“Shrinking in a corner,
pressed into the wall;
do they know I'm present,
am I here at all?”
― Lang Leav, Love & Misadventure
No matter our age, the pieces from our childhood left broken and unhealed tend to re-visit us throughout our lives; re-creating the same feelings of pain and abandonment we felt as little kids. "Do they like me?" we ask ourselves when we meet somebody new. "Am I good enough?" we wonder as we gaze upon lives that seem more fulfilled or more happy than our own, and "Do I belong?"
The latter a question most usually whispered with cautious trepidation because by the time we ask it we usually already think we know the answer.
Some of my earliest memories are of being left out. Though I exude a certain level of confidence on the outside, by nature I'm really quite shy and not the kind of person who will push her way into a party. Especially because on those rare occasions when I have, it never ended well. Case in point, the time I offered to share my Smarties with group of fellow five year olds who wouldn't let me play with them. Not a minute after my offer was voiced, one of their mothers marched out of her house and yelled at me in front of the group calling me a briber. It was public shaming at its finest and I can only hope that somewhere along the line karma took care of what my five year old self couldn't.
The same year I went to a family wedding and was the only little girl who didn't get asked to dance. Heartbroken, I went to the bathroom and bawled my eyes out wondering what was wrong with me. A theme I've carried from junior high school dances and being picked last for teams right into adulthood.
To this day I dread any kind of social interaction that involves the choosing of partners and though I'm an educated and otherwise confident adult, the very thought of not being chosen - for anything - decimates me.
Why do I share this? Because as I grow older I realize more and more that though our bodies age, the pieces of our minds, hearts, and souls that aren't healed get stuck, and though most of us walk around looking like fully actualized responsible adults, we're all just a big group of kids at heart. I guess that's what the 70's gurus meant by our wounded inner child.
The good news, though, is that when we become aware of our themes - and by themes I mean the things that send us into a tailspin of juvenile angst when they happen - we can heal that which wasn't when we were kids. So that the next time we walk past a group of obviously popular looking teenage girls at a high school while carrying a large laptop bag, we can remind ourselves that we are no longer nerdy band students carrying around our tenor saxophones (just to pick a random occurrence that could happen to anyone), but rather, we are confident, successful adults who no longer have to wear elastics in our braces before bed.
So whether your theme is the outsider (why don't I fit in?), comparison (why does everyone's life look better than mine?), inadequacy (I can't do anything right), emptiness (I'm not smart enough, good enough, whatever enough), blame (it's all their fault), denial (if I look perfect on the outside they'll never know how badly I feel on the inside), shame (I am a flawed human being), or any of the gazillion variations on these themes life holds, remember that you have the power to change you. It may not happen all at once as the Skin Horse in the Velveteen Rabbit reminds us, but with self awareness and gentle acceptance we can and will overcome.
And that's today's reminder: In ways both big and small I don't have to let my past define me. However, I have to be aware of the definitions - those things that cause me to revert back to being a hurt eight year old, and remind myself I am no longer that person, this is who I am now, and look how far I've come!