I recently heard an interview with Gina Otto who is the author of a book called Cassandra’s Angel. She described the moment she decided to change her life. She was working at a glamorous photo shoot for a diet soda commercial on the beach in Malibu. Suddenly she realized she was a part of the money-making machine fueling the insecurities of girls and women. She immediately quit her job. She started going around to middle schools and talking to girls. I wish I had her exact quote here. Basically she would tell the kids that they were being tricked by photo shopped images of anorexic models. Gina explains that these images are designed to make the girls feel inadequate and want to buy diet soda, make up, diet pills, etc. She immediately started a campaign to help girls embrace themselves as they are.
She wrote the phenomenally successful book, Cassandra’s Angel and has recently gone on a national tour and has written a musical of the book. The story is about a little girl who hears the stories everyone tells her about herself. She hears how she is too this and too that. She also hears the voice inside of herself about who she is, and it doesn’t match what she is being told. One day she is feeling very badly about the whole situation. She goes outside to sit on a rock and think. Along comes her angel who tells her not to believe the stories but to believe in herself. Wherever Gina Otto goes adults, kids, girls, and boys all come to her with tears in their eyes saying, “This is me. I am that person.” The take away message to ask yourself is, “What would you do if you didn’t believe the story?”
This interview hit home for me. How many times have I felt that if I was thinner, funnier, somehow different, I could be that person I felt I truly was inside. For those of you reading this who don’t know me I am a very tall woman. At 5’10 1/2″ I have spent my life in flats. If I have ever bought shoes that add any height, they have been quickly buried under the bed. Well, I decided that was pretty silly. I thought about Marianne Williams saying I shouldn’t be small to make others feel large. I bought myself a pair of clogs which easily put me over 6′ tall and I wear those suckers all over the place!
Somehow I thought I was invisible. Seriously I felt I could fade into the background and people wouldn’t notice me. Why? Why did I want to be invisible? I don’t have all the answers to that question. I was waiting to be noticed. I was waiting for someone else to tell me I was okay and special and that I should be heard. I felt this so strongly when I had my son. He was not always the easiest child. Basically anywhere we went that involved other children was a disaster. It was only a matter of time until he hit another kid at the playground or refused to follow directions at gymnastics class. He would become so overstimulated in a group setting that he would become loud, irrational and basically just lose it. We were not fading into the background!
I knew in my gut there was something wrong but I didn’t know what. What I wanted more than anything was to be there for my son. To find an answer for him so he could thrive. I wanted my son to feel my love for him and know he was safe with me. I know I failed on many occasions.
Inside of my own head I heard the judgement of the “Nebulous Others”. I was not present with my son but was consumed by what I thought others were thinking. I reacted in the way I hoped would make me look best to others. This is not what my son needed from me. As I began to realize this I knew I needed to change. I spoke with my little boy about how much I loved him. We strategized ways for him to get more in control of himself. I was able to own my reactions and started to catch myself when I became more worried about others opinions than supporting my child. It wasn’t helpful to beat myself up. It’s just how I am. I needed to accept that about myself before I could find a different way to react. I am so proud of my relationship with my son. I know he feels the love I have for him and it is a strong base for him to spring from out into the world.
I recently read a post called stop sabotaging your own success http://whenihavetime.com/2012/02/16/stop-sabotaging-your-own-success-a-manifesto/ . This is basically a collection of quotes speaking about just that. One of my favorites was:
I am so done with letting my own insecurities, self-doubts, and regrets hold me back. –Sarah J Bray
Me too. My thighs are not perfect, my boobs- forget about it, my furniture is stained, my dishes don’t match… and I don’t care! All of that is not enough of a reason for me to hold myself back, anymore.