beauty

What Maya Taught Me

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Yesterday, many of us read the news of Maya Angelou’s passing. I’ve refrained from using the word ‘sad’ because of my belief in the afterlife. Also believing in that idea that Maya will guide and inspire us from her place in heaven.

Although not here in the physical form, it is her words that will live on. So, she will continue to live on; in our hearts and in spirit.

Maya has inspired many, myself include, with her words through poetry. I recall being introduced to poetry after reading one of her poems at school. Up until then I’d found poetry boring. I didn’t really get it. Just a mix, a jumble of words put together in a way that has no real meaning. But Maya’s poetry was different. Somehow it made sense. The words took on a whole new meaning.

Listening to her words as I read each poem, I learnt the value of looking beyond the surface and going beyond what I see/hear. The value of listening to each word. Listening with my heart, nor just my ears. It was then that meaning, hidden truth and wisdom emerged. Words had suddenly taken on a whole new meaning as I understood the beauty and power they could awaken. This was the beginning of my love affair with the written word. Although, it wasn’t until later in life that it all settled within me, making perfect, beautiful and complete sense.

So, I will leave you with my favourite quote from Maya. It strikes a cord with me for many reasons, sometimes these change depending on the situation or where I am at in my life. Today, it has meaning to me because although I cannot remember the words of the poem I read that day in school I have not forgotten how she (the poem and the words) made me feel.

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Unapologetic authenticity

I recently came across a Gabrielle Bernstein lecture about Authentic Power. Apparently she discusses authenticity and releasing whatever interferes with your true confidence. I say apparently because I didn’t get round to watching it because, for some reason, I scrolled down to the comments section.

Briefly reading each one there was one that caught my eye. One that I read ever word of. This particular comment seemed to suggest that Gabrielle authenticity was masked or overshadowed by her appearance. According to this viewer there was a “mismatch” between her outer appearance and message about living authentically.

The comment really struck a cord with me. To be honest it really annoyed me. (There’s obviously some healing work that needs to be done here.) I think this was because I have lost count of the amount of times I have been judged and misjudged because of the way I look. The way that people, women in particular, roll their eyes or smirk when I talk about anything remotely spiritual. ‘You don’t look the spiritual type.’ Or ‘You’re a lot smarter than you look.’ Charming.

But in reflecting on my experiences I thought about the times when I ‘played down’ my image. Doing so in order to be liked and accepted. I’d wear less make-up or not wear that sparkly top because it would make me stand out from the crowd. Because if I stood out it would pee off my ‘friends’ who were already annoyed at the fact that I was slimmer than they were. Just recalling all of the ways that I ‘played down’ is mentally exhausting and I can feel a twinge of anxiety building up in my body. This must of have been how I felt at the time. Tbh I can’t remember. I can only guess that I got used to it in the end.

It wasn’t until I went deeper into my spiritual practice and completed my Angel Reiki master teacher course that I realised how much I’d ‘played down’ the real me. To the point that I had lost all sense of self. I hadn’t been living or being truly authentic at all. It was all a charade. Before my course came to an end I made a commitment to live authentically. But first I had a lot of forgiving to do.

Once I’d made my commitment I found that forgiveness came easily. For giving myself, my old friends, bosses and colleagues I was able to bury the person I used to be. I was able to walk the path of authenticity. A path that I strive to walk today.

I say strive because there are moments where the old me resurrects itself. Led by the ego she tries to step forward advising me that ‘playing down’ would be in my best interest. That ‘playing down’ will keep the peace: will make people accept me more. I know that she’s trying to protect me but I’d rather be accepted for the person I truly am not the person people would prefer me to be. However, sometimes my ego plays smart, cohersing me to go the other way and buy that new top (the one that I really don’t need or want) in order to piss off my haters. Either way, I know deep down that this isn’t the real me and I’m able to go beyond my ego to hear the voice of my Higher Self. Sadly, sometimes I don’t. But that’s okay, because I accept that we all fall off course sometimes. What’s important is that we are able to realign ourselves again.

What I’ve learnt is that I can be spiritual and cool. That how I look can mask or reveal my authenticity. If getting dressed up, wearing make-up and rocking a super sexy hairdo is what I want to do then that’s just perfect. It’s not so perfect if I’m hiding behind my glossiness/sexiness/coolness. It’s also not so perfect if I’m using it as a weapon against my haters. And it’s so not perfect if I’m playing down in order to fit in.

For me my clothes, hair and make-up are an expression of who I am. My image my change from day to day because I feel different from  day to day. And that is perfectly fine. I can still be spiritual and glamorous. Intelligent and sexy. Wise and cool. All this is perfect so long as I’m always authentically me.
Have you ever played down to suit others? What tips and advice do you have to share with others about how you overcame this? I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions.