As I was perusing my calendar to put things together this week, it occurred to me that Fashion.Style.Beauty turns 8 on Thursday. This site, originally created with a vague idea around self-expression, has taught me so much more: it’s made it perfectly okay to celebrate my differences.
I was born into the world an oddity: light-skinned black girl who loves heavy metal, drawing, reading books, and writing plays growing up in West Virginia, obsessed with singing, protector of wounded animals, natural-grown hippie, etc. The messages I received for years were that it wasn’t okay to be different, that this individuality of mine was somehow, um, very WRONG. Step in line, or get the Hell out of here.
Let me say this for the record: after 40+ years of attempting to assimilate, I can honestly say that I am not good at being anyone other than myself; I suck at it. I have attempted to do all the things people say I should do or be or how I should act. I’ve been “shoulded” to death; most of us have.
The should-ing comes from family members and well-meaning friends. If you don’t seem to have assimilated to societal norms at some point, you wind up with people should-ing all over you. We all wind up covered in, standing waist-deep in, and drowning in should. Should eventually smells because we’re just standing in it, never moving, evolving or going anywhere. No one can tell how fabulous you are if you’re covered in should. We all look the same, we sound the same, we acquiesce, we become…normal. We spend our time looking for clues and how-to’s and street style photos and articles and clickbait and listicles and conversations with others who seem to have figured it out. Inside our houses, inside our bodies, we’re dying to get out of our skin and be ourselves.
Life is too short for all of this. Normal is boring. What about the beauty of your own self-expression? Buried in a pile of should? Shake that should off. Your life is calling.
Listen, I’m not telling you not to find affiliation; find your tribe. But wouldn’t it be easier to find said tribe as your authentic self? Don’t you believe there’s a group of people who are just DYING to meet the real you? Hell, it doesn’t even matter if there aren’t: wouldn’t you be happier if you could sit with yourself, completely comfortable with who you are and your own unique expression? You’re amazing, gorgeous, and utterly fascinating. Don’t you deserve a chance to get to know yourself, to find out how deep, strong, and special you are?
I get it: special scares people. “You think you’re something special,” is something that’s been used against me for years – YEARS. You know what? You bet your ass I’m special. I’m a force of nature, sucker. Stand back. I need some room to get weird.
Can you imagine if Lady Gaga played it small? If Picasso tried to live differently to avoid persecution? If Cher had decided to avoid the spotlight? If Stevie Nicks had followed the pressure to just settle down? If Billie Jean King had deferred to Bobby Riggs? (Look that up if you don’t know what I’m talking about?) What if Beyoncé had decided to hide her abilities? What if the person who created your favorite restaurant had given in? What if Steve Jobs thought it had been easier to run in the center of the pack? Rosa Parks? Barbara Walters? Sally Ride? Malala? My goodness, think of what would have happened to the world, to our experience of living right now, if any of these people would have hidden their differences in a whole pile of should.
Life is too short to play it small. I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going to let my freak flag fly and give myself a shot at being as big and beautiful and proud and different and, yes, SPECIAL as I wanna be.
For the record, this whole “accepting yourself” process is not easy. If you spend years apart from what makes you unique and special, you become less acquainted. However, slowly but surely, I’m discovering what makes me different, and those unique abilities are shaping my life in ways I never thought possible.
I’m going to document this journey, not because I think I’m super fabulous (although I am special, we just talked about that.) It’s because I’m hoping that some of you will see that it might be messy, but it can be done. And then maybe you’ll rise out of the depths of should and do your thing. Maybe you’ll convince your friend to do the same, and then one by one, we’ll leave all the should on the ground where it belongs and rise to a new level of amazing.
The difference — our differences — make all the difference. I celebrate you today. Be yourself.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get some should off my life.