Beauty Unraveled, Part 2
Updated: May 17, 2019
“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule.” ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
(continued from LAST WEEK)
I remember feeling lost. I couldn’t keep up with all the make-up and trendy clothes, the conversations surrounding pop culture, boys and sex, or the latest gossip about people I didn’t care about. But I wanted to fit in, so I was always scrambling to make myself into a likable person. I begged my parents for clothes I didn’t feel comfortable in, I watched a lot of bad television, and ear-hustled when people were talking about who liked who and who was getting dumped so that I felt like I had something to contribute to the conversation when it came up later with different people. Despite my best efforts, I remained awkward and uninteresting.
I needed someone to ask me who I was, so I could ask myself. But no one did. And at 16, when my dad (a man whom I had longed to be truly known by) hinted at the word beautiful in reference to me, at that specific moment, it was everything. It wasn’t until recently, that I stopped waiting for someone to ask me who I was. I started asking myself hard questions. Questions like: Who do you WANT to be? What were you created to do? Who do you want to influence? Why? Those questions weren’t easily answered. I had to separate myself from the pressure to fit into social norms and think about what brought me joy. On the flip-side of that, I had to ask myself what wasn’t bringing me joy. That nearly brought me to my knees. So many of the things I was living for in my day to day life were done out of obligation and duty rather than joy. I had convinced myself that if I just did what I was “supposed” to do, there would be reward in the end. But I realized that I was slowly digging my grave and there was no reward at the bottom. I thought back to years before when I had asked myself similar questions. When I had sat, unraveling myself in a quiet room, floor fan whirring, opposite a woman who was educated and experienced in finding the thread that could release it all. She was my therapist.
I didn’t always subscribe to the idea of therapy. I had a bad experience with a therapist as a teenager and I felt like I already had enough people telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. That’s not what therapy should be like at all. There should be no shaming or guilt-tripping, where they convince you that they are all-knowing and that you are ignorant to the way your life should be lived. No manipulating you into sharing. No ultimatums. None of that. There should be questions and space to think and answer. They should remember what you talked about last time or at least read their notes before your session. They should hold you accountable for your goals and growth toward those goals. Goals that you have discovered through their gentle unraveling. I had that.
Her office was always the perfect temperature. Warm on cold days and cool on hot days. Either way, there was whirring (a floor fan or a space heater) and it was soothing to me. Every time she greeted me, she offered me water, coffee, or tea. Then we’d both sit in our respective spots. Me on the couch next to a box of tissues and her in a rotating chair with a notepad and a smile. “How have you been?” I thought about that question for hours before I arrived because I wanted to get the most out of each session. I only wanted to talk about the things that were most pressing in my life. I would share a little and she would sit, pondering what I had said before asking me a question that would draw out more of what I was feeling. She wanted me to come to my own conclusions rather than offering advice about what I should do. Even if she knew what I should do (and I’m pretty certain she did) she allowed me to arrive there on my own. That method taught me how to sit with myself, ask questions, weigh options, and find solutions -- a skill that, once remembered, pulled me out of a very dark place.
Those therapy sessions enabled me to discover a beauty that lived outside of a fairytale. I was able to recognize my worth and stop holding my image up to the reflection of others. I still battle some of the lies I believed for all of those years. I still wonder if I’m enough. Or too much. Hence the dark place I found myself in recently. But when those threads begin to encircle my heart again and threaten to suffocate the life that I have so painstakingly fought for, I think about sitting in that quiet room, fan or heater whirring, where I had the space to work through so many challenging things without judgment. Where my value existed within me. Waiting to be drawn out.