I named 2016 The Year of Being Unapologetically Me after reading the following quote:
“You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone — profusely. But don’t apologize for being who you are.” —Danielle LaPorte
I wrote this in the middle of 2015:
Forgive me. Forgive me for laughing too loud and talking too much. Forgive me for giving too many hugs and for talking with my hands. Forgive me for falling in love with strangers and moments and laughs and eyes and wrinkles around smiles and the morning air and the smell of flowers and words that hit me straight in the heart and the steam coming off my coffee in the cool morning and clouds sitting atop mountains and the way you look at me. Forgive me for talking about my dad too often. Forgive me for having to stop every person that walks past with a dog so I can ask to pet them. Forgive me for staying quiet in the morning when the earth is still. Forgive me for my terrible singing voice and for singing along to every song anyway. Forgive me for crying, during movies and songs and when I talk about my childhood dog and when I see a perfect sunset and for no reason at all. Forgive me for wandering, for going where my feet take me, for not being chained to any place for longer than my heart wants to be, for leaving without a reason, for needing to go.
Forgive me for asking for forgiveness to be myself.
I was tired of asking for forgiveness to be myself. But, most of all, I was tired of seeing the women I love the most struggle with the same insecurities. I thought, if these women whom I see so clearly as the queens they are struggle with the same insecurities I struggle with, then maybe they, too, see me as a queen. And if we could all start seeing ourselves through the eyes of the people who love us the most, maybe the world would be a better, happier place.
So I started with myself. I decided to stop apologizing for being myself. I would apologize for being hurtful or thoughtless or rude, but I would not apologize for being myself – for laughing “too much” and “too loudly”, for loving deeply, for talking about my best friends to anyone who would listen, for loving this world so freaking much.
How did it go, you ask?
Believe me when I say it wasn’t easy. Not every day was a struggle, but there were struggles every day. It’s amazing and tragic what kind of damage society has done to our self-esteems, and how you only start to see its magnitude once you actively decide to defy it.
The hardest day of my year came in July. I found out someone I thought was my friend had been talking about me behind my back. And not the elementary playground, “she’s so ugly” kind of stuff, but the words that have the ability to cut me to the core. I think every person has a set of words that have that power, each person’s list of words being different from the next’s. Well, this person found my words and used them generously. I became completely unhinged. I felt ashamed of everything about me. I wanted to literally claw my way out of my own skin. I wanted to run, hide, curl up in a ball, and never see that person or any of the people he talked to about me again.
I did run away, for a few hours at least. I found my best friend at work, sobbed on the couch in the lobby for a while. She threatened to kill some people. I sobbed some more. And then I said, “Let’s get out of here.” So we drove to the nearest movie theater (which is a 50 minute drive in Alaska) and saw the only movie playing: Independence Day 2. It was horrible, but in the best kind of way. We heckled and giggled from the back of the theater through the entire movie. I, at one point, dropped the popcorn and it spilled all over the floor. I went out to the lobby and convinced the boy behind the counter to fill it back up for free. And then we continued heckling while eating our popcorn and candy.
Coming back and showing my face the next morning felt like slow, painful torture. I was positive everyone was staring at me thinking, “there she is, the too much woman.” But that was only my demons talking. No one was staring. No one was thinking about me. It was only me thinking, “here I am, the too much woman.”
From that day on I became even more myself, if that makes sense. Because of that challenge, I pushed toward my goal more passionately. I stopped wearing makeup because I was tired of feeling self-conscious without it. I ate only salad and a protein for dinner most nights despite the overwhelming opinion that I was being overly health-conscious because I know that I don’t feel like myself when I gain weight. I laughed loudly and pushed the thought of being “too loud” out of my mind. I climbed mountains, took videos at the top, and posted them to social media without letting the thought of people making fun of them deter me. I took selfies at every group event without feeling sorry for being “that girl”. I loved deeply despite being terrified they might think I’m “too much”.
I woke up this morning to a text from that person who had been talking about me behind my back. They confessed to not loving me a ton, but congratulated me on my success of being unapologetically me. And they admitted that because I am so unapologetically myself, they can’t help but like me because they know “it doesn’t matter either way”.
It was a nice, reaffirming text to receive – kind of a cherry on top. But they are right, it didn’t matter either way whether they liked me or not. And I have my Year of Being Unapologetically Me to thank for that.
I had a few other big events throughout the year that shook me to my core and made me question if I’m a good person, but I always came out on top, loving myself even more, more resilient to the negative opinions of others and myself.
Maybe you’re wondering how I am able to manage it? How do I continue loving myself and telling the world to love me as I am or not at all?
My biggest recommendation: cut out all the negative people in your life and surround yourself with only positive, loving, supportive people. When I was unable to pick myself up, my friends and family were there to pick me and dust me off. When I questioned everything, I asked them to reaffirm my goodness.
For example, a real life text exchange from a month ago:
Me: Remind me of the ways in which I am good again?
Friend: You are so SO inspiring and loving and kind. You give value to the world and to those in association with you because of your giant heart and the energy you exude. I admire you for being vulnerable and allowing yourself the opportunity to even be hurt again. Like, just that you remain warm and open instead of cold and operating from a place of fear is amazing. Honestly, fuck that guy. You are so out of his league and I can say that with absolute certainty because I’ve traveled and met some of the most gorgeous souls around the globe ad yours shines right up there with them. I’m going to come over there and be your subconscious so you can know deep in your core that you are worthy, you are extraordinary, and you are loved.
Cutting people out of your life is awkward and emotional and difficult, but I swear to you it’s worth it.
My year was amazing. I learned how to scuba dive, I bought a motorcycle and biked through Vietnam, I realized my passion in life, I finally got over my heartbreak, I became an aunt, I met some amazing lifelong friends and soulmates, I moved to a new city and found a community I love. But none of that compares to the fact that I truly became comfortable in my own skin, that I waded through all the negative thoughts I have about myself and came out in love with who I am. Self-love is priceless and I hope to encourage more women to love themselves.
Maybe I’m not sorry.
Maybe I’m not sorry for laughing so loud and hugging you every time I see you, especially when it’s been more than a few hours.
Maybe I’m not sorry for talking about my dad and my dogs and my best friend all the time.
Maybe I’m not sorry that my voice carries into the next room and that I talk with my hands and that I always tend to trip over myself.
Maybe I’m not sorry that I told you I loved you and that I held your hand and asked what you think about love.
Maybe I’m not sorry you can hear my laugh from two rooms away and that I take pictures of everything and that I cry when I’m drunk and that I talk to dogs before their owners.
Maybe I love the octave my voice gets to when I tell a story I’m excited about.
Maybe I love that I love everything and everyone and every place.
Maybe the world needs everything I have to offer.
– Unapologetically Samantha McGowan