Let’s discuss my childhood awkwardness. Not that I’m not awkward now…but let’s focus on the past. We are going to travel back to high school.
I wore a huge jean jacket with a giant cat face on the back of it. I wore winnie the pooh overalls, and I wasn’t being ironic. I had a shirt that said “whatever” on the front, with “whatever is pure, whatever is noble…etc etc” on the back and every other “trendy” Christian shirt about 4 sizes too big. I played the piano, read books, went to youth group, and went to work. There was literally nothing in my life that my parents could ground me from if the need were to arise.
I struggle with social anxiety and ocd- and oh my goodness, people are so scary. I was able to make it through most of high school eating my lunch hiding in the choir room. Music basically got me through high school. It was my safe place, it was something I could trust. It was predictable and stable. Other kids could be cruel to me, but music kept me safe. No matter how mean or unpredictable high schoolers were, when I sang or played piano, I was part of something bigger than me, and I felt truly connected.
When I went away to college, music changed for me. It wasn’t safe anymore. It wasn’t something that my new college friends valued the way my high school friends did. I was so open and vulnerable when I went away to college. My heart hadn’t been broken, not really. Looking back, I think we were all a bunch of scared 18 year olds trying to act like we weren’t scared. In our fear of letting our hearts be seen, we tried to expose everyone else’s insecurities. If everyone is looking at how “weird” that kid is, maybe they won’t notice how terrified I am.
Unfortunately, no one told me this ahead of time. Honestly, I don’t think most people entered college with this knowledge. Maybe a lot of us didn’t get it until years later. Maybe, like me, you still struggle with it. Oh beautiful hindsight.
We all remember a turning point in our lives. When something we love lets us down. When our safe place is no longer safe. Mine was freshman year of college. I wrote a song and sang it in front of people. I had never performed something I wrote for anyone EVER. It was the scariest thing I had ever done in my life. I was being brave, I was putting myself out there.
It was a disaster. The powerpoint slide to go along with the song wouldn’t work (I had a powerpoint slide to go along with a song…it was a project for school, to be creative, but yeah…I was never “cool”). I was shaking and so nervous, and I had very little self confidence. But I did it. I got through the song. I sang something I wrote in front of a huge room full of 18 year olds. And then, someone, a friend (who again was probably as insecure as the rest of us) yelled “way to go ‘insert name of my crush'”. Our circle of friends knew who I liked…and my friend just shouted it out to the entire room. Boy crush was now covering his head in embarrassment and I basically ran out of the room crying. My song was used to hurt me. At that moment I hated music, it let me down.
Growing up, music defined me because everyone knew it was something I was good at. Something people appreciated about me. That moment, it was something used to break me. That single moment changed music for me. A few times in college, I tried to go back to it, but time and time again during those 4 years, it let me down. I auditioned for musicals and didn’t even make the chorus. I invited a friend to a play I was in, she left at intermission. I put myself out there and was let down. I think most people know that when you risk something, there is a huge chance that you will fail. That doesn’t make falling hurt less. The pain is real no matter how prepared you are for it to hit.
My worth was so invested in what other people thought about me, that I couldn’t enjoy something I had loved so much because other people didn’t appreciate it.
Now, I’m older, and stronger, but that scared and fragile little girl who struggles with being “good enough” still lives inside me. I’m able to look back on those moments and realize that the true problem wasn’t music. Music never let me down. It was my desire to be accepted. I was accepted through music in high school, but in college all the rules changed.
After quitting my job and having so much time in my head (because that’s where I hide from the small people who are ALWAYS THERE), I started reading more. During nap times, during downtime, while at the park- I read. I read because I love to read and that’s where I found Brene Brown’s (I have to mention her, she’s wonderful) profound work on shame and perfectionism. I am a perfectionist, and contrary to interview coaching that says you should use it as your “greatest weakness” because it’s actually a strength…perfectionism does not make you strong. Brown talks a lot about how “shame…loves perfectionists—it’s so easy to keep us quiet.”. I was easy to keep quiet. What if someone found out how much debt we have? What if they didn’t think my kids were well behaved enough? What if they don’t think I’m doing enough to help those around me? What if they saw the used furniture we have? What if they think I didn’t lose the baby weight fast enough? What if, what if, what if?
“If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither.”
I was so concerned about what other people would think all the time. I wasn’t trying to better myself, not really, I was trying to prove myself to others.
That’s why I’m writing again, I’m writing my thoughts, I’m writing music, I’m putting words to my shame and crushing it in my life so that I can truly live and love this short, wonderful life. I hope you like it, I hope it helps you know that you aren’t alone with your broken heart, but it’s not why I’m writing. That being said, words still hurt. That whole “sticks and stones thing”- it’s crap. It still sucks when someone doesn’t like me, when someone doesn’t appreciate me, but when it’s not my reason for doing something, I can move past it without crumbling.