Walls that no longer serve us well

I skipped second grade. Actually, I completed first and second grade in the same year so technically I didn’t skip anything. But still, I was suddenly a year younger than my classmates and remember feeling totally weird in my own skin. I don’t know if you can recall those early years but to be in a different classroom with a different teacher felt a million miles away from my first grade class down the hall. I mean, in first grade kids were still eating pencil erasers. Second grade was downright sophisticated!

Mrs. Simington was my second grade teacher. She was so sweet. But I felt nothing but nerves, especially when it came to those timed multiplication tests. After all, I was supposed to be the smart kid. The girl who skipped a grade.

Other kids don’t like the girl who skipped a grade, as I’m sure you can imagine. And that sort of followed me year after year. I can’t recall the other kids actually doing anything to make me feel awkward but I know I was terribly self-conscious about my nerd status.

I assumed that no one liked me. Who wants to be friends with a nerd?

It probably didn’t help that I was totally timid when it came to gym class. I loved walking on that balance beam but the second we had to play dodgeball I tried to roll my body into an invisible ball so I wouldn’t have to wait to be picked, or try to play that stupid game.

Super nerd, huh. I carried that thought with me up through middle school and have pretty distinct memories of being made fun of for not wearing brand name jeans, for having glasses, and for getting good grades.

My freshman year, after much begging and pleading, I was allowed to wear contact lenses for the first time. I walked into English class and this boy who had always been mean to me looked and said:

Whoa! She actually looks good!

And thus affirmed everything I needed to know as a woman, or so I thought. To get out of this nerd rut I was going to have to use my looks. That was a rope, and I grabbed onto it in the form of Teen Magazine, Wet-n-Wild makeup, and gallons of hairspray.

I’m sharing this story because I see now how I built very useful walls at a young age to keep me feeling safe and secure. Indeed, brilliant structures!

Wall #1 was the mindset that no one liked me. As long as I assumed this, I could not get hurt. Wall #2 was the idea that I could be loved if I looked the right way.

And now, here I am, with these structures I so carefully built. Sometimes I don’t reach out and make new friends because of Wall #1. Sometimes I worry and stress and spend a lot of money on hair and skin products because of Wall #2. I think it’s appropriate to call them “Walls” because at one time they sheltered me and now they keep me shut out.

It’s a deep, probing question (maybe you wish I’d simply posted a recipe today!) but I think it’s truly worth considering:

What were the walls I built as a child to feel safe and secure? And, are these walls serving me now? If not, what are they keeping me from?

And then, brick by brick, the real work is to start taking them down.

Originally published at http://FindYourBalanceHealth.com

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