Living in integrity sucks sometimes
The challenge and beauty of learning to be who we actually are
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A song I’ve been enjoying listening to:
Integrity /inˈteɡrədē/ : the state of being whole and undivided.
Growing up as an adoptee, shapeshifting myself became a mechanism of control and perceived safety. I was so afraid of being left, of being seen in my self-appointed unworthiness, of becoming someone else’s regret. I was so lost in my unanswered questions. I was so confused by the narratives I had been told that felt deeply incongruent with my lived experience. I had no idea how to move through those big emotions and inner experiences as a child, so I instead learned how to be who others wanted me to be. I learned to pick up on what others needed and quickly conform to that. I learned to perform innocence, sweetness. I learned to either mask my emotions or let them explode, depending on if I wanted to hide or push away. I learned to lie. Shapeshifting helped me cope with what I didn’t understand — even as it hurt. Even as it felt off.
The truth, though, is that shapeshifting never gave me the control or safety I thought it did. It just sliced me in pieces, leaving me with no direction on how to put myself back together while wondering why I felt so discombobulated. It urged me to cut off parts of myself I didn’t think belonged. It made me believe if I was honest, something bad would happen again. It gave me the impression that my own wholeness wasn’t wanted or welcome — that the only reason I wasn’t left over and over again was because of my ability to mold myself instead of be myself.
We can shape & shape & shape ourselves into who we think we’re supposed to be — into who others want us to be — into a version of ourselves we believe would be more lovable, more accepted, more worthy. Yet when we continue to show up fractured, sliced in pieces, we don’t actually create space to truly let in that love, acceptance, and sense of worthiness. It’s all conditional on our pretending, and pretending rarely (if ever) leads to what we hope it will bring us.
The more we shape ourselves instead of be ourselves, the harder it is to know who we actually are. And the process of unlearning who we’ve conditioned ourselves to be in order to learn who is underneath can be intimidating enough to keep us in a shape that doesn’t fit.
Unraveling from the lies, the pretending, and the shapeshifting is a gargantuan task. It requires diligent compassion and a willingness to dive underground into the very depths of us — into the parts that have never been hurt, that have never been afraid to show up whole. It asks us to trust what is on the other side of the excavation. It urges us to step out of roles that can’t hold our full humanity. It nudges us toward facing what we’ve long avoided facing, head on, without hiding what’s true anymore.
But on the other side of this unraveling is a life of integrity — which isn’t a life free of pain, but is a life that is honest. And when we are living a life that is honest, moving through pain becomes a little bit easier. Confronting ourselves becomes a little less scary. Allowing ourselves to truly be seen — not just in the performance, but in the failures and mistakes and edges — becomes a little more doable. There’s less to keep track of, less to question, less to be doubtful of. There’s just learning to be with the discomfort of truly being seen — even when it means being disliked, judged, criticized, or misunderstood.
Living with the constant fear of being found out is much more scary than living with what people think about the truth of who we are.
The discomfort of being who we truly are is worth the consequences that may come with doing so.
When we practice showing up in our truth, as our whole selves, unfractured, we give ourselves the chance to also practice not internalizing how other people respond to us.
When we practice sharing what’s real, we give ourselves the chance to also practice letting how others receive us be theirs to hold… not ours.
When we practice honesty, we give ourselves the chance to also practice getting more comfortable with the potential consequences of doing so.
When we practice living in alignment with who we actually are, we gives ourselves the chance to also practice letting others do the same.
I say practice because it truly is an ongoing practice, and one that is tricky sometimes. I still struggle with saying what’s true at times — with letting myself be seen in the parts of me I thought didn’t belong — in not conforming or twisting myself or matching the energy of those around me. I still might question what’s my belief versus what I think I should believe. I still have to remind myself it’s safe to be me. I’ll never live perfectly in integrity. None of us will. But when we commit to practicing and letting practice be enough, so much changes. So much becomes possible. So much weight is removed. We can breathe. We can be.
Questions you might swirl around to start getting to the root:
What do I believe about ________?
If no one else’s response mattered, what would I want most?
If I could start over, what would I want my life to be filled by?
Who has shaped the shaping of myself, and how?
What parts of me don’t quite fit anymore — or never have?
When do I feel most unsure of who I am — and when am I most sure?
What would I do if I knew it would be accepted by the people most important to me?
And reminders you may want to swirl around, too:
Starting over might feel scary, but it might be just the thing needed.
Moving out of a shape that no longer fits is a gift to yourself.
Forgiving yourself for the lying, pretending, and role-playing matters.
It’s okay to not be sure, to be confused, to not know where to start.
It makes sense — whatever it may be for you. And, it can shift if needed.
There is always room to discover more of who you truly are.
The people meant to be in your life will find you in your expressed wholeness.
You aren’t bad when you act out of integrity… you’re human. Keep going.
If you are working on letting yourself say the thing that needs to be said, I honor you.
If you are figuring out what you think, what you believe, what you want, I honor you.
If you are struggling with trusting you’ll be welcomed as you are, I honor you.
If you are navigating what you’ll lose by telling the truth, I honor you.
If you are trusting what you’ll gain by telling the truth, I honor you.
If you are wondering how your life will change by showing up fully, I honor you.
If you are just now realizing there might be areas where you’d like to see what it feels like to just be who you are, do what you want, go after what’s calling you, to unravel from the spool that has been holding all of you in too tightly, I honor you.
To be yourself — to know yourself — in this world is not easy. And it might just be the most beautiful thing we can do. It might be worth the scariness of it. May we all get there eventually.
△ More on this theme that has been swirling a lot lately:
△ This interactive story from the New York Times is so, so cool and inspiring.
△ Shoutout to my fellow Taurus babies —
△ Good to know: The 9 Biggest Myths About Nonfiction Trade Publishing, Debunked
△ This meditation from Sarah Blondin is a heart salve.
△ Essay from Rebecca Solnit: How We Stopped Believing That People Can Change
△ This duet from Harry Styles & Shania Twain, because fun matters:
△ I made a thread on creativity that brought some beautiful responses from this community — I am inspired!
△ This article:
△ A poem collection dedicated to anxiety and uncertainty
△ Have you watched Severance? (!!!!!!!) still thinking about it. Holy shit.
△ Related to the topic of today’s letter:
“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.” ― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
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