"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." ~Oscar Wilde
To everyone else, it's just a shirt, and probably looks exactly like something I'd wear. But, for me, it symbolizes the shame I used to feel about who I am. It was two Christmases ago, while staying at our family house in Maine, when I took the shirt out of my suitcase to wear, only to experience one of those moments that seems trivial, but sticks with you. I got dressed and walked into the other bedroom where my sisters were waiting for me to go into town. They looked at me like I was either swaddled in dead carcasses or had chosen an ensemble so bold that it made Lady Gaga look like a conservative dresser. Even though a henley and jeans seemed so bland in my mind, I quickly changed my outfit and assumed my sisters' opinions must be the correct ones. It was only more evidence for me to use in the case of "I must feel ashamed of the bohemian girl I am."
I've had so many moments similar to the "flowered shirt incident" in my life, that it's taken me quite awhile to become aware of them all. Since beginning a healthier and happier life in recovery from all those unhealthy ways of thinking, the irrational moments of scarring have begun to pop up at random. For instance, this shirt that I am wearing proudly today, and the story attached to its hibernation in my dresser drawer, that I had not thought of until one random day a couple of weeks ago. The moment I told my husband the story, I realized how ridiculous it was to not wear a shirt, but also how crippling I allowed a passing moment to be.
The story is gone, and now it's just a shirt. The fact that I am finally wearing it today, after over 2 years of owning it, is merely a testament to how far I've come; how proudly and confidently I am now able to walk through life. Most importantly, it allows me to see how freely I've learned to share myself, exactly as I am, rather than quieting the parts of myself that I feared would be ridiculed.
One of the most freeing gifts we can give ourselves is to allow ourselves to be exactly what and who we are, all the while feeling proud rather than comparing ourselves to others. I "tried on" so many lives and personas in my youth (not that I'm that old), but nothing has ever felt as comfortable as reality. As the Bhagavad Gita says, "It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly, than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection." Today my wish is for you (yes, you who is reading this!) to live proudly and imperfectly....as yourself!