When I received this guest post from Clair from Canffirmations, I knew I couldn’t not share it today. (So, check for Weekend Treats tomorrow!)
I first met Clair when I was in my second year of my first graduate degree and he was a first year. I appreciated the care that Clair brought to conversations. I also remember really appreciating his presence in our often chaotic graduate office (one office, ten to twelve high-achieving graduate students). I’ve recently gotten back in touch with him, via Canffirmations, and I’ve appreciaetd that we share a deep interest in and commitment to authenticity (and exploring the challenges that come with that). You can find him writing at Canffirmations, on Twitter (@Canffirmations), and on Facebook.
They laughed at me. I bled words onto paper from whatever depth was in my five year old heart, and they laughed at me. I was unprotected, emotionally naked and the shame washed over me hot and sticky. Humiliation. A secret note with my feelings etched in prose and slid into the desk of the prettiest girl in kindergarten was a secret no more. The scornful sound spread across the playground and rang in my years.
How do I make sense of this? I had never experienced a moment so emotionally intense. The vulnerability of seeking connection and the pain of public rejection. They were all looking at me and I had nowhere to run. I wanted to hide, better yet, disappear completely. Relocation program? Can I start over? It is the first week of school and I never want to be seen again. I told her how I felt and her response came in a chorus of laugher while her voice remained silent. What was I thinking?
I suppose I could have made sense of this in any number of ways but I chose shame fueled by unworthiness. Something must be wrong with me. I do not deserve love because I am not worthy of it. These thoughts came subtly built over time from experiences that reinforced the feelings of that day. A bit dramatic? Perhaps. Did it even happen like I remember it? So many years have passed I could never really know. What I can be certain of is that the pieces of that story that flash into my mind are seared with strong emotions that refuse to be denied.
The everyday consequences of a collection of experiences that reinforced those feelings is that I have struggled to fully connect in secure ways to others for many years. My memories from childhood until now are framed not by work or the many years of schooling, rather it is always through the relationships I was in, or not in.
Without a clear sense of my own value and self-worth my ability to love others will remain within the limits of how I love myself. Only then can I be completely open and there for another person. I am not aware of a how-to guide on developing a sense of worthiness. Perhaps it is part of everyone’s journey to discover for themselves, but it is most assuredly part of my journey.
My daily practice of discovering worthiness has begun with the unraveling of how the web of unworthiness has permeated my life. It silences me, stifles the expression of emotion, avoids any hint of conflict, wraps me in the fear of failure, demands perfection, and leaves the burden of responsibility for the success or failure of any relationship squarely on my unworthy and incapable shoulders…… I want to scream Lies, LIES, LIES!! Every statement a poisonous denial of what I know is true, yet each word resonates and finds purchase in a dark place that gives space for those words to dwell. They hide there and then echo inside me with each disappointment or defeat I experience. A sinister but convincing voice that whispers, “you are not enough.”
It is a hard practice for me to recognize those voices and accept that they are not in line with my authentic self. I am learning to hear those voices not as the truth of who I am, but rather the cries for help from places inside me that have been wounded, broken, and beaten down. I can hear those voices as a reminder that until I own my story I do not have the power to write the ending.
I choose to believe that my worthiness is not something that I have to earn or search for, but rather I merely need to claim. I will continue to practice unraveling the web of unworthiness that keeps me stuck and the claiming of my own self-worth. I will not shrink from the pain of past memories. I will own my story. I will share that story and watch as the power of the shame it heaped upon me in secrecy is washed away in the company of those I choose to share it with.
Thank you for hearing me and taking time to walk with me on my journey for a few moments. The journey is so much nicer together!