My youngest is in kindergarten, and she came home with a slip from her teacher that stated she needed to work on “making good choices.” The teacher indicated that my daughter was talking during circle time when he was talking. I spoke with my daughter about the slip, and she shared the story with me. I discovered that, indeed, she was talking to a friend when the teacher was talking. We chatted about the importance of listening to the teacher, or whoever is speaking to show respect. She went on her way and seemed fine, yet there was something in me that filled with sadness and grief. It brought me back to when I was small and evoked strong emotions because I want to be sure that she doesn’t internalize this feedback as a statement of who she is, but instead feedback to change her behavior.
I grew up, like many people taking the feedback in life as a personal statement about me as a human being. When I was ignored at the dinner table, it was because I didn’t have anything important enough to say. When a boy wasn’t interested in being my boyfriend, it was because I wasn’t pretty enough. When a friend was mean to me and left me out, it was because I wasn’t likable. The list goes on and on. I personalized so much of the messages I received growing up, and it impacted me in a significant way. They say that with a lack of information, humans seek to fill in the gaps. I didn’t have any other means of making sense of the behaviors of others, so I internalized them and decided it must be me. As I grew up, I believed these stories that I made up in my head.
I grew up being completely afraid of doing anything wrong for fear that it again would reaffirm negative information about myself. I lived in a tiny and contained box of needing to be perfect. As that box grew to be uncomfortable, I would assure myself that this discomfort was okay because living in this box was what I needed to do to be good. As I reflect on my life, I have lived a good life, but not a great life. I have played it safe, and I have missed out on opportunities and experiences that I believe would have made my life great.
Life has recently presented me with an opportunity to expand my box. I initially resisted and operated out of fear. My knee jerk reaction was swift and decisive. I am grateful that I went back and have a chance to start things over again. Choosing to stand in my box and push against my self imposed constraints has opened me up to dig deep to figure out what I truly want out of life and what is most important. I have recently realized that not only have I tried to be perfect, but I have also projected that on to others. If they haven’t met these superficial criteria I have cut them off, particularly in the romantic realm. While pushing these boundaries comes with discomfort, it is strengthening me and opening me up to new experiences. I am amid deep contemplation and reflection, and I know in the end this will support me to live the life that I truly desire, wherever this journey may take me.
Messages to my Daughters: I encourage you to look at areas of your life where you are placing self-imposed limits. What are the beliefs that you carry that keep you from what you truly desire? Sit in the quiet, discomfort, and uncover what is holding you back from what you want. The possibilities in your life are unlimited!