As I mentioned earlier this year, we humans learn from the stories of others.  Before the written word was accessible, we passed down our billmedcalf_eveninggownstories by singing and speaking them.  Human history is recorded because people need to tell stories and people need to hear them  time and again.

Other people’s stories can provide us with inspiration as well as show us different ways to cope with adversity. When we read honest accounts of other people’s imperfect moments (a crappy day, a pointless argument) we are reminded that we are not alone. When people show their vulnerability and speak of their pain, and how they transformed it into love, we begin to believe that our lives, too, can be somehow different.

The fabric of humanity is built on these stories. This fabric becomes richer and more beautiful with every story we add. It grows stronger and more durable when we stand in our uniqueness.

Conversely, we fray that fabric when we try to blend in. Every time we do what we think we “should,” instead of what our hearts beg us to do, we deny who we were born to be.

I am a child of the 70’s who was raised by depression era parents.  My parents were older and old fashioned compared to my peers.  I was raised with the Southern mindset of how children and women were supposed to be, and in some ways, my childhood seemed rooted more in the 50′s than the 70′s or 80′s. Manners were to be impeccable and homes were supposed to be both spotless and perfectly decorated. Stand still.  Look pretty.  Keep your mouth shut (at least in public).

The appearance of perfection was critical.   No one was ever depressed or mentally ill; they were simply delicate.   We never spoke of problems; they were to be swept under the rug. You feed the dying and the grieving.  Things are better with butter, cheese, and mayonnaise.

I grew up wearing slips and panty hose and the occasional girdle.  (To be honest, I still wear panty hose.  And if I were to be vulnerably honest, I would have to tell you that there is at least one girdle in my lingerie drawer.)  Women were to marry, have children, and join the PTA.

I lived that perfect white picket fence life. And when I divorced, the shine of my Southern Belle began to tarnish.

I discovered that my life wouldn’t fall apart if I didn’t behave. I wouldn’t have to move if my neighbors didn’t approve of my lifestyle (though keeping the lawn mowed is preferable).

I discovered that I could make choices that were right for me, even if my momma wouldn’t see them as proper.

I came to understand that if I continued to hold myself tightly into a box, then I was denying the gifts I was born with.  ‘Cause, baby, you can’t serve others in any way when you always put yourself last.

Now, instead of fighting my upbringing and the path I’ve traveled, I’m embracing it for everything that it is and who it’s made me today – the mix of cultured and flirtatious, disciplined and playful.

I love my life. Every morning I wake next to a man I adore, and do work that sets my soul on fire.  I am living the kind of life that, to be honest,  dreamed about when I was a little girl, but grew to believe I would never be perfect enough to attain – or good enough to deserve happiness or be loved.

I thought that dream was fantasy, and couldn’t ever be my reality.  But it is.

Is every day perfect? Of course not.  Am I always happy?  Nope.  Do my old demons surface?  All the time.   For me to pretend that I have it together 100% of the time would be a sham.

Have I always made the right choices? Nope.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

And some of what others would believe were wrong choices are mistakes were actually beautiful and serendipitous moments that introduced me to people who were meant to be a part of my life, if only for a moment.

For sometimes, those chance encounters revealed to me my real beauty and a hint of my purpose in the world.

I am in the midst of doing my own work.  This is why it’s so important for me to regularly work with another coach – to work through the challenges and to have help when I fall down the rabbit hole. I regularly deal with the voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough, thin enough, perfect enough.  That voice that asks “who do you think you are?

I am not a guru, but I’m damned good at helping people detangle themselves from layers of being who they think should instead of what their heart says they want to be. I’m good at what I do, not because I’m perfect, but because I have faith in my clients, and see the true beauty in who they are even when they cannot.

And, baby, I’m really good at helping people discover the nuggets of real truth.

If I were to become wrapped up in showing you that I had all the answers, then I could only be perfect and strong, and never soft or vulnerable. I know that if I only show you my perfect moments and never share with you the rougher ones, then I’m doing both you and me a disservice.

By honoring where I’ve been, where I come from and who helped me get here (my lineage), I am even more transformed with this honoring. My history is what informs my present, and what makes me damned good.

I excel as a coach because I take my training and my experiences and combine them with your experiences and help you find the answers that fit you.

I love my life. I’m all about embracing who I am today and making peace with who I have been. Tarnished or not, this Southern Belle can help you do the same thing. Because, kitten, not only have I been there, and done that, but my proverbial closet holds literally dozens of the t-shirts.

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By Debra Smouse: Writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle, Debra helps people fall in love with their life. An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to greater clarity and that everyone woman is vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar. A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams.

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