“If you’re not really happy, don’t fake a smile on my behalf. I’d rather you spill your guts with tears every day until your smile is real. Because I don’t care about the show, the disguise, the politically correctness. If you’re in my life, I want you to be in your own skin.” ~Stephanie Bennet-Henry
This is the story of my inner child, the insecure part of myself that I am ready to respect and recognize.
My thoughts and views are as follows: I’m not a superior mom, probably just an average psychologist, and am way too sensitive about everything. I have this view of myself, when challenged by others, as that insecure little girl who believed she didn’t measure up. I shrivel up and want to cry.
As I age, I think I am less likely to accommodate to please others, but I also have been more in touch with my vulnerability. It stirs things up in me when someone challenges a decision I made or when I am faced with uncertainty.
I want this to be known, and don’t want to pretend that I’ve got it all together, because I don’t.
I know that there are moments when I am victorious, such as when I was able to resign from a job where I didn’t feel respected or treated as valuable after fifteen years. That decision felt good, but it also left me with feelings of uncertainty and fear that haven’t quite resolved.
The victorious spirit, that Norma Rae moment, didn’t last. I wondered afterward if I’d made the wrong choice. Will I ever be able to make a living like I did in my previous job? What if I fail? How will those around me see me? Will I be good enough? Am I good enough right now?
Yes, I am a psychologist. I’m an educational psychologist. I specialize in helping children feel a sense of competence and mastery over their lives and find their voice.
Why did I want to do this? Well, I wanted to fill a role for others that I wish someone did for me when I was younger. I wanted to be a presence for a young person and let him/her know that “everything would be okay.”
Learning how to self-soothe is an important skill, and I spent about thirty years trying to figure out how to do that. Over the years, I have learned some tools, such as having a sense of humor—usually self-deprecating—doing many years of therapy myself, learning self-compassion, and finding one or two really good friends I could trust with my stories. Yet, deep down, there is still this tug, this pull, and anxious stir that reminds me that I may not be all that.
I have learned not to seek reassurance from others as I used to do during my teen years and early twenties, through alcohol, sex, and unstable relationships. As I got older I found a stable partner. I was married for eighteen years, and many of these years were very happy and fulfilling.
I have an amazing son who works hard in school, is a good person, and most of all seems to be happy, confident, and self-assured. People tell me that he is a result of my parenting and I love to think that, but somehow this idea feels foreign to me. I think that he is his own creation and magically developed without my influence. This is a crazy idea considering how much I know about child development and my education and training. I discount my importance.
So, where does this leave me? I think that I am like many people, but I just admit to the dark side maybe a little more freely.
I get tired sometimes of being told to just focus on the positive and not to let in any negative thoughts. Sometimes I need to go through it. I need to go through it so I can get to the other side.
I appreciate when someone shares their struggles and acknowledges that there isn’t always a resolution at the end, it’s just about continuing, experiencing, and being authentic. At least that’s how it is for me.
I don’t want any pity or sympathy or anger. It’s funny how this can ignite anger in some people. Sometimes I think it reminds others of a part of themselves that they might deny. What do I want? I want to tell my story and I want to be fully present, aware, and I guess just accepted for where I am right now. I want to believe that is good enough.
I suspect we’d all be a lot happier if we would just allow ourselves to be authentic. It’s painful to hide our true selves and our feelings, and it keeps us disconnected from other people.
The only way to really connect with others on a meaningful level is to let them see who we are and to share what we’re going through and what makes us tick. Not everyone will like it, and that’s okay. We gain self-worth not by being what others want us to be, but by being true to ourselves.
If there’s one lesson I’d like to share from my experience, it’s this: You don’t need to have it together all the time, and you don’t need to be fixed, as you are beautifully flawed. We all are. Emotions are not good or bad, and most people actually appreciate and admire when we share them. Some of the most tender moments I can remember in my life were when people how told me how beautiful I was, not in spite of my feelings but because of them.
About Janis Kingsley
Dr. Janis Kingsley, Psy.D. is an educational psychologist who has specialized in working with children and families for over fifteen years. Through her work with children and families in the school systems, Dr. Kingsley helps students thrive and become successful and guides the family through a process of building strength and stability. For more information please see drjaniskingsleygroup.com.