I care a great deal about how others perceive me.
Sometimes it feels like I care too much.
There is always that one voice. That one person. That one memory.
It chases you down, threatening to devour you as you try to catch your breath.
All it takes is just one. As I’ve been writing on here, I’ve done battle with my own: “Who are you to write a blog about these things? You’re no expert and your life isn’t the epitome of perfection.”
Welcome to “Round 1” of the tango with defensiveness.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what your story is- there is always that voice.
Fighting against it, means that on some level, I believe it to be true and must prove that another story is true, because if it were truly an illusion, I wouldn’t need to fight anything at all.
It had everything to do with the fact that I believed it.
All that fighting says a great deal of how very determined we are to disbelieve in the beauty we come from.
I used to use self-deprecating humour almost constantly.
If I made a joke or comment about the one thing I felt everyone was thinking already, I would beat them to it. They would know I was onto them. They couldn’t get to me because I already marked the spot!
I waged war with myself so they didn’t have to. I wasn’t in construction but building thick walls was a specialty and it started in the most subtle of ways.
What it took me a long time to realize, was that the moment we try to defend any part of ourselves, we’re setting ourselves up for a future conflict with someone or some situation. We declare it before anyone else ever stands before us. They don’t have to do the things that hurt, nor do they have to say the thing which stings. We’re always waiting for someone to hurt us.
When we believe that we have something to defend, we can’t see a person for who they really are. What we’re always seeing is the threat they present.
It’s the subtlest form of attack on the planet. It’s how friendships end out of nowhere. It’s how relationships feel so good, but never quite work. It’s how wars start, too.
And it starts within us.
We believe our weaknesses need defending because they make some grand statement about us, when really, they reveal a thousand different ways that we have yet to blossom. We don’t look at the buds of flowers in Spring and mourn the unrealized potential. We’re excited because we know that we don’t have to defend the flower’s petals in order for them to unfurl, so beautiful and fragrant that passers by can’t help but look in awe.
I’m talking about the greater details of why you’re here. If you were really done everything, wouldn’t you be dead? What else would you have to complete, learn or know? You’re not here to be complete, because that same fragrant beauty is written on your soul. You’re here to bloom. How? That’s not for me to know. I just know that you’re here to unfurl.
If I were being perfectly honest, each insult that someone has thrown in my direction felt awful because at some point in all the years I’ve been walking this planet, I’ve been those “one things” they called me.
Fat. Bitch. Belligerent. Liar. Too Loud. Undecided. Frigid. Angry. Cold. Uncaring. Unkind. Poor Listener. Passive.
The reason they sting is because they make me feel guilty that there are or were places in me still blooming. That I’m not perfect.
The moment I try to explain how I haven’t been those things, is the moment that I argue for a perfection that doesn’t exist while defending an image that needs no defending. After all, I created the illusion that out there, somewhere, there’s a perfect me putting my bad days and me to shame.
I’ve been short with cashiers when I’ve had a rotten day. When I was in grade nine I weighed 280lbs and would deal with being bullied by seeking solace in a whole bag of chips, I haven’t stuck up for people I could have. I’ve overpowered others in conversations and quite frankly been one hell of an unpleasant person to be around sometimes.
I’m not afraid to own those things.
These are the things which we think mar our souls and irreparably stain us for life. These are the things we think we need to defend against.
I’m going to spoil the plot for you…
You’re not stained and you’re actually quite beautiful.
There’s nothing we need to defend, because when we defend against it, it means we first have to attack those things in other people.
Those defenses are, as Rumi calls them, the places within us that act as barriers to love.
The moment I’m afraid that someone may find out I’m not perfect, is the moment I pick up my weapons.
Let them have their perceptions of you. They were never yours to own, anyway.
When you know who you are, “imperfections” and all, you can move mountains with your love instead of seeking all your strength from their ever changing emotions.
If there wasn’t anything more to defend, what would we have left?
Love. A laying down of the weapons. An end to the jokes you make about yourself. A willingness to see past those things in others, because you’re able to sit with them rather than run at the first blush of discomfort. Staying present to those moments where you act out of sync with love. Understanding, grace and compassion. Actions born of love rather than fear. Fearless learning.
More glorious mistakes.
It’s safe to lay your weapons down.
Yes, all of them.