I hate my nose. HATE IT.
Hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it.
I don’t like having my picture taken.
I feel uncomfortable in the presence of people who are pretty and confident.
I let it fuel all the other things I don’t like about myself until I’m one big ball of self-pity and guilt: about my weight, about not being a Pinterest-perfect mother, about not writing often enough, about the stupid crumbs on the floor and dishes in the sink. And let’s not even touch the whole issue of “my writing isn’t good enough.” Yeeesh.
Why not get the nose fixed and be done with it? Because my mother got hers fixed right out of high school, and she still hated herself. And we never got to have an authentic conversation about accepting what God gave you and moving on to more important things in life. Because my daughter has an Asian nose that’s not like other noses in her class and I want her to know that it doesn’t matter, that it’s part of who she is.
Except it does matter, because I let it matter, and I’ll never teach her otherwise, never teach her what it means to be brave and bold and fearless and look beyond self to those more important things if I can’t put this aside once and for all.
Here’s the crazy part: In my 20s I had a beautiful Chinese boss who was thin and glamorous, and one day she leaned across her desk and whispered to me that she liked my nose and had always thought hers was too flat. Did I suddenly wake up and realize how foolish I’d been? Did it shape my outlook for the better in any way? No, it did not. Because that was like 15 years ago, and nothing has changed.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve challenged myself to be braver and to KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF. It’s interfering with Stuff I Wanna Do, and I’m sick of it.
At last month’s retreat for our amazing EMLA writers and illustrators I was surrounded by high quality people, people who are changing the world for the better, who care about Issues, who are making a difference and can talk to people un-self-consciously and LIVE and WRITE and BREATHE like the well-adjusted, grateful, talented people that they are. Many of them—maybe even most of them—are introverts like me, but unless they’re all capable of faking it really well, they were able to put that aside and enjoy those moments together that are so rare and precious and valuable. Next year, I swear I’m not gonna let that slip through my fingers because of my own ridiculous issues.
I’m here to challenge you to be brave in whatever way stretches you, even just the smallest bit. It doesn’t have to mean climbing a scary tall mountain or baring your deepest insecurities on the troll-infested internet. It means identifying what scares you and taking the tiniest of steps out of your comfort zone and one step closer to whatever it is you’ve always longed for.
Living life “cramped and insane,” as Anne Lamott would say, sucks. Enough. What issue is weighing you down, keeping you from being the writer or adventurer or pet owner or open, joyful human being you’ve always wanted to be? Rip it out of you, throw it on the bonfire, and be done with it. Easier said than done, I know. But if I can click “Post” on this rambling example of over-sharing, then I know you have it in you, too.
Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.