Sometimes my insecurity overcomes me and I wonder what I have to offer. I can usually work my way around that thought because I do in fact have a lot to offer. I have some very important skills of empathy and knowledge that I have developed because of what I have been through in my life.
At one low point however my husband read something to me that reinforced how I have been feeling lately and in a way it was also very empowering. He read this quote by Martin Prechtel from The Smell of Rain on Dust:
“Those who lose what they cherish most, whether they are warriors or housewives, must become our blessers. This means we must seek them out and kindly petition them for their blessings. It has always been that way in village life the world over. But this has been lost. We must relearn how to be blessed by those have lost the most, for their blessing really are the best kind. That means we might have to respectfully approach people we’ve been mistakenly warned to stay away from. Not accepting the blessing of those who have fought and lost, loved and lost- those who have lost a lot and then taken the courage to again learn to live- is the same as endorsing war as a good way to forget to whom and what we owe the blessings of being alive in the first place.” (p. 101-102)l
Now, when I think about what I have to offer I think about what I have been through, lived through, and learned from as the gift that I have to offer to others. I am learning to embrace all that I am and all that I have to offer, finally.
There are days when I feel like an imposter. I get up in the mornings and go through all the motions. I do the reading for my course work, work with my daughter on her home school work, look for an internship, make sure the family has what it needs. Even still I feel very much like I have not accomplished anything. I have a check list that tells me that I have accomplished things. And yet I feel like an imposter.
I muscle past the fear and anxiety that talking to people brings up in me. For example, I have to call someone about the insurance and I have to straighten out the order for my new glasses. I am filled with terror at the thought of both. I will do them eventually. But the thought of doing them fills me with fear. The rational side of my brain tells me that this is no big deal. Neither of these two people I will talk to are a threat to me. My life does not hang in the balance, and yet it feels like it does.
Regardless of all that I have accomplished I cannot get past my feelings of failure. For many years of my childhood I felt as though I could not succeed. I was never good enough. Never expected to be good enough. So when I do succeed or do well it is always a surprise.
I would not say that I don’t try, because I do try. Sometimes a little too hard. And it is those times or the times that people express belief in me that I feel like an imposter. It is always a welcome though surprising piece of information when I find out others feel that way as well. For some reason that always surprises me. What also surprises me is when someone believes I can do something that I feel I have no idea how to do.
Which brings us to the feelings of being an imposter. I have come to a point where by using mindfulness and meditation I am able to go to appointments and feel like the real live confident person that I am and not the scared and inadequate person that I feel I am. I am hoping that the imposter feeling will find somewhere else to be for today. But even still as long as I just keep doing what I need to do regardless of the imposter feeling I will accomplish things. Even if I can’t be who I think I should be then perhaps this me that steps up to do all the things that need doing will become the me I look at instead of the me I think I should be. And then the imposter will be the right person.
I wanted to write about validation. I even wrote the whole post out. Then I realized how dark it felt. I realized I had tapped into all those negative feelings of invalidation that I have experienced. All the times I was told that I should not talk about the abuse or what happened were brought up to the surface. And it was not a happy post at all.
So to spare you that gloomy walk down memory lane I have decided to share a story. One that I hope is less gloomy.
Once upon a time there was a small ball. That ball was really a person. And that person had been told how small and insignificant she was on such a regular basis that she believed the words. She stayed curled up in tight little ball to protect herself as best she could. Sometimes she would open up the ball to see if danger was still there. In her ball shape she could move through her life.
Then one day a friend came into her life. That friend offered her his hand and together they opened up the ball. That ball had stood firm against so many waves. Trapping all the pain inside. And when it opened all the pain came rushing out and overwhelmed her. She struggled for so many years to stand up straight. The tightness of the ball made her bent this made it difficult to walk. Her friend was there waiting until she could stand straight. Holding her hand. Telling her she was amazing and strong. Validating all that she had experienced as real and hard.
Some people came into her life who tried to silence her. They tried to keep her story quiet because it caused them pain. They did not want to know such evil things could happen. So they tried to make her fell like she should go back in her ball. But there were friends always at hand to slay those evil feelings until she could do it for herself. The friends believed in her. And she began to believe in herself.
