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Be Who YOU Decide You Are

Updated: Jan 11

Halloween. The big annual event where we send our kids out into the neighborhood dressed up in crazy costumes, to knock on strangers’ doors and ask for candy. Wait...what? Kind of a weird thing to do if you think about it, but I have to admit it really is fun. Even grown ups get into the action. At the party store where we bought our costumes this year, there were more options for adults than for children actually. Everything from Freddie Kruger to Marilyn Monroe to a giant hot dog.

Halloween dates as far back as the time of the celts around 2000 years ago. Why has this rather odd tradition stood the test of time? I think it is because it allows us the chance to be silly, and take on a different persona. To look, act and dress differently than we normally would without anyone thinking we are insane. There are no boundaries or rules to this. We can put on crazy makeup and wigs. We can portray either good or evil characters. We don’t even have to be human (My son Logan dressed up like a big banana this year.) We can break out of the confines of our usual selves for just one night, and explore something different. Something goofy, or sexy, or scary. I didn’t dress up this time, but if I had I would have gone as Wonder Woman. Why? Because ever since I was a little girl I have secretly wanted to be her, complete with the golden lasso and bracelets. That desire doesn’t completely go away as an adult - you just become less likely to admit it in public. On Halloween you totally can though. There are a huge variety of costumes to be seen at every party, because people’s personalities don’t all come in one shape and size. When given a full, unabashed range of expression, it’s fun to see what folks will come up with.

What about the morning after Halloween though? We wake up, and go back to being who we really are right? Or do we? Sometimes I wonder if most of us, at least to some degree, wear a mask of sorts all year round.  There are many factors that shape the person that we become. The country of our birth and the religion we are taught as children can both be hugely influential in the choices that we make, and how we view the world. The expectations of society and of our parents also play a large role in forming our behavior and way of thinking. Popular culture, opinions of friends, political affiliations, teachers...the list goes on an on. Ideally we could sort through these things, choose the best of each and create personal destinies, while still being true to our own moral compasses and core personalities. That can be much more difficult to do in reality though than it might initially seem to be. External forces in our lives are powerfully influential, and we can become so enmeshed in them that it’s nearly impossible to sort out where our true selves pick up and they leave off. That’s not always a bad thing necessarily. For instance, what if all the oldest sons in your family had been doctors for several generations back. You are raised with the assumption that you too will become a physician, because you are the oldest son, and therefore will inherit the family practice. You go on to medical school, get married, have a few children and become a partner with your father in your hometown office,  exactly as your mother had always dreamed of. The community loves you, just as they loved your dad. Absolutely nothing is wrong with that, IF you are happy and enjoy being a doctor. Not all status quos need to be challenged. In this case it is clear that external forces helped define your path, but if you are truly contented on the journey then by all means keep right on walking. What if you DON'T enjoy the medical profession though? You only pursued it because you knew it would break your dad’s heart if you didn’t. What if your secret dream actually is to be a journalist? You write late at night, because deep in your soul you feel you have to express that side of yourself, but it gets lost far too often in a world you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself, but now feel trapped in. Then there is a major problem, because even if you go on outwardly conforming, discontent will continue to grow and manifest in depression, anger or simply in quiet despair. Others may sense that something isn’t quite right with you, but they can’t pinpoint what it is. Even you yourself may not be fully aware of why you aren’t at peace.

That is just one example. The same disconnect can happen when people find themselves conflicted over long held religious beliefs, or when they are coming out for the first time publicly that they are gay, or discovering that they feel differently than they always thought they did about a political stance or moral question. It can happen when a person is introduced to almost anything that changes their perspective or lifestyle. Even something like starting a weight loss program when all of your best friends remain heavy, and want to go to fast food restaurants all the time. In any of these cases you suddenly might find yourself not quite fitting in anymore, even in your very own life. On the surface you are one person, but internally you have become another. Reconciling the two can be very frightening. If you make a major change, there may be friends that don’t like you anymore. You may be upsetting dreams your parents or spouses had for you. In some instances you may even have to find new employment or housing arrangements, or might struggle with money. You could possibly lose your membership in certain organizations. Things will never be the same. For many the fear of this prevents them from ever rocking the boat. They don’t want to hurt anyone else, so they allow themselves to keep on hurting. They continue to go through their days living as the person everyone else thinks they are, or believes they should be, rather than mustering the courage to openly follow their true inner callings. Others are too afraid to even begin the questioning process to ever discover their genuine selves at all, but yet can’t understand why happiness eludes them.

It is a beautiful gift when we are able to make changes, start living from an open honest place, and have others embrace us with love and understanding. I deeply wish that every child born could receive that kind of acceptance from the start, and always be taught and encouraged to seek out and celebrate their individuality with no fear of judgement. Think of the pain this could avoid later on for so many. But for those who step out of their box later in life, it is pure joy when they find soft places to land and love on the other side of the fear. For most people unfortunately though,  authenticity will usually come at some sort of price, often quite high. But the cost of NOT being true to yourself is ultimately much higher. Hiding your light is not really living at all. The people who truly love you will find their way around to acceptance, even if it is hard for them at first. The people who do not? Let them go with love in your heart.

Halloween is not the only day of the year that you get to decide how you want to look, act and be. That is your choice anew, every single day of your life. Masks are fine for occasional fun, but don’t wear one every day. The face of your true self is beautiful - so I challenge you to find it, embrace it, and let it proudly shine.

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