- Maya Angelou
Every step you take, every direction you turn, every emotion that you feel is a choice that is subconsciously driven by either instinct or experience. Every single day is a building block, each one supporting the one that succeeds it. Your childhood is like the foundation upon which you build your house. Even the strongest foundation can have cracks or can wear over time, but it seems to me that most of us are trying to build on shaky ground.
How did you internalize the events of your childhood, or the relationships you have with your parents and siblings? How does that manifest itself in your adult life? Did you have an over bearing mother? Were you bullied by your older brother? Molested by a family member or friend? Was your father absent or abusive? How did these things affect you?
We all say that "We were kids back then, none of that matters now." or "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." The truth of the matter is, no matter if you choose to repress it, forgive, or even let go, these things still influence you today. After all, when they happened to you as a child, you responded, and you formed a schema based on your assessment. Those schema form synapses in your brain...connections from nerve to nerve. Your childhood is when the bulk of your schema were formed. This means the things that you go through actually have a biological and neurological effect on you physically! They may not be permanent, but they are definitely not voluntary, and can only be rewired once you bring them to your conscious mind.
My childhood was full of love, close family ties, and countless memorable happy times. A family of 5, being the oldest of 3, I may have been made to grow up before my time. Both of our parents worked, so I was like a mother at the age of 8. Cooking, cleaning, getting my younger sibs ready for school and helping them with homework. I always wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing, and constantly sought approval from others. I never had many friends, being picked on in Elementary, moving around a lot in Middle, and bullied in High School.
Somehow, even though I was so blessed with a loving family, and had many opportunities that most black children did not, I still found myself going to dark places in my mind, suffering episodes of depression at a very young age and throughout my adolescence. I had a period of anorexia/bulemia. I even contemplated suicide in 8th grade. I allowed depression to consume me, and it soon became my closest and dearest frenemy-- always on my heels, even shadowing me to this day.
If I could go back in time and share with my 10 year old self the wealth of knowledge I have accumulated over the years, I would tell her 3 main things:
1. There is no greater love than the love of self.
You don't have to get the approval of others to feel validated. Approval seekers tend to exhibit behaviors that can potentially be damaging, risky, or dangerous. Because I didn't love myself, I felt I needed others to love me. I see now that I did not value my own life because I did not have enough outside reasons to do so. I realize that there will never be enough people to make me love myself. Only I can do that. And besides, people don't love people who don't love themselves.
2. You are beautiful.
Because I based my self image on others' opinions of me, I have internalized many negative beliefs about myself. I have had tons of moments where I came home from school and looked in the mirror and cried for hours because of horrible acne and how it made people treat me. I stopped eating when someone very close to me told me I was fat. People would make cruel jokes about me, lie on me, violate me all based on my looks. I would tell that little girl with the big hair and the big crooked smile that you are beautiful. I would say you are unique, you are you, and no one can ever take that from you.
3. Express yourself, girl!
I guess maybe I was a little troubled (?!), and most troubled children have very unique skills. I am very imaginative, creative, and have much untapped talent. Unfortunately, my negative self image made me insecure and lack confidence in my self and my abilities. I was always an outcast which caused me to be very quiet. Never speaking much, and when I do, being very soft spoken. When I did speak, it felt like no one understood me. I kept all of my ideas and creative property to myself. I would say to that nerdy little introvert, be weird! Fuck the haters and be yourself! Practice being weird, and grow up and give everybody the finger. Be confident in knowing who you are and having faith that the nerds will always get their revenge.
This post could go on and on, but I believe that if I had supported myself in these 3 areas, I would be in a completely different place in my life right now. But of course we can't go back in time and fix anything. Even if we could, other areas would be butterfly-ly effected. One thing that we can do is figuratively and symbolically go back and identify issues and call them up to the surface. Then begin your second life.
I challenge you all to do something today that speaks to your inner child. Live there for a moment. Make a list of advice for yourself and apply it. I promise, the rewards are endless and the rest is yet to be written. The time is now, and it is exact and perfect.