One of my biggest, most formative wounds happened when I was in the sixth grade. I was part of a triad of friends, three besties that played together every recess, went home together after school and told each other every last secret.
Until one day when everything changed.
I arrived at school to find these friends had gone cold. When I asked what was wrong, they simply declared that they weren’t friends with me anymore. That was it. No warning, no fight that preceded it. Just a simple fact: You’re out.
I was bereft and grieved hard. I wondered what I did wrong. I wondered what was wrong with me. I wracked my brain trying to figure it out.
A few days later, they started calling me names – saying I looked like a monkey, mocking me for wearing designer jeans. It was an incredibly painful time and it wounded me deeply.
But here’s the thing – the damage to our spirit always lives in the story we tell ourselves.
Shit happens. People behave badly. They bully, they call each other names, they act unskillfully. People do what they do. What we decide about ourselves in those moments is what matters most.
I could have decided a lot of things that day – that it wasn’t safe to make friends, that I was a terrible person, that I was ugly.
What I gathered instead was that they were envious — that the boys gave me attention, that my mother bought me nice clothes, that I got good grades. The message I got was clear- Don’t be too much. Don’t be too smart or too pretty or too sparkly. Keep your head low and people won’t hate you. Don’t outshine your friends or you won’t have any.
That story has haunted me. And crept its way into every aspect of my life. There is a ceiling on how much success I allow myself to have or how much I allow myself to enjoy my success. If I do achieve a big win, I find myself talking about how hard it was, or how it took a lot of work and struggle. I want people to know it didn’t come easily, that I suffered. I’m often afraid others will feel diminished by my success.
Years ago, at a women’s creativity group, we did an exercise where we had to go around the circle and “brag” about our creative successes to date. I was terrified… and had a FULL ON breakdown during my turn. I sobbed and couldn’t even get the words out. They had to skip me. Hello emotional landmine!
I can see now that I have been trying to heal this wound for so many years.
Part of my healing process has been to surround myself with circles of women who want me to be big, who want me to shine, who want me to be the best version of me. They want this because it inspires them, it lifts them up, it gives them permission to be big as well. They want this because they know that keeping me tethered keeps them tethered too.
Sometimes we have to do a big re-wiring job on our brains. We have to first notice those limiting beliefs- the ones that hold us back from being our true selves, our deepest selves, our shiniest selves. And then we have to say, No more! That belief no longer serves me. It no longer keeps me safe, it actually keeps me down.
And then we write a new story.
Mine is this: The more I shine, the more others shine in my presence. The more success I have, the more I inspire others.
Does anyone else relate to the crime of outshining? Do you have a new story you need to write?