Come Up to the Light
There’s this stigma associated with knowing your self-worth. The stigma is when you don’t know, but you know you should know, but you don’t think you know how to know, and on and on the cycle continues and, um, what were we talking about again? Oh, yeah. Self- worth. And by the way…what the hell does that even mean?
Self-worth, Webster’s Dictionary Definition: a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect. OH. MY. GOD.
Were you taught this at home? Growing up? At school? Hmmm...
Did your parents treat you this way? Instill this in you? Did your family? Uncles, Aunts, cousins…friends of family…. IF they did, Wow. Good for you.
If they didn’t…wel- the fuck-come!
Got a minute? Good, lemme ‘splain somthin’, I wouldn't be writin' about this golden character trait if you, I, knew it, right? If you HAD it…The only reason you know you don’t know your self-worth is because, some well-meaning asshole planted that, oh-so-viral-grows-like-weeds, notion in your subconscious that you’d never amount to anything. And I know, it's not just me who suffers...AmIright?
Oh, ya, sure, maybe they didn’t say it so directly. Narcissistic assholes have a way with words to make you feel, as usual, you’re the crazy one. They have a way of making you think they own the truth, so it’ll go something like, “you don’t think you’ll ever get any better no matter how many rehearsals you have, or how talented you are, do you?; or “you’ll never be able to afford that, no matter how hard you work.” Or, “you can’t be friends with those boys, (or girls), “you’re an asset, to our family”, and so on and so forth, sound familiar? Objectifying a little bit? Commodifying a little bit? Aren’t these thoughts in line with thoughts of an abuser, predator, a molester? And we can’t even fathom how that happens, right? This is how, people. This behavior lies in bed with White Male Privilege.
A topic for a whole other rant.
Even if you couldn’t comprehend what they were inferring – because it was JUST-TOO-BLOODY SHOCKING-IN-THE-FIRST PLACE, and maybe you were all of 12 or even 24; you silently shut down. You quietly internalized their opinion of how small you were and how powerless. Which of course is absolute BULLSHIT. Nevertheless, it becomes your truth and the mirror to which you see yourself.
That was then and this is now. Now, you, god willing, know better. Girl, you better. You must know better. Not for anyone but yourself. Therefore: when you fill yourself up with that knowing “that you’re a good person and deserve to be treated with respect”, it’s a ripple effect. You walk taller. You act taller. And everyone treats you the way you treat you. And everyone around you is nourished. Wow. How beautiful.
But, hang on, you’re thinking, right? It can’t be that easy. Because it wasn’t just one well-meaning asshole, right? There were many. If you’re anything like me, people offering their unsolicited opinions of your talent got progressively more assholy-ish, right? They were brutal, right? Abusive, right? And you took it. Or you stayed. Because those were the rules for girls. You put up with the shame, the condescending bravado. The gas-lighting and all the flying monkeys. What the bloody fuck.
I’ve been told since, (and during; but my light was so masked by my hater, who was supposed to be my b’sherit, that’s Hebrew for your one true love, kismet, destiny, [ what a crock of shit], that I couldn’t hear it); I left my torturer, that evil is attracted to light. In other words, the brighter your light shines the more attractive you are to the dark. That’s almost as bad as the assholes saying you’ll never amount to anything. Almost. Why? Because, all the focus (read: blame, shame) is placed on you, the victim. Which isn’t to say that it might hold some truth but, said differently: Predators, prey on the gifted, the enlightened, the talented, the compassionate, the empathic. PERIOD. Always have, always will. But prior to your knowing - you don’t know that. You can’t know that.
Yet. I know it sounds like I'm writing in tongues, but stay with me...
You have no idea that you possess all those amazing, wonderful, god given graces, because, well, you’re a girl, and girls shouldn’t be told of their power, blah, blah, blah the fucking blah. Lest, these amazing girls get carried away with their God given sixth sense, their intuition, their “knowing”, God Forbid, and decide to run the world, God forbid.
Ya, because the guys have done such a great job at wielding their power, their sword, all these years, right?
How’s that workin’ out for ya’, bub?
