So far, I’ve been enjoying each week’s exposition on the variety of angles we can take for introspection. But I’d say it’s about time we take a look at how our internal reflections begin to manifest themselves externally.
Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years has learned to be unabashedly open to what she loves. Since middle and high school, she cracked a very critical code:
People are going to criticize you no matter what you do, so you might as well be purposeful about and proud of yourself and your preferences.
With that lesson learned, Molly-Today loves feeling beautiful. I love it. This has not changed over the past 30 years. I’ve just learned to give myself permission to feel my own form of beautiful. Every day. To love dresses, and make-up, and long, flowing hair. To love singing, and writing, and learning, and talking. Because that makes me feel beautiful.
I’ve also learned to give myself permission to derive beauty from feeling powerful and strong. To love black, and wearing clothes that allow me to test my physical limits, and tying my hair back to concentrate. To love nature (even though I do not care for bugs or their bites), and climbing rocks, and WWII narratives, and campfires. I love it all. Because I love it.
With regards to Rule #8 in its present state, Molly-Ten-Years-Ago probably picked this Marilyn Monroe quote because she loved the idea of being ladylike. She loved the concept that “The magic is in the mystery.” She loved modesty and dressing like a casual young royal.
And if someone else loves that same thing: great. And if someone else loves the exact opposite thing: also great.
So maybe this specific quote works for the people who want That Same ThingTM. But Molly-Today understands that this is likely a small subset of the population. Certainly not the whole.
However, I want this blog about being lovely to apply to anyone who reads it. I want it to apply to all of the women that want to be feminine. I want it to apply to all of the women that want to be masculine. I want it to apply to all of the people that want to be anything.
So, here’s how Molly-Today thinks Rule #8 should read:
“Your clothes should fit however you want them to fit, and should make you feel however you want to feel.”
And what’s important to note is that you may feel two, or ten, opposing ways about yourself…and that is fantastic! Because, just as we discussed in Rule #1, you are You. Your personality is not mutually exclusive from day to day, or moment to moment.
Neither do your descriptors exist in mutual exclusivity. You do not have to be “Delicate and Feminine Only” on one day, so that you can choose to be “Fierce and Force-to-be-Reckoned-With Only” on another day. You never have to be “Intellectual Bookworm Only” one day, so that you can be “ATHLETIC AND SPORTY ONLY” another day.
That’s simply not what the Spice Girls would have wanted.
These tropes are cliche, and limiting, and unfair. A while ago, I stumbled upon this quote, which really solidified how I felt on this topic:
We are dynamic beings, with a multitude of contrasting factors to us! All of these feelings we hold occur in varying levels of our lives, and we get to figure out how to portray that to the world.
How creatively wonderful!
It should come as no surprise to you that, though I will be talking about both of these things, this Rule is actually nothing about clothing or makeup. Rather, Rule #8 is all about taking note of what you love about yourself and presenting that to the world.
I’ve learned that most of life is about taking the time to learn what we love and what we love about ourselves, and giving ourselves permission to emphasize those items together.
I firmly believe that we know what we love by a very young age, but taunting and teasing throughout our adolescence make us conform away from our true selves. How many interests and traits have we hidden throughout our lifetimes, in an effort to gain external acceptance?
So, Rule #8 is about rediscovering what we may have pushed aside many years ago. And being so confident in your own interests and personality that you wear them with pride, literally and/or figuratively.
This rule is about turning what we love into the rituals we use to face the world. Because this mental uniform we don is our armor.
I think about the time I spend executing the exact same make-up routine every morning.
Or the time I take to curl each strand of hair on my head.
I also think about the formula of clothing I use each day.
All of these steps I take every morning? They all prepare me to face each day authentically and without added self-doubt.
But I also think about how many years it took me to get to this mental outfit. And how much courage it takes to get to this point of acceptance.
Because, in all honesty, Young Molly was never comfortable with her outward appearance. Molly-Today still struggles with it. I’ve always felt that I had awkward features, and my fine motor skills just did not know how to work with that.
Throughout my school career, I didn’t wear makeup. Mostly because I didn’t know how. Each attempt at masking my face was laughable at best.
This discomfort in my own skin persisted until several years after I graduated college, when life presented me with an opportunity.
We shall name this opportunity: Kristen and Jenna.
Kristen and Jenna were two of my coworkers when I was working overseas. Everyday, I would catch myself staring at them out of envy…and confusion: how can these ladies look so ethereal and natural and make it look so effortless?
I was very tempted to cross into the dangerous territory of Horizontal Comparison, which we will discuss in a later rule.
