This is the truth.
I have spent the majority of the past thirty two years of my life feeling like I am too big.
I mean that in a number of ways. The most obvious place to start is with my physical body. I was born into a world where the rule, sometimes spoken and sometimes unspoken, is that small is beautiful. I was also born big in one major way that I have never had any control over; my height. By the time I was fifteen, I was six feet tall and towered over almost everyone else in my grade and most of my teachers.
I learned young that the only way to exist in a tall female body and still be beautiful is to remain small in every other possible way. That’s how it feels sometimes. Like we’re allowed to be big in one category, but the rest of them have to remain small in order for us to not be too big for comfort, too big for beauty. I know this is true for more women than simply me. I have spoken with overweight women who feel they can’t afford to be multidimensional women with needs and opinions and feelings, women who are brilliant in the boardroom who feel they can’t afford to be anything but aesthetically feminine and pleasing, women of color who feel as though they can’t afford to exhibit any emotional range or professional excellence, single mothers who are dating again and fear that they can’t afford to have needs of their own because they’re already such a complex package deal.
This is barely scratching the surface. All of these women feel this way because we are socialized to believe we can only be big, only be intimidating, only be challenging in one area. One. We get one space to be big, and even that is pushing it.
As for myself, I learned to stay small in the ways I could control. Meaning my weight, my personality, my mind, my opinions, my needs. It didn’t always LOOK small from the outside, mind you. No one who knew me growing up would say I had a “small” personality, but in relation to who I actually was, I did. I was loud and boisterous and fun and energetic—and THAT was me playing small. It was me playing easy and comfortable and palatable. Putting forward an acceptable representative of myself. Shaving off the bits and pieces of myself that didn’t fit into the loud/boisterous/fun/energetic box.
I knew that I couldn’t afford to be big. I was already too close to big as it was. I have always, always, always been too close to big.
At some point though, they stopped working, all my attempts to be small. Honestly, it started with my body. My frame, which had always been thin and waify, began to expand. Some days, I think that was my first clue. My body was the first part of me to step up and say, “Yeah…no. This isn’t going to work for you.” I didn’t see it as that that the time, though. I was horrified. I am still horrified most days, if I’m being completely honest. My worst nightmare, as a tall woman, has always been gaining weight. Always. Because I understand the consequences of big.
The thing is, my body didn’t really give me much of a choice for awhile there. I needed to see it. I needed to start to come to terms with my big, not in my physical body but in my being.
As it almost always does, the rest of me followed my body. My mind, heart, spirit. Expanding, expanding, expanding. Big. Too large for comfort, only because I was still trying to keep myself inside a skin that didn’t fit. Until at some point, the skin split. And I stood there, in the open air, more than big. Huge. Massive. Absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer size of what I’d been trying to keep inside the culturally sacred skin of “small.” Wild.
I struggle publishing these words, because I’ve done basically no justice to everything represented here, the whole story. My learning to accept the entire scope of my whole self is a three-decades-and-counting process. Truly, I could write a novel on small and big and wild, and all the ways we teach women to be afraid to take up space.
But this is not the space for that novel. This is the space for an invitation. Because I can feel it in the air, and in dozens of the conversations I’ve had lately. Women who feel things scratching and clawing to get out of them; existing in fear, because if the scratching things get out, there’s no place for them to go inside their existing lives. Women who have been taught to repress, repress, repress. To not need, or desire, or long, or ask, or reach, or pursue, or really do anything besides accept what they’ve been given and perform to keep it.
Nope. Nope. Nope. Absolutely not. I reject this version of existence, on behalf of myself and on behalf of you.
You are multidimensional, beauty. I know this. I know it, because I know I am multidimensional. I also know how hard I have wrestled to find a space to be the whole package. I know how absolutely impossible it feels to find a space expansive enough to hold all of you. I am here for that space. I am here to create that space. Not just for women, but starting with women. I don’t know what that looks like right now—but I know it starts with conversations.
So this is my invitation. If you are a woman who has ever felt too large for her skin, too large for her world? If you are a woman who has ever felt scared shitless of all her bigness, of all the ways it could blow up her life if she grows into it or suffocate her completely if she doesn’t? If you have ever, in one single moment, wondered if you were created for something wilder and more expansive than the life you’re in?
Have coffee with me. In person or via Skype. Send me a comment, a message, a text; I am committing the rest of 2017 to learning from wild women about what their cages look like. And I am committing basically the rest of my life to figuring out a way to break them out. To break myself out, more and more every day.
This world is aching, and it is not healed by more caged women. Our marriages, our children, our families, our communities, our globe; not one piece of the bigger picture is served by women who are stuck playing small.
Let me know if you’re willing to grab coffee and tell me your story. Even if you don’t have it all figure out. Even if you only have a tiny inkling, an unnamable feeling. I’ll bring good questions to the table, along with a zero-judgment policy, and I will hold your heart with open hands. I’m all ears, love.