When I got to the hotel in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, after five days of travel, with less than four hours of sleep a night, I realized that I had forgotten to pack pants.
Of all the friggin’ things to forget!
I was on my way to Antarctica and had been so focused on packing all the zero-degree weather gear that I’d completely spaced packing any semblance of normal, everyday clothes. So here I was, on a 14-day expedition cruise, without any real pants except the pair I’d been wearing on and off planes for the last five days. (At the last minute, I’d happened to throw in a pair of sweatpants in case it was cold at night on the boat. Thank you, cheezus!)
Why was this a problem? Well, I like dressing to impress! I like to look good.
Even when I know I won’t see anyone all day (because I work from home), I still dress up and dress well.
I love adorning myself with jewelry—heirlooms and personally meaningful pieces I’ve acquired along the way. I like to glam it up with a little bit of tasteful makeup. And I really like when my hair is clean and lookin’ fresh!
It’s not just a vanity thing.
I’ve worked hard to feel beautiful in my being. I’ve worked hard and long to get here.
For many many years, I could not see a pretty face in the mirror. I experienced a constant, low-grade disappointment in my body and looks, and when I was in high school, I struggled with disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and a regular sense of self-disgust.
So, not having the external things I usually like to play with that are my take-on-the-world beauty war paint was actually something that made me feel a bit exposed.
Well, I realized I just wasn’t going to get to do my cute thang on this cruise and that was going to have to be okay! And, of course, it was.
But unconsciously, I shelved the part of me I usually think of as feminine and attractive. I unintentionally tabled the romantic, available-for-partnership version of me. Instead, I just showed up as is.
I wore the same sweaters and pants the whole time, I barely wore makeup, and I didn’t flirt.
I cracked jokes, asked questions, tried to include people who looked alone, attended lectures, had strong opinions, cried at the charity auction and after the global warming TEDx talks, giggled at the sneezing seals, and developed a hopeless crush on how daring and endearing penguins truly are.
And to my total surprise, I walked out the other side of the cruise feeling the most belonging I’ve felt in an extremely long time.
I truly connected with people and people truly connected with me—without the noise of unspoken thoughts around eligibility or romantic compatibility.
We played competitive board games, laughed raucously, shared tough personal stories, and discussed our views and hopes for the planet’s future. I didn’t fall into the trap of mentally coaching myself into more of my feminine energy (specifically, the kind of “being more feminine” that seems to come from unhealthy polarity teachings out there).
I didn’t perform my gender or try to “be more” of my divine energy.
I just was.
I felt so at ease in myself. I felt truly liked for my interest, my energy, my kindness, my intensity, my boisterousness—all the things that I can get worried about that are “too much.” (Because, let’s be real, I am a whole lotta human.)
And it was low-key healing.
There are nonstop messages about who we need to be in order to be wanted and loved—from commercials, from television, from our families, from polarity teachings. Everywhere, there is someone or something telling us that we need to be, look, or behave differently in order to earn belonging.
And the truth is, we need to understand how those messages are running us so that we can break society’s and other peoples’ rules and free ourselves to just be more ferociously ourselves.
Not the you filtered through body and beauty standards.
Not the you who conformed to your parents’ demands and expectations.
Not the you who does sacred relationship “correctly.”
The you who feels electrifying and natural to inhabit once you sluff off all that other junk.
The connections that arise when we are living from this wondrously authentic version of ourselves are the most trustworthy. Because you know that the people who are choosing you are actually choosing the real you!
And in the modern world, there are few things more precious than true belonging and being loved and chosen for who you natively and uniquely are.
Even though I had benched myself romantically, I discovered at the end that there were still a few people on the trip who found me magnetic and attractive romantically! Me just being me was “feminine” enough.
I didn’t need to be afraid of not being wanted. In fact, learning about these attractions at the end helped me realize that I am loveable as is and there is no such thing as benching myself romantically when I’m being my whole self, unapologetically.
This just goes to show that “just be yourself” can be good advice, as long as you’ve deconditioned a lot of the unconscious bullsh*t that gets in the way of you sharing the real you!