Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world your beautiful self!

Exiling the No-goodnicks

This has been a rough week for me. I’ve actually managed to convince myself (at least for a bit) that the last 5 years have been a complete waste of time in which I accomplished nothing. Sound familiar? Well, read on.

As many of you know, I quit my nice, comfortable, secure Corporate job nearly 5 years ago to pursue a new career in writing. Yes, I was slowly dying from the job, the environment, the tedium, and not doing the work I loved to do, but it was secure so that’s a good thing, right?

At the time, I believed all the security in the world wasn’t worth how miserable and stressed it made me. I scoffed at losing a regular paycheck, vacation time, a 401(k), and a reason to get up and leave the house every morning to join my fellow commuters slogging down the freeway. And in my naive little heart, I believed I could find success before the money ran out.

How We’re Able to Provide Does Not Define Us

This week, I got a backhanded slap of reality when I faced tapping into my final resource in order to pay next month’s bills. That was when the side of me that abhors change took over. Soon I was convinced I’d accomplished nothing, helped no one (especially not myself), and was no closer to my dream than I was when I started. I was foolish, untalented, lazy…I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

The worst part, though, was when I went down the “nobody would care if I disappeared” path. That ugly, weed-filled, thorn-laden path that’s brought many a weaker soul to end their misery for good.

There are many things which stop me from following that path to the end, not the least of which is sparing my daughter the pain and the years of soul-searching and questions without answers I have, and will always live with since my parents’ suicides. Then of course there’s the fact that deep in my heart of hearts I don’t believe I’m beaten yet.

Recognizing Our Own Worth

As my friend pointed out, I’ve helped a lot of people with these emotional outpourings, both in print and on Facebook Live. Just because I’m not aware of the hearts and lives I’ve touched doesn’t mean I haven’t helped someone. The numbers might be paltry in the minds of those who look at numbers to determine influence, but there are some who read my posts all the time. So I must be doing something right.

The trouble is, a girl and her cats have to eat, and since my ability to keep the food bins full is suffering no small amount of threat to future filling, I started attaching my self-worth to my inability to provide. As if being an aspiring but as yet unpublished writer wasn’t enough!

But it doesn’t stop there. I sat here in my hermit hole surrounded by books, cats, and proof of my unworthiness to walk the same path as J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Brenda Novak, Jacqueline Carey, Stephen King, and more. I lost sight of how each one had to start with their first sale. And Anne McCaffrey didn’t start publishing until she was in her 50’s!

I don’t doubt at least a couple of them went through similar times when they stopped believing in themselves. Yet they must have gotten past it as we read their books today, and some are still pushing out new ones if not every year, pretty darned often.

Emerging Again, Battered But Not Broken

Coming out of the downward spiral into unworthiness is harder than it is to go in. Sliding down merely requires succumbing to the voices telling you you’re an imposter and won’t amount to anything no matter how hard you try. Getting out often requires an almost physical wrench to disengage from the voices and begin the long, slow trek out of the pit of despair into which you’ve sunk.

One of the most difficult parts of emerging for me is remembering there are people out there who care about me. That I do have people I can call who won’t see my need for help, or maybe just a good kick in the butt as in imposition, or worse, an added burden to their already challenging lives. Some things from my childhood are buried so deeply, it takes an earthquake level shakeup in my life for me to even recognize them.

When the Imposition is in Trying Not to Impose

This time around, I realize feeling like I’m imposing if I ask someone for help, or to just listen comes from so far back I don’t even remember the point where it began. I only know I’m more than willing to listen and possibly help if one of my friends is hurting and needs to unburden themselves. But if I’m the one who’s hurting and feels like the load has become too heavy to bear, I find it nearly impossible to reach out and ask for a steady shoulder or a listening ear.

My friends have given me hell about it on countless occasions, and I am getting better about asking for help, when it’s something physical like repairing something at the house. When it’s personal, emotional, and probably irrational, I seal myself in like a clean room in a science lab. I convince myself nobody cares if I’m struggling. Nobody wants to hear I’m not perfectly fine. Above all, no one wants to deal with me when I’m a weepy, soggy mess.

I’m the first to tell you it’s important to allow your friends to help you sometimes, just as you allow them

to need you. I say a lot of wise things I don’t follow myself. But in my defense, when I’m feeling really down like I have the last week or so, I manage to convince myself there’s no one in my life who really cares enough to let me fall apart on their watch. I start feeling detached from the crowd even when I’m doing one of my favorite things in the world with some of the kindest, most compassionate people I know; the dance community. Without a conscious thought, I remove my broken and battered self from their exalted sphere, not physically, but by erecting the walls I thought I’d destroyed long ago.

Our Misguided Sense of Safety

I’ve mastered the art of hovering on the edges, taking in the warmth and love everyone exchanges amongst themselves, but allowing none of it to reach my own needy heart. It’s all part of the long-held belief of undeserving. I know it’s wrong. I know it’s stupid. I know more than one of them would be over here, giving me crap if they knew I was returning to my inner hermit again. Yet still that voice inside me says “no, don’t bother them. They’re too busy to bother with you. They only like to be around you when you’re cheerful and positive.”

You, me, and anyone else who listens to that voice for even a nanosecond needs to tell it to STFU. It’s insidious and evil. It doesn’t care about anyone but itself, and thrives on our misery. The less we think of ourselves, the happier it becomes.

As my friend and mentor, Linda Clay says “we can’t be positive all the time.” I might add, it’s exhausting to always see the sunny side of things and never have moments when we let go of our Pollyanna exterior and pull out those insecurities and weak points. We need to learn to look at them a little more dispassionately is all. See them as specimens under a microscope instead of gigantic monsters hiding in the closet, waiting for a moment of inattention to bite off a leg or an arm.

We all have times when we just can’t get up the energy to show our positive side to the world. In my case, it’s when I pull out the masks without even thinking (another remnant of my childhood) and hide my pain behind a face that says “everything is perfectly OK. Don’t look too closely though. This face isn’t much more than paper and glue.”

Our Real, Imperfect Self is the Most Beautiful Person We Can Be

I use this forum not only to rip off my own masks and expose the dark and gnarly interior, but to let you, my readers know you don’t have to hide your imperfections. Whether you show them or not, your friends and some family know you have them. In fact, they’d appreciate it if you let them see those imperfections once in a while. It’s awfully hard keeping up with someone who always acts like life is one happy party. Life is a combination of good parts and crappy parts. Why share only half of yourself? What kind of friend holds back the most interesting parts anyway?

With a Grateful Heart

  1. I am grateful there are people in my life who recognize my downward spirals won’t stop without intervention.
  2. I am grateful for the opportunity to help other people, even if it’s only by showing my own warts.
  3. I am grateful for my writing which has kept my sanity loosely attached for many decades.
  4. I am grateful words are flowing from my pen again, even if they’re not the project I feel I should be working on.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendships I don’t always believe I deserve, a daughter who loves me even at my ugliest, my cats who never judge, but always comfort, the roof over my head, the food in my belly, and the possibilities I can’t yet envision.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers/clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

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