I recently realized that I’ve lived most of my life playing it safe.
I regret so many decisions I've made, mostly because they were made out of fear or based on assumption. I’ve felt, more times than I would like to admit, like the kid left to sit at a safe distance while the other kids played on the monkey bars. And it took me a long time to realize that it’s not because the other kids didn’t want to play with me. It’s because I convinced myself that I wasn’t cool enough to join in.
What would happen if I approached them and they told me to go away?
What if I didn’t have anything important enough to say?
What if I fall?
What if I voice my opinion/ my fear/ my feelings and they all laugh at me?
What if they like me and then they find out “who I really am”?
A loser. Left out. Useless.
These are just a few of the charming things I’ve told myself over the years. And not just on the playground, either… Recently. What was planted in elementary school has grown with me into my late thirties. And, aside from being shameful and sad, it’s honestly developed into a comfort zone, of sorts. I am comfortable when I feel like someone is leaving me out or I don’t quite measure up (whether real or imagined) because that is what I’ve convinced myself that “I know”... “It’s safe here.”
No matter how many people told me I was wrong – that I was lying to myself about my inadequacies – I simply didn’t believe them. I refused to believe that what my thoughts were telling me was wrong.
Nobody has tried to set me straight more than my mother. My mum told me over and over again how much she wished I could see myself through her eyes (and that I’m not a loser, or useless or the worst person to ever darken the doorstep of the planet, depending on the mood I was in). And, as I said one final good-bye to my mum two months ago – and in the weeks of grief, isolation and self-reflection since – I think I finally do.
I finally “get” what she’d been telling me all those years. All those times when I was sitting off in the corner because I didn’t quite “fit in” with the rest of my family. Or I didn’t want to go to school because I was “sick”. Or I should do this other play because my performance in the last one really was good. I finally realized – as I felt it wash over me in her hospital room that night – that I “have what it takes” and I am enough just by being me.
I’ve said the words, I’ve stuck the quote on my wall and dropped it into a powerpoint presentation or two, but it finally hit me in this moment and beyond. “I am enough.”
I’m sad that it took her leaving us for me to realize what she’d been trying to teach me all along… I don’t have to always be “on” to be enough. I don’t have to be “the best” before I even try. I can get through the rest of my life by being kind, authentic and brave – just like she was – and I’ll be just fine.
After mum died, my friend Erin told me that I have to make sure that I treat myself the way that my mum would treat me – with love and kindness and patience. And that is just what I plan on doing.
I know it will take time... I know that I will stumble more than once. And I know that it will take work to see myself through my mother’s eyes and to break free from all of my misguided thoughts about myself and how I show up in the world. But I can honestly feel that this process has already started for me... It started that night.
And I plan on keeping the momentum going (if for no other reason than “mum told me to”;)
It comes down to this, cliché as it may be – life is too short. And I’m tired of playing small.
I’m tired of not showing up because of some made-up story in my mind.
I’m tired of being “okay” with being the victim.
I’m going to dig deep – Because there’s no other way to do it right.
I’m going to write – Because I’m a writer and I deserve to do what I love.
I’m going to say what I want, how I feel and what I think is right – Because it doesn’t matter if people laugh at me or judge me.
When we get to the other side of this pandemic – whenever that is and whatever we look like when we get there – I am going to remember how this felt. I’m going to remember to show courage in the face of fear. To not let what others may think of me hold me back. To not always take the safe route...
And I am going to own who I am.
Because my mother was a fucking warrior.
And I am my mother’s daughter. 🖤
As a mental health advocate, this blog is dedicated mostly to my experiences living with depression and anxiety.