My parents (a.k.a. Santa Claus) gave my sister and I snow skis for Christmas. They were actually more like steel snow shoes, wide and stubby – made more as children’s toys than sports gear. My sister was anxious to “hit the slopes,” so my parents bundled us up, took us out into our hilly back yard, and set us upon our skis. The slope of the hill was gentle, the snow soft. I fell almost immediately – I giggled.
What looked like joy was in fact a defense mechanism. I did not know how to ski, and I was deathly afraid that my inability would disappoint my parents, or worse that they and my sister would laugh at me for falling. So, I giggled. I sat on that gentle slope, half buried in the soft snow, giggling. My sister also began to giggle, and then she fell. Before long everyone was laughing uncontrollably. We never actually made it down the hill. There are pictures of the brief moment when my sister and I were successfully standing on our skis. We appeared to be laughing. I was terrified and embarrassed. I never again put on those skis.
I am not sure how, but I recognized early how limited by my fears I could be, and I knew that I had to fix that. I approached the problem in the only way I could conceive. I began forcing myself to do things that scared me. Early in my school career, I entered a string program learning the violin, which forced me to appear in front of people. When I mastered that (appearing in front of people… not the violin), I began competing in solo competitions, exposing myself even further. Later on in school, I joined the choir and then a show choir (oh yeah… I was a stud), and eventually began performing both in string ensembles and singing groups at events outside of school.
When I entered high school, I was a seasoned performer, but my fear of speaking to people was still overwhelming. Theater was out of the question due to my commitment to music (the practices overlapped), so I joined Junior Achievement and Toastmasters. I took public speaking classes. I did door to door sales. I once volunteered to act as a raffle ticket “hawker” at an art fair dinner, which forced me to aggressively sell to dinner attendees. No one ever told me to do these things. I simply knew that I had to prove I could. I repeatedly and almost compulsively forced myself into situations of which I was terrified, pushed myself to do uncomfortable things, and made myself excel in every one.
What I am beginning to realize is that I solved only part of my problem. I made myself successful, but I never learned to take satisfaction from my accomplishments. I never learned to recognize my own self-worth, but instead continued to use my accomplishments as a way to seek other people’s approval and praise. My fears diminished, but my unhealthy need for validation and approval never healed.
I am now trying to change my life for the better. For the first time, I am trying to embrace the parts of me that I have always hidden for fear of the rejection they might breed. I am learning to like who I really am, but I am also learning that old habits die hard. I have approached transition the same way I approached my childhood fears, and I am getting the same result. I keep pushing myself into uncomfortable situations whether or not I feel ready to deal with the ramifications. I keep telling myself that I need to deal with all of this sooner rather than later, that I cannot wait until I have achieved a comfort level… that I cannot achieve a comfort level until I have faced down the demons of fear and discomfort. I am behaving like “a man on a mission” rather than a woman loving herself. This is exactly how I formed the false person who ruled the first four decades of my life, and I have been feeling the same sense of frustration over my lack of “results.”
Finally, though, I think I am realizing that I cannot build a better house the same way I built the faulty one. Maybe I need to stop pushing myself into the world and looking to the world for the acceptance and validation that I have not given myself. Maybe I need to stop forcing myself into transition time lines, and start letting myself flow toward my own womanhood. I have to find the peace inside of me and let that flow out. The fact is I am already a woman. I have always been a woman. The outer manifestation of that will come in its own time, and when that time comes, the transition will flow naturally. Until then, I need to let it be (thank you John, Paul, George, and Ringo).
Above all, I need to remember that I do not need to prove anything to anyone, including myself.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!