I had a breakthrough this morning while watching Tony Robbins’ I’m Not Your Guru on Netflix (if you haven’t seen it, you should. Really, you should). Truthfully though, it was not the first time I’ve had this eye-opening experience, but I think this is the first time I’ve felt it deep in my heart and not just in my head. I’ve asked myself so many questions over my life related to my relationship with my mother, my siblings, my friends, my teachers in school, my other classmates, my partners and even my employers. Questions like, why did my mom almost always chose my siblings over me? Why did my creative writing teacher in high school tell me that I would never be a writer? Why don’t my friends choose to spend more time with me? For that matter, why don’t my own siblings want to spend time with me? Why did none of my partners ever want to really get to know who I am? Why did they always want me to be someone I wasn’t? Why even bother to be with me if I wasn’t their ideal companion? Why? Why? Why? And it all boils down to the very same question… Why am I not good enough?
In the film, Tony told the audience to close their eyes and think back to their earliest memory. I did so. I have two that stick out in my mind the most. The first is waking up during the tonsillectomy when I was about five years old. I’d had Reye’s Syndrome* and as a result, I went into a coma. For whatever reason, my tonsils were shot and had to be removed. I remember waking up and feeling the intense pain and the metallic taste of blood in my mouth and crying out. Then I was put back under so the surgery could be completed. The next memory that I have is related to that experience. I was lying on the couch in the living room, eating either jello or ice cream because my throat was sore from the surgery, and I heard my parents arguing about me. I remember being upset and crying because I didn’t know what I had done that made them fight. I still don’t remember what they were fighting about, just that they kept saying my name and they were shouting back and forth in the kitchen.
So my two earliest memories are both traumatic memories. And I think that early memory of my parents fighting about me left the impressions on me that I had done something horrible, or that I was a burden, and definitely that there was something wrong with me that disqualified me as being worthy in everyone’s eyes. I grew up with the feeling that I was the sickly child that needed to be guarded and protected, but also kept at arms’ length – meaning that if I was shown too much love or affection, then perhaps I would become sick again and possibly die this time. I mainly got that impression from my mother. The running theme was not to let me get too excited or exhausted because I could have a relapse. That’s what the doctors told my parents. I am not sure though that the doctors meant for that to go on until I was ten to twelve years old (I cannot recall exactly when my parents stopped being overly protective of me as my memory is very fuzzy now about that time of my life). I wasn’t allowed to play hard or help mom in the kitchen with dinner. Instead, I was told to go sit down with my dad. So I felt abandoned by mom because she pushed me off on my dad. With dad, if he was watching television, which he usually was, I had to be quiet until commercials came on and only then could I talk and ask questions about whatever we happened to be watching – generally football, baseball or a western. Sometimes my questions would get answered, but not always, and of course, commercials only lasted less than three minutes, so a lot of my questions went unanswered or rushed through. Eventually, I just stopped asking questions. With my mom, if I did go to her for advice, I generally got stories about her horrible childhood and that I should be thankful that I don’t have her childhood and to just suck it up, or at least that is how it felt. So I stopped asking her for advice or even telling her anything about my life.
I guess what I am getting at here is… I learned early on that I was not good enough. Not good enough because I wasn’t a healthy child. Not good enough to play with my siblings or cousins. Not good enough to help my mom cook. Not good enough to get my questions answered or be given advice. Not a good enough writer. Not the perfect mate or lover. Not a good enough friend. Just not good enough, period. And those early messages stuck with me my entire life. As a result, I have become guarded, introspective, withdrawn, suspicious, doubtful, and self-sabotaging. I will jump into things with all the passion in the world, and then wait for the proverbial shoe to drop – someone will think I am not good enough and if it is not someone else, eventually I will think it of myself. That gnawing doubt always lingered – What if I really am not good enough?
I am now 50 years old and for the past 45 years of my life, I have lived with the pain of not being enough. This pain has prevented me from building solid relationships, friendships, life goals and job opportunities. It has made me feel like a phony, imperfect, and unlovable. It has driven me to the brink of suicide too many times to count. And it has fueled depression for the majority of my life. I don’t accept praise because I don’t believe people are sincere. I don’t trust people because I am scared I won’t live up to their expectations. I don’t seek attention because I am scared people will discover that I am really not good enough. Worst of all, I wallow in self-pity.
Tony Robbins would tell me to fucking get over myself. To stop believing the story I’ve been telling myself all my life. That if I am going to blame everyone (including myself) for this pain, to also blame them for the good things about my life. He would tell me to list those good things. To believe in them. But most importantly, he would tell me that I AM GOOD ENOUGH.
So what is this incredible breakthrough that I had this morning? I need to stop “thinking” and start being and doing. I know I’ve been told this many times before from friends and therapists. I’ve even told myself this. So what makes me think this time will make a difference? Because for once in my life, I am going to start listening to my heart and not my fucking head. I am going to begin living a heart-centered life. If I want love, peace, joy, acceptance, involvement, and success in my endeavors, I won’t find any of that by living in my head and letting my mind tell me the same old repeated lies it has for decades. Only by listening to my heart and believing in myself can I begin to live the life I truly deserve. Because I really am Worthy. Thank you for the reminder, Tony Robbins.
*Reye’s Syndrome is a serious disease resulting from a fever treated by aspirin. For more information, please visit the National Reye’s Syndrome Foundation website.