We’re sheltered from our own power and from knowing that there is evil in the world when we’re children. We’re given this false sense of safety in a world that is very fragile and let’s face it, dangerous. Double Trouble. This veil can’t last. Of course not. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be compelled to write this. These thoughts wouldn’t be swirling around my brain, making me rush to my laptop to get it out, before I choke. This is not to say, to foolishly and falsely go around blowing the alarm of fear, dread and doom. No. Not, at all. It is to say let’s empower our children. Boys AND Girls. Teach them how to speak assertively. Teach them to know their power, to trust their gut. To get in touch with their higher self and trust her or him. Wow, what a concept.
Ok, wait, I digress. Self-worth. How to come by it? Especially, considering, you may not have had the best teachers. My parents loved me, cared for me, wanted what they believed was the best for me but, honestly, sucked at being good teachers. Fear ruled their lives. They were so worried about surviving in a new country, a new language; a new culture, where everything was so fast, that knowing, then teaching self-worth, boundaries and pride, was as foreign to them as baseball and apple pie. Though, they did learn to appreciate both. Immigrants from the old world with old world beliefs don’t easily conform to new world standards.
Teaching confidence or pride could lead to arrogance or conceit (insert rolling eyes emoji). So, compliments were rarely ever given – if they were, they were shrouded with so much caution, that for me, translated into shame and even guilt. Seriously, what’s the big secret or who’s going to arrest you, if you tell your daughter she did well in ballet, for fuck sake? It was that kind of vibe.
I remember being the ripe old age of 24 before I ever heard my father say he was proud of me. 24! I remember it, like it was yesterday. We were sitting in the living room. I, on the beautiful red, gold and blue Persian rug, at the coffee table. We were drinking tea and having pastries. I don’t even remember what I had accomplished that prompted him, for the first time ever, to say those words to me, but I do remember crying, sobbing, it was so shocking. And, of course, I was mocked for having such a reaction. It made them uncomfortable. More shame. More unworthiness. It’s not their fault, of course. They were never taught these skills, either. My point is not to sound ungrateful or to shame them, but to reveal and examine the reasons why it would be almost impossible in these circumstances to ever come up to the light.
They did their best, tried to do better. It was neither possible nor dare I say, probable for either them nor even I to know self-worth.
So, what? What is it then? What, finally brings you face to face with yourself. What makes you finally acknowledge that there’s gotta be more? What makes you finally say, “I deserve better than this?”
From what I’ve personally experienced and gleaned from other’s, it’s some sort of life altering, adverse, even traumatic event, that finally enables you to take notice of yourself, and just as importantly, the people around you.
Step 1: Heed the people around you; the haters, the users. They are toxic, therefore must be banished from your world. I, like Shakespeare, love language, so this kind of heightened language speaks to the dramatic urgency of how important this is for you to do. Yesterday. This is NOT easy. And, it most certainly does not happen over-night. It’s been nine years since I left my abuser and still, I am fine-tuning this. One therapist helped me dissect my circle into categories of A, B and C. These people, group C, are holding you back, are making you feel like shit, need to be cut, cold turkey from your life. Sorry, honey, but this is your one and only life. This is not a rehearsal. And, like with Shakespeare, Hamlet will never repair the damage he inflicted upon Ophelia.
Piece of shit.
Category C are not the gals you share your wounds with. C group will not cheer for you. Group A will. B group will help with carpool, if it’s on their way home. Group A will go out of their way to help. Get me? Therefore, you need to keep your circle small. Muy dificil, amigo; especially, if you’re a social butterfly, gregarious and love people. You expect everyone to be like you. Err. Mistake numero uno. That’s where you must come to a screeching halt. Have no expectations. I know, I know, also hard.
Which leads me to Step 2: Newsflash!! It is nobody’s goddamn business how long you need to heal from tragedy, for me it was an abusive marriage. My own family members still tell me to get over it. Wait, What? What’s worse? Still others suggest that that’s enough with all the crying; only a few weeks into my life blowing up in my face, entering the most frightening hell no one could ever imagine, I hear, “that’s enough, move on.”
