I guess however you spell it the notion of not being enough has been like a sharp piece of glass I stepped on when I was about seven years old and for the next forty five years have had stuck in my foot. Some days if you were to watch me go through life you’d see me hopping, completely avoiding the glass, but tired from the energy it takes to hop around life on one foot. Other days you’d see me almost stomping, stepping down hard, the glass pushing deeper into my foot and the pain radiating throughout my whole body as I wince with each step. Most days you’d see me just walking gingerly being careful not to step on the exact spot where it’s the most painful. Those are the days I’m “dealing with it”, or is that avoiding too? Why has it never crossed my mind to stop walking and get the glass out of my foot?
I’m seven and it’s an ordinary day where my mother is telling me to sit like a lady. My body doesn’t seem to naturally do that, and I can’t understand why my knees must be pressed together at all times. It’s uncomfortable. “Stand up straight” and “Lori not so loud”, would also be daily mantra’s coming from the lips of my mother’s annoyed face that often read why do I have to tell you again? Although however annoyed she appeared to be at having to continuously repeat herself, shushing my sometimes loud and excited voice and telling me how to sit, stand and walk was her attempt to raise me as what she perceived was an exceptional young lady. In her world it was her job as my mother, her duty to teach me these things. Otherwise society would never accept me and I could never be happy. I would certainly suffer if I grew up to become a hunched over, loud mouthed, knees apart woman! My mother loved me, she still loves me and she still shushes me now and then which drives me instantly insane.
These stories of our childhood become the stories we use to describe ourselves. As we grow and mature we strengthen these stories with what we call “facts” so we can reinforce, so we can prove what we already believe about ourselves. The “I Am” of who we are. Now if you know me, you might be saying, Lori you had some pretty traumatic things happen to you in your life that must have defined how you thought about yourself. Actually, those were the things that reinforced how I felt about myself. The “I AM” was already there.
My mother wanting me to be what she thought was acceptable, me repeatedly hearing her correct the way my body naturally held itself made me feel like I would never be what she wanted. I was not like the other girls she saw as perfect. I was not enough and yes I have spent my whole life reinforcing that belief, stepping on the glass pushing it deeper into my foot. I even created this non-profit Girl Noticed to show other girls we can walk standing proud without the pain of glass in our feet. It’s this project actually, the self reflection, the eagerness to learn more about myself and the teaching others what I thought I already knew that has helped me to slowly and gently start pulling the glass out of my tired feet. I’ve realized the many pieces of glass my own mother walked on in fear of what the neighbors or my grandmother or her friends would think about her if I wasn’t “the perfect young lady”, because that would make her not the perfect mom. I grow to realize that she had her own struggles and beliefs about not being good enough, not just as a mom, but probably as a wife and woman in general. To my own horror I see how we hand these beliefs down from generation to generation like we would family recipes, all of the secret ingredients held tight to our chests. I can only hope I haven’t passed this particular recipe down to my own daughter or son, but as I sit writing this I can already think of some of the ways that I have. I can imagine they have their own stories they tell themselves where I’m not even aware of the character I have played. Grace, Gianni, permission to tell me to knock it off when I’m passing my own insecurities onto you. It’s about time I take responsibility for how I see me. Its my story after all and rewriting it, retelling it, is my option. I believe it’s the way to becoming enough. What stories have you told yourself? Are you ready to pull out the glass?