Instead, in the spirit of Rule #4, I worked up the courage to ask them if they would mind spending time doing my makeup one day, and teaching me any tips they had.
They were so kind and so willing to share their knowledge with me!
Kristen and Jenna shared with me that makeup is not about hiding yourself. At all. Rather, it is all about art theory: identifying your facial structure, understanding where light naturally falls on your face, and utilizing the color wheel. It should be fun, not frustrating.
Throughout their time with me, they would say things like:
“I imagine the sun would hit you here, so we’re going to keep this area lighter than the rest of your face…but the sun would also cause you to have a hint of color here, so let’s put some blush in this area…“
Their makeup session was very much like a session with Bob Ross.
When they were done, I remember looking in the mirror, and feeling astonished at how Me I looked. But emboldened. The point of our session wasn’t to mask my face behind a plaster, but to draw attention to it.
These ladies introduced me to such basic yet profound principles of seeing myself as a work of art. They hadn’t changed anything about my features, they hadn’t made one single negative remark. They had only enhanced the features of my face.
From that moment forward, I made an effort to stop being shy in the mirror. I made a point to learn my own features. To understand the geometry and topography of my face, and learn how to appreciate the facets that, before, I had allowed to make me feel inadequate.
After enough time, I found that gratitude was growing where awkwardness had lived for so long.
I may still struggle with moments of self-criticism. But when I look at myself in the mirror now, with or without makeup on, I no longer feel awkward. I no longer lend negative energy towards what I don’t like.
I simply study what I see. I’ve gotten comfortable with the way the light hits certain angles. I’ve learned how to emphasize spots that I like, in an effort to enhance those that I should like.
And the same thing happened with my body and my wardrobe: I no longer needed an array of wild items to create my daily look and disguise my body. I became comfortable with wearing basic pieces that didn’t do the work of my personality, but provided a clean and simple canvas for my personality.
This rule is not about asserting that someone should or should not wear makeup or a certain style of clothing. In fact, all of these rules will always be about adapting what we learn from our own experiences into helping others embrace themselves.
Rule #8 is about learning your unique facets, and embracing what you may not have always been comfortable with. This rule is about forgiving yourself if you aren’t at that point yet.
This rule is about drawing strength from your interests, and celebrating yourself in front of others.
This rule is about adorning your body with gratitude and appreciation, each day.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are things you love and how do those items translate externally in your life?
When do you feel most beautiful, and what factors contribute to these moments?
Have you ever struggled to accept some part of your appearance?
What are ways you have worked to embrace what you have struggled with?
If standards are the gatekeepers for the castle grounds of our lives, then boundaries are the variety of protections that fortify this castle, and safeguard those within (read: You).
Like moats filled with alligators, or skyward towers made with thousands of bricks, the boundaries we set in place for ourselves are not for the faint of heart.
What’s important to understand is that your walls and defenses do not make you difficult to be around, and certainly do not make you hard to love. Not by your partner. Not by your family. Not by your friends.
Your walls do, however, make you hard for abusers to love.
Your walls do make it difficult for someone only interested in a Get-Love-Quick scheme to stick around.
Your walls demand bravery and discipline to overcome, and force cowards to call their own bluffs.
And the ones who are worthy of you will not only work within the boundaries you set, they will hold you accountable to them. Earnestly and compassionately.
The best part about this concept is this:
Each person who respects your standards and your boundaries, in essence, becomes a sentinel on your team. The people we surround ourselves with create a powerful boundary protecting our boundaries!
So, Rule #5 discussed standards, which are the initial litmus tests for whether or not someone should have access to certain levels of our lives.
In this way, boundaries are guidelines which inform others how they may interact with us. I see them as the red and green lights we use when engaging with each other.
For instance, with regards to dating, the initial boundaries we create at the outset of a courtship might look like this:
No, you may not contact me past midnight and expect a response.
No, I will not prioritize a date at the last minute over plans I’ve made with friends.
No, I will not play Caretaker to fill the office of Mother in your life.
No, I will not engage in sexual activity until a level of trust has been proven and verified.
No, you may not use subversive tones and/or derogatory terms in conversation with me.
No, I will not participate in a relationship with you while you are in a relationship with someone else.
No, I will not read between lines for your implications.
These are all basic examples of boundaries in romantic relationships, and there are plenty more that I am certain each of us can add.
We can simplify this list even more, based on what we are or are not comfortable with, in general. In doing so, this list can be adapted for your dating life, for your friendships, and even for your work life:
No, my boss may not email or call me after-hours and expect action to be taken.
