I was discussing the story of Cinderella with my 2-year-old yesterday in the car.
“Mommy, why Cinderelly run away?” she sweetly asked me.
“Well, because at midnight, when it got really late at night, her carriage was going to turn back into a pumpkin. Her horses were going to turn back into mice.”
“And her dress was going to change from fancy and pretty back to her regular dress, right Mommy?” This was my four-year-old jumping into the discussion.
“Yes.” That’s me again.
There was a small pause. And then my two-year-old spoke again.
“But why she run, Mommy?”
That continued questioning started me thinking. Why did she run? Why didn’t she just stay when she turned back into her usual self, and say, “Hey there, Mr. Prince Guy. I’m glad you like me so much. I should probably tell you that I’m under a magic spell and soon you’ll see me as I usually am, but I'm confident that you'll like the ordinary me as much as you like me all fancy right now”?
What I’m getting at is the concept of shame. Brene Brown, a researcher of shame defines it this way: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, how much we’re struggling.”
Most of my life I’ve felt like I’m not good enough. I’ve believed that if people really know me, they’ll never like me. They'll find out that I'm not good enough- I'm not worthy of being liked.
So I can understand the feeling of safety Cinderella seemed to experience when she was all covered up and presentable. I’ve tried most of my post-elementary-school-life to try to cover myself so that I could be presentable enough to worm my way into belonging and love. I’ve tried being funny, obsessing about my appearance, people-pleasing, perfectionism...And when I don’t feel ‘covered enough,’ I do what Cinderella did: I run away. I isolate. I hide.
Shame is such a yucky, yucky, yucky feeling. It tells me that I can’t trust anyone else with the truth about the way I am. It tells me I have to run away and hide my ‘everyday Cinderella garb.’ That I can never belong unless I convince everyone that I am enough, unless I can be more than I naturally am.
I've thought alot about shame and the way it has deeply influenced me. These days, I'm trying to RELEARN how to live. I want to live out from under the influence of shame telling me that I'm not good enough. So I've been intentionally doing little things that will remind me that I don't have to change, perform, or hide to be good enough. When I'm driving to a playdate, I don't add that last little layer of makeup. I am trying to say what I really think. I'm experimenting with calling more people and just offering myself. I'm apologizing less for things I don't need to apologize for.
As I take these little steps in being OK with who I am, un-gussied-up and un-hidden-away, I remind myself to take a deep breath, and try to believe that I can just be myself, and THAT is enough.