At the age of 12 I made a conscious decision never to be the same as everyone else. I set about creating the young Penfold in many different ways, believing myself to be a true individual, and that the clothing choices I made truly exemplified that.

The truth though, was that I was merely trying to ‘belong’ to a different collection of humans, though I didn’t see it that way. I tried to identify myself amongst the sub cultures and not be a part of the main stream, largely governed by music choices. I manifested things like:

  • The Goth Era – black lipstick, tasseled skirts, ripped tights and tie dye
  • The Metal Era – army clothes, para boots, stripey tights, shaved half my head and dyed the rest red
  • The Raver Era – record bags and bomber jackets
  • The Rude Gyal Era – started out with hair in braids, then had my hair cut like a member of TLC, complete with kiss curls.
  • The Garage Raving Era – dresses, heels, big hair.

I showed my musical affiliations like badges of honour in my appearance, throughout the whole of my teens. I believed myself to be unique. And indeed I was unique, but not in the way that I thought I was then. I was (and am) Ruth Lesley Penfold – and there can never be another like her.

But I couldn’t see that then. I didn’t realise that these many disguises were tools that I was using to take myself further away from the real me. I met my ex husband at the age of 19, and slowly lost any desire to stand out whatsoever, so took myself even further from the real me than I had ever been before. I gradually succeeded in making myself invisible. The butterfly became a moth.

What I have experienced since leaving him has been a ‘second adolescence’ of sorts. I’ve used elements of my physical appearance of attire in much the same way, to stand out, to show the world just how different I am. This time though, not seeking to belong to a specific group but more so to create a whole new group of my own, with a population of one, so that no one else could get near me.

I wore my diversity like a badge of honour once more, making sure, albeit subconsciously, that people could learn everything that they needed to know about me from just a glance. Throughout this time, I seldom met with anyone who displayed any genuine romantic potential. I made fabulous friends, that span far and wide, but mainly kept at a ‘safe’ distance.

You see, I WAS sending them the message that I wanted to display at that time. That message was one of; ‘don’t get too close’ or ‘have teeth, will bite’. My appearance became my body armour. The biggest part of this was my hair. And it worked. That’s because on some levels, I still saw (and sometimes see – we all have those moments, happily mine are just becoming more fleeting) myself in the unloveable light that I had done so for much of my adult life. I had developed a new kind of invisible, just one with flashing lights and sirens.

The change in me now has been brought about by a change of perception of me and my place in the world. I realised that, by denying the world of who we truly are, we are doing everyone around us a disservice. But no one more so than ourselves. If we allow ourselves to live to our fullest potential, who knows where we might end up. Through deepening my connection with me – through leading a supportive lifestyle filled with love, movement and meditation, the body armour has started to break down.

I worked hard to project an image of toughness, of resilience, of independence. And I am all of those things, but I am also so much more. I know that the real me is soft, feminine and vulnerable – probably a little at odds with what many of the people that know me would describe me as.

I deserve to allow myself to be loved by another, in just the way I have chosen to love myself, but I need to make it possible for people to see, hear and feel me as I truly am, and what I am is truly just one thing – love.

I am finding my inner light – pure and delicate – and allowing it to unfurl. My hair is growing. My edges are softening. I have kept myself in suspended animation in many forms over the course of my life, but now is the time to live a little differently. I move through the world with an increased gentleness, and an increased commitment to bringing all of me to every situation.

I’d like to view my body armour as a cocoon of sorts, a necessary rite of passage to allow me to finally unfurl as I truly am: one of a kind, truly magnificent and capable of spreading light and love wherever I go.

I make that my mission.

I know many people who live as paired down versions of who they truly could be, but I know very few that are living in a true expression of who they really are. If you had spoken to me two years ago about this, I would have sworn I was living in an abundantly truthful and expressive way. And if I had it wouldn’t have been a lie, I’ve just now discovered the means to go a little deeper, and I can’t wait to see where my unfolding takes me next.

This might not resonate with you at all, and if it doesn’t? Fabulous; we are all benefiting from your light already.

For those of you, however, that are thinking about whether they are limiting themselves, by even asking yourself the question you already know the answer. You know there is so much more of you than you are showing us all right now. What might it take for you to show us a little more of your light? How might you break down a little more of your body armour?

I am, and can only ever be a work in progress, and proudly so. But work I shall.

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