I’ve been seeing someone.
A psychiatrist. Or a psychologist. Or therapist. Or something like that. I don’t know what she is, actually. I’ve been seeing someone who’s trying to help me figure out my shit, okay?!? I’ve got some demons that I’m not so proud of, and I’m trying to expose them and learn from them and move forward from them.
For a long time, I have not recognized these demons that have laid dormant inside of me because in my “past life,” I was too busy being caught up in someone else’s life. I never really paid much attention to myself because I didn’t even matter to myself. It was this someone else’s needs that I allowed to matter above my own, all day, every day. Since that person has been out of my life, I’ve been smacked in the face with some of my own personal crap. It’s not very comfortable, sometimes, finding out that these things exist inside of me. But I’m learning to manage them. I’m learning to identify fears and patterns and recognize that I’m playing old patterns and I’m allowing–sometimes– fear to get in the way of my success– both personally and professionally.
Currently, I’m working on this nagging fear of not being “good enough.” I’m not a good enough teacher, friend, “plus one”, sister, daughter, cousin, whatever…I’m just not “good enough.” And so I’ve been reflecting on my life, trying to figure out where this feeling (or false belief) comes from, and trying to have some compassion for myself, and forgiving myself for having these feelings, and even giving myself a bit of a hug and learning that “I’m okay” in spite of– and maybe because of– my past interaction with life in general.
This three part series is about some of those discoveries– my earliest memories of not feeling good enough. The series will end with how I’ve learned to deal with those demons, what actually might have been happening in these moments that I describe, and what I now tell myself when these demons pop up in my current life.
Every Friday, I looked forward to Mr. Meckis’s arrival in my 6th grade classroom. An average-sized man with salt and pepper hair and a mustache to match, he just seemed so “soft,” approachable even; a kind and gentle man. He was our art teacher, and art was my favorite subject. As he modeled the projects we’d be working on in class, I marveled over his finesse, his keen ability to wield pen, pencil, crayon, paper, glue, whatever else was on hand.
Our class of 30 students would gather around our beloved art teacher at the front of the room while Mr. Meckis would first show us what we’d be making in class that day. I’d stare in awe and amazement that HE was going to be able to show ME how to make that very same thing. I mean, he was an ARTIST, I thought. How would he EVER get me, a mere mortal, to complete a project that he so easily and skillfully could create? Giddy with excitement, I watched him and earnestly paid attention to every step, every drop of glue, every crease of construction paper, with the intent on modeling his every maneuver when we were set free to work on our own projects, perfecting it as he had perfected his model.
And then we were sent to work at our desks, sent to re-create the masterpiece that he’d just demonstrated. I would work diligently. Meticulously. Being certain to follow each step, use the same amount of glue, and crease every piece of paper where it was supposed to be creased. I wielded my elementary school safety scissors, being careful to not cut too much but just enough.
I wanted this project to be beautiful.
And when I’d completed the project, I’d be pleased. I’d felt that what I had done was perfect. That I’d followed what I’d been instructed to do. So I LIKED what I’d created, was happy with what I’d accomplished.
But I also wanted to impress Mr. Meckis. I wanted to work hard for him and show him I could achieve for him because I admired him. And I wanted to show him that I was a good and diligent art student.
You see, Mr. Meckis would collect our art projects at the end of the class period. He’d then evaluate them and select what he called the “best ones” to be placed on display on either the classroom bulletin board or somewhere on the concrete block walls that made up the common areas of Pleasant Valley Elementary School.
I so desperately wanted my artwork to be on display.
I. So. Very. Desperately. Wanted. My. Artwork. To. Be. On. Display.
Because it would mean I had succeeded.
That I had pleased him.
That my work was outstanding and “above average.”
That what I had crafted, what I had so painstakingly followed every direction to make my project “perfect” had mattered.
And my work was never put on display.
It was never called out as being “the best.”
It was never publicly acknowledged as being “excellent” or “above average.”
Instead, my projects were always returned with a number grade on the back of it in Mr. Meckis’s chicken-scratch writing. I don’t even remember what grades I earned; I only remember that my work was never put on display.
In spite of initially being pleased with my own work, Lizzy would go home, after every art class, feeling defeated, with her art project in hand, feeling embarrassed by her work, wondering what was wrong with her. How could she have displeased her beloved art teacher?!? Where had she gone wrong?!? Had she missed a fold?!? Used too much glue?!? What happened?
This is my earliest memory of not feeling “good enough.”
To be continued…