It’s challenging and freeing to discover the real you. Last week I asked you to think about things that you liked to do as a kid. I don’t know about you, but as I dug deeper into some of my own childhood experiences I felt a lot of pain. We can minimize how bad things were when we were kids, especially when everything seemed to look so normal.
Painful childhood memories
In last week’s blog, I wrote about how I had this guinea pig I just loved. When I was three I went on a summer vacation with my family and family friends to Lake Michigan. This one day, I’m splashing around happily with my little pet, in the the lake, wearing this really cute little black one-piece bathing suit with a cool ruffle around the waist. All of a sudden, my dad comes up, takes my guinea pig and as he’s laughing, he’s threatening to drown it! Imagine my horror! I was screaming and yelling–STOP! STOP! But he wouldn’t! I don’t remember anyone trying to help me either. Maybe that’s why I never get to attached pets. What a great life lesson — don’t love anything too much because someone might try and kill it.
Then, in middle school, I really wanted to be a cheerleader. I practiced and practiced and was so excited when I made the team. My dad went to the games, but he humiliated me in front of the school nuns–all bundled up in their blessed black habits, those white neck things, black veils, scapula’s and rosaries. What a needed relief from their religious duties that must have been– laughing along with my dad as he completely humiliated me.
My dad teased me saying I had such a big mouth and I was the loudest cheerleader on the team. He also loved to call everybody’s attention to the fact I had braces and glasses as he chanted bracey-frames, bracy-frames over and over again. It was soul crushing. So after 8th grade I never tried out for cheerleading or anything like it again. In college I really wanted to try out for the dance team, but the humiliating memory just wouldn’t let. I watched on the sidelines, told myself I wasn’t good enough and I wouldn’t have gotten selected anyway. It’s challenging and freeing to discover the real you. That experience was the challenging part.
The affects of emotional neglect
Another thing I really wanted when I was in kindergarten and first grades was to win the local newspapers’ Christmas coloring contest. I’d pour my whole heart and soul into coloring hoping I’d color the winning picture. I’d even walk downtown, in the freezing weather, looking at other kids’ colored pictures in the store windows. I never won and my parents didn’t seem to notice. I was just this little, sad and disappointed kid, that needed probably a hug and some consolation, but I didn’t get it. So this is an example of emotional neglect and it happened over and over again. What’s shocking is that by age six or seven I was already hiding or embarrassed about the things I loved.
A lot of people ignore what happened to them in the past and have no interest in talking about it. Why would that be? Because it’s too painful. When a kid likes something and she is humiliated, ignored, or taunted it creates shame. And shame makes us want to hide who we are and that can last a lifetime. Again, it’s challenging and freeing to discover the real you.
It takes courage to look deep inside of yourself and it’s hard if you don’t have help. I didn’t get unstuck by myself. Early on in my marriage I started going to therapy. I knew things were messed up.
I was a depressed teenager and used drinking to cover up the pain. When I drank, seemingly all my problems went away. I wasn’t shy and self-conscious anymore. I was funny, talkative and super good looking 😛. But now I know alcohol numbs your feelings and your senses. It was a coping mechanism I used for years. I stopped and started many times, but I never dealt with what was going on inside, so I always went back. Just lately I’ve figured out that it does not help me at all. And it’s a protection mechanism that’s keeps us safe. It’s so hard to stop because we’re terrified of the experiencing the pain again.
Let’s face it. We all want an easy fix to our problems. We want to look on YouTube, read a book, take an intense weekend workshop and voila problem solved. And you can learn from those experiences, but it’s what you do afterward that counts.
The Seinfeld Strategy
Brad Isaac was a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit. One fateful night, he found himself in a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. In an interview onLifehacker, Isaac shared what happened when he caught Seinfeld backstage and asked if he had “any tips for a young comic.”
He (Seinfeld) said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
Use the Seinfeld Strategy for Emotional Growth
I’ve unknowingly used the Seinfeld Strategy for years to keep growing emotionally: counseling, workshops, journaling, learning stuff I loved and talking to friends about my life. And believe me, it wasn’t easy. I’ve shared in other blogs about my dysfunctional marriage, and how my ex was on a mission to squash any dream or fun from my life. Anger, discouragement, neglect, confusion and depression dominated my life. I persisted however, and finally got the courage to leave. I left other unhealthy relationships too. An addict boyfriend, a divorce, that included a ten year court battle, and a soul sucking job. With each break-up I’d grow and experience a new kind of freedom. I didn’t break the chain–I stayed on the path- consistently.
It’s challenging and freeing to discover the real you
It’s challenging and freeing to discover the real you. Ask yourself if you’re happy or what you think is missing in your life and if you’re self-sabotaging. Maybe you hate your job, but you tell yourself it’s no use looking for something better. Tag on to that all the anxiety, anger, resentment and exhaustion you feel because you think you have to take care of everyone. Talk to someone you trust about it or see a counselor (you can email me if you want and I’ll respond). But get started. And think about those things you loved as a kid. Maybe you could take a small step to get on that bicycle again or sign up for that dance class, or set aside time to read. And apply the Seinfeld Strategy–start the chain and don’t break it.
I’ll leave you with a quote:
Each of us is unique and if we didn’t exist something in the world would be lost. Martha Graham
Next week we’ll talk about that horrible inner critic that’s pounding through your head all day. Leave me a comment about getting that chain going or click the button below to leave an email.
From my pen ✍️ to your heart ❤️–Kathy