“Is a bagel still called a bagel if there is not a hole in the middle?”
Chatter in the room quiets down and eyes shift towards me, awaiting my answer. The scenario is common, the question new.
I try to give my reply. A succinct answer is what is being asked of me, but I waver before answering. “I believe it is still a bagel, but I guess I would have to know the definition of a bagel to really know.” There, I said it. With my response I land on one side of the fence. Despite my clause, the answer places me in a category with others who responded as I did.
Questions such as the one above are simple and playful and absolutely challenging for me. The moment a conversation shifts to sharing my opinion or identifying favorites, a wave of angst washes over me in anticipation of answering.
Chocolate or vanilla? Regular Oreos or Double Stuffed? Coke or Pepsi? Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Beach or mountains? Morning or night? Apple or Android? For the record, I can quickly answer all of these questions without hesitation: chocolate, regular, Coke, dark chocolate, mountains, morning, and apple. But what happens when the questions are more closely tied to who I am?
From a young age, we are able to identify our likes and dislikes. These likes and dislikes are often the foundation for relationships. We tend to connect more easily with others who think and feel similarly to how we do. This connection leads to attachment with one another and a natural sense of belonging.
Just as we find connection and belonging, we can just as easily experience rejection and abandonment when we no longer hold the same viewpoint.
Entering into my pre-teen years, I looked to peers to identify many of my likes and dislikes. Afraid of being seen as different or unique, I learned how to muffle my own desires, becoming detached from what I loved.
Denying my authentic self to please others started out subtly and innocently.
My desire to feel connected, enjoyed, and loved was good. The desire to please others to be accepted led me to constantly seek external validation to maintain a connection. Abandoning myself to have that desire met has been costly on many levels.
In one of my favorite movies, Runaway Bride, the lead character is told that she is so lost that she doesn’t even know what kind of eggs she likes. With each person she has been in relationship with, she accommodates, preferring whatever style of eggs they eat. The movie goes on to show a scene where Maggie has made eggs every possible way and sits down to taste each one. By the end, she finally knows how she takes her eggs.
Emotions arise and tears fill my eyes just as they have every time before when I watch her taste each egg alone. Free from outside distraction and external opinions, she is able to access what is true within herself.
Returning to my authentic self requires wild courage. Courage to feel and know and say, “I will not abandon myself any more. This is me.”
Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by her everyday relationships. A highly distracted procrastinator mixed with a tender-hearted feeler, she can be a little bit unpredictable on any given day. Bethany calls Texas home where she navigates the messy and beautiful path of parenting two boys with unique challenges. She loves to enjoy life in authentic spaces alongside those she holds dear.