I forget what it’s like to worry about fitting in.
What it’s like to “put my face on” before heading out into the world.
Don’t get me wrong— I know those trying-to-fit-in-and-scared-that-I’m-messing-it-all-up feelings oh so well.
As a pudgy, nonathletic kid, those feelings stalked me every time Mrs. Kriebel yelled “Run 3 laps!” during fifth grade gym class. Those feelings followed me up the stairs as I slunk to the library during high school lunch rather than try to find someone to eat with in the cafeteria. And those same feelings surfaced in college, a plastic smile glued to my face and my green suede boots sticking to the gummy floor as I pretended to like beer and care which Sigma Nu pledge was the hottest.
But at some point in my mid-twenties I got tired of being stalked by my fear of social disapproval… especially since coloring within the lines wasn’t actually making me a happy person.
I realized I didn’t want to waste my life hiding my true self or, worse, wishing I was someone else.
I was tired of only being accepted when I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t…
… and not actually enjoying the acceptance I was getting for all my fakery.
It was time to come out of the closet.
Over the next decade, I practiced being me: I dated men and, oh-my-gawd, women; I stopped pretending to like piss-water beer; I stood up to people who treated others like shit. I lived through the six months when my mom wouldn’t talk to me and the six more months when all we did was cry and fight.
I put my integrity above my upbringing and decided my internal moral compass trumped social mores. I learned to see myself fully and not brush the parts I didn’t like under the rug. It was hard work, but a heck of a lot easier than pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
Common wisdom insists that you are loved just as you are. But let’s be honest (’cause that’s what we do around here):
People in your life often love the you they choose to see or the you they wish you’d be.
Being honest about who you are isn’t about easy. It’s never been about easy. But our society moves forward only if each of us is willing to be real and honest and true. Only if each of us in some small way pushes the needle forward.
When we are honest with ourselves and those we love, we open a space for conversation, for reinvention, for the new.
(When we’re belligerent in our honesty we instead close doors. How you chose to express your honesty matters. Give people space to grow and change their minds. Give yourself space to grow and change your mind.)
Remember we take a stand not only for the integrity of our own spirit, but to make it easier for those who come after. Every time a battered woman leaves an abusive husband, she makes it easier for her daughter to live a life free of abuse. Every time a woman says no to sexism in the work place, she makes that work safer for the women who come after.
Martha Beck, who wrote a very brave book about leaving the Mormon Church, says the magic in sharing her story was that it allowed others to share theirs. It encouraged them to speak up, if only to whisper me too.
I think about this when I get the inevitable emails from women in Witch Camp wishing I’d change the name.
I know so many women who would join if it weren’t called Witch Camp, the email goes.
I want to tell my friends about this but I can’t because it’s called Witch Camp.
I get these emails from Witch Campers. From women who have already committed but are scared or ashamed of what they’ve done. They’re half in, half out. Wanting to say yes to the part of themselves which opened up when they saw the word witch. And still scared of being judged by friends and family.
So instead of sharing what the word witch means to them, they hope I’ll change the name.
Here’s what I tell women who want to explore their witchy side but are scared their friends won’t get it: When I started saying witch, women started whispering back me too. Click To Tweet
If I’m not brave enough to use the word witch, to shout it out on the interwebs, then those whispers will be muffled and all those women will feel alone; they’ll eat in the library instead of joining the rest of us round the campfire; they’ll never realize that what they feel is felt by so many of us.
Maybe “witchy” isn’t your thing. And that’s okay. We all choose where we want to make our stands, what’s worth fighting for.
Just be willing to stand for something because figuring out what that is, what you’re willing to speak to and who you’re willing to speak for, lets you know who you really are.
Me? I stand with the woman who needs to see beyond cultural norms so she can find herself. I stand with the woman who has been hurt or simply unhelped by our healthcare system and needs an alternative. I stand with the woman who needs to map her own path to the spirit.
Me? I stand by the woman who is scared but willing to whisper me too.*
If that’s you, you might want to check out Witch Camp online. Take a deep breath and come to the campfire each autumn.
Love, love, love—
* P.S. I’ve been rewriting and tinkering with this blog post for a couple years, since before the “Me Too Movement.” I love that we’re letting the secrets out and finally realizing that we don’t stand alone, knowing in our hearts that whatever we’ve gone through, there is someone out there whispering “me too.”