The first time I can remember being called a name was in Kindergarten. I was 5 years old and a relative called me banana face and laughed at me. Even at 5, I could tell it was a mean spirited comment. And even today at 47, it still strikes at my heart. From that day on I began to keep a list of names in a neat file cabinet in my brain, always ready for me to refer to when I felt insecure. As a young girl, I was somewhat of an easy target. I was short, skinny and awkward. My hair was stringy and my face was long and narrow, like a banana. Or at least that's what I was told. Since I had really stringy hair, my mom would try to perm it to give it body, which made it even worse. I was a little white girl with an afro and I wasn't cute like Annie. I had huge Dorothy Hamill glasses by the third grade that were too big for my face. And there were a couple of bullies who had no problem laughing at me on a daily basis. Of course one was a boy that I had a crush on so it was even more hurtful. Now, as an adult on a journey of self-discovery, I can look back at these moments and begin the process of healing co-dependency and the need to overachieve for acceptance. I can also see how the patterns began at a very early age and have played out through my life. I'm still insecure about my hair and my looks, but I'm learning that as I release the layers of other people's words and opinions, I begin to feel more confident about myself as a whole person. I have been able to shred the mental file folders of names, literally visualizing the folders that say Banana Face, Horse Face, Farmer Ted, Ronald McDonald and more as well as the bullies names in each folder. Through that process, I'm also learning how the words of others, whether name calling or labels have been used to hold me back. I know now that those words have nothing to do with me, but have everything to do with what that person is going through. However, it did shaped me into who I am today. For that I am thankful. Even up to a year ago, I was allowing the words and actions of bullies to affect me. All part of one of the biggest lessons on my journey of becoming my true self. I was the glutton for punishment, always eager to take on the task of pleasing everybody, even those who really didn't deserve my generosity. Even as I write that statement, I go back to the pattern of appeasing. I hope I don't offend anyone. Now I sit here and tell myself and you that not everyone deserves our kindness. Always, be kind. Yes. But don't put yourself into situations where kindness is a one way street. We deserve to be appreciated for who we are and the exchange in relationships must be mutual kindness and respect. I've lost "friends" because of it. But they were there to show me the way to heal a hurt that I've been carrying since I was 5 years old. I don't resent them, they were part of God's plan. It may have taken me longer to learn the lessons than I'd hoped, but I'm happy to have learned them. It's given me more confidence to stand up for myself. In the past, I've put myself into the mix as the do'er, the perfectionist, the people pleaser, the eggshell walker, and through this journey I've learned where I've allowed myself to be manipulated and taken advantage of. I've found my voice, which was so challenging. Suddenly people that were in my life only for what I could give to them, began to disappear. It was almost as if they could sense they'd run the well dry so it was time to move on to the next victim. I wish them well on their journey and thank them for being part of my healing. I will no longer be labeled, sorted or named.
Recently, I began reading Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown. I love all of Brené's books. She is a kindred spirit to me. This book is hands down my story. Belonging and Standing Alone! Her words have helped me to uncover shame, vulnerability and courage. To stand up for myself and believe that I am enough! The timing of her books for me was perfect. I was already beginning my journey, and the books solidified the steps I was taking and made it real. I wasn't the only one!!!! Now as I'm reading her most recent, she brings it home! "What does it take to get to the place in our life where we belong nowhere and everywhere—where belonging is in our heart and not a reward for "perfecting, pleasing, proving and pretending" or something that others can hold hostage or take away?" This is one of the questions used in her research to come up with the four elements of true belonging. Braving the Wilderness for me opens me up to being who God created me to be, not what others think I should be. My purpose while on this earth is to be true to myself and God's plan, to be kind, but not at the expense of my truth, to serve others in a way that feels natural to me, belonging everywhere and nowhere.
Sticks and Stones may break my bones, now names cannot hurt me!