I’ve never been very good at staging things. I forget to give myself an advantage, or really “own” an opportunity. Tonight I was trying to get a cute photo of my son and daughter holding their baby dolls (a rare occurrence). My daughter didn’t like some of the toys in the area or how they looked in the photo, so she took her arms and pushed all of them off the area in one swoop. I wish I had those ideas sometimes, to go “big” and just move the crap that’s getting me down out of the way. She did that and then posed her heart out.
Sometimes part of me feels it a little contrived, unfair, or dishonest to crop out the “bad” part of life. But I think a deeper part of me is just waiting for permission — permission to shine, permission to live fully, permission to feel happy or proud. When I take photos, I often wish someone would tell me how to pose, because I feel embarrassed to pose with confidence.
Marianne Williamson has a popular quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
This quote has always resonated with me. I think I have always been afraid of my mother’s disapproval, or her jealousy, and so a part of me has been too afraid to shine and give it my all. I’ve had moments where I’ve gotten past the fear, but more often than not I give in to it. I shrink among others, unless I know that someone wants me to succeed.
I secretly tell myself that I can have good things once I crawl on broken glass to get there. (Once, I literally crawled on glass after breaking a candle and feeling so ashamed that I fell to the floor to clean it up.) I do this in many metaphorical ways though, too: I share the most negative details about myself as soon as possible, making interactions awkward; I don’t take shortcuts and often do things in the hardest way possible, with the fewest resources, because I “should”; I ask for advice from people I know will criticize instead of those who will support or help, etc.
The contrast of how I approach life compared to others has been revealed to me recently by some of my new acquaintances. Many of them are wealthy, beautiful, and confident. They don’t air their dirty laundry or admit many of their flaws. In some ways, their lives felt too “staged” to me, but I also respect their ability to shine in a shameless way. The other day, I felt like I needed to shrink around them. But why? I’m glad I’m finally able to ask myself that question. There is room for all of us to shine and build one another up. This applies to how I relate to my mom, too. My potential happiness does not block hers. I’m not doing her any good by shrinking or drowning in self-hatred or by making my life harder than it needs to be. Even if she wants me to, it’s not doing either of us any good.
I’ve read that narcissistic mothers can view their daughters as a competition (i.e. Daughter 2.0). I believe this has been true for me, and wanting my mother’s love has made me ashamed of my successes and afraid of joy. I don’t want to take joy from her, or have it if she doesn’t. I want her to want good things for me. As I mature, I realize it’s actually my duty to take my life and run with it… I don’t need her permission. I can stage the environment to look good when appropriate. I can make the best of a situation. I can shine. It’s okay to create a life I love.
This in itself is frightening when you aren’t used to it… but what growth comes from staying comfortable?
How about you? Have you felt yourself shrinking in order to gain another’s approval? How has this worked out?