When I was little I always felt a sense of inadequacy.
I felt less pretty, less smart, less important than my other classmates, as well as my siblings. No matter how many times my mother told me I was wonderful and worthy of love, I felt unworthy, somehow, unlovable.
My feelings of inadequacy were compounded, or maybe even created, through our being poor and struggling to keep the electricity on, and food on the table.
I remember a specific summer day in the ’70s, when I went to the corner store, to buy a candy bar and paid for it with a food stamp bill.
I recall how the checker looked at me with disdain, and I didn’t understand why.
I hadn’t done anything wrong.
I only smiled proudly, with my Payday in hand, with a bill in the other hand to pay for it.
At that time I didn’t know the difference between dollars…and the food stamps with which I was paying for my candy bar. He took the bill from my hand and begrudgingly handed back a coin, slammed it onto the counter for me to pick up, rather than placing it into my prepubescent palm.
I remember other times feeling less than, like the alligator’s mouth used when teaching lesser and greater values in my least favorite subject: math.
I’ve spent many years trying to be someone’s favorite, someone’s best, which has inevitably landed me in the wrong hands. I always had this misconceived notion in believing that if I were just able to rise to a special place of being another person’s favorite, then and only then, would I feel complete.
It wasn’t until recently that I made the connection between my feelings of inadequacy, my feelings of unworthiness of love and my fear of abandonment, to my deadbeat father.
He left my seven siblings and I well before any of us could comprehend his departure, his reasoning for not helping to raise us, his reasoning for sticking Mom with seven kids to raise on her own.
To this day she is my heroine.
There was a hole in the ground next to a creek at the bottom of our street that I feared walking past, but had to pass in order to buy candy at the convenient store where the shop owner hated selling candy to kids like me. I felt I might fall in that hole, and that no one would find me. I’d be consumed in the hole we called “Dead Man’s Home.” Somehow, each time I walked past that hole in the ground, I felt kin to it. I felt I belonged there, even though it was the last place on earth I wanted to be..!
Forty years have passed since those insecure, poor feeling days and still I carry that knowing, of poverty, of what it feels to be lesser than others.
I’ve felt imperfection as if it were a cousin I saw and grew intimate in knowing at family reunions. I’ve carried that knowing with me, and sometimes it comes raging back. Especially when those people I’d like to stay in my life forever—but can’t because life moves us where we need to be in order to thrive and flourish—but we have to move on. We all keep moving and growing; change is truly the only thing in life we can bet on.
This deep-rooted sense of knowing imperfection has made itself into a perfection for me. Empathy, sympathy, sensitivity to other’s needs (as well as my own) has grown out of once insecurities. An intelligence of the heart has come in its place precisely because of those one deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy.
We’ve always read and heard about how there are two sides to a coin. There is darkness and light; death and life; joy and sorrow; love and hate; peace and war; emptiness and fullness and truly, as William Blake stated, “Opposition is true friendship.”
In knowing one side, we come to know the other.
When I look back, examine my life from where I am today, I see that I have come to know that two sides truly exist in everything and that it is solely up to us to decide which side we choose to focus upon to make stronger.
I see why I am the way I am, and it is the unexamined life that is unworthy of living.
I once felt inadequate, and sometimes those feelings arise again because of my history, but that is but a part of who I am.
By embracing all that we are, we come to know the fullness of our existence. We come to know both sides of those coins, where our imperfections, truly become, and are made perfect.
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Asst. Ed: Meagan Edmondson / Ed: Catherine Monkman