I stopped trying to be someone else a long time ago. But I wasn’t always successful.
I remember being in college, wondering whether or not it was okay to be gay, alienating some friends along the way, and trying to convince myself that if I wanted to be someone else, I truly could be. I remember sanding myself against the grain, chipping away little pieces of myself, all the while filling my heart with anxiety and tension to the point where it almost burst at the seams.
And then I met someone.
Someone who I thought liked me for me, someone who allowed me to see a piece of myself that I never saw before. And for a while, it was liberating. I felt freed to be someone I always had wanted to be–that is… until I stopped feeling it anymore. Fear crept in, caution and outside pressure began to restrain me, and the wings I once grew began to feel heavy and amorphous like melting wax, misshapen from flying much too close to the sun.
So I began to fly lower, cautiously trying to preserve those feelings of liberation, all the while terrified that my wings would dissipate, leaving me to tumble to the ground. I flew low for quite some time, caging myself in, not only because I thought it would please the supposed source of my liberation, but also because I assumed that he was right–that flying too close to the sun would, in fact, be just as damaging as never flying at all.
But then one day, I felt brave. I weighed the costs and benefits and finally flew higher than I had before. I learned to trust myself, invest faith in my own judgment, and liberate myself in a way I never had.
And then I met someone else.
Someone who I thought liked me for me, someone who allowed me to see a piece of myself that I never saw before. And for a while, it was liberating. I felt appreciated for my newly found self-liberation, and I felt cared for because of my strength, not limited because I feared that strength. But fear crept in again; my wax wings of caution melted into my heart and drowned my mind, beckoning me to fly lower yet again.
And so I did. I flew lower again, trying to preserve the unrealistic idea that I always needed to be strong, resilient, impenetrable, ironically lacking the realization that my self-criticism and shame only made my flight more shaky–that it only made me weaker.
Until one day, I felt brave again. I weighed the costs and benefits and finally flew the highest I ever had, for I knew that a low and safe flight would be more damaging than never truly flying at all. I began to trust myself, I began to love myself as is, and I stopped trying to be someone that I wasn’t. I flew high above the clouds, higher than anyone ever said my wax wings could handle, and I found that the jubilant winds, the ones that sing high in the sky, carried me so far and so fast, cooling and hardening my wings, allowing me to feel safe and secure–and all on my terms.
When we fly too low to the ground, we can’t be who we want to be; we cannot let ourselves be seen. When we limit ourselves, when we’re not true to ourselves and true to others, and when we try to be something we’re not, we lose the ability to soar, we lose the ability to love, and we lose the ability to be loved. And why is that?
Because no one can see what isn’t there. And likewise, we cannot be seen–we cannot be loved–if we’re not truly there.