I read this quote recently: “Rebellion is when you look society in the face and say, “I understand who you want me to be, but instead I will show you who I actually am.”
As a life long rule follower (self conscious girl wanting to fit in, people pleasing daughter always seeking to earn my parents love and pride), I was the opposite of a rebel. I didn’t think like a rebel or act like a rebel. If I ever began a rebellion, it was short, weak and inconsequential, such as giving one word answers to my probing mother. Unwritten, yet clearly understood, rules from my childhood included being principled, not vain, by spending time on hair and makeup, dressing appropriately and modestly, being productive with my time, giving to others, achieving in academics, sports, music, and anything I tried, being polite to all authority figures, holding my tongue and never expressing anger, and not being “too much” by expressing strong feelings or needs. My life went according to the plan my family and society approved. Be a good student, get involved in extracurricular activities, be productive, volunteer, get into a good college with your career already determined, graduate and get a job, get married, buy a house, have children, give of yourself to everyone, and manage it all with an easy, breezy attitude and a smile. If you feel overwhelmed or unhappy, keep it to yourself. Well, mission accomplished!
At 54, I want to be a rebel. I don’t want to be reckless or thoughtless or self absorbed or irresponsible or dangerous, but I want to stop following all the “rules” that have really just been in my own head. I want to stop holding myself to standards that no one else observes and then feeling resentful. My rebellion really began with my divorce, though I didn’t recognize it as such back then. It was the first time I put my needs before anyone else’s and remains the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I felt selfish, frightened, full of shame and like a failure, but at the same time, liberated and free. When I moved into my new home six years ago, it became my sacred place, full of safety and possibility…and the beginnings of my rebel spirit stirred. Last year, I found myself frequently saying, “I’m a grown ass woman!” and feeling the burden of “rules” falling away.
This year, I’m setting my sights on rebellion! I’m thinking about what that looks like for me, not anyone else or their idea of what a rebel does. I’m looking forward to excavating my own preferences, desires, nature, and opinions that will result in me truly accepting myself and letting that person show up instead of my False Self. I’m looking forward to self expression through dress, appearance, voice, thought, actions, and self care. I’m looking forward to more freedom, less judgment, and greater self love. I know my rebellion will bring me more joy, as well as benefit others, because everyone needs permission to challenge core beliefs that no longer serve them (and probably never did) as they grow into adulthood, middle age and beyond.
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