In the words of Naomi Wolf, "Only one thing is more frightening than sharing your truth, and that is not speaking it."
I'm Tiffany Welton, and here's my story. We all have one. Some with more alcohol involved than others.
In case it isn't obvious, I am typically sporting a rockin' RBF aka Resting Bitch Face...hence my commitment to the RBF way. Go to the RBF Significance page to find out why. But throughout my life, even looking generally pissed, strangers have always felt compelled to speak to me and truly confide in sharing their deepest secrets, fears, and dreams. The RBF is meant to be a microaggression towards women and being unapproachable. In actuality, it makes us authentic. It makes us real. And it makes us a safe place to land.
In the deepest part of my soul and who I am, I am here to help those around me realize the importance of their narrative, experiences, and journey. And in doing so, I have to share my own. And that's fucking scary.
How and what we feel is our reality, our experiences are what shapes us, and our mistakes are how we become the person we are today and who we will strive to be tomorrow. My journey has always been to subtly make way for those that have been squashed, listen to the ones that have been hushed, and hold space for people that think their story isn't worth speaking of.
While I've done significant work personally to understand my own pain and life path, growth, development, and change do not scare me. I welcome it. I have to keep learning and continue aligning who I am to new information and experiences. As I navigated these hard experiences and feelings, I know I was loved deeply. I had a great childhood, and everyone involved did the best they could with what they were given as well as having the best intentions.
I think the beautiful part about getting older is truly learning that each person needs love expressed differently rather than in the only ways someone might know how to. In previous generations, there wasn't a safety to explore your emotional needs with the people you love or to ask for something different.
This is me...encouraging people to step out of their comfort zone, talk about their feelings even when it feels insignificant, learn to set healthy boundaries, but most importantly, discuss how your relationships can adjust in a way that makes everyone feel safe and loved. Anyways, here we go.
It took me years of therapy, self discovery, and analyzing the mistakes in my relationships and friendships to finally find clarity in my own existence. Everything I was, all that I hope to be and the fire that ignites my path today has contributed to this: I never felt heard even though I was screaming. I didn't feel seen as I jumped up and down waving my arms in desperation. My insides crumbled as my expressed feelings were brushed off. My deep and knowing intuition felt deceitful when I was told not to trust those instincts. I heard laughter when I needed protection and emotional safety. For my entire adult life, I found myself in jobs, relationships and friendships where I didn't get validation because I was convinced I didn't need it. Plot twist! Actually, it was everything I needed for my own peace.
My story might confuse some because....I've always had some shit to say. I am big and bold and honest, and I made my opinions known, most of the time without asking for them. I was desperate to feel understood. I would become obsessive if someone wasn't hearing what I was trying to say. My words might have hit their ears, but they weren't listening to what I was actually trying to tell them or the pain I was feeling. Certain people would often say, "Oh YOU knew how to express yourself" with an undermining chuckle. As an adult, I am now able to clearly say, if that were the case, you weren't seeing me. My words were covered in deep hurt.
I have spent my adulthood trying to understand who I was, why I consistently made mistakes or the "wrong choices," and always doubting my gut feelings, "overreactions," instincts, and all internal guidance. Why would I trust that girl? She obviously isn't going the right way.
Regardless of what I accomplished, it felt rarely celebrated or acknowledged. Any mistake I made, it was highlighted, discussed, and an ongoing topic of conversation. I was in trouble rather than being reminded about the continuous learnings of life. I was viewed as a constant shit show, irresponsible, and a mess rather than a human trying to understand her journey and place in the world.
I spent my 20's and 30's looking for the answers in others, thinking that finding the right partner was the path to acceptance. Life would start once I was in a couple, and I would finally be taken seriously. It feels exhausting looking back on that time.
The majority of my life was dedicated to hating my body, consumed with horrific disordered eating and over exercising that has left me in chronic pain and a dysmorphic image of myself that stops me from leaving the house some days. Comments about my weight and general appearance have haunted me to this day, and I achingly struggle to quiet those constant voices in my mind. "You're the fat funny one." Those words, said to me in a cruel and factual kind of way, have kept me driven in my dedication to destroying diet culture and helping people get out of destructive mental cycles that hold them back physically and emotionally.
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
"Time heals all wounds."
"I had to take this path so now I can help others!"
Toxic positivity has no place in trauma. I don't believe our stories always have to be spun to have a "happy" ending or that things happen for a reason. There are traumas that people just don't fucking deserve. And it doesn't make them stronger. They survive by finding a place for that energy and a fucking purpose for the pain.
For years, I felt deep shame. I was embarrassed that I hadn't travelled or wasn't further along in my career. I was flooded with comments from friends about how I would find "the one" when I least expected it ... followed by a sad, judgmental smile and a lack of an invite to a couples only outing. "No one will ever love you until you love yourself." What a bunch of horse shit.
I regretted the men I slept with because I thought they would like me more, was pressured or obligated to. Not having a societally acceptable body and never living up to beauty standards, I felt as if I couldn't say no or stand-up for myself because I was "lucky" someone was interested in me. I winced at the thought of the endless dates and sites looking for someone to actually see me. I let the rejection define me and my potential. Loving yourself is a lifelong process. It is not a requirement for how you are treated.
Many moments broke me. I contemplated suicide, and a lot of days, I still feel fucking lost. But I made a promise to myself that each day, I would make sure at least one person knows how awesome they are even when my own self image is fuzzy. Those who can't do, teach? Unclear.
