by Susan S.
I’ve been told that when I was around 2 or 3 years old, I was very friendly and outgoing, always laughing and talking to people. My parents were in charge of the dorms at a boarding school/convent and the nuns who lived there knew and loved me as a happy go lucky child. I have vague memories of pure joy interacting with them, getting homemade peanut butter cookies from one, taking walks with another, and just having fun and being silly with them.
As I think back to the rest of my childhood and adolescence, the memories form a less shiny picture, one of a painfully shy girl who was afraid to speak to a clerk at a store counter, or to another kid, she didn’t go to school with since pre-K. I remember always feeling like I didn’t quite belong like I was looking at life and friendships from the outside. I had a near-constant feeling of “I’m not good enough- I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, friendly enough, I’m too tall, too pale, too awkward, too whatever” to fit in, even with people who I’ve known since I was 4. This feeling has persisted my entire life, to this day. Where did it come from? At what point did that carefree little girl decide that she was no longer worthy of love and belonging? It seems to have happened over time, evolving into a bigger and bigger monster as I’ve moved through each phase of life, and the consequences of this mindset have been steep.
I remember my first days at high school, after going to the small school with the same 25 peers, there were now 230 people in my class alone, a thousand students in the whole school. I would walk down the hallway looking at the wall, wanting to crawl out of my skin and hide. People thought I was a stuck up snob, but the truth was, I was petrified. But scared of what? Was it the possibility of finding out that the truth was that I really didn’t belong and that my fears were warranted all along?
What’s the cost of this sinister fear that has permeated my thoughts for so long? The debilitating self-consciousness that weaves its way into almost every interaction in my life? I’ve certainly lost relationships because of it. I’ve missed out on career opportunities since I was too fearful of putting myself in a position where I could be rejected. I have consumed too much alcohol and junk food to try to fill the bottomless pit of despair that comes from feeling that you don’t have a true place in this world.
It steals my peace of mind still. After most parties or get-togethers, I have an uneasy feeling that I’ve said or done something that will make someone not like me. As a result, I sometimes avoid these things and have missed out on fun memories. I look back with regret on all that I’ve missed because of feeling not good enough.
I’ve reached the point that I’m not willing to keep these poisonous thoughts in my being anymore. I’m sick and tired of feeling like I don’t belong and questioning my every move.
I’m at the beginning of a journey of self-love and acceptance, and it certainly isn’t an easy task to reprogram your brain. I’m determined, however, to do just that, not only for myself but for my children. Brene Brown says that your capacity to love others is directly related to your capacity to love yourself. If that’s true, my children certainly deserve more, and the efforts are well worth it.
It seems, for some cosmic reason, that many women are waking up to the reality of their innate beauty. Perhaps we’ve all had enough of not feeling like we’re enough. It’s exciting and empowering to see all of these women around me, casting off these self-doubts, and growing into the full expression of what they were created to be- a beautiful, grateful loving soul that gives freely to others, while still respecting and loving herself. These pioneering women are doing the work and then they are extending a hand to those of us just beginning to feel the tug of longing to be free. I’m grateful for all of you women, no matter what stage of the awakening. I look forward to evolving toward freedom and truth and beauty. I thank God that He has placed this desire in my heart and has given me such lovely examples to follow. I will put one foot in front of the other, in the hope that I’ll continue traveling in the direction of joy and peace. I’ll keep forgiving myself for wasting precious time in that dark cocoon of self-consciousness and doubt. I’ll savor the process of becoming the proverbial butterfly, who can finally fly free of the unbearable shackles of self-consciousness, into the light of simply being that happy little girl.