I n the not-so-distant past, I believed that in order to be loved and to belong in my social world, I needed to twist and contort myself into what people expected me to be. I wore the right clothes (ones that were seasonal and neutral). I drove the right car in the 90’s (a 4-Door Oldsmobile like my mother drove). I did the right things (like serve as Vice President of the PTA).
I believed that I had to abide by the rules of polite society, and in my world that meant never leaving the house without make-up, never wearing white shoes after Labor Day, and always making others believe that life behind closed doors was perfect. I went to the gym, wore pantyhose to church, and brutally forced my hair into submission.
When I came into this world, I was a big ball of energy and creativity.
At an early age, I learned that I shouldn’t be too loud or too large a presence. Creativity should be expressed through reading, not writing.
If I were to survive, I needed to follow the rules.
While I won’t bore you with true tales of real life behind the white picket fence, I was dying inside. I had lost my faith and my intuition, and my creativity was languishing. I lived in fear and with the belief that I didn’t deserve more. That I was only valuable if I stuck to the “party line.” That I should be satisfied with my lot in life. That I should settle for what I had.
And deep down, I believed that I would never have enough – enough love, enough money, enough of a sense of belonging to any family or group.
And I was fucking exhausted trying to keep up the pretense of perfection.
When my ex threatened my “bad behavior” with a divorce, I realized that I had had enough rules and enough pretending and enough threats, and I agreed. I was frightened as hell, but it was the first real leap of faith that I took, and my life began to change.
And then I began breaking the rules. I needed to rebel. I needed to step outside the lines. I needed to allow the core of who I was – big and bold and bright – to see the light of day.
I learned that the more you step aside the lines of your own rules, then the bigger your world could get. I also learned that if I stepped too far out of my rules, I could always retreat back a bit. There is no sin in two steps forward, one step back.
I learned that sometimes, you have to try something you don’t think you’ll like. Because maybe you will.
I also learned that as ironic as it seems, the more we try to force ourselves to be different from who we really are so that people will love and accept us, the further we move away from that deep sense of being loved and belonging.
Recently I interviewed Jeni Britton Bauer (founder of Jeni’s splendid Ice Cream) for All Things Girls and I loved this quote:
“I never felt that the rules were there to hold me back, but to support me. So, I felt that they were optional.” — Jeni Britton Bauer
I loved that dash of wisdom.
If the rules are holding you back from being the sexiest, shiniest, most amazing version of who you are, then maybe they’re optional.
In my case, I discovered that most of the rules were optional. I’m the adult. I get to decide which rules work for me and which ones are optional. I’ll admit that some of those old rules have stuck around (white shoes, pantyhose), but the rules that are here are the ones that I know I can toss out the window or choose to keep.
I’m the boss of me. And darling you are the boss of you.
Darling, the rules of society are not always set in stone, but guidelines. There are ones that are there for protection, of course. And I’m a big fan of kindness and thank you’s and not gossiping.
While I’m not suggesting you set out to break the law, I am going to encourage you to let your inner rebel have her say.
Determine which rules are optional. Lovingly embrace the rules you want to keep. Toss the whole rule book out the window if you so choose.
The real you, that core of soul that has been with you from the moment you were born into this world is begging you to toss off the shackles that bind you and be you.
Breaking the rules and re-writing the ones that guide your daily life may be uncomfortable, but it’s like walking through fire: necessary.
Breaking the rules I was raised on hasn’t always been easy. It doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes. It’s angered people that I love for daring to be bold or different.
But darling, it was critical to me finding this path. This zest for living. This daily life that I am so in love with.
Break the rules. Write your own rule book that sings to you. Give yourself permission to be the you that was meant to be. Tell me darling, what rules in your world are optional? Are you ready to break ’em?