Way back in maybe 8th grade or so, I wrote a page of thinking about my epiphany that I didn't need to be afraid. I might still have that notebook, even - I remember seeing it a few times in later years, which is probably why that memory sticks with me even now. It was a realization about, well ultimately I think it was about the fact that we get to choose our own value systems, though I wouldn't have put it that way at the time. But it was a shift, triggered by seeing that the thing I was afraid of (the judgement of other adolescents, basically) wasn't inherently imbued with the power to determine my worth or value.  Seeing that I could decide that their potential opinions wouldn't hold that power over me...

Of course, this was at a middle school youth group retreat, and I wasn't becoming self-authoring at that age - I was just expanding a bit in my socialized-mind development. The meaning that I had intuitively ascribed to the judgements of my peers, I redirected towards "God", who was at that time a big kindly dude who directly wrote every word of the Bible I had read cover-to-cover including all the archaic bits but the youth pastors camped on all the God-loves-you bits and anyways. That's all an aside at the moment.

When I saw that I could orient myself towards an all-powerful, all-loving source of value and validation, in contrast to my social fears... I mean, it wasn't separate, the seeing was the choosing in that same moment. I walked out of the worship session or whatever (maybe they were playing chubby bunny or eating live goldfish, true story, although I remember those so I must have walked out on something else), sat at a picnic bench, and wrote a page and a half about how I was free. (Hah, cue "Free" by Steven Curtis Chapman as soundtrack.)

Though something did shift in me in that moment, of course my mental wiring didn't all snap right into alignment. I spent my high school years deliberately becoming more outgoing, faking it until I had mostly made it, unshackling myself from that set of fears that made me timid, afraid to speak, afraid to be noticed. I did, led, captained, and won everything that moved in high school. Then in college I decided to relax and let go of resume-building as my main value mechanic, got some B's and played a lot of video games.

Fast forward another 20 years (yikes, so basically live another lifetime, relative to that point) and here I am, exercising my latest developmental expansion by being as authentically myself out in (online) public as all my teenage friends on LiveJournal or Xanga (well, maybe most of those were pseudononymous, but still). Ha! This feels like an integration for me, though - a consolidation, a trailing puzzle piece, not the leading edge. Wait... <thinking> although, the "why now" is that it has actually been unlocked by a recent growth edge, which I'd characterize as "getting comfortable with a self that spans multiple contradictory value systems". Letting go of the illusion that I could be coherent and have everything tied together in one system that would make sense from all angles.

As I've rewritten parts of myself over the last decade, upgrading to self-authorship in deeper parts of my identity that kept coming loose (seeing the movability, again), those bigger perspectives didn't want to fit together neatly. I wouldn't have said that I was afraid to be myself or to show my true self to anyone... and yet I still viewed it as hypocrisy to show different faces, different masks, different selves to different audiences in different spheres, which I did quite adroitly. I couldn't admit the complexity within myself to myself, let alone others.

Until, I stumbled into beginning what I'll now call the transition into self-transforming, a few years ago. I'll definitely need to explain later all the Kegan stage vocabulary I'm using here to model my development, but yeah that Art of Developmental Coaching course came just at the right time, as I had hit the limits of my self-authorship in the workplace in 2018, unable to keep up with the complexity of the changes I was trying to induce with the self-identity I had previously constructed.

This was about a year ago:

And so, that random flashback to 8th grade turns out to have been an explanation of (and integration into) of this latest shift, what I imagine is a pretty cryptic and nonsensical tweet to anyone hasn't bumped against those same rocks in their journey. It still may not make much sense to you, reader - I'm still mushy myself, on how there's a meta-level where it does make sense that things don't make sense in the "normal" frame. Buuut I'm doin' it and it works! I'll keep playing in this expansive and expanded space.