No, I will not accept the tasks my coworker wants to pass on to me, simply because he or she lacks the discipline to do it themselves.
No, I will not sacrifice a mental health day, even if it means missing out on my friends’ last second plans.
No, these people around me may not use words or actions that undermine my spirit.
Can you already tell what Molly-Today is going to say Rule #6 means, at its core?
Rule #6 is all about the importance of implementing the word “No” in our lives. Because by lacking boundaries, we allow ourselves to become desensitized and derailed.
By lacking boundaries, we allow ourselves to become overextended, overworked, and spread thin, to the point of breaking.
Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years did not like to say “No.” Even at the risk of her own health and sanity. She never said “No,” but she actually never said “Yes.” She led something of a “Sure?” lifestyle.
A “Sure?” lifestyle is dangerous because it allows others into the driver’s seats of our lives. In my life, this is what that looked like:
Sure, I will work overtime in my position, while covering my boss’s position and working overtime there, and not be compensated or recognized in any way for either?
Sure, I will push the limits of what I am physically comfortable with in our relationship, even though I absolutely know this could be a slippery slope leading to something I definitely do not want?
Sure, I will join my friends for a night of an activity in which I have no interest, even though I haven’t slept well in days and should probably use tonight for a quiet night in?
But, Molly, your “Sure?” lifestyle was allowing you to spend time with your friends and dive into your career? Aren’t those good things?
To which I will say:
Of course, it is important to spend time with those you love and care about; and of course, it is important to invest in your career path.
But not at the expense of your peace.
When we “Sure?” our way through life, we burn out by using our energy on things that do not serve us. Worse, we allow ourselves to miss the opportunities to engage in what will truly fulfill us, as we use our time and efforts on the extraneous tasks that belong to others. We use our bandwidths accepting burdens that dull our edges, instead of taking on projects and engagements that polish our finish.
But, Molly, if it’s good to spend time with friends and work hard in my career, how can I tell when I have crossed my own boundaries?
Well, I am so glad you asked!
The great news is that your body is your first, and most powerful, ally. Our bodies can tell us when we’re not honoring our boundaries. Here are some physiological responses we might experience when we allow our lines to be crossed:
When we are in a relationship with the wrong person, our hearts will feel anxious. When we are working the wrong job, it will be hard to get out of bed in the morning. When we want to do something new, our minds will be restless.
The sheer volume of signals our bodies provide us is innumerable! But as easy as it was for me to type those examples, they aren’t easy lines to draw. Because they take a lot of time to discover in the first place!
Most of the boundaries I have developed have come from A LOT of sleepless nights (much like the ones I described in Rule #4), pondering what is within my control that I am letting out of my control.
Predictably, after any amount of time burning the Proverbial Candle all over, Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years used up her physical, mental, and emotional capacities.
She became tired and worn down, and she found that her only solution was to stop reacting at all. The energy it took to emote on a daily basis just wasn’t there.
This is what a life without boundaries led me to! I was very much, and very simply, a walking and talking skeleton, who moved through life as dictated by her schedule.
But that’s not what we are made for! Though we are technically skeletons that can walk and talk, we are made to be so much more.
Without proper boundaries, I left no time to get to know myself. I left no time to enjoy my own passions. I left no time to process how I was doing. I left no time to develop the life I wanted for myself!
Physically, I was across the world from my loved ones. Mentally, I was exhausted and going through each day in a fog. And emotionally, I felt nothing. Except paralyzed.
My body was communicating. My alarm systems were blaring. I knew I wanted to make a change, but it seemed like everything needed to change. And that thought was daunting.
The first thing I had to do was eliminate my knee jerk reaction to accept everyone else’s demands and requests. As soon as I did this, I was shocked at how much time and mental space opened up for me!
As soon as I started saying No, I was actually able to say Yes.
Making this small change to what we know is negatively impacting us, amounts to honoring our own borders. And the feeling of relief that comes with this simple action is immense.
As long as we ignore these signals, and honor the whims and preferences of others, we will find ourselves in discomfort. And once we start defending ourselves, by making small but noticeable changes to our lives, we give ourselves room to grow.
Rule #6 is so important, because if there is one thing this world needs less of, it’s individuals who are so jaded from overextending themselves that they no longer feel passion.
Or worse: they no longer feel compassion.
So, Rule #6 is about saying No, when you want to say No.
Rule #6 is about saying Yes, when you want to say yes.
Rule #6 is about excising the impulse to accept what is not required of you, in an effort to accept more.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are some examples of boundaries you have instituted in your own life?
How often do you find yourself accepting the requests and responsibilities of others, that you should refuse?
