If I hold back, I’m no good. I’m no good.
I’d rather be good sometimes, than holding back all the time.
I spend my Saturday afternoons sitting on metal bleachers in a sweaty warehouse, watching my daughters practice gymnastics. They’re learning to play with gravity as they flip and twist through air. They’re doing the same at home—handstands across the kitchen, splits in the doorways, and walkovers off the sofa.
Motherhood is a mirror that reflects back to us who we once were, who we still are. I was a competitive gymnast throughout grade school, traveling and competing in state competitions. I was as comfortable walking on my hands as my own two feet. Looking back, I know my years as a gymnast significantly impacted my personal and physical development.
I recently realized that my oldest daughter, Tessa, is about the same age I was when my family moved from Atlanta, GA to London, England, which marked the end of competitive gymnastics for me. At my school in England, we’d play outside on the big rugby field after lunch. One afternoon, while doing my usual walkovers and handsprings on the lawn, a cluster of girls stood off to the side, looking at me with contempt and talking to each other. I immediately felt shame wash over me; they were calling me a “show-off.”
This is the first memory my mind associates with the term Well, look at you. For me, this phrase is connected to others like You think you’re so great and You’re so full of yourself. It’s a message of contempt, not of delight. For most of my life, my quiet demeanor and has led people to think that I’m aloof and snobby, which is the exact opposite of how I feel inside! Overtime, these labels taught me that if I was going to fit in, I needed to maneuver myself into a projection that would be more acceptable to people.
Brené Brown writes that “shame is about perception. Shame is how we see ourselves through other people’s eyes. And often, there is a disconnect between who we want to be and how we want to be perceived.”
It doesn’t matter whether it’s poverty or privilege, failure or success, being “less than” or “too much”—all of these things can lead us to feel rejected. Sometimes, just by being ourselves, we make other people feel threatened, and vice versa. It seems like a losing battle to rely too heavily on what other people think, when so much of their perception is based on their own shame, not ours. We’re all going through the same thing.
I think this means that we just need to be ourselves, be empathetic, but be yourself. Maybe it will be a disaster, but we can’t be genuine when we’re trying to control how others perceive us. We spend a huge portion of our adulthood trying to recover the carefree kid inside of us—the kid that spontaneously does flips and handstands without tediously weighing how people will respond to it. It’s a profound turning point to realize that our value was never dependent upon other people anyways.
In her recent TED talk, Anne Lamott says that “radical self-care is quantum and it radiates out from you into the atmosphere like a little fresh air. It’s a huge gift to the world. Being full of affection for one’s goofy, self-centered, cranky, and annoying self is home. It’s where world peace begins.”
I was recently told by a coworker that I’m a snob, but I’m a nice snob, which apparently makes a difference. Before that, another coworker told me that I talk like a “valley girl” and look like my name should be “Taylor”—as in, I’m a preppy, suburban, white girl who shops at the GAP and eats kale chips. I’ll take it all as a compliment. (Nurses are brutal to each other!) After all, I do sometimes shop at the GAP, and I am snobby about certain things, especially coffee, wine and hotel accommodations.
This is me. This is home. I can be sensitive, moody, insecure, annoyingly competitive, and snobby, but I also have an outrageously big heart and mostly good intentions. We are all such a weird concoction of annoying and amazing! The official term for this is FLAWSOME: an individual who embraces their “flaws” and knows they’re awesome regardless.
I’m coming to believe that the story we have to share with the world is SO MUCH BETTER when we embrace who we are and claim our experiences.
I’m grateful for places like Red Tent Living, where we are invited to step outside of our shame and join the courageous journey of self-acceptance with other traveling companions. In this space, Well Look at You is no longer an indictment, but a term of endearment.
Libby Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow, Relief Journal, Driftwood Press, and Literary Mama. A veteran of the US Air Force Nurse Corps, she now resides on the coast of Virginia with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, and keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as registered nurse and teaches poetry workshops. She is passionate about a good cup of coffee, bumming on the beach, and finding meaning in the ordinary moments of life. You can find her at www.libbykurz.com.