“What am I doing wrong? I don’t know
Now what’s the matter with me?
Am I right? Am I wrong?
I must try to be strong.”
I Don’t Know, Paul McCartney (Egypt Station)
Who were you before the world got its hands on you?
If that question doesn’t make you stop and gasp for air for a second I don’t know what will. I recently saw a longer quote (see image tied above) by Emily McDowell that is in reference to finding yourself buried under the layers of conditioning put upon ourselves to achieve perfection and mold us to who we think we should be. Blame society, peers, employment norms, social norms, images we get shoved down our throat 24/7 of how beautiful, thin and happy we should be and blah, blah, blah.
I can relate to this statement wholeheartedly…..and…well…it hurts.
Part of my living and breathing program in recovery is to be open, honest, vulnerable, and to own my shit good and bad. To own my resentments. I resent myself for building an identity that I had to be perfect. I blame no one for it either, but saying it out loud and acknowledging it takes the power away from it. I don’t know where I got this on going idea that life was never “good enough” if I wasn’t dressed perfectly, always appeared happy, and always working hard at something. No room for feelings or humanness. Perfect opportunities to backslide into a glass turned into boxes of wine countless times to fill the void of never feeling good enough at anything. Excuses compounded with justification with behavior I am not proud of. Lash out, recoil, and cry it out alone. Apologize, slap on another mask to appear normal. Push start and repeat the cycle.
Who was I really before the world got its hands on me?
I remember being a curious, hyper-aware, and sensitive little girl. I also remember being told many things that stifled away that energy and made me feel bad at a young age. I remember hearing in school (kindergarten) that “big girls don’t whine or cry.” This had to have manifested in me somehow. I really remember taking this one to heart. To the point that I had a vivid memory at the age of 6 years old of walking into my parents room behind my 4 year old sister one morning to my Father telling me that my Grandma Weber had died. My sister started bawling and reached out for comfort. I stood there in a daze, stoic. I remember the words in my mind “big girls don’t cry” and pinching my arm hard to make sure I didn’t. I held it in until I was alone later. So my very first experience with grief was stifled, suppressed. It hurts my heart to go back and admit that.
I’ve carried that through most of my life. The ability to suppress things. I am either strong, stoic and capable (“perfect”) or I completely come unglued and ugly girl cry or yell. There was never an in between. A perfect recovery soldier, model citizen, or a spiraled out of control drunk. Put together perfection or a complete mess.
Its exhausting. I don’t know how to sit still and just be very well at all. Yesterday I had to spend some downtime resting due to an allergy flare up and I hated it. I felt lazy all day. I snapped at loved ones, was on edge, and even made myself go for a walk. Its all about achieving things on a to do list for me when I’m not feeling myself at times. Achievement based living isn’t the way to be. My body needed rest and I listened to it? Who am I trying to impress anyways?
Part of why I share all of this is I know I am not the only person that feels this way. We live in this societal world where perfection and overworking is awarded and taking time to care for ourselves often isn’t. (Listen or read some Brene Brown for further reference.) I see it everyday and I am very guilty of it myself. Checking off certain boxes doesn’t heal you, it covers up what hurt you in the first place.
So how is there relief once you recognize this?
I believe we are all born with a God sized hole and with God as my higher power I need to learn to turn it over to him more instead of grasping for more control. I was told today to “turn my pain into purpose” during an online counseling session. Its okay to feel things as a person and be as human as you need to be. I love people like that. The ones that keep it real. Its okay to nap, rest, cry, laugh, go without make up, eat ice cream, and enjoy life. Its okay to not be at a perfect 10 all the time. The perfectionist in me wants to scrap this blog and put it in my skelton closet of drafts. Why? Because it may not be as pretty and polished for the world as it should be.
Bury the shoulds, bury them 60 feet deep instead of 6. Listen to your favorite music, connect with someone you love, get outdoors, write out some feelings and do something that makes you feel like an unpolished version of yourself today. I can promise you, that you are worth it and it will help you along the way.