The courage to be me
September 17, 2014 § 16 Comments
For quite a long while, I lost myself. I completely forgot who I was.
I forgot that I was once a girl with options. A girl who could pick and choose from a number of possible destinies. A girl who was good at a whole lot of stuff – just as long as it didn’t involve throwing, catching or hitting a ball, or running with any grace or stamina. A girl who knew her limitations, but who also knew she had great potential. A girl with dreams. Big dreams.
One day I woke up and realised I had lost that girl. She was buried far beneath the labels I’d acquired. Mandy – the essential part of Mandy – was gone.
The difficult part of that realisation was the sense of deep disappointment. Because I knew the potential I’d had, but I had failed to live up to my own expectations. I had allowed others to shape my life, my destiny. I had allowed other people’s words and ideas and world-views to have such an impact on my life’s journey that I couldn’t even find the road anymore.
I had lost all confidence in myself, in my abilities, in my worth as a human being. And in case that’s difficult to understand, here’s some of what that looks like:
- avoiding photographs because all I could see was a fat, ugly lump.
- taking work I didn’t really want to do, often at a laughably low rate – because I completely undervalued myself.
- constantly putting myself down.
- assuming every compliment paid to me was just someone else trying to be nice – they couldn’t really mean it.
- allowing people to patronise me and treat me like I was stupid.
- volunteering to do all kinds of things I didn’t really want to do, because I thought those things were expected of me.
- never asking for help and turning down offers of help when they came, because I didn’t really deserve help.
- not trying anything new for fear of making a fool of myself.
- believing every negative message I heard about myself, and assuming the positive messages were just polite lies.
It wasn’t pretty. And it took many months of work with a life coach before I started feeling vaguely like myself again, like that girl with promise. For too many years I was just too busy being the girl I thought everyone else expected me to be.
It’s taken a great deal of courage for me to finally begin standing up for myself. To rock the boat. To not be the good girl, the typical eldest child, the deputy head girl, the supermom.
Being me means being willing to take a few more risks, relinquish control, let people down, fail from time to time. It means letting go of perfectionism. It means putting on my big girl panties and rolling with whatever the future holds, because you don’t reach your destination without going on a journey first, and journeys sometimes feature potholes and detours along the way.
So I will write. I will sing. I will crack my appallingly bad jokes. I will love and cook with wild abandon. I will teach and coach and get back into public speaking. I will wear the clothes that please me. I will welcome my friends into my heart and my home whether they need food or lodging, or just tea and sympathy. I will cry, dammit, and ask for help when I need it. And I will not ask for permission.
I’m not perfect – not by any stretch of the imagination – but I am perfectly me. And that’s all I need to be.