A couple weeks’ ago, I had the pleasure of attending a local CPWN networking luncheon where Major General Linda Singh, Adjutant General of Maryland, was the keynote speaker. I soaked in all of her wisdom and her challenge to us, as women, to embrace ourselves as who we are.

She emphatically encouraged the audience to step into our power as women with unique gifts and talents to offer the world. Stop trying to conform ourselves into what we find out there. Because, as she reminded us— our authentic, genuine selves will be what makes us unstoppable. And who we are – as we are, is enough (more than enough as she declared). I don’t think I will ever tire from hearing that message.

For every time I hear that message, it offsets the other one that raised me. The one that told me I needed to “fit in”. It whispered that who I was – was not enough. All of my adult life (until very recently), I tried to “fit in”. Fit in at school, with my family, at work, at the gym, with my neighbors, with my friends. The list is endless.

Mastering my social world has felt like a game that started while I was in the bathroom and no one shared all the rules with me. There feels like there is some secret that everyone else knows but me. And in order for us to have a “big” life, we must figure this out. I believed it was the secret to winning the life lottery.

However, I spent almost 2 decades of my adult life distracted by this game. It never resulted in me feeling like at last I fit in—rather, it always kept me feeling like I had to hide parts of me that I perceived would cause devastating rejection. Exhausting and futile.

On the heels of abandoning this game of fitting in, Singh also encouraged us to go beyond our comfort zone. That as well as we think we know ourselves and what is best, that may not always be true. She cautioned . . . don’t self-select yourself out of an opportunity that at first blush may not be what you imagined for yourself.

Wow. Not only did she remind me that being me is the most powerful tool I have, she also simultaneously told me that I may be wrong about what I think I can or want to do.

And with the caveat, that holding on to what we imagine for ourselves may be the biggest obstacle to living a full life. I heard her say . . . let go and embrace a bit more of the unknown. It can lead you to places wilder than you imagined.

We think we know what is best. We envision what our future looks like. The job we will have, the life we will create. And we reject opportunities, ideas, relationships that do not “fit in” to our vision.

Singh warns us that this vision may be the very thing keeping us from getting what we truly want in life.

Her words were inspiring and her convictions held truth and freedom. I look at her journey and feel empowered to embrace mine similarly.

Her service to this country as well as her leadership serves as the new model. Don’t try so hard to be something you’re not—be you and that will be enough.