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. Part one can be found here: Mr. Meckis and His Technicolor Art Projects
Coach wanted, perhaps more than anything, to win.
And who could blame him? Our high school basketball team won many division titles. We were state champs, too. We were nationally-ranked as one of the top 10 high school girls’ programs by the USA Today. In 1987, Coach had been awarded as top high school girls’ basketball coach in the country.
The stakes were high, and I’m certain the pressure of being at the top of the ladder was insurmountable for him at times.
But he wanted to win.
And he instilled this desire to win in all of his players as well, and so we wanted to win, too. We were also work-horses, whether we wanted to be or not. Coach was tough. Practices were grueling. Games were even tougher. Half-time locker room “motivational speeches” were sometimes much less than motivating. During one of these half-time chats, Coach, red-faced and steam pouring from his ears, screamed and hollered to let us know that we– and our play so far– were “about as useless as tits on a bull!” He went on to inform us that we were “busy stinking up the entire gym” (one of his favorite lines) and that everyone in the crowd would probably go home because our play was so terrible. After these, uh, critiques, were offered, I looked to my teammate, Susie who was sitting beside me, and we both dropped our eyes to our high tops, hoping to quiet the part of us that just wanted to bust out laughing at his momentary lapse of sanity. Sometimes, we didn’t take him very seriously.
Coach could be cruel, but he also could be kind. He would joke around with us players, but when it came time to get serious, he was the most serious one on the court. With him, my teammates and I came to very intimately know what “tough love” was all about.
I loved basketball. Breathed it. I’d practice shooting, everyday, during the off-season. I’d run 4 miles a day to try to stay in shape for the upcoming season. I’d play in summer league games. In season, I’d work my ass off at practices. I’d memorize plays, practice drills, and challenge my teammates. My “boxing out” game was on-point, and I was not shy about knocking over one of my own teammates if it came down to fighting for a loose ball. I had two goals in mind: to make varsity and to be in the starting line-up.
During my sophomore year, I’d only made junior varsity, but I wasn’t discouraged; I figured there was still “next year.” And the next year came, and in preparation for the upcoming season, I’d worked my ass off again, hoping to make varsity and the starting line-up.
But I didn’t.
That summer of my junior year, Coach sent us to basketball camp. Every summer, he’d send us to the most top-notch camps along the east coast. Division one coaches from all over the country were invited to scout there, and I was nervous and excited all at the same time. I was already having a hard enough time impressing Coach; what would these other college coaches think of me?
Turned out, though, that I’d had the best camp experience, hell, the best basketball experience, of my life. During that week, I’d won multiple camp awards. I won a foul shooting contest; I was “best defender”; I had high score in every scrimmage I played in. I was frigging SHINING at camp. I had surprised– and even impressed– myself. And that was always a hard thing for me to feel about myself. Jumping forward in this little story, it’s also important to note that as a result of that camp experience, after we’d packed up our bags and headed home, within weeks, I’d received multiple letters from division one college coaches, initiating discussion that I come play for their respective universities. I got letters from Georgetown, Princeton, William and Mary, and some others that I’ve since deleted from memory.
At the end of that camp week, all of the high school coaches were invited to watch us play in the final scrimmages and to rub elbows with the college coaches in hopes of maybe getting a signing deal for their players. The camp counselors advised us to tell our coaches about our successes that week at camp.
I didn’t tell Coach about my successes.
Even at the urging of my teammates who often felt like I’d been overlooked by Coach, I remained silent. I thought that Coach wouldn’t believe me. Even though I had the certificates to “prove” my outstanding performance that week, I didn’t think he would believe me. I assumed that based on my performance back home and my inability to impress him that he would not find anything I’d accomplished during that camp week to be good enough anyway. I figured he’d think my camp experience was just a fluke, a luck of the draw; not because I had any sort of “skill.” I figured it wouldn’t change the fact that I still wasn’t good enough to be varsity material.
But then it was my senior season. Varsity status was a given at this point, and I’d felt a sense of failure because I hadn’t earned it, but rather it had been handed to me, simply because I was finally a senior. And the next part was also unearned: I’d made the starting line-up.
But wait, you say,…Liz, you achieved your goals– to be on varsity and make the starting line-up….what gives?!?
There were only three “big girls” on the team (a perhaps unkind moniker Coach gave to those of us who played forward and center), and at 5’9 and 140 pounds, I was one of them. My best friend also was a “big girl,” but right before the season began, she fell prey to serious injury and would not be able to play. But in Coach’s game strategy, he needed two big girls. I “won” that much sought-after starting position by default. It wasn’t earned; it was handed to me.
When Muss returned from injured-reserve, I quickly lost my starting position. In fact, I quickly lost my access to any sort of playing time at all. I kept getting scooted further and further down the bench. I kept getting scooted further and further away from Coach’s vision for winning.
In my hometown, girls’ basketball was queen. It was not uncommon for there to be 100s of fans in the stands to watch their beloved Lady Lions. It was not uncommon for half of my classmates to also be in attendance. It was not uncommon for most of my friends to be sitting in the bleachers, watching my teammates play. But nobody saw me play. Instead, I rode the pine; or in this case, the metal folding chair.
It was embarrassing.
I worked my ass off in practice; I knew the plays better than most; I tried so very hard to impress Coach.
But I was never good enough.
To be continued…