By Becky Reno

I sat on the brown shag carpet, surrounded by wood paneling, my legs tucked underneath me. Across from me was my neighbor, three years my senior, and between us- a monopoly board. It was a summer when we spent nearly every day together either playing games that would span days, or running around the neighborhood, rushing back to our respective houses when the streetlights came on. I was ten.

“I like to pretend like my friends are watching” she said innocently enough, gesturing towards the large picture window. Something about this struck me as intriguing. It turned the ordinary into a performance. It made me scrutinize even the most mundane details to see how they would be perceived. It shifted my value into the hands of others, and I had to be worthy enough to earn it back from them.

I wish I could go back and shield that little girl -me- from this moment. I’m sure it’s not that simple, and it wouldn’t have stuck if there weren’t a thousand other factors that caused that seismic shift, but this is where I trace the origins. This is when I split and not only became the actor playing the game, but also the observer casting judgment.

I spent the next couple of decades moving through life this way, always looking from the outside in. By no means was I perfect, as my (still recovering) parents can attest, but I was always aware of how my deviance was perceived. This has all played out as a pendulum, swinging towards rebellious deviance or towards feigned normalcy. My pendulum has spent much of my adult life in the latter camp, and I’m growing ever-fearful it’ll get stuck.

I don’t know exactly how to just start living without worrying about how it looks. I do know, though, that it’s imperative. I want to start living life from the inside out instead of the outside in. I’m thinking this is going to be the task that defines my mid-thirties, and if I can achieve it, it will free me going forward. Tossing that grenade in the peanut gallery is no small task, but luckily I’ve got some people in my life willing to help me pull out the pin.

Let me know if you have any tips, or you’re with me in this journey. I’m not naive enough to think it’ll be easy, but I’m optimistic enough to think it’s possible.



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  1. May 29, 2012

    “it shifted my value into the hands of others, and i had to be worthy enough to earn it back from them.”
    these are powerful words.
    i’m with you on wanting to throw the grenade into the peanut gallery, but here, in my 50s, enjoying life and feeling good, i still am concerned with what others think of me. i’ll probably be thinking this, into old age, into my grave: what do they think….now….

    it will be interesting to hear what other women have to say….to read their comments….


    • Becky #
      May 29, 2012

      50s is nothing- you have plenty of time to break the cycle! I’m thinking we should start small, work our way up to the big stuff.

  2. May 29, 2012

    oh, yes, I totally get this..feel this! For me, the journey started with the deep need to act from my inner power instead of from outside sources. And then from there it was just following through with that, one action at a time. It’s not like I’ve ever stopped caring what other people think, but now I’ve been so much happier acting authentically that I won’t ever go back to making that my deciding factor of how I live. Ha. I’m so excited to watch your journey!

    • Becky #
      May 29, 2012

      it’s crazy, i don’t even know where to start. I keep thinking “what would i do differently” and I’m not sure there’s anything specifically, I just want to care less. One step at a time I suppose

  3. May 29, 2012

    I’m there with you. This was a great post for me; it hit home in more ways than one. I could’ve been your neighbor girl, but I know I wasn’t because I didn’t have any neighbors growing up. 😉 But I’ve always lived like that: like people are watching me; like I’m in a movie or something. It’s strange. I’ve known this, yet it’s the first time I’ve ever actually said (typed) it, and I’m almost 40. I’m ready to shed that though! Very soon, I will be putting my hair in dreadlocks. I’m so excited! This has been a desire of mine for longer than I can remember, but I thought “I couldn’t.” Screw that! Two regrets: It took me this long, and I can’t hire Tiffani to do a photo shoot for me like she did for Tara Wagner (The Organic Sister) when she said “goodbye” to her dreads. 😉

    • Becky #
      May 29, 2012

      I’m so glad there’s someone else out there that does this! Makes me feel a little less crazy. And please do share a picture when those dreds grow in. Can’t wait to see it.

  4. May 29, 2012

    My journey really started when I met my husband at 34, and broke contact with my mother and step-father, the Ultimate Champions of feigned normalcy. I find it very hard. On the outside I look quite rebellious – lots of body art, odd clothes &c – but inside I’m usually worrying that someone or other is going to tell me off. I have found being a parent a double edged sword in this respect. I have followed my heart to give my boy the childhood I feel he deserves; long term breast-feeding, co-sleeping, free language, homeschooling and so on. But it makes me feel anxious, like “how long can we get away with this ?”. I find I have to live slowly, to give things a lot of thought to make sure I am being true to myself. Writing helps, and having my husband’s support is invaluable. I wish I had been able to start this at a younger age, but I’m determined to make the best of whatever time I have left 🙂

    • Becky #
      May 29, 2012

      Crazy how kids force our hand in a way isn’t it. Hiding my own deviance is one thing, but I’ll be damned if I’m changing any of my parenting practices to fit in.

      • May 30, 2012

        Lol yes ! And stuff that used to make me cringe with embarrassment is no longer a problem; singing as we walk down the street or on a bus, dancing and dodging down the supermarket aisles, going out with someone dressed as C3PO for no particular reason 🙂 Even harsh things like my son’s chronic travel sickness has taught me to focus on our needs and happiness and care a little less about what others might be thinking.

  5. May 29, 2012

    I have found that this all begins to fall into place as you get older. Mid thirties feels so young. Strong and in the middle of the action. Come fourty and the body slows so you have to run harder, the chin hair grows so you have to pluck more and the hang time between chin and boob is record breaking. But through the fog (your eyes just don’t see like they used too…..) you realise that life is short no matter how sweet and what you have is here and now. No time left to mess around. Be true to yourself. You seem to be heading down that path. Keep walking….

    • Becky #
      May 29, 2012

      i love this. I’ll be coming back to your comment from time to time, it feels perfect for where I am, and for where I want to be. thank you.

  6. May 29, 2012

    I thank my kids for my “grenade in the peanut gallery” switch. It was easier to justify living in a way that made my life dull and boring than it was to make SOMEONE ELSES life that way. Especially someone I loved so much.

    I wish you the best in your quest.

  7. May 29, 2012

    I’m willing to help pull some pins. Pulling other people’s pins is more fun than standing in my own exploding pit. Let’s explode together. Katy Perry should write a song about that.

  8. May 30, 2012

    I used to be like this, though my perception came from when I used to play with my action figures as a kid. I made up these huge realities in my imagination that it bled into the way I saw the world around me. There but not there something of a disconnect. It was so strange. Like even when I was in a situation I felt like I was outside of it, even in that moment. So, in a way it’s kind of like living vicariously through yourself. Great work on the post and realization, I hope it works!

  9. sarah #
    June 1, 2012

    yep. you are not alone.

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