I recently told a friend, I was afraid of what people might think of me if they knew who I really was deep down inside. She looked at me quizzically. Yet, I realized this was the truth I had created for myself, creatively held within the pages of my “book of inadequacies.”
Whether we own up to the idea or not, I think we all are in possession of a book of inadequacies. Whether we bury them deep within our conscious, or obstinately face them in our daily lives, they impact our every thought. Which in turn impacts how we chose to live our lives, how we create our stories and who we invite on our journey.
Shame and fear, I have found, take turns driving and riding shotgun on my own personal journey. Recently, I asked myself why this had become true and what if anything, I could do about it. As I pieced together the different experiences I had as a child and a young adult, via as honest of a lens as I could muster, I began to see more clearly the root of these feelings.
Rejection, pain, hurtful words, trauma, shame, and fear have riddled my past. Often, the people I loved and wanted to love me were the cause of my hurt feelings and distorted views. The trauma came from my military experience, at the hands of strangers. I am uncertain as to which experience(s) hold the most power over the person I have become today. At times throughout my life, my biological family has shared their views of me as being aloof, a loner, uncaring, insensitive and selfish. They frequently indicated, they felt I was incapable of love. The mother of my ex-husband made the statement to me once, “I was unworthy of being loved by my own mother.” I have been told I was so selfish, I was unable to have children for this reason. My ex-husband himself convinced me, I was so awful, no one wanted to be friends with me or could love me the way I needed them to. Everything I did was wrong in his eyes, from the way I expressed myself (walked, talked, smiled, etc.) to the way I cared for the home we lived in. According to him, I could not have been more inadequate.
The trauma I experienced had almost convinced me, I was not worthy of simply being human.
Words, words and more words began to fill the pages of my “book of inadequacies.” Phrases and thoughts, which did not start out being mine, I began to own as I collected them. I had eventually given them so much power, so much weight, they began to drown me. Drown out who I was, how I felt about myself and how I thought others viewed me. As I took ownership, I truly began to believe I needed to be someone else, in order to be accepted and loved. If people really knew me, if I shared my true thoughts, feelings, and experiences, I would simply be opening myself up for more ridicule.
More fear…..more shame…..more judgment
I eventually became so afraid, I actually built the walls around my heart, I had been accused of already having. I shut people out. I hid who I was. I became defensive. (Never mind the fact I have always been a fairly shy person until I had the opportunity to get to know someone.) I learned to live on the surface of my emotions, while simultaneously destroying myself from the inside out.
Then…I died. Not figuratively, I mean……I literally stopped breathing.
A life changing event for sure! Once I had been brought back to life, it was like I had woken up and my eyes became unveiled for the first time. I recognized I was not living the life I wanted to live and I was certainly not the person I wanted to be. I was not living the way my heart needed me to. I was not being true to myself or honest with those who stood by me.
Who was this person? How did I get here?
I wish I could simply throw my “book of inadequacies” away. It is not this simple. Life is not simple. Life is hard, but life can also be wonderful. I have begun the process of slowly erasing some of the words and phrases in my book. I have begun rewriting and rephrasing some of those thoughts and ideas that had been placed within the pages; the ones I have been unable to erase. I am slowly rediscovering the person I want to be.
I am not perfect. I stumble. I make mistakes. I cannot forget the things which have happened to me. The memories and images have become a part of who I am, for better or worse. I can only choose to move forward; purposefully choose to walk a different path. Not let my past define me.
I think this is the key to happiness. Choosing to write your own story. Marching to the beat of your heart. Owning your own thoughts and actions, versus owning others. I mean, c’mon….there will ALWAYS be critics, and only some are actually worth listening to. Choose wisely what you hold onto and let the rest go. If it will help you grow, if it enlightens your journey, then take heed. If their words only seek to bring you down and make you less of the person you want to be; then let go of them. In both thought and deed, release them.
For those of you who have stuck with me on this journey….thank you! For those of you just getting to know me, I hope you will provide me with the space to continue to grow and change (even as we simultaneously get to know one another.) For those of you who have added to my pain and fear, I am either learning to forgive you or I have already forgiven you. I have learned there is power, transformational power, in the act of forgiving. Life is too short to hold onto people, things and even thoughts, which do not add value to your life. Being angry, defensive, punishing yourself and being closed off, does not add value to your life. Forgive….even if it is only for yourself.
I am complex (as I think we all are) and the cover of the new book I am writing does not yet reflect all that is inside. I am working on it! I am on a journey of discovery and in search of a happier, healthier life. Every day, I make a little progress.
Be kind, be compassionate and please try to be patient. I will make every attempt to be this way towards you as well. With any luck, maybe we can turn the page together.