I’m wrapped up in a moment, but it is not one I want to be in.
In an attempt to steady myself, I reach down and plant my hand on the closest thing next to me. The cool, smooth wood my palm finds provides a brief respite, but after only a few seconds, I feel my arm slowly start to shake.
I quickly take stock of the situation and realize my only way out is through a door—a door that is, at the moment, blocked by someone else. So I stand here, trapped, forced to listen to the words that are being thrown my way.
The words—words that tumble out in a sharp, stinging staccato—are biting and harsh. My mind races, trying to figure out what I’ve done to warrant this barrage, but I fail to come up with an answer. I lift my hand back up and cross my arms as I take a small step back, hopeful the extra space I’ve just created will prevent these locutions from hurting me any more than they already have.
Even so, I know my slight movement is futile, because no matter how much I distance myself, I’d still be able to hear their words from a mile away. The words combine to create short, accusatory sentences, ones that all start the same:
And one after another, they keep coming. They’re incessant. I begin to open my mouth, ready to counter these invalid statements, but then I stop myself, knowing that if I speak, it will only make things worse. I watch a finger point toward me, as if I’m a child being lectured by a terribly disappointed teacher. Like I’m standing next to a blackboard with a piece of chalk in my hand, being told to start writing for my penance:
I will not question what you believe.
I will not stand up for myself.
I will not doubt the truth in what you say.
I will not…
I will not…
I will not…
Minutes later, it’s over. I take a deep breath and attempt to gather my composure. I realize I’m here, alone, left with the last person I want to be confronted with:
* * *
I am my own worst enemy. I’ve carried with me the list of my supposed shortcomings for so long, they’re practically written in bones. And because of this, I know it is too late.
I start replaying what was said, and I begin to wonder if it is all true. Am I really not doing enough? Am I really not being enough? Am I that incapable? Am I that invaluable? I feel those words—and the doubt they have created—start sinking in, and I feel their determination to forge indelible impressions upon the fragile scars I’ve worked so hard to heal.
* * *
Later, I replay these moments to my mom, and then I do the same with a friend. They both know me well enough to know the lasting damage these words have the potential to leave, so they ask the same thing, hopeful my answer upholds everything I’ve been working toward:
“Those things that were said… You do know they’re not true, right?”
Yes, yes, I do… But then again… I also don’t.
Because as much as I’d like to think I have an impenetrable layer around me—one that can withstand any kind of attack on who I am—it’s hard for me. It’s not how I’m made. My heart has fragile tendencies, easily hurt and bruised, so it’s no surprise that I feel these mean words cut right to the heart of all of my deepest, darkest insecurities.
Yet the emphatic reminders of my worth from two people I trust more than anyone give me pause. I have a moment of clarity—a moment so different than the one I experienced earlier—and it causes me to wonder:
Why do all of my ‘will nots’ have to do with giving my power to someone else?
Shouldn’t my ‘will nots’ empower me instead?
* * *
I’ve come too far out of that place of darkness to retreat away from the light again.
So, teacher, hand me the chalk. Let me willingly write the words I’d rather mark my still-tender, healing heart. Here it is, my ‘Will Not’ Manifesto:
I will not let anyone make me second-guess myself.
I will not let anyone make me believe I am not enough.
I will not let anyone take away my power.
I will not let anyone else shame me into thinking I’m worthless.
I will not let anyone ever, ever make me feel like I am no one.
Because if I remember to adamantly refuse to do these things, I can spend my precious time focusing on the important things—the things I will do and the things I can do. I will focus on all that I am, and I can remind myself that being me is all I ever need to be, no matter what anyone else says.
Let me know: What’s on your ‘Will Not’ Manifesto?
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.