I got a big blast of inspiration this week when my friend decided that it was time for her to step into her own power – no matter what the cost. She had been told by her family to keep her love for a man of another culture and race a secret.

She “came” out this week on Facebook proclaiming her love for this good and kind man. Keeping it secret was weighing her down, keeping her from shining, keeping her in hiding.

What she did took courage, and dignity, and a belief that the most important things in life —  love, compassion, beauty, and truth —  do not live in the darkness of shame.

It takes a lot of courage to go against what your family, or the people around you, believe. It takes a lot of courage to be fully yourself no matter what others think of it.

My Japanese friend faced a similar situation when she married a Ugandan man. One day, she’d had enough and said to her father: you can’t tell me who to love. He refused to speak to her for years.

To stand up for yourself, to stand powerfully in your own truth and life, is something that many of us women need to learn to do. The ways we are forced to conform and are subjugated are many: violence, shame, guilt, pressure, fear, ridicule, abandonment.

To keep the peace, or your standing in life, or your life itself– you live hiding who you really are and what you are really called to do.

The price can be very high to be yourself. In some countries, you can be killed for being a woman and following your own path..

It’s not so long ago that in my home province of Quebec one of the worst fates that could befall a woman was getting pregnant out of wedlock.

My mother told me as a young teenager that it would be a terrible thing for it to happen to me, that I would be ruined, that no man would want to marry me after that.

I don’t blame my mom. In her generation, women who got pregnant without a husband were shipped off to have the child in secret and then were forced to abandon them to adoption. There were tons of kids up for adoption in Quebec then. The orphanages were full.

When I was small, the abandoned orphanages were still there. We regularly drove by two huge empty such buildings on the side of the highway leading into Montreal. It made me really sad to look at them – though I didn’t really know why at the time.

You can still see one of them on the side of the highway as you pull into Montreal – though it has been converted to a condominium – its history and suffering whitewashed to make way for new housing.

When you know that something is wrong – when it goes against what your own inner truth says – and you say no, no more, you are sending a strong message to yourself. You are telling yourself that you are important. You are reminding yourself of your birthright: love, compassion, truth, beauty.  Part of you will feel that love. Part of you will be proud and celebrate even if you are scared.

As Howard Thurman wrote:

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have.”

With your self-talk, you can help yourself be the genuine you even when others want you to keep that secret, to keep that quiet.

My self-talk:

  • I stand by you no matter what anyone says.
  • I am proud of you.
  • There is only one of you in the whole world and you have your own life and your own destiny and calling.
  • I will always love you.
  • I will never leave you.
  • Being yourself is the most important thing you can do.
  • This is who I am.