Janie smiled through her tears and put her arms around Stella.
“How do you do it, Stella? You always seem to find a way to help me put things in perspective when I get like this. I wish I had your confidence! I wish I could stay on top of things the way you do; you never seem to let people push you around, yet you’re not a bully either.”
Composing herself after at least thirty minutes of crying and talking, Janie now felt better. She sat back in her seat and picked up her coffee mug, her favorite mug, which she loved for its heft, its shape and its ability to channel those amazing aromas right where she needed them most. She felt now that she had some good ideas about how to tackle the problem. “Really, Stella, how DO you do it? Were you just born this way?”
Stella sipped her coffee, too. She loved it when someone took the time to ask her deeper questions. Though she’d never broadcast her life or push her opinions, she felt deeply rewarded when she was able to help another. It was as though all her troubles were worth it.
Well, Stella divulged, “I wasn’t always as I am today. One of my old trademarks was that I used to think everything was my fault–and nothing was my fault!”
I was quick to apologize for anything someone else was unhappy about, as if I were responsible for the world, but slow to see things that actually were my responsibility.
Rain on your wedding day? I’m sorry. Mad at your boss? I’m sorry. Lightning struck your Uncle Milford? I’m so sorry. You’re home from work early and hungry because you didn’t stop for lunch and I didn’t have a premonition about this and fix your dinner early? I’m sorry. Here, let me drop my work, mid-sentence, and get right on that.
Then, on the other hand, nothing that I really did was ever MY fault!
Oh, I’m late for work? Well, boss, it’s not really MY fault. I had to make breakfast for my family, get the laundry started, stop what I was doing every time someone couldn’t find their socks, walk the dog when everyone left without doing it, stop at the store so there would be coffee in the break room, and then drive my aunt to the dry cleaner–yes, she had an emergency apparel deficiency.
Geez, why can’t my boss understand that, doesn’t she have a family? I would think.
Stella smiled as she animated these stories. They were true for her, she had lived in that realm for so many years. She looked at Janie, who smiled back, waiting for more of her story.
Well, after about two or three THOUSAND people said I shouldn’t apologize so much, I slowly started to think maybe there might be something wrong with me (Oh, and I’ve been sorry about that too, two or three thousand times).
But what could it be? I thought. What’s wrong with being nice? I’m empathetic, dedicated, loyal, helpful, sensitive, compassionate, considerate. . . What’s so bad about that?
Plenty! Well, actually, nothing, as long as that’s REALLY what you are. Peel away the nice facade, though, and what did I find? The real reason I had such a hard time recognizing what I was truly responsible for. . . the real reason I defended myself when I truly was responsible for doing something wrong. . . the real reason I tried so hard to be so nice, empathetic, dedicated, loyal, helpful, sensitive, compassionate and considerate. . . was my inner wretch!
Underneath it all, I felt completely ashamed of who I was. I was a wretch.
Wretch, according to Miriam-Webster:
a miserable person;
one who is profoundly
unhappy or in great misfortune
II was miserable on the inside. I felt as though I were less than everyone around me.
Why would a young woman (yes, I was young once), with such admirable qualities feel so miserable inside? I was living out of a self-concept that was seriously flawed.
If you said I was pretty, I’d say, “Yeah, pretty ugly.”
They both chuckled.
“I know what you mean,” Janie offered. “I never in a million years would have guessed you felt that way about yourself. You’re beautiful, and you seem so confident.”
Thanks; it’s true, though. I felt ugly on the inside because I bought into some seriously wretched lies about myself when I was a girl.
Where did those lies come from?
What it boiled down to, after digging deep into the soil of my innermost thoughts and feelings, is that the lies came from trying to figure out why bad things happened to me.
READER WARNING: From here we will talk a little about those bad things. If you’re feeling brave today, click for more–