“Stop showing off Frances!”. The words hit me like a brick. I jolt to a stop, hang my head in shame and back towards the door. Once outside, huge tears roll down my reddened cheeks, whilst I try to work out which feeling is the strongest – humiliation, shame, or anger. Humiliation takes first place with shame coming in a close second. There is no room for anger so that is shut out – rejected. Sibling rivalry encourages me to believe that certain siblings, who were privy to the exchange, are smirking at my abasing. Probably fantasy on my part but it feels real enough at the time.
Leaving home for boarding school at 7 was almost a relief. Maybe this was to be a place for me to shine? A place where I could ‘show off’ without being reduced to a mere morsel of myself by the lashing of a tongue, from a mother who would mow us all down with her words, time after time.
Boarding school was different. I was no longer a show off. I advanced from show off to simply not being good enough. As the youngest boarder, my confident, wanting to shine self, was soon hushed. My dorm mates poked and jibed me. They pushed me to undertake the most inexcusable dares. All of which I undertook with an unsuspecting smile, desperately wanting to gain their approval. My efforts were futile, however, as they had already decided that I would never match them, in worldliness, wealth, possessions or influence. Or was that what I had decided?
Nonetheless, my now 8-year-old courage endured, as I endeavoured to make them laugh, offered to make their beds, pretended I liked what they liked, danced and sang along with them all.
Then came the words from the most officious matron – “Stop showing off Frances!”. Bang! There I go, back to the abyss of misery and unsureness. Humility, shame, embarrassment oozing through my every pore, whilst the other girls laugh and jeer. I dive into my bed like a rabbit down a rabbit hole, as far down the bed as I can – and I cry. The humility and shame are colossal. The message is clear. Never put my head over that parapet of doom again. Stay low girl. Stay thwarted – the life of shine is not for you!
Wind forward 30 years and I see myself having developed a hard wired belief that repeats pattern like – over and over again, but now I don’t need the trigger of another – I can shame and humiliate myself single handily.
Clever eh? How does it work? This is it… stay low. Somehow, someone sees some talent in me and helps me onto the stage. Happy days for a bit, with me hanging about in the wings. Then after a while, I bravely take a step forward towards the light. But I have barely put my toe into the circle of the spotlight before I withdraw, moving myself back to where I belong, in the shadows. Fearful that “those” words will be expressed again. They probably already have, but they were out of earshot.
Only by now, all these years later, the anger is rising. I am no longer able to reject it. “I DESERVE TO SHINE!” – my unconscious shouts. “I know I have much to offer. I can help people.” But unconscious whispers back “don’t be foolish child, you will just look stupid – as you will be showing off. Stay back, stay safe. Stay in the shadows.”
I am so grateful for my mid life crisis. For it was then that the anger reached its summit. It surfaced not as rage however, but as a hunger for The Why? A quest to find out why those feelings would show up every time a flash of opportunity came my way, spoiling… well, everything. For the last couple of years, I have read, I have listened, I have learned and I have expressed. And wow! Have I accomplished a lot and no, I am not ‘showing off’.
The knowledge I have gained now helps me to help other people. It helps me understand how I can move forward with a clear conscious. I have forgiven my darling Mum, that matron, and my smirking siblings (even if they weren’t guilty!).
I can now see that the problem was mine, not theirs. I am in control of how my feelings show up and what they are attached to.
So now things can change. I have decided that being a show off is what I need to be. That singing and dancing are not just for the films, it is for me too. I will step into the circle of the spotlight and lift my chin and smile. For if I can sing, and if I can dance then I can shine. If I allow myself to shine, then who can I be? I am not sure. But I am very much looking forward to finding out.
There are a bunch of amazing people in my life, who, probably without knowing it, have led me to understand that I no longer need to worry about ‘showing off’. Today was the first day that I found the phrase “I want to show off”. I will say it daily. These are the people I would like to thank for helping me get to where I am today…
Tricia Sterry http://www.blockclearance.com, Di Dickenson, a beautiful human being who will be the best Block Clearance Therapist very soon. Neil Snaith, my husband and so much more. Connie and Wren Snaith, my children. Deborah Price http://moneycoachinginstitute.com/, Sarah Dena – www.facebook.com/Sarah.L.DenaMaxine Smith – www.bodyawarenesstherapies.co.uk, Robin Waite – http://robinwaite.com/, Cindy Davis – http://thefgcoach.com/ Carie Lyndene – http://carie-lyndene.com/, Martin Croft – www.thethoughtbusiness.com Sali Green – https://www.iwork4uglos.co.uk/
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.