The Freedom of Being Ourselves (Whether Others Like Us or Not)

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde

“Cringey” is what my kids called it. Me? I was just being Sam.

After hitting “post” on my highly emotive Instagram video—one of those more-than-one-minute jobbies that winds up on Instagram TV—I closed the app and had a brief moment of panic. Maybe I said too much? Maybe I screwed myself by being too honest? Too open? Too… vulnerable?

A few hours after sharing that five-minute, tear-filled video on not giving up on our dreams, I still didn’t have the courage to log back in to see how many followers I’d lost. Or to even delete the thing, because that would also require logging back in. I pressed on with my day and chastised myself for this classic case of Sam Oversharing.

Dammit. When will I learn?

To combat my feelings of anxiety, I usually resort to hitting the trails. The very act of putting one foot in front of the other soothes my worrying soul, infusing me with renewed perspective. So that’s what I did, the day I thought I shared too much: I went for a walk.

And as is often the case, I began to see things a little more clearly after asking myself three questions:

1. What were my intentions in sharing the video?

2. Did I have something insightful and authentic to offer?

3. Why did it matter what anyone else thought?

Let me break it down for you, because I had an epiphany that seems so on the nose, I’m almost embarrassed to write about it. How could it not be more obvious?

The answer to those three questions all circled back to one simple truth: I was just being myself. That’s it. 

In the process of being ourselves, we let others see us for who we really are. Turns out, I’m an over-sharing, comfortable-with-vulnerability, sometimes dramatic, heart-on-sleeve gal, fraught with insecurities and rich in idiosyncrasies.

I eat way too many chips, talk openly about my hormones and hairy legs, and appear to care deeply about the validation of others. It’s nice to meet you.

Look, it isn’t the first time I’ve put myself and all my weirdness on display. I’ve a long history of posting about my Gong Show life and subsequently surviving the fallout.

That time I was trapped in my new boots at the Toronto airport, yanking on a broken zipper while holding up the line as exasperated travelers sought to help pull them off. I wrote about it.

That time I thought the dog was missing but had merely forgotten him in the car after he accompanied me on a midnight procurement trip for junk food. Shared it.

Or when I left my sixteen-year career in finance. I wrote a short novel for that Facebook status, carefully crafting the narrative in case anyone decided to judge me for starting fresh.

Other times, I’ve taken to the socials to passionately air my opinion on topics near and dear, like shaming the local news media for missing a triumphant story of international competitive success with my kids’ gymnastics team. Turns out, there was something printed after all, I just didn’t see it. So, let’s add “impulsive” to the list of adjectives defining me, and “one who doesn’t always do her homework.”

My point is this: I’ve come to the conclusion that instead of wincing every time I share something, or show how I actually feel, I’m going to embrace it. I am who I am, and if it makes you uncomfortable, then you can move on. No hard feelings. 

Since accepting that my unfiltered ways are simply me, I’ve felt unsurpassed freedom. If I get to be me, and it turns out that you like me, well, alright then! If I get to be me, but you shuffle along, that’s cool, too. The people who understand me are the people who are still here. I don’t need everyone and their damn dog to like me. I’ve been there, tried to do that, and it’s exhausting.

But if we aren’t hurting anyone in our quests to truly be ourselves, why aren’t more people living this way? Maybe it’s because we assume that being ourselves just doesn’t cut the mustard. We’ve been conditioned to believe we aren’t shiny enough, young enough, rich enough, educated enough, or informed enough to exist in today’s performative world.

And I’m tired of it, quite frankly.

Part of the reason I left my career last January was this deep yearning I felt to live unapologetically. As myself.

Although much of my time as a financial advisor was rewarding, I often felt stifled, required to behave as a version of myself that didn’t line up. I had to shove the real Sam back inside myself. Keep a lid on her. Keep her quiet for compliance and reputational reasons. I maintained this through all of my thirties and half my forties until I nearly broke.

Over this last year, however, I’ve discovered a tremendous shift in what matters to me. Now unencumbered, I’m exploring my true self without any muzzle or handcuffs.

If I want to submit a piece I’ve written and say how I really feel, I’m going to do that. Because I can. If I want to dive deep into my creativity to see where it leads, I will.

For me, the pandemic has also illuminated some habits that were inadvertently hurting me. Being stuck at home has shown me that I’m actually quite introverted. I enjoy time to myself and often find it challenging to give my energy to people outside my family. This is just the truth. Pre-pandemic, however, I’d say YES to almost any invitation because my boundaries around my own mental health were not prioritized over the feelings of others.

Now, if I don’t feel like Zoom-zoom-zooming, I’m more empowered to just say it like it is. “You know what? Not feeling it today. Still love you, but no. I’ve got a date with Netflix and a bowl of Tostitos. Let’s talk next weekend.”

I used to view this as selfish. But what I’ve learned is I’m not doing anyone any favors if I show up cranky for something I really don’t want to be at. Because I’m a terrible faker—let’s add that to the list of why I am the way I am.

I’ve also discovered that I am legit a wandering soul. I know this for sure, because the travel embargo has wreaked havoc with my natural tendency to hit the road. And I will no longer apologize for this passion of mine. Yes, I’m grateful for all the blessings and beauty of my own backyard, but you know what? I’m allowed to miss the wider world. It’s part of what makes me me, and I will no longer water it down.

Because I don’t want to be an actress. Contrary to the world we live in, where every dish we eat, trip we take (okay, the ones we used to take), outfit we assemble, animal we groom, it’s all up for display, but we showcase only the best versions of our lives.

We don’t want people to see behind the curtains… The dirty dishes strewn everywhere (check). The dental floss we tossed on the floor instead of in the garbage (check). The bottom half of our attire (long undies with holes in them). We take great pains to ensure that how we represent ourselves is attractive, enviable, and meeting a standard that says we have it all together.

The thing is, I’ve decided wholeheartedly to embrace my obvious not having it all together. See, I know the truth—nobody has it all together. The second I accepted this universal tenet I became far more comfortable just being me. 

And that has led to a feeling of freedom I’m just now starting to taste.

I believe this is what everyone wants: freedom. If we are privileged to live in a world where we can show up as ourselves, that is a gift. For sure, not everyone has access to it. Some live in a world where they must hide their beliefs, their gender identities, dilute their dreams or worse, battle through atrocities the likes of which we have nary a concept.

So, if we are lucky enough to live in a society where we can show up as ourselves so long as we aren’t hurting others, shouldn’t we be rushing to do so? Isn’t it our duty to interact with people in a richer, more authentic, more emboldened way? Aren’t you tired of trying to be someone else?

It’s not that I don’t value growth. As long as we’re human, we will always strive for improvement. But there isn’t anyone else in the whole wide world like us. Everyone else is already taken. Therein is our own version of a superpower: an essence of what we can contribute because we are ourselves, not in spite of it.

About Samantha Plavins

Sam Plavins is a Gen-x mom, wife, adventurer, writer, and recovering over-sharer. In 2019, she hiked 800-km across Northern Spain and had the epiphany that her career in finance was killing her. So she decided to walk a new path, launching She Walks the Walk to help women like her lead more authentic, inspired lives. She wants you off society’s treadmill, or at the very least to question it! Find her at shewalksthewalk.comInstagramYouTube, or her travel blog, and check out her podcast here.

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