You have many responsibilities in this short, sweet life, but let me tell you now: being beautiful isn’t one of them.
It’s not your job to organize the parts of yourself into their most socially palatable form. From how you wear your hair to the shoes you choose and the attitude you display, you’re not here to demonstrate to the world at large how just-like-they-say-you-should-be you are.
They all say something different, anyway.
One person’s bold is another person’s overbearing. What is bossy to one is leadership to somebody else. Nice can be saccharine, earnest can be too much, amenable can be not enough. We’re all messy and complicated and unsure and worth so much more than the box we put each other in.
You’re not a goddamn show pony. The time and effort it takes to figure out what people want, and how much of it they need, far surpasses the time and energy they’re putting into deciding the rules in the first place. People – society – is arbitrary in its regulation, and what works one day doesn’t work the next. Big butts are the new flat chests, Latina spice is the new African-American soul. Keira Knightley is brave and bold for photographing her chest, but Kim Kardashian is try-hard and dumb for photographing her ass. Particularly with women, it’s just never good enough. We love that Beyoncé called her kid Blue, and furrow our brow at Kate Winslet’s Bear, because we decided one day what their brands are and one them didn’t stick to the plan.
Doesn’t Kate Winslet get to decide who Kate Winslet is?
Don’t we get to decide who we are?
Family is important. Collectivism is important. That feeling of belonging – to a friendship group, to a gang, to something bigger than ourselves – is important. But here’s the thing: if you’re organising your self to fit an idea of what the group wants or needs… it’s probably not the right place for you.
(That’s a scary thought, huh? That maybe it’s not you? That maybe it’s them? They don’t like us to wonder about that.)
What the world needs is for you to explore, in whatever way you deem fit, exactly what your values are. The world needs you to shave your head and only wear black for weeks at a time, and it needs you to try on Buddhism and vegetarianism and to talk to strangers in line at the pharmacy. Just to see. The world aches for your self-expression, so that others might find their bravery in your shadow. In your footsteps. In the light you shed by being your truest, most authentic self.
When we’re bound by the rules we think other people have for us, we play small. When we play small, our spirit shrinks. When our spirit shrinks we start to impose rules on others, because we begin to lack the empathy it takes to let them grow into themselves. And then we become as bad as the rest of them.