True Colors

So don't be afraid
To let them show
Your true colors
[. . .] are beautiful
Like a rainbow
— Cyndi Lauper

“True Colors” has always been one of my favorite Cyndi Lauper songs and I’ve been thinking a lot about its message lately. As someone who always felt as if she didn’t quite belong, someone who’d been hurt deeply and was afraid to let others see her pain, it really hit home for me. The message of the song seems so simple: be yourself because you’re beautiful just as you are. But watching Frankenstein (the play) got me thinking even more about the outcast and just how hard it is to embrace the things that others dislike about you, to say, “Fuck you, I don’t care what you think.” It requires a tremendous amount of courage to do that. I was moved to tears by the play because it gives us the Creature’s perspective, not Frankenstein’s, and it’s him with whom I’ve always sympathized. His story is heartbreaking but all too familiar because it belongs to anyone who has ever been made to feel somehow wrong for being different. His tale is a tragic metaphor for how hate and cruelty can twist something that is beautiful, albeit strange, into something horrible. Trauma makes a monster of you all right.

More often than not, instead of loving yourself unconditionally as you should, you see yourself through your abusers’ eyes and come to hate all the things about yourself that they do. You want to be accepted and fear further pain, so you hide yourself in your emotional armor and behind high, thick walls, thinking you’ll be safe. And then someone comes along and unmasks you. Or, scarier yet, you let them see your soul. Either way, they know your secret identity and now they have the power to reveal it to the world. You’ve made yourself vulnerable whether you intended to or not, and you’re terrified of standing naked. Better brace yourself for the hurt. Unless . . . they see the freak that you really are and they don’t mind. What if they love you anyway or love you because of it? Maybe they’ve donned a mask too and, like you, they’ve dwelt in the shadows, so unlike most people, they see remarkably well in the dark. That’s what “True Colors” is about. If you can’t be yourself around the people closest to you or are afraid they won’t love you if you are, then you need to re-evaluate those relationships.

Some time ago, I made a promise to the spiritual forces in my life and to myself that I would stop trying to be someone I wasn’t just to please others or be accepted by them. Those spiritual guardians told me that I had to be true to myself in order to heal, and that by doing so, I wouldn’t be rejected as I feared but loved.

Keeping that promise means not just loving the “good” things about myself but also the parts of me that others haven’t loved, that I haven’t loved. I am a socially awkward, slightly morbid, tragically un-hip, sensitive, introverted weirdo. I’m also smart, caring, occasionally funny, a decent writer, and a good—no, a great—mom. I don’t apologize for those latter things, so I shouldn’t be sorry for the others either. I am the sum of all of them and I will love all of me because the people in my life who genuinely care about me will do the same.

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