I went to two events this weekend and learned something about myself.
Friday was my university’s “Spring Formal.” Essentially it is prom for college students. The student activities’ team did a bang up job of finding a location, planning food, and supplying a dance floor. I do not typically go to events like this. I didn’t attend a single dance in high school (not even prom) and have yet to regret it. This year though I made an agreement with myself that I would step out and try new things, so I decided to go. With a lot of peer pressure guiding me along the way I donned a dress, outrageously uncomfortable flats, covered my face in make-up, and curled my hair with every intention of having a night out.
It did not go so well. Not because anything was lacking on the event side of it, but more because it just is not my thing. Dressing up and going to fancy parties is not something that brings me joy. From the moment I arrived up until the moment I left I felt out of place and uncomfortable.
Saturday was an entirely different experience. I donned my cloak, my favorite raven shirt, a lot of sunscreen, and headed to the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, California. I had a blast. The entire time I was there the only reason I had to check my watch was to make sure my merry band and I were able to make it to the next show we wanted to see. I ran around pretending I was a sellsword looking to earn some coin. I watched numerous variety shows starring amazing guys like BrooN and MooNiE. I brushed elbows with people in full, authentic costumes, laughed as my roommate got swindled by gypsies and cheered so loudly for a very evil knight, that by the end of the day my voice was fading.
When I got home I was exhausted, hot, and covered in dust from head to toe but I was happy.
That is when I realized something: Being true to oneself is the right thing to do every time.
Society tells me a lot about whom I should be, what I should do, who I should hang out with. There are all of these “shoulds” swimming around in my mind that direct how I behave and yet at the end of the day leave me feeling empty even though the world seems pleased. Karen Horney, a psychodynamic theorist, called this syndrome the “Tyranny of the Shoulds.” She claimed that people spend so much time doing what they feel that they should, or not doing what they feel that they shouldn’t, that they end up not doing the things that they want to do or that are true to them.
People allow expectations, both external and internal, to rule their lives and it ends up with a lot of miserable people who feel unfulfilled and fake.
At Spring Formal I felt fake, at the Renaissance fair I felt real. I felt like me, in all of my imperfections and silly little quirks. I felt confident, more-so than I do in a typical day wandering around campus. I felt safe. It was somewhere that I could be me without having to worry about what I should or shouldn’t be doing because there was no one around to judge me.
It is that spirit of me-ness that I yearn to tap into more often. It is that spirit that I’m striving to have whether I am at a Ren Faire or on my college campus. To put it in Rogerian terms I want to be congruent with whom I truly am. I want to be the young woman God has made me to be. That is my quest for myself this week and my challenge to anyone reading: Be you. There isn’t anyone else on this planet just like you…so stop trying to be someone else and just be you. I think you’ll find life is a little more enjoyable that way.