No Wonder

So last week I was suspecting that there was a lie under my fear of not being heard. (Yes, I was a middle child! One of two in the middle of six.)

I didn’t have to look very hard. I knew I had an issue with ridicule. I had felt stupid, “dumb” because my older brother used to laugh at me and tease me, but I didn’t realize that part of it came from having permissive parents. My mother didn’t want to parent the way she was parented. And my Dad’s parents were very permissive to him. He was the proverbial favorite; it was his template. Insecurity ran in our veins. Good old family system’s stuff.

What God showed me was that I felt “not good enough” my whole life, because of my brother’s teasing, my parents not countering it, and not saying “no” enough to me. I’m told the other kids got “no” more, but I would talk them out of it. Just as my daughter did with me! Mom said I was like an only child, and she didn’t know anything about family systems. Yet that profile fits me best.

What I remember is that I had to get someone to listen and agree. My life and happiness depended on it. My mom almost never agreed (I thought) and that was probably good. Dad would always say yes, or “Go ask your mother.”

I always thought I became disillusioned with life at 12, but this trip through, it looked more like 8 or 9. That’s when I began praying for wisdom. I didn’t want to make the mistakes everyone else made, and I was very impressed with the story of King Solomon. It’s also when I was baptized.

I went to a large parochial elementary school and in the fifth grade a new girl came. She had social skills down pat in a healthy, un-self-conscious way, and I had none. Everyone loved her, especially the boys, and so did I. We were friends, but she was always my rival. Though she probably wasn’t conscious of it. She was just her.

I always competed with her. There were a few brainiacs in our class, and I didn’t even try to keep up with them, but her– yes. I made good grades, thought I was smart, but was terrified that everyone would find out I wasn’t.

In high-school we took an I.Q. test and I was deflated. I was smack in the center of average. Thank God, she got exactly the same score! I remember her saying, “Oh, Arla, let’s not tell anyone what we got,” and I readily agreed. I consoled myself that it was because I was a slow reader.

We went to the same college, and I got so conditioned, that if she was going out for something, I wouldn’t even try, because I knew she would win. I loved her, and yet held her at arms length, and was sad she was closer to other friends. I was terrified of closeness, more terrified of commitment.

I didn’t marry until 28, and then someone who had been married before, and when he had an affair two years later, and we divorced five after that, I knew I was not a good-enough wife. I was also a mother by then, and knew I wasn’t a good enough mother either. I was terrified of being a mom too.

I went back to graduate school because I had always wanted to be a therapist, and I needed to… I know that because God opened the way. That was good for me. I got better grades there than in college. But one test came back with -13 on it, and I thought I was going to die, until I discovered it was the highest grade in the class.

I got married again to a widower, and that confirmed that I wasn’t a good enough wife or mother. (The first 10 years we lived with a holy ghost, (no caps.– and not literally– his sainted late wife). Plus before we got married I’d already failed with his son (he felt abandoned by me when R and I broke up for a month–most likely unresolved grief), and later with his daughter who was three when her adoptive mother died.

Ten years later my husband had a stroke that saved our marriage, and that same year I learned that God loves to heal our lies–false beliefs that seem true to us.

When mom died four years ago yesterday, I faced the belief that I wasn’t a good enough daughter. So I’ve had many healings on not being good enough. But today I discovered that underneath all that not-good-enough was a whole cluster of beliefs around, “What if they find out how dumb I am! How stupid I am! How much I don’t know!”

The fear of being discovered! That is the basis for shame!

No wonder! That explains a lot: why I felt like a child in an adult body for two decades of adult life. Why I made the choices I did. Why I still keep coming up with new not-good-enough endings. Why I am in awe and yet fear of very bright, accomplished people. Why I sabotage my success.

Brene Brown has researched shame and says it completely unravels self-worth. It makes us want to hide. And is the essence of “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not ready…”

No wonder hurtful words can take me out. They aren’t as powerful as they used to be, though. I’ve been practicing taking in God’s love–making it real. It’s amazing, and real. Sitting with Him, you can actually feel the unconditional regard. I recommend it. It’s very healing.

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