I was recently in a meeting and was jolted by this powerful statement, “I’m curious what the women in the room have to say on this, I’m sure they have some important perspectives and ideas”.
The words kept swirling in my mind. I knew they were powerful and had deeply impacted me. I didn’t realize just how much until about an hour after the meeting ended.
I found myself in tears with so much spilling out of me and then I continued to cry on and off all day.
It’s like the time 9 years ago when my then boss wanted to move me into a leadership role because “I was hitting the ceiling in my current position and had a vast amount of potential”. I was seen and affirmed, and someone had taken the initiative to do it. Usually, I was that someone doing it for others. Without warning, I started to cry. Immediately he intuited and asked, somewhat rhetorically, “You’re not used to being affirmed, are you?”. I had never thought about it before that moment. He was spot on. I was not used to receiving meaningful and genuine affirmation. It was a very eye-opening experience.
“You’re not used to being affirmed, are you?”
So back to a few weeks ago. Hearing “I’m curious what the women have to say”, dislodged things within me and resonated deeply. It very quickly opened my eyes to so many things, past and present.
All my life I have yearned to be heard from the depths of my soul. I have tried really hard at times, and other times I have given up. At a very young age, I developed a very loud and persistent inner critic. Even when some affirmation did come my way, she had (and sometimes still does) a way of completely nullifying it all. Shame has been a consistent companion throughout my life.
When I was 10 years old, due to trauma and other influences, I stopped speaking about anything real, true and raw for the most part. It was kind of like I was under a spell. That lasted over 20 years before cracks started allowing light into that dark place.
Since that time, 13 years ago, I continue to find myself and my voice in more intimate ways. I persist in courageously practicing living and speaking out loud who I am, my thoughts, my beliefs, my preferences, my boundaries and my questions.
Sometimes I still feel the constriction and obstruction in my throat, physically preventing the words from coming out. I know those sensations now and understand that the hurdle is a strong sign that the words NEED to be spoken. I know how to push through the pile of sludge. There is relief on the other side even though, it often doesn’t feel comfortable. There is so much power in saying things out loud.
I thought about so many relationships in my life in which I felt close to invisible, it didn’t seem like others wanted to see or hear the authentic me. I also didn’t know how to see or hear myself and was relying on others to do it for me. I didn’t surround myself with people who truly wanted to see, hear, know and understand me. I didn’t think anyone would want to.
“I’m curious what the women have to say….”
For me, this comment from a complete stranger felt ground-breaking. It broke through the shame that still lives inside of me and took a jack hammer to the remnants of the spell that I lived under for so long. It was an invitation, an invitation to really see and hear me. Those are the most meaningful invitations I receive in my life.
I wrote this individual an email and cried through the whole thing – tears of grief and release, amazement and gratitude. A few hours later, I received a thoughtful response.
Today I do my absolute best to surround myself with people who truly want to know, see, hear and understand me and to open myself to receive their gifts. I also try to give those gifts to others and myself.