Really, mother fucker? Really?
I’d like to tell you that I told that well-meaning relative – “No, I’m not going to stop crying. No, I’m not going to stop being scared or real with my emotions”.
I also need to tell you that that moment was not the Aha! moment, that woke me from my self-loathing, self-fearing prison. It did not wake me to my worth. Nope, not even then. Once a fighter always a fighter. Just recently, I told my therapist that I think I’ve been a survivor all my life. Not just since my hell on earth marriage, but through my entire life. It’s always been a battle. Trying to express my true self, my talents, my dreams, my desires. From day one. Knowing how to stand up for yourself and defend yourself, for me, came from a place of justice. Justice for the sake of justice. Not necessarily for my knowing or even caring about my self-worth. I wasn’t connected to it, me. I was just it’s voice. I’m a fighter. I was detached from the me that was fighting for me. ME! That I needed to believe that I!, “I am a good person, who deserves to be treated with respect”, never really occurred to me. No one ever told me that these dreams I had, that these talents, that I somehow managed to hone and materialize, were what made me special. No one ever told me I was special. Not privileged. Special. A unique and gifted soul with gifts to offer.
Girls * - see above.
Please, do not mistake what I am saying for spoiling or coddling. Instilling in your child the belief that they are capable, while remaining humble and compassionate; aye, mate, there’s the rub. That’s what I’m talking about. Can you just picture her, me, speaking her truth from that place? A place of believing that she, herself, was worthy of it? It would be so quiet. It seems so ridiculously obvious to me now looking back. A towering, confident, seven-foot stance of a, “I am rubber you are glue disposition”, right? Instead of the shamer making me feel small, making me feel in need of suiting up for battle, for my rights, my sanity; I would’ve just calmly cocked my head to the right and said, “Seriously?”.
I feel taller already.
Lesson: Take as long as you need to heal. Take as long as you need to figure yourself out. If you’re doing the work, you’re gonna get there.
A side note on doing the work. This is not to say you are working on being perfect. Or winning some mom of the year award. As much as I pride myself on being a hero to my kids and championing them against true evil, I’ve also sucked at being patient. I’ve been angry. Scared. Enraged. I’ve had too many glasses of wine. I’ve sobbed myself to sleep. I’ve been short with my kids. Terrified that something worse was going to happen. I've given my power away so blindly, betraying the badass I know I have proven time and time again to be. I’ve lost and gained the same 35, 40, 50 pounds again and again. I’ve fallen victim to stress over and over; from not eating to overeating, more times than I can remember. Talk about manifesting your self-worth in the physical form. I know I’m not alone in this. Yet, this pain is so isolating. You can’t see past your own isolation and desperation. Yet, all you can do, must do, is forgive yourself.
Let me repeat that for the people in the back: FOR GIVE YOUR SELF. Fuck the hater. Fuck the evil doer. Spare him/her/it, none of your precious time. Just keep working on forgiving yourself, every day. And practice repairing with yourself, your children and loved ones, every day. Apologize. Check yourself. Be kind. If you can’t, in the moment, go back and repair. That’s it. If someone can’t meet you where you are, as painful as this is, like a parent, you’ve got to find a way to accept them for where they are. They are not going to change. You are. You are going to change. You are doing the work. Be proud of yourself.
This is the road to self-worth.
Step 3: Are you on the brink of branching out on a new venture? Or asking for a raise? Or, maybe something small, like trying long red, tapered nail gels; when you’ve always only been a baby pink au natural, short nail girl? Whatever you’re wanting to do, but scared shitless about doing - DO IT. I can’t say this loud enough, bold enough, italicized enough. DO IT. DO IT NOW!!!!!
I’mma tell you from my own personal experience. I’ve been so fucking scared and so unaware of how to manage these two forces raging inside of me, the desire to be more than I was told I should be, could ever be, and that thumb holding me down – that I’ve waited until my 50’s – that’s the BIG 5 0 – ladies and ladies – to seize the bloody day and call it my own. Carpe Diem is not just for the students of The Dead Poets Society. (All males, I’d like to point out).