When your boundaries have not been honored in the past, what signs has your body given you?
How can you honor the boundaries you have created for yourself?
Young Molly and I are still in agreement on this one. I really love this rule, because it’s about acceptance of yourself. And not just of who you are, but where you are and how you are. Acceptance and admiration of your complete picture.
This is hard, and it takes time. And it’s scary to face who we really are. So, it becomes easy to pick ourselves apart, piece-by-piece, and avoid our own acceptance. Ultimately, we outsource what we should find through introspection. We rely on others to give us the love we want for ourselves. Which is dangerous.
And because it is so easy to dwell on the parts of ourselves we don’t like, we allow what we view as negative to overshadow what is really amazing and unique and positive about each of us. We’re too busy letting someone else validate our positives, while we hone in on our negatives with laser-focus, that we neglect to see our own value!
And when our external source of validation is no longer there to affirm that we have positive and redeeming qualities, we’re left without any reflection on what’s truly great about us.
Of course, I’m speaking from a place of experience on this (read: multiple places of experience). So, what do we do? How do we strengthen our own resolve? Molly, how do we even begin such a perilous journey?
I’m so glad you asked.
I often have to remind myself of one of my favorite quotes (technically, it’s a quote from Aristotle, but I learned it from one of my favorite childhood books, Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen):
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
There are so many little pieces of myself that I love, and some that I don’t love as much. And they all add up to Me.
I love that I smile and make direct eye contact with just about everyone.
I love that when I pick up the phone to call anyone, whether it’s a friend or a customer service representative, I can usually hang up the phone with 95% confidence that I just made someone’s day.
I love that I make friends with the characters of the books I read.
I love that I write with the G2 Pilot Pen (.38, Ultra Fine), and ONLY the G2 Pilot Pen.
I love that I will tell anyone I ever meet about this pen, and usually run out of my own personal supply because I give them away as proof of how great they are…even though I’m not paid by G2 as an ambassador and end up having to purchase more to replenish the cycle.
On the other hand, I don’t really love that I chose the path of least resistance when it came to my career.
I don’t love that most of my knowledge is vast, but shallow.
I also don’t love how little I understand about most aspects of adult life. (I might never fully grasp the Stock Market, or car care, and have only recently taken up cooking.)
I don’t love that I get nervous in large groups of people. I still haven’t figured out if it’s because I have mild claustrophobia, or social anxiety, or an amalgamation of the two.
I don’t love that I’m scared to see a doctor, in case they tell me something dreadful about my health that’s been flying under the radar.
I don’t love that I date men I subconsciously know are emotionally unavailable, so that I never have to threaten my status quo, of living a life free of commitment. I have my suspicions that I’ve allowed this to cause a lot of the pain I’ve endured.
Regardless, the fact of the matter is that all of these things I do or don’t love about myself are what make me MeTM. Each facet of myself has taken me on the path I’ve travelled, and they all have brought me to and through each of my experiences.
What is important to note here is that as an organic being, I am absolutely allowed to change and grow as I need or want. I am allowed to assess how I feel about myself and my life, and decide to invest time and effort into changing what I’m not 100% happy with. I am allowed to come up with unique and clever ways to upend the negative emotions that hold me back from feeling good about myself.
For instance, I can learn how to change a tire! Legitimately any time I want! I can make friends with an auto mechanic and ask them to teach me!
And I can develop the parts of myself that I have let fall to the wayside. I can start any day. And while I may not see success instantly, I can be satisfied in knowing that I started. (The perfectionism can come later.)
And I will still be Me. And I will still be the same whole that I was before.
I could stop making shameless plugs about the G2 Pilot Pen, and start writing instead with only Papermate Sharpwriter #2 Pencils, which are in fact spring-loaded and the best pencils on the face of the earth.
I would still be Me. (But let’s be honest, I will never back down on my feelings about those pens.)
And if the changes I make require that I let go of things I love or don’t love about myself, in order to become who I am meant to be…then I guess that will just have to be how it goes.
And I would still not need anyone else to complete my story. Because that’s what this is: My Story.
Or in your case: Your Story.
This rule is about giving yourself permission to just be how you are, as long as you are how you actually want to be. As long as you are in fact honoring yourself, and being truthful to yourself.
And if you aren’t how you want to be, then this rule is about giving yourself permission to take the steps you need to take to get there. No matter how many baby steps you have to take to accomplish those goals. No matter how many times you have to forgive yourself for your past.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are the facets you love about yourself?
What are some areas you hope to grow out of?
How do you feel you honor yourself?
How do you feel you aren’t being truthful to who you are?