“We’ve all fallen. And we have the skinned knees and bruised hearts to prove it. But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show, with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt. Or, if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.”
My parents like to tease me about a video of me when I three and in my first year of pre-school in Pennsylvania. Throughout the year, our class had someone tape “interviews” with each of us, along with our holiday performances and parties. Then, at the conclusion, each family had a personalized year-book on tape, glimmering with the hopes and dreams and oddities of their own child. In mine, I sang to the camera-man, I often turned the “questioning” back on him and I revealed my talent for knowing the difference between a boy Easter bunny and a girl Easter bunny (one wears blue and one wears pink of course).
Over the years, my mom has told the story of my video proudly to many and I’ve come to realize that she was not as proud of me for my performance skills–although I did belt out a fabulous rendition of “Where is Rainbow Bright,” to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin” and reaffirmed my dance skills during the solo in our class Christmas performance in which I chose to lift my dress up over my head while swaying to the music–as she was by my unabashed self-promotion and assuredness. I was all-in. I was proud, fearless and full of self-confidence. And I was having a hell of a time.
Not long after that candid, documented time in my life, I began my life-long battle with perfectionism. I began to recognize consequences of failure and learned the easy habit of self-doubt. I’ve spent much of my life fighting between the two very different, very pervasive sides of my personality–the fearless girl who wants nothing more than to have a purpose, rise and shine and show the world what she’s got, and the one who hears the cruel whispers of perfectionism reminding me of the what-ifs: What if I don’t say the right words? What if I mess up? What if I they don’t like it?
I was driving to work one day and on a billboard outside of a church was written “Acknowledge life’s hurt, habits, and hang-ups.” I pulled in to the parking lot and wrote it down, not sure what it meant to me yet, but knowing it was something important. Then came Brene Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong. There are so many things I love about this book, but the thing that has stuck with me the most is the thing Brown calls the “messy middle,” which describes the part of our story in which we’ve falling and are trying to figure how to get back up.
Brown writes, “But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show, with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt. Or, if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.”
I’ve decided to start my process over again by sharing the fears (not altogether rational) that have crept up on me in the time of my own messy middle with the hope that the act of writing them down and putting them out there will in itself pay homage to the fact that we are where we are. We all fail. We are all afraid. It’s okay to be low.
The fear that I can’t find my voice. The fear that I’ll never be a good writer. The fear that I might appear too self-confident. The fear that I will appear not self-confident enough. The fear that my words will be taken wrong. The fear that I will offend somebody. The fear that I am not good enough. The fear that I will make a fool of myself. The fear that I will not be the best I could have been. The fear that I will not succeed. The fear that I will not bounce back. The fear that I have wasted my time. The fear that I gave up too soon. The fear that I didn’t quit soon enough. the fear that I am too hard-headed. The fear that I put up with more than I should. The fear that I am selling myself short. The fear that I won’t tell enough of the truth. The fear that I will say too much. The fear that I am not a good enough friend. The fear that I have let someone down. The fear that I will let someone down. The fear that someone close to me is hurting, and I am not engaged enough to know. The fear that I made too much out of nothing. The fear that I made not enough out of something very big. The fear that I don’t laugh enough. The few that I might laugh at something that hurts someone else. The fear that I take things too seriously. The fear that others won’t get me. The fear that it’s written all over my face.
In Response to My Own Fears:
May I learn to trust the process more and worry less about the outcome. May I muster up the courage to sing more, dance more, go all in.
May I worry less about what other people think. May I contribute more to other people’s joy.
May I take more time to enjoy the moment, be present, uninhibited, and happy in the midst of imperfection and fear.