Hey there, it’s Tiana and I have a confession.
It might be a small confession, for some of you who might know me better, and it’s maybe a big confession to people who maybe have only come across me and my work relatively recently.
And here it is: I’m somebody who really struggles with feeling like they belong, or feeling like they’re important, or feeling understood, heard, and seen.
All of these things are wounds from my childhood, from my upbringing, from my identities.
And these are things that I work really, really hard to just be able to live my life with.
Something that has been a coping mechanism I developed at a very young age and carried on through a lot of my lifetime has been the ability to be really flexible, meaning that I’m really open to other people’s thoughts and feelings and ways of being.
I’ve been pretty well practiced at being what a friend from college told me was “making myself vanilla pudding.”
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And she was right, you know, because vanilla pudding is the kind of thing that not a lot of people have very strong feelings about. For some people, it’s something they enjoy. But it’s not something they’re really passionate about. It’s not political, it’s not really interesting. It’s nothing that anybody is going to be like, “that’s the thing that’s going to make my day!” It’s something that if it shows up on the buffet and you’ve got space, you might go for it.
So I was making myself vanilla pudding. It was who I was. Like I was saying, “imprint upon me!” Because vanilla is that base flavor in Western cooking. Vanilla is that flavoring that we put in when baking any kind of pastries or sweets, to just give them a flavor so that they’re not just cooked flour. And then we layer flavor on top of vanilla.
And so that’s who I was: I was vanilla pudding.
I was that base: open, flexible, not really rocking the boat or being very interesting in any way, shape, or form where you could come and just imprint upon me. I would very, very easily just go with the flow and do what other people were doing. I’d do that because I needed to belong.
And over the years, this has gotten me into some not so great situations (lots of stories there for sure). But it’s gotten me into places where I’ve done things and acted ways that aren’t really who I am or not really who I wanted to be because I was out of integrity. I wasn’t performing myself for myself, I was performing a mirror image of the people that I thought I wanted to be like.
So something I’ve been practicing, something I’ve been learning is how to be in integrity. How to be in touch with my values and my beliefs, the things that I actually desire and dream, and where I want to go and who I really am.
This has been a practice for me.
And it’s been really hard because unfortunately, being in integrity with your true core self puts you in conflict with other people. It makes you unpalatable to some folks because not everybody loves the dark chocolate, not everybody loves that bitter flavor. And not everybody loves a very, very full bodied passion fruit. To each of us our own, but people can have really strong feelings about mint chocolate chip.
Not many people have very strong feelings about vanilla.
And so it’s been a challenge to be in integrity. It’s been a challenge. It’s been a lot.
Because it takes audacity.
It takes bravery to keep stepping out into the world. To keep showing up in integrity. To keep choosing myself and my path, my wants and desires, as opposed to the ones that will make other people comfortable or maybe make them like me better.
So I’m telling you this little story and using this bad analogy about food because I want you to practice having the audacity to be in integrity.
Because what we’re doing when we’re not in integrity is giving up parts of ourselves. Allowing ourselves to just go with the flow and do things that we don’t want to do and be around people we don’t want to be around and act in certain ways that don’t fit for us is because we’re trying to avoid consequences.
We think that it’s easier to just go along to get along.
We think that that’s easier than going, “no thanks, that’s not for me” and being left out.
But the fact is that consequences are going to happen regardless of which choice you make.
The challenge here, the discernment piece, is to choose which consequences you would rather have: the consequences of the guilt hangover of not being who you were, not doing things that were true to yourself, and maybe betraying your identity, or the consequences of somebody going, “you’re no fun, I don’t want to play with you anymore,” and the possible loss of a friendship.
And in the end consequences are.
You have to choose the one that makes the most sense for you.
But also caveat, nuanced piece here: you have no control over what the consequences are.
You only have control of what you do in response to them.
So I leave you with that today.