If you haven’t heard about Miley Cyrus’s performance at the Video Music Awards, you must be living on a mountaintop in Tibet. People seemed shocked, freaked out and disgusted by her behavior last month as she strutted on stage during Robin Thicke’s song, “Blurred Lines,” twerking and sticking out her tongue. She might as well have shouted, “Fuck all of you! Look at me! I’m not Hannah Montana anymore!”
Except me, that is. I was about as shocked at her twerking and tongue antics as I was when Britney Spears went bonkers and shaved her head.
See, a human being can only go on so long being someone they’re not, living up to an image others have of them – or the image of themselves they think is acceptable to show the world – while they hide away the real them. Ask any gay person, or any artist who grew up in a family of accountants. Or even a reluctant prophet like me.
Miley Cyrus signed on with Disney as a pre-teen but probably didn’t realize she was signing her life away. I remember reading many years ago that her dad, who had already experienced fame and knew the downside of the business, had a discussion with her about what would come to fruition if they signed the Hannah Montana contract. She would be a huge star, but there would be a price. But at 12 years old, how can you really grasp what is about to happen? That you will become a “role model;” that for the next few years, just as you’re beginning to experience the natural need to define who you are, you would not be able to choose your own hairstyle or wardrobe, that you would have to act a certain way any time you stepped outside your house, and they would even give you the words to say when you did an interview – even interviews that had nothing to do with your TV show or music tour. Wow, that was a run-on sentence.
Some might say she knew what she was getting into, but I don’t think it’s possible to really know what anything is like in life until you’re in the thick of it, whether you are a child or a grownup.
So it didn’t surprise me that, well after her contract ended, Miley Cyrus was still feeling the effects of being squelched. Beyond the sexuality that showed up in her own music videos, the public became more aware of the real Miley when she chopped off her hair and had it bleached. I could hear the collective gasp of tweens everywhere who couldn’t understand why she would do such a thing. Where was Hannah?
In a way, I feel like Miley Cyrus, too, but instead of signing a contract with Disney, I signed one with myself. I imposed restrictions on what parts of me I would let you see, and I squelched the parts of me that I respect and admire the most, all because I didn’t think you would accept them. Parts like creative writer, artist and observer of human behavior. Parts like the comic and the performer. The part of me who finds it incredibly entertaining to, on occasion, make fun of other humans, even small children and old people and the smelly people on the bus. (Even as I write that, I feel like apologizing, worried of what you’ll think of me.) And that begs the question, “Is it really unspiritual to laugh my ass off when someone acts like a nincompoop?” Well, I’ve been on a very long spiritual journey, and I’ve come to conclusion that it’s ALL spiritual.
Often times our willingness to squelch who we are is a way of coping with fears we aren’t wanting to face. Other times it’s just a false belief that we will be judged or rejected. Sometimes, too, we haven’t accepted who we are and live in judgment of ourselves, rejecting the parts of us we don’t find easy. In business, it’s usually a fear that we can’t make money being who we are or a belief that we are “supposed” to be a certain way to be considered acceptable to others. For me, this mainly entailed the belief that a spiritually-driven leader is just not supposed to act like me. I also couldn’t quite meld the artist with the prophet. So I kept them separate, so separate that I even took on a stage name where I could completely be myself.
See, I am quite weird; in fact, someone just told me this the other day. I took it as the highest possible compliment. I am a storyteller, but not just “metaphors for spiritual growth.” One of my favorite phrases is, “People are idiots.” I love telling all kinds of stories, by the way, especially about the human experience … the good, the bad and the ugly. And I talk too much (blabbering is not an uncommonly used verb to describe me). I am definitely not the woman whose picture was on my banner.
You might find this funny. A friend had never been to my web site. I sent him a blog post I wanted him to read a couple of weeks ago, and he called me asking, “What’s with the infomercial lady photo?” In the photo that used to be my “business photo,” I had a serene smile on my face and a big chunky necklace (I HATE necklaces) and a satin top (I HATE satin).
As long as I’m having my shave-my-head moment, I might as well tell you, I haven’t laughed in five years doing my work. That is a sad statement and I will not be continuing to do any work that I don’t find immensely FUN. (Prior to starting this business, my greatest accomplishment was writing a comedy film. Talk about polarity.)
You know what I realized last week? That the only times in my life when I’ve been lost or even unhappy have been the times when I’ve been unwilling to be myself.
I wrote an email to my mentor and a few close peers the other day saying, “I don’t want to be Hannah Montana anymore!” A huge sense of relief washed over me. I could hear her words whispering in my ear, “Yes, Beth Grant, you get to choose.”
I’m not feeling the need to put on a flesh-covered bodysuit and strut around on stage with my tongue hanging out, but I am feeling the need to let go of who I was pretending to be, and just be myself. You may not like me anymore, and that’s okay. Or you may like me even better. In any event, pleased to meet you.
Beth A. Grant is a writer and thought leader based in Chicago.
Are you hiding a part of yourself in your business, relationships or life? Leave a comment below, or email me at beth(at)cashalignment(dot)com with the subject line: Hannah Montana blog post.
Graphic by Sandra Gardner.