“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~Brené Brown
I believe that it is part of the human condition to want love and connection with others. For some of us this comes much more naturally and abundantly than it does for others.
The universal thing we all share is that at some point along our life journey, there will come a time when our self-worth is on the table for questioning.
I can clearly recall the first time my self-confidence was rocked. I was seven years old and full of energy, life, and good old-fashioned cheer.
I spent endless summer hours skipping rope, riding bikes, playing tag with the neighborhood kids, and had recently discovered the art of performing cartwheels on the back lawn—what a rush!
At the time we lived in a duplex. My mom was a single mom. My dad passed away when I was only six months old, leaving my older brother Eric and I behind.
Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but while my mom was the most amazing mom around, I didn’t have a male role model in my life and must have really felt that loss.
My mom and I still share a giggle over a story from when I was two years old. I very eagerly staggered out into the street during a holiday parade to profess my love or “wuv” for the policemen and firemen as they passed by.
It just so happened we had a police officer living next door to us. It was a warm summer evening and he had guests out on his deck enjoying a barbeque. I also just so happened to be outside once again, perfecting my cartwheel.
I remember gearing up to showcase them my newly honed skill. I composed myself and very deliberately set off down our bumpy, sloped lawn toward their deck.
I gave them one impeccable cartwheel after the other, without any break in between, until I reached the end of the lawn and the start of the blackberry bush.
I turned to face them with a victory smile and a silent “ta-da!” but instead of receiving anticipated applause and approval, I was met with roars of laughter and a snicker: “Wow, what a showoff this one is!”
I was instantly deflated and utterly crushed.
I clearly remember feeling the heavy pit in my stomach, and the accompanying sting of tears and hurt I fought back as the heat rose from my belly to my cheeks. At seven years old I stood there with my heart wide open, looking for approval only to feel squashed and ashamed.
Fast-forward another twenty-eight years and it all sounds a bit silly to me now, yet somehow the hurt is still quick for me to recall.
This was, of course, not the experience that taught me the great life lesson of expressing and honoring my worth as a human being.
That came much later with far more extensive bruises, bumps, and lessons, but this memory is one that stands out to me because it was the first time I ever thought to myself “Maybe I am not good enough, and maybe I never will be.”
I don’t believe there is a human out there that doesn’t have this inner child in them that yearns for the reassurance that they are okay. Most of us have had at least one experience somewhere along the line that has left the lingering question of whether or not we are good enough.
I think we all carry these wounds around with us. Some of us face unthinkable things and suffer from much deeper wounds and fears than others.
I guess the point is, at any given time we are surrounded by others that have felt insecure and unloved, that worry about being worthy of belonging and can relate to what may be one of our biggest fears.
I just can’t help but think if we all gave ourselves permission to not be so hard on ourselves, or to each other, the ride could be a little gentler. When we come back to that place in life where our hearts are open, we are less likely to be so critical of others and of ourselves.
The simple act of sharing a heartfelt smile with a stranger on the street, or praising a young child for being completely amazing by just being who they are, is empowering and contagious.
When we loosen our grip on our fear of looking foolish or not measuring up, and instead share our light and love with others, the magic of life seems to naturally unfold.
The best part is, we help give others the courage to do the same, to find their way back to remembering how totally awesome and worthy they are right now as they are.
I should add that while I never did become a gifted gymnast, I will on occasion bust out my best cartwheel moves on the back lawn with my kids, or on the beach just because. Now I always follow it up with a “ta-da” and a pat on the back I deserve for purely being human.
Photo by Louise Palanker