I woke up at 3:45 after a weird dream about some girl telling another girl she looked “trashy” and I suddenly had some insights about identity. Random yet connected thoughts came to me and I began to weave it all together. I just looked up the main symbol in my dream now (after already writing six pages in my journal about identity). Garbage apparently represents getting rid of old bad habits and throwing away unwanted characteristics.
Lately, I feel like I sometimes don’t know who I am. I know can’t be the girl I was but I haven’t yet become the woman I see myself to be–I am caught in limbo. What has been bothering me the most is my inability to express myself clearly. I have been so frustrated that I am just not getting through to people. Why don’t they understand? Why don’t they get me?!
My other huge hurdle is speaking up for myself which I find so hard to do. I usually try but then quickly give up; resuming the passive and weak role (or ‘filter’). I have this ingrained idea that I don’t have the right to speak about myself or my thoughts or feelings; that I am not important and somehow not worthy. I also hold the belief that if I did speak up and voice my true opinions that other people would think I was silly or stupid or they think I was mean and wouldn’t like me anymore.
So I learned to be a ‘good’ girl; nice, quiet, a little weak; passive and unnoticeable. This is how I coped with the circumstances I found myself in. I had internalized these traits in order to fit in and make sense of the world around me. The passivity had become a protective shield that I built for myself. Being passive helped me feel safe in the past but now it only keeps me from becoming true to myself. Gradually, I am becoming more aware of the voices in my head that hold me back; the default mode of my mind.
There’s the ‘weak’ voice that says to me over and over–There’s something wrong with you. You are not strong enough. You can’t handle it by yourself. You don’t have what it takes. You are a weak, messed up loser! Just stay small and quiet and no one will notice you. As a rebuttal, I can hear another part of me yelling back–Look at me!! Here I am! I am strong and powerful! I am perfect just the way I am and I have something special to offer!
And there’s the ‘passive’ voice that says to me over and over–What’s the point? No one will listen to you anyway. Keep your ideas and opinions to yourself. You can’t say that. You can’t do that. You’ll never be good at that. Don’t even bother trying. But deep down that piece of me that know this to be false screams–Look at me!! Here I am! I am capable and courageous! I have something important to say and I can do great things!
I had a flash back (or dream?) to my high school English class where I sat quietly in the back corner hoping to go unnoticed so I wouldn’t have to read a part in Macbeth. I was so afraid of reading out loud and making a mistake. I was sure that I would screw up and people would laugh at me. In my 20’s I was quiet and withdrawn. I went through university hardly talking to anyone.
It wasn’t until my late 20’s and early 30’s that I came out of my shell… and boy did I come out!! I think at that point I was overcompensating–acting in excess in attempt to correct my errors and weaknesses and to make up for the lost time. Unfortunately, instead of achieving balance I had swung too far in the other direction–proving that I was active and expressive, strong and powerful had developed into obsessive dancing.
Finally, I believe I am seeing the truth–that we really are what we think. We move around in our lives, thinking that we are these physical bodies–flesh and bone–but in reality we are nothing more than energy–feelings, thoughts, ideas, beliefs swirling around in our heads. We create our circumstances and we usually stay in situations that validate and reaffirm who we have come to believe we are. We become comfortable reacting and responding in a particular way and we like to stick with it even if it is not healthy for us.
For example, if we are used to being loud and aggressive and fighting people around us in order to feel protected, important, worthy and loved, then we will keep putting ourselves in situations where we have to fend off perceived threats and attackers. These situations, in turn, reinforce our belief that we have to be dominant and aggressive to survive in the world; that we can never show vulnerability.
Beliefs about ourselves form our identities and our beliefs are really just repeated thoughts. When a girl does well on a test, and her parents praise her for doing such a good job. They tell her she is smart. Since she has heard she is smart, she listens well in class, does all her homework and studies hard. On the school test, she does very well. The teacher gives her a gold star and a big approving smile. The girl starts to have the belief–I am smart.
This type of cycle continues throughout our lives: We receive information from things, situations, events and people, and then we interpret these situations and people’s reactions based on our personalities, our previous experience and prior knowledge. Next, we draw a conclusion. We form a theory. This theory becomes the basis for our future choices and actions. After a while, a theory becomes a belief. And before long, this belief has become our identity–This is me. This is who I am.
My questions now are– How do I stop these voices? Will they ever go away?!! And the scariest one of all–Will I ever be able to really change? I have all this awareness but what if I’m trapped in this limbo forever!! It would truly be hell to be totally aware of all of my weaknesses and negative thought patterns and yet be powerless to be able to create REAL change. But the fact is–I AM changing–RIGHT NOW! Just this week I stood up for myself once and expressed my true feelings. I need to be proud of myself for every little step I take forward and gentle with myself whenever I take a step backwards. (easier said than done!)
I think of a girl at the centre where I work. She tells me every day–I love you! I love you! I love you so much! I will never forget you (again)! –and I can’t help but believe that the universe does work in miraculous ways. Like magic, I find everything is perfect–just as it needs to be. I am in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time and I don’t need to do anything other than be MYSELF.