Are you waiting to be found out?
Waiting for the other shoe to drop?
Waiting to be judged for something in your old story?
I’ve mentioned before, I do an awful lot of thinking about thinking. Recently, I have had this “waiting to be found out” feeling.
My practice is when I have a strong feeling, bring it in close and be curious of the root. So I began……
I am a Psychotherapist who knows anxiety on an intimate level.
I struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, however, she masked herself for years and years.
When I was a child, she began doing what she could to manage the chaos in our house. This included believing that she could change the mood in the house at anytime. She believed this was her responsibility.
When I was a teenager, she looked like a whole lot of self medicating so as not to feel.
When I was in my twenties, she sabotaged any happiness I might grasp onto. She did this by knowing it all, by reacting instead of responding, and by doing her best to protect herself from feeling out of control in any way.
When I was in my thirties, I was married and began to have children. Life felt beautiful. Life felt oddly calm, and life felt good……too good.
She began to show herself, but this time she was wearing a mask. She would creep up on me at my happiest moments.
Instead of kicking me when I was down, she pounced when I least expected it.
During a dance recital for my daughter, she would whisper “what if you got into a crash on the way home”?
While watching my son play on the playground, she would remind me “you aren’t always a great Mom, you should do better”.
When arriving home after a long day, and feeling exhausted, she would compare me to other Mom’s who seem to balance it all with ease.
She grew into a bully. A bully that wouldn’t allow me to feel happiness.
She was always there, to remind me I’m not as great as I think I am.
She was always there to rip my happiness right out from under me if I wasn’t careful.
She was always there to whisper hurtful words into my ear, which lowered my chin a bit and slumped my shoulders.
She reminded me that I am not as good as other women in remembering their birthdays, and I never send Christmas cards.
She never missed a chance to mention that my chest is small and my legs are skinny.
She wouldn’t let me forget the label she had assigned to me as “not a school person”.
She refused to allow me to feel worthy.
Did you forget that you got kicked off the cheerleading squad in high school?
Did you miss that all those other girls graduated from college “on time”?
She was relentless.
Eventually she masked herself as anger and defensiveness.
The more you feed anxiety, the more her power grows.
If I couldn’t feel happiness, I felt anger.
This looked like arguments with my husband over silly stuff.
This looked like lack of patience with my children.
This looked like “on and off” communication with family members, depending on who I might be angry at.
This looked like a whole lot of conflict and not much connection.
One day, someone else visited. I believe it was compassion. She whispered something different into my ear……she said “this is a choice…this is all a choice”.
She said “take my hand, your road hasn’t been easy, allow me to show you the way”.
Compassion began to show kindness to me, even in the face of anxiety.
Compassion was not a bit intimidated by her.
When anxiety yelled, compassion just nodded her head and said….”I understand, this is what you know”.
When anxiety said “but……” compassion said “it’s okay, I’ll stay by your side”.
When anxiety made my heart race and “what if’ed” me, compassion loved me through it.
Compassion was there through my whole journey. She is just much more quiet than anxiety.
We can’t always hear compassion.
We have to create a space to hear compassion.
I began to hear her in my late thirties when I took a leap and returned to school.
I heard her when I walked into my class of mostly younger students.
She was there as I walked across the stage to accept my Masters in Counseling.
Don’t get me wrong, anxiety showed up to ask “who do you think you are” ……I just smiled at her and decided I know exactly who I am.
I am whoever I say I am.
I am who I decide to be everyday.
Anxiety and I no longer speak the same language.
She still comes around from time to time.
We aren’t so much friends but acquaintances now.
My new group of friends include compassion, kindness, empathy, joy, and mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the leader of our group, she reminds me on a daily basis to meet myself where I am that day.
Today, I wanted to remind you all that this therapist knows anxiety well.
Self disclosure is frowned upon in my work.
I’ve never been good at following the rules.
Why shouldn’t you see my imperfections?
I want to show you my scars so that you too can begin to hear compassion.
I am not good at what I do because I am perfect….I am good at what I do because I can see you.
I see you, and I know your bully well.
I have filled my own cup so that now I have enough to give away.
Allow me to introduce you to my group of my friends…..I know you will like them.
