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Stop Apologizing. Be Fearless.

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Do I even like all of who I am? I know others don't. Others think I should be more fun. More engaged in my life. More active. More involved- with men, with adventures, with a new career, with a new look. It is exhausting just trying to keep up with who others think I need to be- or should be. It

is so distracting! Let me start by telling you a little bit about who I Am. I am the Big 5-0 (now +1). I am single. I am twice divorced. I am a mother of two adult children. I am a Mamaw to my 4 Silly Patch grandchildren. I am female (should have started with that...ha!). I am a writer. I am a cat owner (although I think it might be more correct to say I am owned by my cat). I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a niece. I am a cousin. I am a friend. I am a collector of fun mugs, of colorful dish ware, and of fun holiday socks. I am a Christian. Now let me tell you who I really am outside of those 'labels'. I am honest, sometimes to a fault. I am faithful. I am loyal. I am sensitive. I am witty. I am a hard worker. I am a good listener. I am compassionate. I am trustworthy. I am a believer. I am creative. I am funny. I am hypersensitive. I am curious. I am an active dreamer. I am courageous. I am short-ish. I am chronically ill. I am a lover of books. I am fascinated by words. I am a journal keeper. I am a fan of music. I am a kitchen dancer. I am a survivor. And... back to that I am honest thing, I am someone who struggles with words to adequately describe myself when I refuse to consult Google. That is mostly due to the fact that your approval of me can far outweigh my approval of me- and that is the wrong side of the fence to be on.

It seems like for forever, I have relied more on what others think of me than on what I think of myself. I know this is a common cripple factor

with many of us. I don't refer so much to women or to men because this cripple factor seems to effect all of us, in any age group, as far back

as young enough to play dress up & pretend. We can become so obsessed, or side tracked, or distressed with how we look, how we act, what we like, or what we don't like- based on nothing more than this invisible approval meter. I remember once listening to a sermon and the pastor was sharing a funny truth about how if you have straight hair- you want your hair to be curly. And if you have curly hair- well, you want your hair to be straight. It was in reference to how we are just not happy with what we have. I see it as a much deeper root. If I have straight hair- and I want my hair to be curly, is it really about me? Or does it have much more to do with the fact that somewhere deep inside of me I believe the lie that other people would like me more if my hair wasn't straight? Or if my hair was highlighted. Or if I was taller. Or if I was more curvy... but definitely not heavy. Or if I was prettier- or more handsome (for you fellas). Or if I was younger. Or smarter. Or more witty. Or more adventurous. Or more brave. Or more talented. Or more rich. Or more popular. Or more healthy. Or more... BARF! This list could literally go on and on an on. Forever! And it is just disgusting how what other people think of us can make us think so much less of ourselves. Truth is, if you do have straight hair- you b*tch about having straight hair. If you have curly hair- you only really like it when other people tell you how they wished they had curly hair. Without that input, you b*tch about having curly hair. I tell ya, our human nature is an uphill battle. And it is exhausting.

So what do you do when approval from others holds more power than being satisfied with the way God made ya? Do you bend until you break under that cripple factor of approval from others, which I might remind you is more in your head than outside of it. Or do you wake up each day, look yourself in the eye, and utter words of affirmation out loud to your reflection of just how wonderful you are- until you believe it? We all know the second option is the correct option. But we also know that the first option is the way it usually plays out... even knowing option 2 is available to us. Let your mind wander back to high school for a minute. High school is a season of life when some of your most difficult growing up takes place. Some people made high school look effortless, like you see acted out in the movies. Others, well they made high school look truly tragic, also like you see acted out in the movies. (Photo added for visual effect of my 'tragic' high school years... I wanted- actually needed, for boys to like me yet somehow managed to put off this butch vibe to keep myself safe from the boys who hurt me. This did nothing in my ploy to be approved by the popular girls- it actually repelled them. And yes, you can probably guess which crowd I fell in with). But what is the common bond between the two extremes of effortless and tragic? Approval. If you fell in with the popular crowd, there was always someone more popular than you. More pretty (or more handsome). More well off. More liked. More fun. More envied. More everything. If you fell in with the smoke bench crowd (80's term for ya right there) there was always someone more smoke bench worthy than you. More daring. More dangerous. More cool. More feared. More party hardy. More everything. The only person on either side of that social scale that was at the top of the top- or the lowest of the low, was the narcissist. Funny thing about that, is that a narcissist will spend their entire life proving to the world that they are the primo, that they are the topper on the cake, that there is no one, absolutely no one- smarter, wiser, or better looking than them. They literally hold the measuring stick of approval and it never, not for a second, matches the height at which they stand. Take away- if you are sitting there reading this nodding along in agreement with a smirk of authority on your face, well you my friend, are the narcissist I am referring to. See ya, wouldn't want to be ya! You might be wondering how can I possibly say something like that and not feel bad. Well I am here to tell ya, sweetheart- I have more than paid my dues to the narcissists that have taken up residence in my life! The point is, at one time or another in our lives, we have all fell victim to the need for approval.

