Today I received an email from someone who follows me on social media.
They wrote about how much they enjoy my writing and how it makes a positive difference in their life. It was a lovely note.
When I read this email two things happened simultaneously for me:
- I felt wonderful. Of course, who wouldn’t feel wonderful receiving such a kind email?
- I felt absolutely terrified. As in shit-scared. Freaked out.
Isn’t #2 an interesting reaction? There was nothing whatsoever in the email that would make me feel unsafe.
Why, when I receive a sincere complement do I feel so terrified that I have an out of body experience.
It feels like someone is seeing something that I try to keep hidden.
Without getting too analytical, I see myself as a little kid. About 3 or 4. And an important adult in my life tells me what a cute, good girl I am. Then I do something naughty typical of small children. I have a tantrum or I draw on the wall with a crayon, etc. And that same adult comes down on me like a ton of bricks.
The image is of a small green shoot coming tentatively out of the earth in response to the warm sun. And then, BAM, someone stomps on the shoot. Sometimes the shoot persists and grows stronger. Sometimes the shoot gives up and stays in the earth.
Obviously, if I were the shoot, I’ve been extremely cautious about coming up and out.
I’m not sharing this to do the “it’s my parents fault I’m messed up,” thing. My parents didn’t mean to mess up but they did. All parents do. Other people in authority messed up with me as well. But that was a long time ago and I’m no longer a vulnerable little plant. There are parts of me that are very strong and resilient. And every once in a while I’m reminded that there are vulnerable parts of me that have been holding back.
The point is that there are good reasons for why, much as we love the idea of “being fully ourselves,” “letting our brilliance shine out,” and “being our authentic selves,” that we stop ourselves from going there. I used the image of a spider because I know, rationally, that spiders are enormously beneficial. But I still run out of the room when I see one crawling next to me.
Those little green shoots need tending to before we can go all in. So I slow down and focus on helping that little shoot develop a root system so when it’s ready to come out it has a deep, strong foundation.
Developing roots is about remembering who I am and where I come from. I ask my ancestors to surround me and bless me. I ask the spirits of the land, the water, and of the mountains to support me. Those are my “first things” before I do anything else.
In appreciation for everything and everyone that create this foundation.