Do I love myself in public? By Briana Fails
This question came to me one day after a beautiful exchange between myself and a new friend. Our conversation, born upon a patch of grass in the afternoon sun, sparked in me a curiosity around my expression of authenticity.
Do I feel like I can be myself and what does my truest self even look like, when she is living fully and without apology in the glory of her skin? The question still sits with me, asking me to peel back the layers to explore the fullness of my being me. And I ask…
Do I love myself in public?
Do I share all of the cat photos in my phone or cut the small talk short and like Ruby Bridges, ask you where it hurts? Why do I shrink and lose my words when they don’t know how to empower my joys? Could I even let others see the me that I love with all of my Aquarian quirks, personal sound effects (random cat meows are my fav), flair for menswear, or even that I often find lint buried deep in my afro and grow my body hair out and still see my inherent beauty?
How can I learn to trust such a freedom? A trust that wraps its spacious arms around my shoulders, holding me up when my voice is challenged by the judgements of others.
Can I speak my love of martial arts movies and share my scattered thoughts, attempting to piece together stories I’ve long forgotten? Will they laugh when I dance to no music because even my breathe whispers a blues worthy of a dance. Can I offer myself my own listening on and off of my yoga mat? So much so that I can express a self that is utterly me, without calculating where and with whom this self can be safe?
Because my safety is paramount. I recognize that there are some spaces which refuse to allow the vibrancy of a fully expressed being to love themselves in public without using violence to quell their light. This is a lesson usually learned the hard way and something that many underestimated, under represented and oppressed peoples have had to utilize to stay alive. Some people may not understand what that feels like to have to shapeshift and poly morph into so many versions of yourself just so you get to the next day in one piece, all while losing irretrievable parts of yourself along the way.
This violence is familiar, in words, intention, and in its physical nature to chop you down right where you stand.
It pains me to know it so well.
I’ve also been the perpetrator of that violence upon others. I am not proud of this, but I am aware of the weight of such feelings as they fight to be seen, frantically search for a kind home to take shelter in. I’ve sat in my judgments, declaring another “too much” or “too weird,” or gossiped to keep the attention on petty condemnations, so that I didn’t have to acknowledge the reflections of a person that I didn’t have the courage to become.
By now, you can see how this question, and the many that followed, awakened in me a creative opportunity to do something different. I know that I am alive, a mass of flesh and bone, nerves and mental imprints getting through life trying to know a semblance of lasting peace, but do I know how to live?
I want to know. I want to feel life flowing through me, as me. I want to meet the people who will see me and choose to love and accept me as the ever-evolving beautiful hot mess that I am.
It is my goal to be in this practice every day. I am the practice.
I explore myself, learning through people, pets, and poetry. I experiment with my kindness, utterances of awkward honesties, and singing out loud. I am the first one to tell me that I am beautiful and I won’t ask you for your opinions “about me.” Also, I fail at all of these practices, a lot. LOL…and still I start again. I dream myself into being and I allow you to see me in all that I am, have been, and can be. I like to imagine a world where we could all love ourselves in public, shedding all pretense and posturing, because you knew that you were safe enough to be free.
I invite the exploration, can you, do you, will you love yourself in public?
May we know the selves we love.
May we share the many shades of ourselves, in love, in public.