What I want to share with you in my writing is a confirmation that it's ok to live out loud, to not put on a mask. What I want to share with the wise women Wednesday column are women who I believe are living out loud, creating, and living abundantly, women who would rather be honest and show you who they are than cover it up with a mask. The reason I want to do this is because I'm a live out loud, show the bad and good kind of person and I think it's healthier than the alternative.
As a child of age 6 or maybe 7 I started calling myself a "theater person". Seth Godin calls this your "tribe". I don't remember anyone explaining to me what a theater person was or telling me that's what I was. I'm mostly certain this is something I came up with on my own because even at a young age I had a strong sense of who I was and more specifically what I wanted from life. At 4 I begged my parents for dance lessons. At 10 I told my mom that I needed to move to LA and start auditioning and that she was holding back my acting career because she wasn't flying me out there. Luckily my mom has a sense of humor and didn't take that one too personally. Looking back it's exceptionally strange how fiercely I knew that I was a theater person. As I child I lived out loud and put my whole self into the world without trying to cover anything up. I wouldn't mask any part of me.
About the 3rd grade this strategy of owning being a "theater person" and living out loud stopped seeming like a good idea as other kids became more self conscious and less tolerant of the werido theater girl that I was. This is when I started to get made fun of ruthlessly by my peers and I don't think this is a unique scenario. It's probably happened to millions of kids. I know for a fact that it was happening to others kids in my class too. When you're a dramatic and sensitive kid it's like you have a bulls eye on your back, I was almost asking for it. No matter how many days I spent in my room crying after school about something that had been said never did it occur to me to not be who I was.
Recently I read the memoir "Love Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton. About the same time that I was embracing that I was a nerdy kid that was about to endure a few years of being the butt of jokes Glennon was a budding teenager deciding that she was going to put on a face "The representative" to move forward in the world in an effort to protect herself from what others might think of her true self. She coped with life by letting her "Representative" mask her bulimia, alcoholism and drug abuse. I know this is how many others live their lives, by masking what's really inside. For me this is a completely foreign idea because I was a kid who put her whole self out into the world despite the rather large consequences. Maybe I wasn't smart enough to come up with the idea of a representative. Ultimately those experiences of being made fun of, being only one of a handful of girls in the class not invited to the popular girls sleep overs while they talked about it in front of me shaped who I was. Knowing that I didn't belong and the overwhelming knowing that I did belong somewhere kept me from thinking that I should change who I was.
It never occurred to me to cover up who I was. I was adamant that I belonged to the theater people and the hope that they really were out there got me through grade school. I knew once I grew up and joined them I'd have a home with friends who got me, friends who saw me for exactly who I was and it would all be ok. Luckily for me this actually happened. The reality that I had imagined all those years showed up when I was in the 7th grade. I started working at the Ohio Theater. We put on a "Haunted Theater". I was almost the youngest in the group, they were all high school students and here I was a little 7th grader, but I never felt like I was tagging along, I never felt like an outsider, I was seen, and loved for who I was and their freak flags matched mine. When they joked and when we made fun of each other it never felt like when my peers did it. This kind of joking and teasing came from a place of knowing and of love. Finding my tribe was the most affirming experience I'd ever had and it confirmed for me that I should move through life as i was. It confirmed that I did in fact know myself. There were people in the world that would love me as the overly sensitive dramatic kid that I was and sometimes still am.
"Theater people" were who they were openly and freely. They were role models to not change who you were, role models to not live a lie or cover up your vulnerabilities. They too lived out loud.
What Glennon learned and talks about in her book is that when she peeled off the representative and put herself out into the world she began to know herself and could love herself and other people raised their hands and said "me too, I'm like you". Which is what I experienced in the theater. When you are your true self you give others the permission to be their true selves too.
This book "Love Warrior" has me thinking and wondering how many people out in the world live out loud and how many people go through life with the representative masking who they are? And how many of us use a combination of both living out loud and letting the representative step forward? Do you live out loud or do you mask with a representative? If you mask with a representative is there anywhere you feel like you can take the representative off? If you live out loud what gives you the courage to walk through the world so freely? I really want to know.