There’s an affirmation image that compares two lines, the path to success. One straight shooting, the other a scribbled, twisty, curvy, knotted mess. The true road is the one that’s a mess, of course. Success isn’t one, straight arrow shot to the finish line. It’s one hot mess. (*See above [again] as to the lies we’re told as truth when we’re children; to what? Protect us?). I can tell you, that I may not be where I aim to be, yet, my path has been nothing but a coiled, ravelled road. Most importantly, no matter how painful, it’s been real. And Beautiful. Filled with the most amazing angels. Angels I would never have known existed, had it not been for my personal tragedy. Even on the darkest of days, I remember cracking a joke. Surrounded by lifelong friends, we sat around a fire, while our kids played board games, feeling safe and removed, I quietly reflected on how my life suddenly “feels like an episode from CSI, ENCINO”. Humor=Gift=Angel. We all had a good laugh, through tears and hugs. I knew, after that, I could survive anything.
I just kept forgetting.
Until this month.
This month I decided it was time. Time to stop hiding behind my dreams. Stop dreaming and start doing. I started writing. About a whole other life awakening moment, Imposter Syndrome (did you read it, yet?). I decided, despite all the noise, and though I may feel like one at times, I am not an imposter, damnit! I had to let my higher-self step in and tell the little girl to just keep on keeping on. I had to stop listening to the voice that says you’re not good enough, or French enough, or male enough (Chef’s world – old boys club, fo’ sho’). I had to tell myself that I am experienced, and I am ready to put my best self forward – in all its forms – now. Giving myself no choice but to invest in myself. So, I invested in my catering brand. And as soon as I did, this layer of fog was lifted. Everything became clearer. This is not to say, easier, necessarily, but it was liberating. Deciding to invest in my talent, though still filled with doubt and fear, I proved to myself how much I really know, and what I can accomplish. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? Those are the seeds of self-worth. Something we rarely hear, is “Look at her, She’s a Self-Made - Woman”.
Let’s change that, shall we?
There’s always gonna be fear. You’re gonna feel terrified. You’re gonna feel discombobulated, disconnected, confused. And that’s okay! No one who ever did anything worthwhile succeeded the first time they tried. You know this. More to the point, more people (men) go out there and try things, do things, say things, they have no experience in – they just do it! Right?
Another golden nugget of wisdom from my therapist: even if you screw up, (cuz, you know, debilitating shame) it’s okay. In other words, the earth will not suddenly crack open and swallow you whole. We can become so paralyzed buy even the thought of failing or being called out for a mistake, we lose ourselves to doubt and the feeling of worthlessness. Let’s look at this for a sec. The times where I’ve been rejected, albeit painfully, from a job, the universe has had my back. The universe absolutely knew better. Despite my best efforts in whatever other job I thought I should be doing; that even though I was doing my best and giving it my all, my heart wanted differently. I wanted something more. That something more required courage, guts, and a badass higher self. A higher self that won’t allow her inner self to wallow in worry, fear and doubt. Even while its claws are grabbing at her shins and trying to suck her back under. Those are the sprouts of self-worth. Even if you don’t believe it yet. Ya, it’s kinda like “if you build it, they will come”. Total cheese balls. But true. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Yep, the way to Carnegie Hall, is Practice. Blah, blah, blah the fucking blah.
So, get up. Right now. And start the work. Whatever it is. Girrrl! Buy the gel manicure you’ve been coveting, already!
Make the call. Ask for the raise. Go for a walk. Drink the shake.
Curb the wine.
Take the class.
Buy the book that will teach you how to get your total mind, body, spirit and dresser drawers (thank you Marie Kondo), organized. Read. Read. Read. And read some more. Get inspired. Join a women’s networking organization – even if you feel like you’re an imposter. I did. It took me a while to realize what the hell I was even doing there; but, when I figured it out….0-60 in no time flat, with no signs of slowin’ down! So, grab a helmet, pack some snacks and let’s go! It’s time to pick a lane; and sister, in this way, and this way only, will our circles only widen and our relationships with ourselves and those who we choose to include become more authentic; free from competition, hate, jealousy and insecurity.