The words that choke me

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

Shh Untitled by the shadowlands, on Flickr. Used via Creative Commons licensing.

Some things are incredibly hard to write about. The stream of words thicken like glue that's sat too long in the bottle and refuse to flow out my fingertips. They balk and resist and loop around in circles inside my chest to avoid having to come forth onto the page.

I suspect we all have topics that trigger us, stories that we can't bring ourselves to tell, aspects of ourselves that we'd rather keep hidden away. When we encounter opportunities to bring those to light, we find our words shriveling away to keep our secrets buried in the darkness.

In these moments, we choke back our dangerous words in the attempt to keep our vulnerable parts safe.

I have my topics like that, the ones that feel too raw and vulnerable to expose to public scrutiny, the dark shadows I'm afraid of showing. But those are few and far between. Being vulnerable about my faults and my shortcomings is generally something I can lean into. It's acceptable to acknowledge that I am imperfect.

But I've had several blog post topics lately that I have been completely unable to bring myself to bring to the page (even indirectly). I realized yesterday that the common theme that runs through all of them is that they might involve mentioning that I do something well or that I have hopes and dreams that might be admirable (to some people anyway).

That's a fascinating observation, is it not? I can (reasonably) comfortably expose my failings and my issues and my hurts, but at the slightest risk that I might expose a strength, I clam up tight. How backwards that sounds! But my observation of other women (especially those in a similar age range with similar upbringing) indicates that I might not be alone in this.

We have generations of women who have been taught to hide our lights. To confidently own our positive characteristics is painted as prideful and unladylike. We have been taught that to acknowledge our own strengths is to make others around us feel bad. As a result, I feel ashamed at the very thought of speaking aloud that I am good at something.

So we pay a lot of attention to our deficits—both in our internal criticisms and the things we express aloud to others—and act ashamed of our assets. And in so doing, we perpetuate the myth that owning our worth would be a threat to others and thereby continue to keep ourselves stuck in smaller versions of who we are.

It's scary to be the one to break the cycle and take the risk to own your greatness. But when I'm around women who are able to do that, I never find myself feeling threatened or diminished. Rather, I find myself encouraged and empowered to step into my own life in a larger way, to use my gifts and talents for creating a better world instead of hiding them away in the back of the closet.

I have had several people tell me that my willingness to be vulnerable about my broken places has inspired them to deal more kindly with the broken places in their own lives, and I am grateful that I can provide that kind of encouragement to others. Providing safe spaces that allow us all to treat ourselves with grace and compassion is a wonderful thing, but I think it may be incomplete.

Maybe the other half of the story is to learn to be equally vulnerable in identifying, owning, and sharing my strengths and my gifts to encourage and empower others to do the same. What a difference we could make in the world if we all embraced our light and let it shine forth unimpeded! I'm not there yet, but I want to be.

What about you? Do you find it easy to openly acknowledge your strengths?

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