‘Growing old is unavoidable, growing up is optional’
I feel, at the age of 51, that I might just be growing up! Surprising huh?! I realised this morning that some of how I used to perceive myself was based on a job that I had (which I absolutely loved). These days I am not working in that role and so don’t have the luxury of attaching my self worth or my identity to my occupation. And that’s a wonderful thing because it has caused me to have to face who I am without that identity attached, and in so doing, to address some issues around self worth and who I am.
I’ve battled with self worth, recognition and self validation for as long as I can remember. I have childhood memories of having to be good and never quite being good enough. And yet friends from my childhood would say ‘you were always the good one’ but I always felt that I was never really ‘good enough’.
When I was in my third year at high school, my best friend was top of the class in everything, the top student in my year, and that encouraged me to study and I worked really hard. I remember bringing home my school report and for the first time ever I got straight A’s across all my subjects. I used to do well at school but this was the best report I’d ever had. I showed my school report to my parents. I don’t remember my mum’s response (so guess it must have been ok) but I remember my dad saying “There’s not much point reading that, I know what’s going to say”… and so he didn’t. He knew my school reports were good -why would this be any different? I was hurt by his dismissive attitude, and his lack of interest. It’s probably one of those throw away comments he never thought of again and one which never registered in his conscious mind as being memorable, let alone being an opportunity to praise an achievement or encourage me to keep going.
And probably, it reinforced my sense of not being good enough. As a child I was very aware of right and wrong, good and bad, and surprise, surprise, I wasn’t a perfect child. But putting time into my studies was one way that I could achieve academically, even if I couldn’t manage to be continuously good. And I guess I thought that would count for something in the goodness stakes, or bring me some recognition – but it didn’t.
As I got older Ive become aware of how important recognition is to me. I have always longed for it – and in my mind it has always been attached to my sense of self worth and self validation. Almost as if I need you to tell me I’m ok before I’m going to believe it.
Is this one of the underlying reasons I’ve used food and/or alcohol to dull the issues, to ensure that I cared less about what I felt about myself? In latter years I’ve always thought that deep down inside, there were bits of me that I didn’t really like, that caused me to behave in certain ways because of my beliefs regarding my self worth, my sense of my true value.
The past few months have been awesome in terms of facing issues about myself without the attachments of a respectable profession, without the ‘aids’ that food and alcohol have provided in the past. I have chosen to look at me from a different perspective, to look afresh at who I am, what I believe in, what matters to me, what brings me joy, what is it about me I don’t like – and why that might be. I am very much a work in progress but I am taking stock, and taking small steps, and learning the picture of me – without judgement, with acceptance, with an open mind. And I’m proud of that. And maybe, as I learn more about Me, I’m maturing, maybe even growing up! 🙂