The “Too” Journey
I laid there curled in a ball, sobbing, until calm came through sleep. I woke up to shame, and cried consistently the whole next day too. Something had changed. Something was gone, that I would never get back. I had no understanding of why my body was grieving so deeply.
At age 15, I had just started my period.My body was at the very beginning of becoming, and I had already given it away. This would be the beginning of the “too” journey.
My chest is too small.
My hips are too wide.
My legs are too skinny.
My nose is too crooked.
I talk too much.
I laugh too loud.
I noticed it in every picture.
I felt it at every turn.
Am I enough?
Will I ever be enough?
At this point I was alone. Alone with my “too’s”. Just me……to love my “too’s”, except I didn’t. I believed that those “too’s” meant my worth was less. I believed that my worth lied in my body, and my face. I looked for reassurance, and that lied in relationships. It rooted firmly in attention and approval. Society teaches us that a pretty face will move mountains, a beautiful body will change our lives.
My “too” journey ended in childbirth. For some this is where the “too” journey begins.
At that moment, I wasn’t “too” anything, I was just enough.
My body nurtured and grew life.
My “too” small chest fed another human.
My “too” wide hips were cut open, sewn back together twice and I kept moving.
My “too” skinny legs carried babies and toddlers for several years
My “too” weak body balanced groceries, dogs kids and car seats every single day.
When I was young, I abused my body in whatever way I could. Alcohol, junk food, lack of exercise and an inner voice that rivaled any critic you’ve ever met. After kids, my coping skills were still young and raw, my habits still unrefined. Although I stopped the bad habits, I did not spend time creating new ones.
Until one day, I caught my 4 year old daughter watching me in the mirror.
She took it all in.
As I turned to the side and almost asked my husband “do my legs look too skinny in this”?
But her gaze created a pause.
In those eyes I saw the reflection of a young me, before the “too” journey, and I vowed my daughter wouldn’t take the first step onto that path.
In order to fill my daughters cup, I had to fill mine first. That’s just how it works.
I decided my body deserved to be on a journey of “enough”.
I decided my body deserved to be loved instead of judged.
I set about this journey with purpose and intent.
I created a mantra. I wrote in the steam on my bathroom mirror, every single day.
I stood in front of a full length mirror naked every week, and gave thanks to my body, part by part.
I hiked steep mountains, and climbed large boulders until my body felt strong.
I challenged it at every turn to see what it was capable of.
Turns out, this body is badass.
I made a choice, a choice that I would create a different path for my daughter. She will go on whatever journey she is supposed to, but it won’t be dictated by society or my inequities. Her body journey will be shrouded in a foundation of love and acceptance. Her memories will not be of her mother being “too” anything. Her memories will be of a mother who was just enough. Enough for herself, not anyone else. A mother who was able to see beauty in the mirror and feel beauty in her heart.
A mother who hopped off the “too” journey to find “enough” was much kinder.
My “enough” journey began with a pledge of mindfulness.
I share that with you now, humbly and compassionately.
Mindfulness of Body Pledge
I PLEDGE to appreciate my body by recognizing her strengths, abilities, capabilities, and her potential.
I PLEDGE to be a friend to my body by not criticizing, showing empathy when I falter, and by paying attention to her needs.
I PLEDGE to laugh as often and as loud as possible. Because it just feels good.
I PLEDGE to listen to my body by recognizing physical symptoms when experiencing overwhelming emotions.
I PLEDGE to meet my body where she is on that particular day, while pushing her to always work hard.
I PLEDGE to embrace my body’s beauty and remind her every day, not apologizing for confidence.
I PLEDGE to not make excuses, because she doesn’t need excuses.
I PLEDGE to wear whatever she feels good in, regardless of what others may think.
I PLEDGE to build in time to be still, so my body can rest, and recover every single day.
I PLEDGE to experience all that life has to offer in the skin I am in now.
I PLEDGE to not judge other people’s bodies, lest mine feel compared.
I PLEDGE to stand up to body shaming in personal conversations, and publicly.
I PLEDGE to treat my body like the badass she is, honoring, respecting and loving her every step of the way.
Get Grounded: www.groundedblog.com
Kerry Foreman MA Mindfulness Based Psychotherapist