Tuesday, March 4, 2014


My adolescence was time of tremendous inner turmoil for me. I didn't have a lot of confidence. I was scared to make a mistake. I was afraid to put myself out there for any kind of judgement, for fear of a misstep and the resulting embarrassment. I needed to be liked by everyone. I felt dorky and unattractive and naive. During this period of my life, I was constantly watching others- looking at them for guidance or inspiration. This was a time when I thought everyone had life figured out... everyone except me. They were all in on some big secret of which I was completely unaware.

Of course, I was wrong.

A simple conversation with my mom when I was 12 helped me change my perspective.

Frustrated with a peer situation, I tearfully confided in her that I wished I was someone else. I don't remember who it was, but it was someone I admired; perhaps Cindy Crawford or Christie Brinkley.

Obviously, I was pretty deep when I was 12.

My mom looked at me and asked, "Would you really want to give up everything in your life and become another person?"

I was stunned into silence. In all the time I had spent fantasizing about living someone else's life, I never considered that it would require having to give up my own.

"Probably not," I finally answered.

I walked into the bathroom to take a shower where I seriously pondered my mom's question. As the water ran over me, I contemplated everything in my life: every experience, every friend and family member, my talents, my lifestyle, my animals, my mind, and even my appearance. As I shampooed my hair, I thought about humankind. Everyone had a story. Everyone had their own insecurities. Everyone struggled with personal demons. Even the most successful, beautiful women had problems. 

No one was perfect. I truly, honestly did not want to trade places with anyone. Not even Cindy Crawford. I didn't want to give up the joys and experiences of my beautiful life. I wasn't willing to give up... well... myself.

It was a revelation. I turned off the water and dried my skin with the seafoam green towel that my beloved grandmother had given me. A more enlightened version of Johi stepped out of that bathtub.

In that AHA! moment, I acknowledged my individuality and self-worth. I had just experienced a moment of truth and inner peace. I figured out that I loved my life- a pretty powerful revelation for an insecure 12 year old. It was the start of a process of appreciation. It was the start of learning to embrace myself as a unique, perfectly imperfect person. That moment was the beginning of me finding and accepting my identity.

I actively began searching out the good around me and choosing to focus on it. I reshaped the way I viewed the world. Instead of whining about what I wasn't, I accepted and praised what I was. It was one of those Wayne Dyer shifts of consciousness. Looking at the world from a positive point of view is a good thing... and it can change your life.

It's true that I still struggle with experiences, people and even my own reactions to the world, but I feel like I am where I am supposed to be. Even better, I know I am the person I want to be.*

*Most of the time, anyway. I can't seem to avoid PMS.

Personal identity is different for each of us, and the path to recognizing it is also unique. Yet there are some simple ways to discover your sense of self, starting with a positive self image. Here's what worked for me:

14 Steps to a Positive Self Image and Personal Identity

1. Embrace your individuality.
2. Love and respect yourself.
3. Learn from your mistakes and the mistake of others.
4. Accept responsibility for your actions and be mindful of your influence on your own life and those around you.
5. Recognize the goodness in others and learn to accept their compliments.
6. Respectively, recognize the bullshit in others and protect yourself from their projections.
7. Always stay true to you- don't ignore your gut feelings.
8. Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small, and embrace praise.
9. Always look to learn and grow.
10. Approach life with an open mind and a loving heart.
11. Be honest.
12. If a change needs to be made, there is no better time than the present.
13. Know that what you DO is different from who you ARE (read my story about that here).
14. Live fearlessly.

Over time, the passing years have changed me. I've adjusted some of my ways of thinking and I try to continue to make personal improvements. As with most people, my identity is unique. If I had to sum up my character- the internal, moral and ethical things that make me unique- I would say this:
I'm tough, but loving. I'm strong, but fragile. I'm determined, but often unfocused.  I'm country with a dash of refinement. I need rest, but I'm a hard worker. I'm feisty, but I'm a peacekeeper.  I'm sensitive, but realistic. I'm not easily offended, but I know my limitations. I'm organized, but cluttered. I'm unflinching forthright, but I attempt to be gentle. I'm stubborn, loyal, loving and creative. I love to laugh. It's who I be.

If I had to sum up my interests, which I believe also lead to identity, I would say this:
I enjoy sexy shoes, old barns, lipstick, hot coffee, cold beer, art galleries, cowboy boots, animals- especially horses, tight blue jeans, intelligent conversation and afternoon naps. I love well designed spaces, pick-up trucks, the smell of leather, the sun on my face, long walks in nature and capable men with strong hands. I live for my precious sons, awesome friends and family, digging in the dirt, creating art and the written word. My life is better with movies, expensive sheets, music, laughing instead of crying, good food, the sound of water, tall trees and mountains. It's how I do.

While I may be a walking contradiction, I'm just me- a mostly kind-hearted, mouthy, sometimes shy, always frank bitch who doesn't need anyone's approval to feel validated in living my life the way I desire. I like who I am, and I wouldn't trade places with anyone.

Who wants to grab a beer with me? I like wine and martinis, too.

*This was an assignment from Noa, who asked me to write about "Identity" for the League of Fuckin' Bitches, in which I am honored to belong as the resident Frank Bitch. Rock on, bitches!

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