TODAY’S JOURNAL PROMPTS: One of my greatest strengths has always been … One of my greatest weaknesses that I acknowledge …
So this time around, I went a little braver and asked someone I’m not married to about my strengths and weaknesses. It was kind of a stretch, because I’m used to only two types of feedback from people:
- “OMGAAAAWWDDD, you are FANTASTIC! So funny and smart and clever and there is NOTHING AT ALL you can do to improve. You’re just great, just as you are.”
- Well, here is an itemized list of everything you have ever done wrong in the last century. I’ve added footnotes itemizing the levels of embarrassment you should have felt and that you caused others due to your ineptitude. I’m not sure why you’re even bothering. You really are kind of pathetic.
Yeah, not really helpful there.
So I ask my Canadian friend Deb to give me some feedback. After pressing me for detailed instructions (double-spaced, MLA footnotes, and don’t forget the Oxford commas), she thought about it overnight and sent me back some feedback. Here are some of the things she said.
On the positive side:
- passionate about what you believe
- committed to improving the lives of those around you
- extremely intelligent and articulate
- appreciate that there is so much we do not see and yet we can experience in the spiritual realm
And here are some of the things she said on the negative side:
- you don’t trust yourself to have anything of value to offer
- you second guess yourself too much
- you have a hard time believing compliments
- you don’t bask in your own successes long enough
She also said something profound–I am so afraid of overwhelming other people that I take a back seat to them and undermine my own contribution. This is the one that hit home.
All my life, I’ve walked a fine line. I knew in my heart that the only reason anyone would ever want to be around me, the only reason I’d ever be deserving of love, is if I were of value to people. If I could make them laugh, or teach them something, or heal their pain, or create something they wanted. This was my only value as a human being–what I could do for others. So pleasing others was extremely important to my survival.
The trick, of course, was to not be too good at anything, lest I intimidate or embarrass or make another person feel they’re not good enough. Too much enthusiasm, and I risked accusations of show-boating, spotlight stealing, arrogance, self-obsession, and being overbearing. Too much success, and I was a show-off and conceited.
This razor wire I walked between absolutely enough and not a millimeter too much consumed all of my energy for years. I have the therapy bills to prove what a toll it took on me, trying to find that perfect balance of work horse and bushel-covered light.
It’s taken me a long time to get over the need to please people. I’m not 100% there, but I’m getting closer as menopause wreaks havoc on my give-a-fuck capacity.
But the light under a bushel? The holding myself back for fear of looking conceited or pushy or obnoxious?
Yeah, no, not really there yet.
I don’t remember the last time I just let loose and did anything with abandon, like I used to do as a child.
Goddess forbid I’m better at something.
Goddess forbid I’m great at something.
Who is going to feel insecure around me? Who is going to feel intimidated? Who is going to have their feelings hurt because something comes to me more easily than to them?
How many times do I have to hear, “Well, it’s easy for you…” like that’s some kind of sin?
I’ve spent decades being subtly shamed for my every talent, as if I asked for them. And I’ve spent all that time holding back the reins of my enthusiasm to avoid that shame.
Gawd, how do I even breathe some days?
Not sure where I’m going with this, but I think I discovered another goblin. We’ll see where it leads me.