For many years in my life I felt like I didn’t belong. I wasn’t quite dry enough for the professional community I belonged too, and yet I wasn’t quite reckless enough for the biker bar I spent my evening hours at. I was somewhere in the middle and yet I didn’t belong to either.
In a town of less than 4,000 it can be hard to be yourself. There isn’t a large spectrum of colors in the crayon box and so anything that differs from the main few can easily be perceived as “excessive,” “obnoxious”, or “too exotic.” I thought for some reason that I just needed to tone things down a bit, grow up and relax into the khaki pants trend. But when I would dim my own light to fit in, it just led to feeling compressed. A friend of mine recently shared that he believes depression is a form of compression, because when you are depressed, you feel as if all the life is squeezed out of you, and you’re stuffing yourself into a box that’s three sizes too small. That’s exactly how I felt. It was like the wild colors, the crazy ideas and the big personality had to be reserved for after hours – in my painting room, on my skateboard or at the biker bar where all the REALLY exotic people hung out.
Between the Office and the Biker Bar
That bar became my third space, my home away from work and home. There I was actually the bland one. I loved my close friends and coworkers who had tattoos of every different color, pink and purple hair and all the pizazz to pull it off. I longed to be free like them. They had their own set of problems, sure, but they also didn’t hesitate to show the world who they really were. Why didn’t they feel guilty for sporting ripped jeans in public? How come they didn’t live in constant fear of what others were saying about them? Geez—they didn’t even mind swearing in public! I couldn’t even speak my honest opinion without grimacing.
Long engraved in my body were the trenches of worry that come from people-pleasing. I thought my role in life was to keep everyone happy. I also thought that in order to be “good enough” I had to do as I was told – perform a certain way to obtain love. This meant doing things I didn’t want to do because it was “the right thing to do.” It also meant saying yes to everybody and everything so as not to disappoint. It’s no wonder I had been labeled as “prone to burnout”, it wasn’t that my capacity was low, it’s that I wasn’t living from my own joyful truth. I was fabricating a life that made everyone else happy but me.
Feeling like a Plastic Version of Myself
I remember in university I put my foot down and swore that I would take one art class before I graduated. In my Painting-II class I had the assignment of painting something that captured a cult film. My favorite quoted movie of course was Mean Girls, featuring Lindsey Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfriend. That movie had been out almost a decade by then, but it had so accurately portrayed my life as a teenage girl that I had always referred back to it for jokes and relatability.
I wanted to capture the feeling that the movie gave me. So, I started with an oval canvas upon which I laid a dark green background and painted a portrait, which was a mix of myself and Lindsey Lohan’s character. Her character was a girl from Africa who had a wild life and a big heart and then moved to the States where she entered public school for the first time and totally transformed herself in order to fit in with the popular crowd – losing her sense of self and her integrity in the process.
When I finished the portrait, I knew I had to do something to symbolize her transformation from her true self to the popular “plastic” girl she became. I drove to downtown Oklahoma City and found a plastics shop. I asked for some of the scraps and was given a huge piece of thin, clear plastic. The next day I had the woodshop teacher help me carve it into a perfect oval, to lay on top of the portrait canvas. Then, I painted the whole thing pink and layered on top of that a sort of mask. Big black eyelashes, lots of blush, hot pink lips and bright blonde hair with no face. When I laid the plastic over the portrait, it looked as though the face in the painting had acquired all of these additional accessories. In essence, it looked fake; much like “a plastic” teenage girl.
For years that painting sat in my apartment. I didn’t know what to do with it; what to make of it. It was cool, but why did I need to keep it? It wouldn’t be until compression set in that I really understood why the project spoke so deeply to me.
Breaking through to Authenticity
I wanted more than anything to be my true, authentic self. A wild woman with bold colors and big ideas. Yet again and again I dimmed my magic to fit the mold. To please other people it seemed like I did everything I could. I wanted others to like me. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to make my employers proud. Then in the time I spent alone I’d cry, or feel confused or wonder why I wasn’t happier.
By the time I started my second PR job, I knew something had to change. I couldn’t live my entire life for other people. So, I hired my first coach and I dove deep into the land of subconscious mindset mastery, success mindset and all things Law of Attraction. The next year I hired another coach and dove into a space I hadn’t been in a long time; my spirituality. Slowly but surely my voice came to surface. I started speaking my truth, saying “no” to things that didn’t light me up, and putting my all into things that totally made me excited.
Today, I feel more aligned, free and vibrant than ever before. I love my life, every single part of it and I love empowering myself to create the life and business of my dreams. My boyfriend and I are ending our year abroad in New Zealand, where we’ve lived like gypsies out of a camper van and had the most amazing adventures I could’ve asked for. Every day I do what I love. I create art, I help people uncover their own authenticity, and I live a slow, soulful life.
If you haven’t experienced the thrill of being your whole and complete self, now is the time. You don’t want to wait until you feel compression, regret or resentment. You only get a short amount of time here on earth, why not make it fabulous? What would happen if you got to your death bed and you had one regret? You hadn’t lived a life true to yourself. You wasted all of your years trying to please others, and in the act, you neglected to live yourself. Can you think of a worse deathbed regret?
Sometimes a small act of courage in the present, saves you a lot of pain in the future. What would you do if you found more courage in your daily life?
Haley Hoover is an Intuitive Artist, Success Coach and author who teaches women to step into their power through art. A certified Awakener Coach, her mission is to teach creativity as a means of healing and guidance for those who want to live a soul-aligned life. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook or visit her website: www.thesparklinghippie.com.
Image courtesy of Adrian Fernández.