Soon it did not matter what others thought or said. A very strong wall of love and compassion had been built up. People who believed her stood by her. And very soon she began to grow. She was not bent and stumbling. She stood a little bit taller. And the wind did not move her around as it did when she was a ball. Sometimes though when things get too hard and she feels weakened by the stress she curls back up into that ball. But she does not stay there. She has become limber enough to know how to straighten up and stand. And wise enough to know when she needs to protect the softness of her heart. And brave enough to stand in the wind and move forward.
It was not that long ago that my main goal in life was to be invisible. If no one saw me than the chances of getting judged, hurt, embarrassed or any other negative social encounter were minimized. This however,much to my disappointment, never worked. I am basically a friendly person and though I try to be quiet and nondescript it does I am not invisible. Being invisible meant that there were no expectations on me. I could do nothing and thereby not make any mistakes.
Making mistakes gets you noticed and it wasn’t perfect. I have no idea when the need to be perfect popped into my life, I just know that it did. There were many opportunities that I have passed up because I was afraid that I would not be able to do the task well or I was afraid that I would have no idea what to do. Going to school is hard. I tend to want to know what I am going to learn before I get there. That way I can coast through and, you guessed it, not make a mistake.
One day I decided that enough was enough. It was okay to not know the answer. I hated being called on in class, even if I knew the answer I froze up and could not remember it. The world was not going to end if I turned in a non stellar or non perfect paper. And it was also not earth shattering if I didn’t know the answer. This was one of the hardest things to do. It also caused me to shut down and hide the first time I turned in a paper that I knew was not going to be that good. I dreaded seeing the advisor that got that paper when I went to the next residency for school. I lived in fear of her shunning me or thinking how unintelligent I was or any number of other things.
And then the big moment. I went to the next residency totally dreading seeing her. Feeling beyond any doubt as though I were the least intelligent person on the campus. And walking up from my car who was the first person that I saw? The Advisor. She greeted me with a hug asked how I was and was genuinely glad to see me. There was no animosity or reason to fear. She had returned my paper and told me what I needed to fix. And that had been the end. I was not perfect and the sky did not fall.
I have since then used that as an object lesson for myself. I do the best I can and the world does not end. It goes on. I do not fall apart. I grow. So even though it is still very very very difficult for me to try to do something that I do not know from the outset that I will succeed, I am trying new things anyway.
I have been listening to a workshop by Brene Brown recently. And it has gotten me thinking about why I do things. She is a researcher who has done a lot of work around shame and vulnerability. And one of the things that she talks about is the things that we tell ourselves that keep us from doing what we are trying or need to do. One of the things that we tell ourselves is “Who do you think you are?”
That question is one I ask myself. When I sit down to write a paper or talk to someone about something I experience a feeling of inadequacy. One that stems from that very question. Who do I think I am? This happens to me quite often. I don’t speak up or offer my opinion for things because I wonder what I could add.
That I am glad to say has been changing lately. I am starting to take chances with people. I am trying to be brave and say things in conversations. And surprisingly enough I have not been laughed out of the room. The first time this happened I was shocked. Someone heard what I had to say and thought it was worth exploring. Pretty much all my life I have frozen up when I am asked a question in front of other people. I may know the answer. I may have a strong opinion on the topic but I keep quite. totally terrified to answer the question. Because…what if I am wrong?
I am finally reaching a point where I am not so afraid to be wrong. I am learning to take chances. Like doing this, writing a blog about what I have experienced in life and in healing. I do worry that I might get something wrong. Or someone will take it the wrong way. But I am moving out into the scary world and learning my way.
I have by the way, in my journey to speak up, been slammed by people. Those are very hard moments for me. I felt embarrassed and wanted to crawl into my hole and not come back out. But I didn’t crawl into my hole. Or at least not for very long. And so I am slowly coming to a point where I can answer that question “Who do you think you are?” I am a woman of intelligence and with a desire to learn. And though it is difficult I am learning to be someone who takes chances and speaks up.