I recently made a short film for little girls - or as I like to think about it, the little girl in all of us.
When asked why I made it the answer was easy: it was the message I wished I had learned.
That it is okay to be all of yourself and follow your own path even if that means it looks different, or that you are loud, bossy, or just overall a little "too much."
It makes it sound like I had a hard childhood or adolescence. I didn’t. In fact I was very loved and supported, I had friends, good grades, and boyfriends growing up. But my 20’s weren’t quite the same.
Every slight and criticism was taken with a grain of salt. I was strong and independent. I had life experiences that taught me to shake it off (before Taylor Swift said it was the cool thing to do).
But those comments, relationships, and moments eventually added up. It wasn’t a person or a day. It was the accumulation of people and moments that lead me to self doubt. A self doubt that the younger me never knew. I thought it would pass. It didn’t.
One day I woke up and didn't recognize myself. It felt like nothing was working. and my life was melting down around me. Eventually I worked my way out of it - not because of me, but because I found people who saw something in me I had lost (more on that later).
The parts of me I had lost faith in they didn’t just believe in, they fought to get more of. Eventually these people taught me how to bring myself back to life.
Why am I telling girls not only that it’s okay to own their voice but that they should actively protect it from anyone who wants to silence or judge it? Because it took me 33 years to learn it and it’s a lesson I’m still working on.
I am often left sitting in a pile of my own shame every time I open my mouth.
Dear fairy godmother,
One of these days, can I please turn into one of those women who gracefully and appropriately navigates life, relationships, and social situations.
The crazy part is that while I have my moments where I push a little (or a lot) too far, for the most part I’m not actually the offensive asshole my shame spiral makes me out to be.
What I have learned is that I am boldly honest which definitely stirs the pot. But sometimes things need to be shaken up a little.
I am fiercely vulnerable with my feelings as they happen. I don’t always say things the right way at the right time and what I have to say isn't always easy to hear, but I fight passionately for what and who I believe in.
While the execution may at times be flawed, the people I’ve learned to keep close celebrate all parts of me. They are there to help me navigate the waters when I go too far, support me in who I want to be, and get back to owning my voice.
Just this week, I sent an email to a friend explaining how I’d been hurt by her. There were no accusations or judgements in the email but I can’t imagine it was easy to read.
I waited unsure of the reaction I would get. While I had faith in her and our friendship, history had prepared me for:
- “Calm down, can’t you just let go and go with the flow?
- “Why do you always need so much?”
- “Why are you always so much?”
Instead I awoke to a completely different response: “A-freaking-men to your email. Thank you for speaking up.”
Instead of judging me - she celebrated the sincere honesty, vulnerability, and believed in my true intentions. Something that could have been manipulated to be selfish or "too much" was seen as something worth celebrating.
I often hesitate or doubt myself because of the countless times I've had to monitor or filter my feelings simply because my self expression had been labeled too much.
So instead I developed a hard shell, a fortress around my heart. I became the selfish and harsh communicator I had been accused of being. I shut down out of fear that my “too-much-ness” would be mis understood.
As a result of the people who pulled me out of this spiral, I gained a new sense of self acceptance. It led me back to a place of knowing and owning my voice. That was neither a quick or easy path.
I still routinely say or do the wrong thing - or worse, fall into an unnecessary shame spiral. but I’m surrounded by people that celebrate (even the too much parts). They teach me how to change the parts that need changing and accept the parts that need accepting.
This is the lesson I want all women and people to know. Especially the young girls who are just staring out. Who haven’t had their hearts broken or hardened yet.
Because we shouldn’t have to relearn this lesson. We shouldn’t have to ask ourselves:
- “Why do I have to care so much?”
- “Why can’t I be easier?”
- “Why can’t I shut my mouth or let it go?”
- “Why am I so much all of the time?”
And the best part ... if you surround yourself with the right people - you’ll never have to ask.