When I was growing up I was different. I don’t know any nicer way to say that. My mind was always in different places than other kids I knew. Kids thought I was weird.
When I was 4, my parents decided to pack us up and move back to the small Southern town I was born in. I felt like I’d moved to a foreign land. For a year after the move, when I went to sleep at night I dreamed I was still in California with the family I had grown up with until the move. My dreams were always sunny and cheerful, I was still at my old preschool, and everyone I loved surrounded me. In reality, I was now in a strange place, where people talked funny, all these strange people called me family, and other children thought I was the weird one.
There are so many directions I could take this post, but right now my thoughts are on what I learned about other girls during my years growing up. I could start listing them, but honestly it sounds like one giant list of stereotypes that I hate about girls . I don’t believe all those stereotypes now, because I know how we are fed them. But this was the 70’s and 80’s and there was no push for awareness and media literacy in a small Southern town in the Bible Belt. So what I learned was that I was different, and other girls did not like that, therefore I did not trust them. I did not generally keep a large group of trusted girl friends. I was more a serial best friender.
In college, I joined a sorority. Suddenly I had a group of women who I “belonged to”…we had fun, until my different came out. After graduation, I lost track of most of them for almost a decide. I became a professional, a mother, a grownup. In a city where I knew no one. When you’ve spent your whole life believing that you are different, and different is bad, it is not easy to put yourself out there and find friends.
Because by this point in your life, the voice telling you that you are different and that is bad is not the voice of another little girl who thinks it’s weird that you walk around singing all the songs of “Annie” while wearing a walkman. It is not the voice of the young woman who told you that a good person would never place their child for adoption, even if they are still in high school. It is not the voice of college women turning their backs on you over a personal argument with your best friend. The voice is now your own, and the sound of it is deafening.
BUT WAIT!!! This is not the story of the ride down, but the story of the journey back up! These are things I have learned in the past few years:
- Those other voices didn’t matter. The one that finally took me out was mine.
- That voice is nearly impossible to change alone. So you…
- Surround yourself with people who you admire and you learn. And in the process you…
- Learn that more people know exactly what it feels like to listen to that voice and feel different, which means you are not as different as you thought.
That last one, that was the big one. When you learn that you are not as different as you thought, you begin to look at people in a new light. Once you are no longer concerned with whether people are judging you or your choices, you stop judging yourself and others quite as harshly. When you let down those walls you built up, the magic happens. When you support other women, you find that they support you. When you speak kindly to other women, they are kind to you, and you learn to be kind to yourself. When other women are honest and let you in, you let them in to know the real you. The one you thought was so different.
And one day when other women tell you they love you, you believe them.
Today I am filled with gratitude for the women who love me. I am grateful that these women have taught me how to love myself more.