The other day, I was posting some photos to flickr, and I stumbled across some stunning photos. Curious, I clicked on the photographer's profile. To my surprise, the she's a senior in high school. I then realized that her little sister - just 14 years old - has a photostream too, and her photos are just as gorgeous.
It got me thinking about when I was 18, and about how self-conscious and uncertain I was - how my heart was often filled with fear, how I was constantly questioning my self-worth, how I doubted my abilities. I did not have the courage to expose my creative inclinations. In fact, I doubted that I had any at all.
It has just been in the past 5 years or so that I feel like I've started to uncover who I really am. Before that, instead of living in the world authentically, I felt paralyzed and exhausted by constantly trying to figure out what I thought other people wanted me to be. I spent a good bit of my energy trying to live up to those expectations. And I nearly lost myself.
Over the past year, I had the good fortune to be able to spend my days peering deep down into the caverns of my soul, searching for neglected dreams and unrealized hopes that may have gone missing during my years of babyloss. I worked with a life coach who helped me ask myself really challenging questions and who nudged me forward into the unknown. I sat in stillness more than I have in years. I listened to what my heart whispered. I tried my best to spend my days doing what I wanted to do instead of what I thought I should do.
For the first time ever, I found myself engaged in creative play. You know, the kind where you can separate yourself from expectations of a particular outcome, and just lose yourself in the process. This everyday creative engagement let me practice approaching my entire life in a new way. I began to see myself differently. I was able to release a good bit of the fear I have been harboring for so many years. I uncovered strength that had been buried beneath the piles of rubble that fear had littered around my heart. There is much more work to be done, but I recognize that I have come a long way. I feel lighter. I feel awake. I feel alive.
This work of excavating my spirit, of building my confidence, of embracing my unique gifts and of recognizing my individuality seems so much more important now that Thea is in my life. I want to be an example of strength and confidence for her. I want to be the kind of woman that I hope she will grow into. I want her to live fearlessly, to feel confident in the unique brightness she brings to the world. I don’t want her to be so afraid.
And so I wonder...How did self-doubt come to hold me captive? When did meeting the expectations of others become more important than being true to myself?
Who would I be today if I hadn't been so afraid?
[And what was I so afraid of anyway?]