When I was a kid, I was a grade A, brow-sweating keener. To say I was earnest would be an understatement. It was exhausting.
As a child born at the end of the baby boom years, I grew up in a busy household of two parents and seven children. My parents had lived through a depression and a world war. They worked hard to house, feed, clothe, and educate all of their kids. But if you had to pin a picture of our family on the triangle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we wouldn’t make it past the middle. There were no discussions about self-esteem around the dinner table. No building up of little egos, or celebrating individuality. That idea hadn’t even come to our small town yet.
School for me was like winning the grand prize in the attention sweepstakes. First of all, I got all kinds of love, just for being the younger sister of an equally keen older sibling. Then, I quickly discovered that if I answered questions and did well on projects and tests, I would get even more praise from my teachers. And that’s what I did. I loved my teachers. I would do anything they asked, because I loved them so much. Those teachers made me feel great about myself. They gave me value.
So a pattern for my life started to emerge. I would jump through hoops, and I would get attention. Validation. Praise. Love. Pretty soon I thought that jumping through hoops was the right way to do things. The only way to do things. The feedback made me a somebody. I spent zero time on figuring out who I was and what made me happy. I just kept performing for others. And I wasn’t alone. I know lots of people who did the same thing. Even while we complained about it, we kept doing it. Afraid of what would happen if we stopped jumping.
But I’m getting older. I’m tired of jumping. So I decided to conduct an experiment. I decided to see what would happen if I stopped. And you know what happened? Nothing. There was no drop in my worth. My value as a human being. So I kept doing it. It wasn’t always easy. Everyone likes outside confirmation that you’re doing the right thing. Everyone likes a pat on the head. But it’s really not necessary to live a happy, whole life.
I discovered that I am worthy, just because I exist. So are you. Huh. What a concept. Each of us has a beautiful light at our very core. An essence of truth and love that is always there, shining like the sun. The clouds of life may hide it sometimes, but they don’t take away its existence. It is as constant as the tides. As endless as the ages.
I spend more time now, tapping into that light. Living in that light. Now, I only jump when I want to, not when I think I should. I jump to make someone I love feel better. I jump to help out my fellow man.
That little kid still lives inside me though, and sometimes she can be pretty needy. Some days, she stamps her feet and wants someone to tell her what an awesome job she’s doing. And that’s up to me now. So I give her a hug, and tell her she’s a princess. Buy her an imaginary ice cream cone. Sometimes even a real one. And we move on.
From now on, if we’re going to jump through hoops, let it be for the sheer joy of jumping. You and me, we rock. Just as we are. And I hope you are saying…Pfff, tell me something I don’t already know.