I’m 49 years old and I’ve spent most of my post adolescent life searching for approval.
Friends, co-workers, family, partners, sometimes even the barista at Starbucks or the cashier at 7Eleven. I go to these places several times a week, do they like me? Does the cashier at 7Eleven who called me sir the first time I went there still think I look like a man? It doesn’t matter that she barely lifted her head to look at me and assumed short hair and baseball cap I was a guy. How do I look today?
I’m even thinking, do you approve when I’m writing this blog? Will they get it, is it worth writing, does anyone really read this stuff?
Are you shaking your head in disbelief, or nodding your head saying yep, me too?
Can you remember when you were a child and you felt like you could conquer the world and then all of a sudden you started doubting everything. Do you still doubt yourself more than trust yourself? Do you trust yourself to make decisions without having to ask a half dozen of your friends for validation or approval? Geez, I hate when I do that.
Here’s the thing, put me in front of an easel or on a ladder in front of a wall I’m painting, and like magic, I’m ok with myself. Torn-up jeans, bandana tied around my head, charcoal smudged across my face from wiping the sweat off… yes in that moment I’m just fine. As a matter of fact, I’m even better than fine, I’m down right confident. And sometimes I even feel a little sexy. True story.
So why, when I probably look the worst, do I feel the best. I imagine it’s because in that moment I’m believing in what I am doing. Why I am doing it, and the person I am. Nothing and no one could break that confidence in those moments. If someone stopped and said why are you doing that, you’re too old to be climbing ladders, women don’t do that, or even, you’re a sweaty mess, I’d hold myself even taller. I’d respond with something like, because women are worth it. I’m showing women their value, I’m empowering women with my murals, and I have been given a gift with my art and have found my voice through my art. You wouldn’t be able to shake me, or put even a mustard seed of doubt in my mind.
Take me off my ladder, put me somewhere, where no one knows my cause, or my art, and all of a sudden opinions matter and judgment hurts.
You’re OK when you say you are.
I have to begin saying I’m OK, even when I’m not standing with a paintbrush in my hand. Because I am pretty darn ok, and if you nodded or even related just a little bit to my 7Eleven experience, stop now, take a deep breath and say, “I AM OK”. Maybe if we practice saying it, we’ll start believing it.
Maybe when there is no one around and you’re completely by yourself that is the place you should be saying you’re ok. I know that is where I need to be saying “I am ok”, because that is the place that really matters. That is where when you believe it, you’ll carry it around with you and hold your head up and shoulders back and that little girl you trusted years ago will shine again. It’s called authenticity. Your true self. There’s really no better person you could be, than you.
I am OK when I say I am. I am.