It’s extremely hard to allow yourself to just be. There are parts of every person’s personality that are so intense and over the top as to be embarrassing. I’ll give you an example. I plan and make lists to a stupid degree. I’m the kind of person that would make lists of my lists. I have lists and planners and calendars littered around my house and filling up my hard drive. In fact, I make so many lists and planners, that I used to hide my habit, embarrassed of all of my silly lists.
The problem is, when you feel embarrassed, you also feel shame. And when you feel ashamed, you feel like there is something wrong with you. So I hid my secret, carefully guarding my book of lists and calendars, never letting anyone on my computer, fearful that my dirty little secret would be revealed to the world.
It was a heavy burden to carry and one that I could never get rid of because, in the end, my neurotic borderline-OCD planning is who I am and I can’t change that. It’s at the core of who I am. I can change habits, but I can’t change core personality traits. So I remained embarrassed and sad and carried my secret with me.
And then I watched my daughter. She is seven years old and she makes lists and loves office supplies and calendars. At the tender age of seven, she wanted to learn Microsoft Word so she could write her lists up on the computer and print them out. Sure, it’s easy to say, “Well, look at the environment in which she is raised. You make your lists and you have the big family calendar up in the kitchen.” This is true. Her environment nurtures this part of her, but it’s more than that. My son has absolutely no interest in lists or calendars. He could care less. But my daughter loves going to Office Depot as much as I do. Her desk is her sanctuary, just as mine is to me.
But there is one notable and significant difference between me and my daughter: she isn’t embarrassed. She embraces this part of herself with joy. She writes up her lists and plays with her calendar with a happiness that comes from within. She has so much fun, and she doesn’t care who watches her.
As we grow up and enter society and try to fit in, we start to hide parts of ourselves — important parts of ourselves. I’ve also hidden my love of Renaissance Festivals and Medieval music because I didn’t want to be seen as a big nerd. These parts of my personality slink around in the darkness like thieves staying to the night.
This message really spoke to me in How to Train Your Dragon. Hiccup wants so badly to fit in with all of the other Vikings who kill dragons. He tries desperately to kill dragons, but makes a total mess of it every time because, inside his heart, he’s not a dragon killer. There is a foreshadowing to this theme when his dad tells him, “You are many things, Hiccup, but a dragon killer is not one of them.” Of course, his dad doesn’t say this as a compliment, for to be a heroic Viking in the village of Berk, one must become a dragon killer.
And one of the most poignant conversations is at the very beginning of the movie as Hiccup’s mentor, Gobber, is walking him back to his home after he has made yet another terrible mess while trying to kill a dragon. And Gobber says, “Stop trying so hard to be something you’re not.” And Hiccup replies, “I just want to be one of you guys.”
And it’s when he has an opportunity to kill a dragon, and he can’t, that he quits trying to be something he’s not. And when he finally allows himself to be exactly who he is — a dragon trainer, not a dragon killer — he becomes heroic.
And that’s the message of this long-winded blog entry. I know it’s hard. I know from experience that it’s hard to allow yourself to be exactly who you are. It’s hard to publically admit that you really want to dress like Emilie Autumn or that you want to dance on stage or any of a million things that are hidden away.
But when you finally allow yourself to be exactly who you are, you will become heroic.