But one thing is clear: all I ever needed, the drive to accomplish more, the strength to understand how I add significance, and the power to advocate for that lost girl, was the willingness to throw myself into a world even when I didn't understand who I was or where I belonged.
Looking back, I wasn't making "mistakes" per se. Deep down, I knew where I wanted to go. It was just my fucking journey to get there along with everything hard and painful that came with it. I own all of it, even when the hurt wasn't deserved.
I own my path to this point and moving forward. I'm sad yet grateful for the rocky backroad I took rather than that freshly paved highway. I honor all of the people I would meet along the way who actually saw me and the potential I already had before I could recognize it in myself. I felt deep pain in the miscarriage and abortion that surprisingly defined me, left me heartbroken, and strengthened my stance on women's choice in reproductive rights. I'm sad for the sexual assault and how trusting I could be. I boldly battle bullshit beauty standards, diet culture, and toxic masculinity because of the men who would tell me they would only date me if I was thinner. I rally with my sisters and brothers who stand against a patriarchal system that dictates our worth based on our looks and weight.
I value everything I have so deeply due to the years I lived life paycheck to paycheck. I uplift women and colleagues based on the destructive female authority figures that kept me small and quiet for their own career growth. I learned what I actually needed in love and relationships from the emotionally abusive boyfriend who made me earn his love and commitment. I found unconditional love for the first time in the eyes of the grumpiest dog who stood by my side for over 16 of those tumultuous years. And even when I watched his body age and his sauciness slowly disappear, he still did everything he could to protect and love me.
I discovered my value, strengths and weaknesses in the jobs I didn't get, the companies I was let go from, but more so from the dedication of clients I had throughout the years, who specifically worked with me, not the organization I was employed with. My early years of loneliness and severe bullying made me know how to confidently surround myself with the most supportive of friends that loved me in all stages and phases of my life, and I deeply mourn the people that abandoned me when I was no longer an asset for them. And I will always carry my own guilt, regret, and ownership for the friends I lost because of my own insecurities, failure to honor their journeys and not being able to show up how they needed me to.
Most importantly, I own the validation (finally) and trusting my gut instinct, as the people in my life said, "FUCK YES!" when I told them about this idea and the impact I believe I can make.
It took a long time to show empathy for that younger version of me. She was so lost. Even in that pain, I did my freaking best to learn, grow, and gain new levels of emotional understanding for my journey as well as truly standing in someone else's shoes. I was not always the best at this. Nevertheless, she persisted. Hurt and misdirection are inevitable, but all I needed was to know how to save her when she went missing again and how to save space for those feeling lost too.
A few years ago, I was back in a city I had lived in during my rowdy 20's. I met up with an old girlfriend, and when we ran into someone she knew, she introduced me as "a friend from a decade ago who was a HUGE serial dater, and OH MY GOD, she was just desperate for a boyfriend!" That would have broken me before. This time, my only thought was, wow, I'm a really terrible person (insert eye roll here). God forbid I dated! Oh no! I didn't settle! GASP! But mostly, I'm incredibly sad that she was so stuck in her own situation that she felt as if she could judge me and the path I was on. I'm sad I allowed that. But I won't let that happen ever again.
Here's what I know now: Our lives, our mind, our body is our reality. It is no one else's. Our experiences shape who we are, what we need, who we attract, and what we value to our core. Right and wrong can mean totally different things to different people. We look for concepts that make sense in our world. No one has all the answers. There is only a truth that exists in who we are, and it is constantly evolving, or at least it should be. And even when we have found ourselves, be prepared to be lost as fuck again. Our lives are ever changing and developing. It can be really painful, but it can also be just what we need to become greater versions of ourselves.
After a lifetime of rarely feeling heard, I made a promise to myself that everything I do moving forward will be about creating emotional and psychological safety to fucking feel.
FUCKING FEEL. FEEL EVERYTHING. And those feelings are FUCKING OK.
You're mad? BE FUCKING MAD. I'm here for it. Let's scream, go to a kickboxing class, then eat some french fries.
You're sad? Guess what. BE FUCKING SAD. Let's talk about it. You do you, boo. I have the wine. Let's talk it out or I'll comfort in silence. And we'll snuggle a puppy.
You're happy? Fuck yes, Queen! Let's celebrate that shit! Also with french fries, wine, and puppies.
You're scared? HOW CAN I SUPPORT YOU?? No one deserves to be in emotional, psychological or physical pain. Let's build you a fucking exit strategy. I have an attorney, a murder podcast enthusiast, and a funeral director at my finger tips. We know how to get rid of the body. Kidding. (I mean...kind of. We are resourceful.)
I'm here to hold space for you, however that needs to be.
And in the times when my cup is full, you better believe I will make sure you have a community in your corner, advocating, and supporting you.
At the end of the day, I want to show up for people in the way that they need and have people see the healing in being there for others as well.
And while we're at it, let's squash the fucking patriarchy, tell all that promote diet culture and unobtainable beauty standards to dig deeper into their traumas and do better, and always make sure people feel seen and heard. Check in with your people.
How can I best support you right now? My hand is extended. My heart is open. I'm here...and will always pour you a glass of bubbles.
Show up, for yourself and for others. And show me your RBF.
Now that I've shared the deep goods, see below for more fun facts.