I watched from under the tree as the older girls ran onto the playground. They were talking and giggling and my stomach turned in knots as I listened to what they were saying. I heard one girl yell my name and then they all laughed loudly.
They began saying things about me, making fun and using words that made my skin crawl. I was in 5th grade and can still remember the tone in their voices: condescending, manipulative and just mean.
I wanted to so badly to fit in. I felt like I was the only one being made fun of even though I know now that wasn't true. In the mind of a young girl when you get picked on it feels like the world is crumbling around you.
Throughout my life I've thought of that moment and it always brings about sadness. I know I was awkward and obnoxious (what preteen isn't?) but the memories that play out in my mind are ones I hope my daughter never experiences.
After that I learned what to do and say so I fit in. The ritual of putting on different masks with different people began. My heart hurt from the words I spoke sometimes and this went on throughout most of my life. As I grew up I became more aware of people's feelings and how words can take a toll on a person's soul.
In Jo Ann Fore's book When a Woman Finds Her Voice she addresses the masks we where and how it makes us able to fit in more with those around us who cause pain and fear. She talks about her own abuse and why she began keeping secrets and hiding from those who seemed to have it all together.
The fear of not fitting in can become so overpowering that we will morph into someone else so we don't reveal our scars.
As Jo Ann moves us through the first powerful chapter she discusses how we can respect the past, the things we experienced and begin to heal so our true selves can come forward.
I understand how hard it is to free life's hurts, to feel such pain, and then have someone encourage you to move beyond it...If you promise you won't ignore the pain, I promise you I won't ask you to dismiss it.~Jo Ann Fore
So now I begin to heal from past wounds, dark places that have frightened me. I try each day to take off a layer of protection and show the world who I really am.
It is difficult and painful, the refining process always is.
Yet now I understand the end result so I keep moving forward with hope that I care less about what others think and more about who I'm designed to be.
Authenticity makes all the difference.
Linking up over at Jo Ann Fore's today to share with other women how the masks we wear over the years hinder us from showing our real authentic self. Won't you join us?