Getting warmer

My visit to the Metamorphosis & Migration exhibit, Oakland Museum of California.

Yesterday on Cup of Jo, the fantastic Caroline Donofrio wrote about a five-word quote that she said changed her life: “Cool is an emotional straightjacket.”

Whoa.  Whoa.  That really got me thinking.  It really is.  How often do we censor ourselves for fear of what other people will think about us?  Maybe it is reining in enthusiasm about an interest that isn’t “cool enough,” or swallowing a sentiment because we feel obligated to “play it cool.”  Maybe it is putting down other women to seem like the “cool girl.”  Or maybe it is putting that favorite sweater/jacket/scarf/hat/whatever back in the closet with a sigh, wishing it were still “cool.”

The prospect of living my life in an invisible straightjacket seems terribly sad.  We are bombarded by admonitions to just “be yourself,” to “live authentically.”  But what does this mean?  I like to think I am forging my own path.  But when I get dressed in the morning, when I chime into a conversation, when I choose the restaurant for a group night out?  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want the approval of others.

Perhaps this is a part of that ever-elusive self-care: to truly allow ourselves to be.  Be unique, be freer with our affections, be engrossed by the things that make us smile, be supportive of our fellow women without fear of not being “cool enough,” be unencumbered by what we think is expected of us in a million tiny ways.  Of course, this is an enormously difficult task.  But by recognizing this propensity for what it is rather than move invisibly constricted through our days , we can make an important first step.  Recognize that second-guessing, recognize the holding back, and act accordingly.

Caroline closes with his gem: “After all, the opposite of cool… is warm. Doesn’t that sound nice?”  It does, Caroline.  It really does.


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