Recently I attended a virtual meeting with a group of talented creatives. They were writers, editors, web designers, and artists. The moderator encouraged the group to share their skills with others and maybe teach, make a video, or at the very least, post information.
As several of us nodded in agreement, some started to downplay their talents. Their comments were self-deprecating.
“It’s nothing, really. No big deal. I have nothing to offer.”
As I listened, I could hear their wounded hearts saying:
“I am nothing; therefore, I have nothing to give.”
Their words had nothing to do with their talents, and everything to do with them, how they saw themselves. They were stuck somehow, unable to extricate themselves from their pasts. And unaware of their value.
They were not worthy.
A couple of more confident participants in the group said, “Look, people are interested in learning that.”
And it hit me. I was in the same place and felt the same way about myself. Unworthy, incapable, and less than a lot of other people.
I have skills as a speaker, yoga teacher, writer, editor, and a spiritual medium, and though I practice them all to some degree, I’ve never put everything together and put myself out there.
Who would want to pay me anything?
I understand. And I understood that my childhood was still holding me back.
All the childhood dramas, lack of encouragement, and hurtful things that I thought I’d overcome and dispelled were still affecting me. But I know this, so why can’t I get over it?
Memories started to flood back without filters or logic.
Early Childhood Memories
My parents met my basic needs and loved me the best they knew how.
I had a stable home, food, received medical care when needed, most of the time, and even money to take ballet lessons. But when it came to the childhood stuff where you needed someone to talk to on a day-to-day basis, that just didn’t exist. I was emotionally starved.
It started when I was a toddler and was amped up exponentially on my first day of grade school.
I entered the wide, green halls, the sound of doors opening and slamming shut reverberating like the bars on a cell block. The sound, the feeling, even the institutionalized smell made me feel like a prisoner. And I was. For six hours a day, 30-hours a week.
My shyness, my appearance, long red hair and glasses, and demeanor made me an easy target. “Cousin It” was their favorite taunt. And children in parochial, Catholic, schools were seen, not heard. So no crying.
We were lined up like ducks in a row with our green uniforms and white shirts. The boys wore green ties.
We folded our hands and sat up straight, in complete silence.
Yup. The penguins did this to us. Penguins refer to the black and white habits of nuns. Think “Sister Act” with Whoopie Goldberg and you’ll get the picture.
And you didn’t raise your hand to ask to go to the bathroom. Only the “floor walkers” did that, as if wanting to not sit still at your desk all day was some kind of abomination. You went to the “lavatory” when you were told.
And yes, because of this rule, some kids had accidents. The other kids laughed, the nun yelled, and you went to the principal’s office to have your mother get you. You were humiliated and maligned.
You lined up to do everything: to walk into school, to go to recess, to go to the bathroom, to leave for the day. And there was no talking in line. If you did, you went back to your seat — such a horrible thing to talk in line.
I took the “no talking rule” home with me.
I mentioned once to my father how I hated school, that the kids and nuns were mean, and my father told me it was good discipline. Yup, he was a military guy and a teacher and probably ran his classroom like his ship.
My mother was depressed and spent most of her time in bed. She was not prepared to deal with other’s emotional issues. Even her children’s. She listened, but said and did nothing.
I eventually stopped expressing my needs. A family friend once told me how she used to worry about how I’d turn out because I was “just there” and didn’t talk.
The seed was sown; it took root and blossomed. I had no voice.
No nun ever hit me with a ruler or made me hit myself with a ruler. Or put me in a barrel, like my cousin.
But I endured this type of treatment for eight long years. Every September, I dreaded the next 10 months of my life. It left me feeling rather useless, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
I have to drive by that school sometimes, which is now closed, and I practically spit out the window.
We spend our adult lives either getting over or benefiting from what we were taught as children. It’s almost a stupid thing to say. Children who are taught they are brilliant, worthy, and capable, see the world as a place of opportunity.
Those of us who are criticized or ignored see ourselves as the unworthy who will always struggle and never have it all. Or at least all they want. What you feel you are worth becomes your reality.
You then pass this lesson along to your children.
My father was a troubled middle child, “strong of brawn, weak of brain.” My mother was the only girl, her father was German, and she often heard him express his opinion on the value of daughters.
It’s no wonder I wasn’t encouraged. They couldn’t give me the confidence they didn’t have.
What you’re told when you’re very young becomes your reality, because, in the end, it’s what you tell yourself that counts. And that’s who you have to live with.
I know my insecurity has a lot to do with the bullying at school and lack of support at home.
But when does time do its magical healing trick so you can move on? Why does it hang on until we are 40, 50, or 60?
I am no longer a lonely child in the schoolyard or someone who sits mutely by while being insulted, far from it.
When do the criticisms fall away and the bruises of childhood heal so that we know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we are worthy and deserving and capable?
My childhood happened a lifetime ago, yet my potential was arrested there, and I’m still stuck. Like many, I was happy to be invisible and unseen. That meant I wasn’t a target.
It seems that, in many ways, that feeling hasn’t changed.
But I want it to.
I’m focusing on the positive, writing, and learning the marketing skills to be a “working writer.” I’m making lists and examining my skill set.
I’m listening to people who are positive and who have set and reached milestones that I want to achieve.
In short, I’m working on leaving the lies are in the past. And it will take a lot of work.
Only when we feel worthy in our hearts and souls will we have the courage to pursue our dreams and goals. We are worthy, but yes, we have to feel it.
And love ourselves.
Unworthiness has held many of us back. But it didn’t kill us.
The problem is, it didn’t make us stronger in a positive way.
It’s up to us to unveil the lies we were told as children and have continued to tell ourselves as adults.
It’s not too late to live the life I want, and I’m not giving up.
Neither should you.