So what’s my story you ask? My story is that I’m not enough. It’s an adaptable little tale that I can apply anytime I’ve failed to be perfect. If a relationship falls apart it’s because I wasn’t interesting, fun or pretty enough. If my body doesn’t look perfect it’s because I wasn’t disciplined or in control enough. If my book doesn’t become a best seller or a patient doesn’t get better in record time, it’s because I’m not smart enough. And if my issues get the best of me on a day like yesterday, it’s because I’m not sane enough. That’s my story, and I’ve been sticking to it. Probably since I was about five years old. I recall my first slumber party where my little girlfriends gathered in our living room to make up ghost stories. The lights were turned down low and my feet were tucked in my Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag while my mom officiated the telling of the not so scary stories – I mean, have you heard the ghost stories of a six year old? They are cute, but they are not so scary. The scary part happened later… Three girls had made up a story before me, all were met with a smile and even a chuckle from my mom. But my story brought about a scoff, a roll of the eyes and a, “Well, that was just silly.” What the hell? My story wasn’t any more ridiculous than the ones before me, but it had seriously failed to impress my mother. It was almost like I floated out of my body and watched my little spirit shrivel. This feeling of disapproval was heartbreaking. I don’t think I’d ever felt anything quite like it before. How could I be such a disappointment to her? These other girls seemed to measure up, what did they do different? Thus began my life as a chameleon. I can have a conversation with anyone about nearly anything. I can read a person or a group and know how to act, what to say, and who to be in order to fit in. I also strive very, very hard not to be wrong and show up as a disappointment. This is an incredibly useful skill. I can mingle at parties, be just the right fit in a group of strangers, know how to talk to different types of patients, easily shine in an interview and I always do my due diligence and research as part of my never ending quest not to be wrong. Useful in my social and professional life? Yes, my patients certainly benefit. But in my personal life? Not so much. It’s a horrible way of being that gets me into all manner of trouble. It causes me to be increasingly hard on myself, faulting myself for every imperfection. It causes me to constantly feel like I’m coming up short – like I’m just not enough. And the never wanting to be wrong aspect – you can imagine how well that works in an argument with my boyfriend.
As a 35 year old woman, I know this is a story I made up. I made it up based on a flip remark from my mom that she probably never meant an ounce of harm by. I know she has no idea that this situation haunts my life to this day as my 6 year old self tries to make decisions in my grown up woman world. She said what she said, and I made up the rest. Should I have interpreted the scoff as a laugh instead? Perhaps she thought I was funny. Maybe she liked silly and I accidently took it as an insult. Regardless of what she meant, it was a defining moment for me. I had an experience of failing, of letting her down and of realizing that I wasn’t perfect. We’ve all had this experience somewhere around 5 years old, where we realize our happy, not a care in the world, oblivious toddler approach to life has come to an end. It’s not inherently bad, it’s just that it’s a made up story about who we are – and we live our lives by it. Like I said, parts of it are useful but much of that story does nothing but perpetuate a self created belief that I’m not enough. It holds me back. It makes me scared to try new things. And it keeps me in the belief that I may never be totally comfortable with myself. It bleeds into my body image issues as I fight with this deep-seated conviction that I’ll never have a good enough body, that I’ll always wish this part was smaller or that part was bigger or that I just plain looked different. I am inspired to write a new story – one where I make up, just like I did at 6 years old, a more useful story about myself. In my new story I feel whole, I feel good enough and I feel that it’s possible for me to love the body I have – no matter if it’s perfect or not. In my new story I fill the role as the comfortable, confident, peaceful woman I know I can be. In my new story, taking care of myself and my body is easy and produces great results that make me very happy. I am sure I’m already more like my new role than I realize, but it’s time to own it. It’s time to really be her and close the book on this old, tired tale that does nothing but weigh me down. So what’s your story?