For me, it happened at about 11 or 12 years old and in a couple different instances. Two of which I’ll share with you and explain how this had a formative impact on my own personality, in order to protect myself, and ensure I was loved and accepted.
This has been brewing in my own mind for a few months now and I couldn’t quite figure out why I kept remembering these two scenarios, and why they were linked. I’m sharing this story from my own childhood to explain that we need to question everything. Especially those formative childhood memories, which for one reason or another persist in our consciousness to remind us to re-evaluate always, and to never believe what others tell us.
The first story is from way-back, and I must admit that I still feel shame telling this story, because I was so humiliated and shocked out of my own innocence. I would have been maybe 11 or 12 years old and we used to go down to Lake Wilcox in the summers and swim. It was your typical family activity, only I was often bored on these outings because my younger brothers would play their own boy-like games and I’d be left to my own devices. I found myself playing with scaring the birds away in the outer regions of the swimming area, when my mother screamed at me to get out of the water and announced that we were leaving immediately. I spent the drive home hearing all about how girls of my age do NOT do such things, and how embarrassing to have her daughter scaring away birds in the lake. What kind of well-behaved young lady acts in such a juvenile and silly manner?
I think from that moment on I was shamed out of having any fun. I was terrified that I’d be scolded and humiliated after even attempting something that might be construed as silly or juvenile.
I was always a good kid, but mostly because I was scared to not be a good kid. I wanted my parent’s love and acceptance, and I believed them when they said that a girl my age was not to play like that. I did little outside my comfort zone, which then became purely academic and within myself – reading, daydreaming, studying…
The second story was in middle school when we were all auditioning for a school play, and I was so excited. I literally thought I’d be the best dang actor that there was, and I would get this part in the play and love every minute of it. I arrived to the audition, so excited and genuinely nervous to put myself out there. I was terrible (I guarantee it), but in my mind I had told myself I was going to get a part.
Instead I was told very kindly by my teacher that someone like me was much better suited to a role behind-the-scenes. My strengths would make me an excellent director, or organizational leader behind the curtain. All this is totally true, but I was completely crushed. From them on I stayed well out of the lime light – I thought I was terrible in front of crowds and that I would be an awful public speaker, performer or verbal communicator.
I believed this in myself until very recently when I discovered that I’m a freaking rockstar at teaching, speaking to people, and generally being an effective communicator. It took me 20 years to un-learn and un-believe things that I took to be gospel.
I still find it very difficult to do anything that could be deemed for-fun or completely unproductive in some way. I still am fighting the battle in my own mind that it’s ok to be silly sometimes, to goof off a little, and enjoy the moment.
It’s not the people in these stories that are in any way at fault. Everyone is human and flawed, and I have great empathy for that. But it’s clear to me that what we all need to do is to stop believing others, and start believing in ourselves.
Question everything people tell you.
And learn to get very in touch with your own intuition, your own gut instincts, and you own desired feelings.
For it is only you that can change your thoughts and beliefs.
And your health and happiness depends on it.