The thing that strikes me the most about the way I deal with self expression, self confidence, and pursuing my dreams, is that I remember there was a time when I was totally different than I am now. When I was younger, instead of shying away from the spotlight and telling myself that I wasn’t good enough, I used to run towards it. Instead of telling myself that my dreams and desires had to be “reasonable,” I allowed myself the have big and seemingly impossible dreams. Additionally, I actually had the faith in myself to believe that I could make those dreams happen if given the chance. It has been a very long time since I have been this person…but I remember her. I just don’t really know how I stopped being her. It had to have happened slowly, because there is no way that I wouldn’t remember if there was some major defining moment that suddenly changed me into a totally different person.
I have already gone into my childhood issues with my mom unintentionally instilling fear and doubt in me because she was trying to protect me from failure and rejection. However, I think that this weeks shadow work is going to require me to go back into it a bit more. I think that all of this is somehow connected, and I get the feeling that I’m missing something.
I suppose that since the Ace of Wands represents big dreams and opportunities, I should probably take some time to explore the “dreams” that I have had in the past. I want to try to pinpoint when I stopped believing that I could achieve big things.
When I was growing, all I ever wanted to do was sing. From the time I was you young child, to the time I reached my early 20’s. It’s all I wanted to do. When I was little, I was shy to sing in front of others but I would ultimately belt it out when asked. I knew I that I was good, and I loved when people would tell me that. I suppose this probably ties into my desire for validation and praise, but I won’t go into that again here. I remember asking my mom all the time IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL if she would help me to get voice lessons or take me to additions and casting calls. I know now that we were poor and couldn’t afford things like that, but the girl that I was back then was so sure of herself, she knew that if she only had a shot she would be able to make it happen. However, my mothers hesitance, either from financial struggle or wanting to protect me, instead made me feel like she didn’t believe in me. Because I wanted her approval so bad, I think that those were the moments when I slowly stopped believing in myself.
I already talked about the cheerleading debacle, when I tried out for the team but my mom consistently tried to discourage my excitement just in case I didn’t make it. Today I want to go into a similar event when my mother actually did support me only for another family member to knock me down. When I was in 6th grade, my Granny (great-grandma), who I had grown up sharing a bed with, passed away. I didn’t exactly know how to respond to the news. I guess everyone deals with death in strange ways. Half the time I didn’t really feel anything about it, it just was. Other times, I felt sad but struggled to force an external reaction. However, all of that aside, I loved my Granny and I was sad that she was gone. With the encouragement of my mom, I decided that I wanted to sing her favorite song at her funeral, Amazing Grace. By this point, I had already developed a strong fear of judgement and rejection, but this was something that I wanted to do for my Granny so I sat all of that aside. My mother’s sister Shandra was controlling all of the funeral plans, as a type A person she was really good at things like that. My mom called her to ask her if I could sing at the funeral, but the conversation did not go at all as I expected it would. My aunt told my mom that she didn’t think that it was a good idea because she did not think that the funeral should be used as an opportunity for me to show off my singing (or something along those lines.) When my mom tried to argue, my aunt said that she was worried that I would get up in front of everyone and start crying, or that I would freeze and not actually go through with it. She said that if I was allowed to sing, they would have to ask ALL of the grandkids and great-grandkids if they wanted to do something. No matter what my mom said, my aunt had 10 more reasons for why it would never work. I remember being really hurt by this. I felt rejected by my aunt, but the whole experience just provided me with more confirmation that I shouldn’t put myself out there.
Up until middle school, the dreams that I went out for usually worked out, aside from my mom trying to instill doubt to protect me. However, when I reached middle school I had already developed an unhealthy amount of self doubt and fear. Not to mention, during this time, the things that I went out for stopped working out in my favor. I was so excited that my middle school had a drama class, but when I tried out for the spring musical and was assigned a nonspeaking role, I only took it as further confirmation that I was no good. I joined the basketball cheerleading team because it was the only one that didn’t require a try out, but at one of the games I overheard the coaches making fun of me because apparently my spirit fingers looked like I was giving the nazi solute…so I quit the team the next day. I tried out for the volleyball team but didn’t make it. It seemed like I was failing at everything by this point. It certainly didn’t help that I was also struggling academically throughout all of this. By the time I reached high school, I was done. Though I still wanted to be a singer, I no longer had any intention of going out for it because I simply didn’t believe that it could happen. I didn’t try for anything any more. What was the point? Things were really off with my mom at this time. As I said in an earlier post, she seemed to approve of me when I achieved things and fit into an image that she liked, but yet she discouraged me from going for things because she didn’t want me to be hurt by failure. By the time she and the world had successfully taught me to be afraid to try and to doubt myself, she no longer seemed to approve of the person I had turned into. She hated that I was depressed and pessimistic and that I had no drive to do anything with my life. She hated my dark style and my morbid ways of self expression. I guess she missed the part where she helped to turn me into that person.
