improving and expanding my own skill set. As I commit to getting up earlier, I start my work day sooner, allowing for an hour or so of self-development before I start on tasks for clients (including myself). That may mean doing some reading to tap into areas of my expertise I’ve yet to mine, or working through a course which will help me hone in on who I really want to serve. Sometimes, it’s an hour with my coach, or following up on tasks I’ve been set.

Whatever I use that extra hour for, it benefits all my clients as well, both present and future. Keeping myself in the picture instead of sneaking away or hiding in the back means I’ll be ready when opportunities arise or the scenery changes. In the past, I would have tried harder to fit in. Now, I know I was meant to stand out.

Still Trying to Fit in? I Can Help!

Where are you fitting in when you should be standing out? What masks do you shed when you’re back in the safety of your home? If you’d like help breaking free of the masks and letting your real self shine, I invite you to join my Facebook group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward.

Are you struggling to keep all of your entrepreneurial balls in the air? Would you like to take a task or two off your plate? Maybe it’s content creation, or perhaps it’s getting your books in order and creating a budget. If this sounds familiar and you’re ready to streamline your life and give your business space to grow and thrive, CONTACT ME and let’s talk!

A Gratitude a Day…

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for reminders about how far I’ve come.
  2. I am grateful for friends who don’t allow me to go missing for long.
  3. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, especially when it comes to honoring commitments to myself.
  4. I am grateful for leaps of faith when I may not have landed perfectly or unscathed, but I landed exactly where I was supposed to; where I stopped trying to fit a mold that wasn’t me.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, opportunities, manifestations, inspiration, joy, dancing, health, peace, harmony, happiness, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

Abut the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

I look forward to your comments.

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