When Did the Insecurity Show Up?

How many of us can look back on our lives and marvel at how lucky we have been? I do hope that it’s tons and tons of us. But I also know that tons and tons of us cannot marvel because life has not been lucky at all.

Even with all that luck, something eventually comes out of the blue that changes the trajectory of the rest of  our life: some turning point that can be something so seemingly small, but yet can make the difference in how we see ourselves in our own eyes.

THE FOUR-EYED NERD WHO DREAMED A DREAM: A Cautionary Tale

When was my turning point? When I was in third grade and didn’t pass the school nurse’s vision test. At age 8, I had my first pair of glasses – clear, pink tinted frames – and I thought I was cool – until I got home and saw myself in the mirror. For more than 50 years, it changed how I viewed myself, how I conducted myself, and how I made important choices.

I would wear glasses of various shapes and sizes, depending on the fashion, as my eyes changed frequently during my growing years. The picture (above) is my senior class picture, with the iconic cat’s eye shaped glasses. So cool. So nerdy.

No one knew how ugly I felt. No one called me “four eyes,” or used any other insult, but I was conscious of all the beautiful classmates that surrounded me. And I felt “less than.”

I began to pretend a confidence that I didn’t have.

I was evidently born with some moxie, because I charged ahead anyway, trying to overcome my looks with “personality.” I had lots of musical talent, so I was often in front of my big high school in one assembly or another: singing or accompanying or directing. Visible, but always keenly aware that glasses meant homely. I was a nerd who wanted to be cool.

I managed to become part of a big group of kids who were active in school: you know, cheerleaders and athletes and generally gorgeous people who could maybe make me look good…most with plenty of money for the best clothes and the attending confidence of the well heeled. My family were more humbly situated, but I didn’t let that stop me. I wanted so badly to be popular.

So I borrowed my personality from my friends. Who were definitely cool.

Can anyone relate? I’m told that everyone is insecure in adolescence. I still find it hard to believe that. I was hugely insecure, but that moxie gave me the power to hide it as I acted my way through junior and senior high.

I was voted one of five top senior girls in my class of just over 600. That didn’t cure me. I was voted most talented senior at my senior class banquet, and that didn’t save me. I was still not “good enough” in my eyes to satisfy my sorry four-eyed little girl hunkered down inside. I would always see homely. And nerdy.

I kept trying to sound and look and behave like the girls I so envied. The popular ones on whose coattails I was hanging. I was part of the group – they included me liberally – but I always feared that at any moment, they’d discover just how much of a fake I really was.

The ruse continued in college. I was still borrowing my sense of self from those I saw as the “popular” ones. There were more wonderful friends and sorority sisters, yet I still was running hard to keep up.

In 1963, after college, I got my first pair of contacts. And I was the new wife of the most highly regarded young man on my college campus. And he chose me! Still, I carried around the personality of a young woman who was a nerd but wanted to be the popular cheerleader in a new circle of friends.

Authenticity would have to wait. So would any more glasses! The contacts would stay put for 50 years. I rarely went outside without them. They helped, but a borrowed personality is hard to shed.

The urgency for authenticity would finally make itself known when, at age 33, I had a miscarriage and slipped quietly into a post-partum depression. It would lay the foundation of a new life that could be called, Real Life. That was when I began to grow myself into the real me.

When we are trying to be something or someone that we’re not, we can think that we’re getting away with something. Maybe others sense the game, but the only one that’s suffering is ME. I am so lucky that my friends stuck with me anyway, to this day. Which says volumes about what good people they are. Luck can be a saving grace sometimes.

The journey from insecurity to authenticity is a long one. It doesn’t happen overnight. We take three steps forward and two steps back. Hopefully the energy of pretending a false confidence begins to run out. And we are nudged into the places and the attitudes that make a real difference – that bring us home to ourselves. Slowly, slowly.

My roles as a pastor were pivotal, even as I felt inadequate to some of the tasks. I have been held powerfully and loved deeply all these years by the congregations I’ve served, despite my limitations. It’s always a surprise to me. Just enough insecurity still lingers.

I have not walked alone. None of us needs to do that.

Two cataract surgeries and submitting to glasses once again have been a kind of test. I’m happy to say that I’ve passed it. It turns out that the big changes that happened inside all these years have been the graces that have made my elderhood the most authentic time of my life.

I am still kind of a nerd, but I’ve reclaimed the word and made it mine!

And I’m very okay with that!

 

11 thoughts on “When Did the Insecurity Show Up?

  1. Martha, your writing is a wonderful testament to the importance of looking at your life square in the eye…no matter how old you are. It’s a sign you’re still growing, and always in a state of becoming! It’s a sign you’re alive. As I’m sure all your other readers will agree, your blog is an inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, my dear friend. You got this ball rolling almost a year ago (!) and part of my inspiration is other thoughtful and talented writers whom I’ve met along the way. All ages, to my surprise. Turns out that growing happens at any age, and if I can be a part of that, then it’s full steam ahead! And planning on staying alive for some time yet!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think that what you describe is much more common than not. Even if people aren’t aware enough to give it a name like insecurity or imposter syndrome, most of us have these self-images. We hear the exhortation to “fake it until you make it”, but most of us will never truly feel like we ever “make it”. Still, that keeps us pushing ourselves.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re right. Part of the challenge can be redefining what “making it” actually means. Accepting our gifts and even the limitations of them can be a lifelong effort, and when we make peace with any part of that, we become more of what we’re meant to be. I’ll never write the Great American Novel, but I’m okay with that. On the other hand, I work like the dickens to write my blog, which I hope helps whoever needs it. Pushing ourselves. Yup.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Marrying Dwight was the turning point. He accepted me no matter what, and believed in me. I came to trust that, and that was really the beginning of a new life. Glad you got to know him even for a short time – and to honor him at the end.

      Like

  3. Well ZOOM! You hit this one out of the park you old bag!! Great one! You under estimate yourself too much. You da gal. Keep rolling! Many people will see themselves too and be able to relate to what you are saying. That’s special! Just ask them. 👌👍

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You never knew, did you! You adjusted to glasses much differently than I did. Shows how different sisters can be. Glad I caught up to you!!! Thanks for the pat on the back!!

      Like

Leave a Reply to whitehairgrace Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.