For you WordNerds out there who can't get enough of definitions, synonyms, and antonyms. Approval: an act or instance of approving something. Approbation. Praise. Blessing. Favor. Imprimatur. Antonyms (or opposite): Disapprobation. Disapproval. Disfavor. Dislike. [Thank you]. So simply put, the cripple factor occurs when we allow and invite others to have the power over us to approve of, to praise, and to give us favor on who we are as a person in how we look, what we like, what we don't like, how we dress, how we talk, how we think, how we behave, how we feel, and... it never stops. Think of approval as just willingly handing your power over to someone else. Sometimes, possibly even most times, the other person- or people, don't even know they are holding that power. In fact, it is very likely that you are the one holding approval over someone else, and you don't even know they placed that power in your hands. It is truly a vicious cycle. And. it. has. to. stop.

All things start with a simple act of awareness. Think of awareness as a gift. Without it, we are blind to our human condition and circumstance. With it- we have the ability to change the scenery in our lives, including the core of who we are as a person. That, my friend, is a gift that should not be wasted. I want you to take a few minutes with

no distractions to just clear your mind. Let all of the stress, anxiety, busyness, and excuses just float away. Now take out a sheet of paper and a pen. With that pen,

make a solid line right down the center of that sheet of paper. At the top of one column, I want you to write 'Labels'. At the top of the other column I want you to write 'I Am'. For me, it was easier to start with the 'Labels' column and then to move to the

'I Am' column. If it is easier for you to start with the 'I Am' column first, that is A-Okay! The only restrictions are that you cannot think of responses other people would say about you, and 'I Am' cannot turn into a column of 'I Am Not'. This is only about you and it is important to keep your lists positive. 'Labels' are those facts of who you are. For example, some of the things I listed above as labels are that I am a mother, a grandma, a Christian, a sister, a collector, etc. 'I Am' refers to who you are as a person apart from those labels. Examples I listed above are I am loyal, sensitive, witty, a hard worker, compassionate, etc. So now take a few minutes- longer if needed, to list your 'Labels' and your 'I Am'-s. I encourage you to try this assignment without the help of family, friends, Google, or Siri. It is important that the things you list be authentic and as true to you as they can be.

This list that you just created, this is the start of something new in you and for you! Congratulations, you just put the pen of your life in your

hand and you took back some of that power you have been giving away to other people. I urge you to place this list where you will see it daily, if not many times throughout your day. The more these positive qualities work their way into you mind, your thoughts, your words, your picture of the life you live- the less you will rely on approval from others. And that

is a very big deal! One hard truth I have learned, mostly from taking emotional nose dives onto the pavement, is that you must count on yourself to be your biggest cheer leader. Just as there is a cripple factor involved with giving away your power of approval to others, you can give away just as much power waiting around expecting someone else to cheer you on. Hey, it's great when they do, but it is not their job or responsibility. God assigned that to you. It is up to you if you get out of bed each morning. It is up to you if you get up, dress up, and show up each day. It is up to you if you hide behind the 'Labels'- or if you own the 'I Am's. I cannot encourage you enough to stop apologizing for who you are and to be fearless about embracing your 'I Am'-s! As your list grows, so will your confidence and your joy!

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