I spoke at an event for young people. Teenagers. I got on stage, shaking a little, but duty-bound to tell them about vulnerability and trust: the two most important ingredients on the path to figuring out who they might really be (and how who they are at their core is the answer to every question they’ll ever ask about what they want to be when they grow up).
“Don’t worry,” I told them. “I know forty-year-olds who are still trying to figure it out. Stay vulnerable, tell the truth, and you’ll be way ahead of the curve.”
At the end of the talk, a young man came marching straight toward me, arms outstretched, ready to bring it in for a hug. “I love you,” he proclaimed. “I LOVE YOU.” He was wearing a blue metallic jacket and had streaks of pink in his hair. “No, I love YOU,” I told him. “YOU ARE FABULOUS.”
We talked a bit. He told me he’s a painter. He gave me 8 more hugs. I gave him my email address and told him to keep me posted on his art. I don’t think I’ve ever met a human more unabashedly themselves; articulate, bravely affectionate, funny as shit, and straight-up HONEST in every facet of his being.
He was 12 years old.
I recently got included in a group email from him letting everyone know that his name is now Melody. “These are my pronouns now,” he wrote, “so I’d appreciate it if you’d address me as such. Right now, my parents aren’t supportive, which is something I’ll have to work out with them on my own; it’s a process. Anyway, nice to meet you. I’m Melody.”
I put down my laptop, did a happy dance, and wrote Melody a quick note to tell her she’s my new spirit animal, and then sat down to write all of you to say:
IF YOU’RE NOT ALREADY GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE 100% YOURSELF, START. THE WORLD CANNOT AFFORD FOR YOU TO HIDE YOUR BRILLIANCE.
KNOW THIS: NOT EVERYONE WILL SUPPORT YOU.
Whether your proclamation of Self-hood is as small as deciding you’re no longer the person who has to always host the family gatherings, or as big as calling bull-nana on a relationship that just doesn’t do it for you anymore — or deciding you will now be called by a different name — telling the truth and asking for support is an empowered act.
Melody not only claimed her right to be who she feels she is at her core, AT TWELVE YEARS OLD, but is tackling the hefty task of asking her people to support her.
When it comes time to claim who you are — and your right to be that — there is no hiding in the shadows of your victimhood. Not really, not if you want to thrive. You will have to accept people’s limits (even if temporarily) — and you cannot take them personally.
Say what’s true, ask for what you need, and then get on with living your life.
As you venture into your day, consider this truth bomb from old-timey mastermind, Wallace Wattles:
“You can never become a great man or woman until you overcome anxiety, worry, and fear. It is impossible for an anxious person, a worried one, or a fearful one to perceive truth; all things are distorted and thrown out of their proper relations by such mental states, and those who are in them cannot read the thoughts of God.”
You might thrash against this idea — especially if you have a history or anxiety, worry or fear. (Which, unless you’re Buddha, is everyone.) But before you write to me to tell me to suck it and that I have no idea what you go through and how awful it is and All The Hard Things, let me ask you:
How’s the anxiety / worry / fear going for you?
Do you feel empowered by it? Capable? Does it make you rise out of bed, excited and ready to create a life that feels real, honest, and meaningful?
No? No. Of course not. Of course, is your answer is YES, then I hope you’re currently writing a book on how fear wins and is awesome and YAYYYY anxiety! (Because some people have managed just that, and are killin’ it: observe.)
Know this: you have a choice. I’ve worked with people who were told they were a lost cause, should be heavily medicated and would likely not amount to much else in the name of their chemical imbalances and emotional (or substance) addictions.
I have seen those same people say FUCK THIS and rise, hell bent on feeling good about themselves and their lives. They’ve created businesses and heart-based realities that are a far cry from what they felt capable of before they decided:
My life is valuable.
I will not waste it.
If Melody can do it, so can we all.