I’ve been trying since the beginning of the month to come up with a relevant post about February’s theme for the Cauldron Blog Project: Self-love, Familial love, Friendships. Two rough drafts have been typed up and promptly deleted… one for being too similar to a recent rant (see Broken? No, Just Fabulous) and another for a little more personal and revealing than I care to be on a public blog. So one more time with feeling…
I am, to borrow a statistical term, a bit of an outlier. If we were plotting people on a graph of cultural averages and norms, I’d be that little dot waving at everyone else from a place nearly off the edge of the page. I process things a little differently than most of the people around me and my perception is skewed in a different direction than most. Sometimes this is the source of amusement for me, particularly when employers have me take work style and personality tests. I am consistently the one person in the organization who scores into some weird or uncommon category. Sometimes it’s less amusing, like the constant reminders that being different is neither prized or welcome by most of society. Almost daily there are reminders that ‘different’ is only marginally tolerated. Being the square peg that everyone is attempting to pound into a round hole with a hammer is not conducive to either happiness or self-acceptance.
One of the hard lessons that my path has taught is this: it is utterly useless and counter-productive to keep trying to cram myself into those round but culturally acceptable holes. Whittling the sharp corners down to smooth curves means shedding bits of who I am. It also means losing the parts of myself that allow me to do the work that my deity requires of me, because in those sharp edges lie the gifts, tools, and strengths that are required to do Her work. It goes from being a question of conformity to a question of spirituality. When I was walking with Andy through his last few weeks, I came to a place where it became necessary to decide once and for all what was more important for me – pursuing the work that I felt I was put on this planet to do or fitting into societal expectations about who I should be and what I should do.
While in the process of making that decision, self-love started to creep into my way of thinking. In getting angry over the expectation that I would shed integral parts of myself in order to be accepted, I started to really like, and to fight for, those bits of myself that make me an outlier. I realized that self-love cannot exist if I do not embrace who I am, as is, without qualifiers. Loving the best parts of ourselves is easy. Embracing the dark, difficult, and discomforting bits is the real challenge. For me, unconditional self-love means that I lay claim to all of it, rather than trying to shear off those sharp angular edges that mark me as different. I’m happier as an outlier who takes ownership of the things that make her different than I ever was trying to be the person who fit into a space that was entirely the wrong shape.