I remember the last moment that I had any real hope for my future. In the 11th grade, we all had to take a career aptitude test. I LOVE personality based tests so I was really looking forward to taking it. It was the first and only time that I had gotten any help to try to determine what to do with my future. However, I was destroyed when the results came in. While other people got results telling them that they would make good lawyers, teachers, and doctors, my test results said that I may enjoy a career in retail management, in the food service industry, or in hotel management. There is NOTHING wrong with those careers, I want to make that clear. However, in that moment, those results took everything that I had left in me and crushed it. Throughout all of my experiences with self expression, self confidence, and dreams that I had for my life, the world constantly told me to make myself smaller. The world told me that for some reason or another, I would only ever be cut out for a mediocre life…I better get used to it. In fact, now that I am thinking back on it, I remember one of my elementary school teachers telling me that plain as day. I was a sensitive kid with big feelings and passions. One day, my fourth grade teacher separated me and my best friend, sending her to be in a group with the “advanced” students and sending me to be in a group with the slower paced students. When I started crying, she pulled me out of the classroom and said, “Your heart is about this big *outstretches arms really wide*, and you need to shrink it down to be about this big *makes a small heart with her fingers*. If you don’t, the world is going to eat you alive.” I guess she wasn’t entirely wrong.
Within a few months of taking that career aptitude test I had dropped out of school and gotten pregnant with Brent. From that point on, I though that it was my job to build my life around my kids and husband. It is important to put your kids first but you have to make time for you to be you. I didn’t do this. I tried to go to college three times but dropped out each time. I first tried to pursue psychology but told myself I would never be able to see the schooling through to the end. Next I tried human services as a more sort term branch of psychology…but I hated it. Then I tried to be a English major because I am okay at writing college essays and I love to read, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a job in the field so I quit. Now I am just trying to get through it by getting a basic associates degree.
I am super self conscious, I have no confidence, and I am afraid of judgement and failure. Not to mention, I see myself as a supporting role in everything instead of the leading lady. I don’t try to get better at things because I already think that I’m not good enough before I even get started. Self expression to me is a picture that I am painting for the world rather than a picture I am painting for myself…and I am a terrible artist. Why express myself when my expression may not be received well, or at all, by others? Why have dreams when time and time again I have fallen short of achieving them?
I don’t want to be that person any more.
Going though some of my childhood shit, it is clear to me that I was the victim of a lot gatekeeping. Say what you want about today’s “every kid gets a trophy” generation, but those will be the kids who grow up to believe that they can do anything. They aren’t having to grow up being told that their best isn’t good enough or that they aren’t allowed to engage in dreams and different forms of creative expression just because they don’t fit societies idea of “good enough.” Today, if a kid wants to be a singer, all they have to do is go buy a mic, some computer software, maybe learn an instrument or learn to mix beats online and BAM! They can then upload their music to the internet. Fancy equipment aside, all manner of singers, actors, comedians, writers, dancers, artist, and more can put themselves out there online and do their thing freely. This is not to say that these kids won’t experience rejection. To the contrary, the internet actually opens up the flood gate for all sorts of trolls and hate to come through. However, It also allows people to have free access to a place to express themselves and it opens them up to a whole world of people that they can connect with. No longer do they have to rely on the gatekeeping of a small and local group of people, they can go out and find a group that accept them somewhere else no matter their “skill level.” Hell, they can even create their own brand/market/page and bring the community to them.
I may be getting off track a bit, but my point is that it is no one’s place to exclude or judge another person’s self expression. Self expression, creative or practical, is not something to be closed and gatekept based on skill level. Creativity is not supposed to fit in a box and it isn’t supposed to follow rules. It should be free and flowing. We are ALL creative in our own ways, and should not be told to stifle ourselves because it doesn’t fit someone else’s ide of “good enough.”. Self expression is a vital part of the human experience and is firmly tied to our sense of identity and self confidence. When did self expression become something that was judged based on skill and gatekept so harshly? It has been that way my whole life. In everything I have tried to do, for every dream that I have tried to chase, I was always forced to first prove my worth so someone else who had no place or right to judge me.
No one has the right to judge my self expression, something that should be free flowing and unique, against some fabricated list of qualifications designed to determine one’s worth. Additionally, no one has the right to place a cap or time limit on what I can achieve in my life. At any age, at any time, I can have big dreams and take steps to pursue them. Who is anyone to tell me that I’m not good enough to do what I want to do in life? It is MY life after all, and who says you have to be good I something to do it. I think that we should do things because we love them and have a passion for them, not just because we are good at them. No one has the the right to deplete my self confidence and confuse my sense of identity by condemning and judging the way I express myself. My self expression and self confidence is not defined or dictated by anyone else’s standards for “worthiness.” Because I am human, because I exist, I am worthy of my right to express myself and go after the life that I want. I always was.
Why am I so afraid of the thoughts and opinions of people who have NO RIGHT to judge me or to determine what I do with my life?
Possibility is all around us, the only time it leaves us is when we choose not to open to door to it. (action)
These shadow work posts are truly intended for my own self discovery and improvement, but I thank those of you who took the time to read this. I will be continuing my work with the Ace of Wands for the rest of the week OR until I feel that it is time for me to move onto another card/shadow aspect.
Love Always, AnxiouslyM