“…We have come to be dancednot the jiffy booby, shake your booty for him dance
but the wring the sadness from our skin dance
the blow the chip off our shoulder dance
the slap the apology from our posture dance…”
-Jewel Matheson, We Have Come to be Danced
Besides being a cool poem, I think this illustrates the message I’m trying to convey with this website. It’s about dropping the need to perform for other people, and finding your real voice. But this poem also reminds me of how I lost it. This post will be about how we lose part of ourselves to the “Shadow” that I mentioned in my last post.
I was probably in middle school at the time. During my winter and summer breaks I’d sometimes spend a few days working with my dad. We did landscaping, or gardening. Whatever you want to call it. As much as it seems like it’d be easy, care-free work, I often found myself unable to keep up with the pace. My dad’s always took his job very seriously, carrying himself in a sharp, directed way. After all, his life always depended on gardening: he had to immigrate from El Salvador just to put something in his stomach. Growing up I always had a tray of cookies within arm’s-reach – I couldn’t really relate to that. Working out in the sun definitely wasn’t what I hoped to do when I grew up, and these experiences as a kid really made me sure of that. Not being the type who was always active outdoors, I was usually hunched over at work, showing terrible posture. As often as my dad had to correct me for it, I began to just accept that that’s who I was – just a low-status person in general. Frustrated by my lack of good posture, he’d repeatedly come over and pat me on the back saying:
“The more humble you look, the more they’ll want to step on your back. I can’t have them see you like this.”
In retrospect, he was just telling me what worked for him; how he survived and made it to where he is now. Most of our parents lived through rough times, often having to hold back any displays of emotion to avoid trouble. Wanting the best for us, they want to instill in us the lessons they learned along the way. He had great intentions, but ultimately it led to me having poor self image.
Or rather – me choosing a poor self-image.
I stuck to carrying that apology in my posture. I didn’t even acknowledge this as something I could change until I got to college. In my opinion we have two choices once we grow up and try to recreate ourselves: we can either overcompensate for what we were in the past, or we could embrace and adore that person, accepting that we can’t carry this dichotomy within ourselves.
As much as we hear the phrase “just be yourself,” we don’t get reminded of what’s at stake for doing so.
It does mean that some people won’t like you as you are. In my last post I mentioned how important it is to change your environment when it comes to improving your life and feeling more comfortable with yourself. I wanted to mention that books and a therapist aren’t really the best substitutes for a healthy environment in your personal life. But for a while that was all I stuck to. I wouldn’t mention my difficulty in accepting myself to my parents, mostly because I knew their obstacles in life were a lot more life-threatening.
One day while gardening with my dad I remember asking how he, with no English, made a living here in California:
Him: “When you’re hungry, you find a way.”
Me: “Well, what if I’ve never been hungry?”
He grinned at that question and simply said: “That’s worse”.
People like myself might not have grown up living in severe poverty. To me that meant that I shouldn’t really talk about any difficulties that I have. After all I have everything to be grateful for and shouldn’t complain. If there’s anything I want people to take from this post or website, it’s that your problems aren’t trivial, and you’re probably not alone. Hopefully, that allows us to accept that part of ourselves that we pretend doesn’t exist. Now, if I were to be completely honest with you, my shadow has little to do with the things that happened to me a decade or so ago. I think I’m comfortable enough with that part of my history to share it here. At the moment, there’s a lot things that I’m not comfortable telling people. Since I want to be transparent with my audience, I’ll tell them now:
1. I’m embarassed that as much as I want to start a business as a life coach, this blog with a few posts and a few insights is all I really have to show for it.
2. I haven’t applied to a single job since graduating from college (I didn’t want to give myself a way out of building this thing).
3. I’m still a gardener, after getting a degree that took me five years to earn.
Feels better already. With all that being said, I want to mention that this blog is for me to grow as a I write it. However, I want to invite more people to do the same. I want to help people get more comfortable in their own skin. To be a little more human and a little more shameless. If you want to join me, you can fill out the form to subscribe. Otherwise you can email me at:
Let me know how I can help!
Thanks for reading,