Definition – Worthy: good and deserving respect, praise, or attention: having enough good qualities to be considered important, useful, etc.
In recent years I have wondered about the meaning of the word “worthy”. Am I?
I’ve grown up in the stuttering community, involved my entire adult life. Beginning at the age of 19, today I am 57 and looked upon as an “oldie” and often asked questions on how did I get to feel the way I do? How do I seem so positive? What have I done? What is my story?
It is at these times that I find myself holding back wondering if I am worthy. Do I have a story to tell? You see mine is not filled with sadness. Yes, I have been fired from a job. Yes, I’ve heard “are you singing” on the other side of the phone and then the click followed by the silence. I’ve felt the frustration, anger, and self-disgust that follows. I’ve had people walk away. I didn’t use the phone outside of my family or my best friend until I was 21… and I’ve walked out of a store without what I came for full of shame. I confess once I wrote down on paper where I wanted to go and handed it to a taxi driver instead of speaking. I’ve hated it. I’ve chosen silence and I’ve asked “why?”
Yet still when asked to share my story today feelings of unworthiness again creep in. I often feel like I don’t belong anymore. I’ve been looking at these feelings trying to understand myself. Why do I question the worthiness of my story and how does this pertain to providing you with a take away that will enlighten or inspire?
Sharing these feelings of not being worthy with a friend, I was asked “Who told you – you were not worthy? Hearing myself answer, I said, “I did.”
I realize that I have been passing judgment on myself because I’ve been comparing myself to others who openly share their story and the pain they were in and often still working through. Their story speaks of hardships and we are immersed by their gripping personal accounts. It’s like reading a really good book, a page turner…you can’t put it down and you wonder about the ending for the main character. Did they make it? Did they survive?!
When I remember, when I chose to share my story, I remember the successes that have occurred after or even because of the negative experience. For me, it is remembering these moments that serve me as reminders of where I’ve been. I realize now this is where I muster up my strength. When at the age of 16 I was fired from my job at Winchell’s Donut shop because my stuttering slowed things down during the busy early morning shift, I remember rushing home humiliated. My dad would look at me and say. “Those people, that situation, cannot define you. What do YOU want to do?” That question stopped me from disheartening self-pity and made me think. I didn’t realize then he was teaching me a very valuable lesson. He was teaching me at an early age that I had a choice as to how I would feel. It was not the reactions of others that would define me, but my reactions to them. I could limit their power over my self-esteem and self-expression. I can feel the emotions now that worked through my body that day. “No one is going to tell me I can’t!” So off I went to apply and get the job at another neighborhood Winchell’s Donut shop. It had nothing to do about liking the job…trust me, even today I can smell the stench of the fried oil and it makes me cringe. My mom would even make me undress in the garage and drop the clothes for the washing. Shortly after, I quit this job, but it was on my terms.
A few years later, when a bank teller mimicked me, and I remember this like it was yesterday, I remembered my dad’s words. Instead of getting angry I asked myself, what do I want to do? What do I want to happen? Realizing there was opportunity in these situations, I knew right then…I didn’t want this to happen to another. I didn’t want the next person who would encounter this person to experience the same humiliating experience. What if that person was just beginning their stuttering journey!? This could set them back and devastate them. I turned the anger into energy and asked to speak to a supervisor. I didn’t complain but said, and I still use this today, “I am certain that your employee didn’t have the intention to make fun of me and I’m hoping that their reaction to my stuttering came from not understanding what was happening, but this cannot happen again. The next person this happens to might not be as strong as me and a situation like this could cause harm. It will hurt.” I remember this day and others like it and how I felt powerful and how I had made the choice for the outcome of that story.
I’m not positive and happy all the time. I struggle and fight myself out of darkness often. For me the key to success is acknowledging the negative situation or thoughts, and what actions I take when I am having negative thoughts or in a negative situation. The ending is not always perfect or even happy, but when it is about my stuttering I try to be the author in writing the ending of that story. Often there are re-writes.
I’ve felt bad when I shared my triumphs instead of my grief when telling my story. When our old stories no longer hold power over us, they can positively guide us. They can empower, energize and even propel us forward. I am a little bit of all my stories, the tough ones, the ones I’d rather forget, the ones that brought tears, the ones that brought silence. Each story…each memory pushes me forward reminding me of my inner strength. I do have a story to share!
I come from love and I realize now that my story needs to be told. It is this love I have to give. It is okay to celebrate this love in my journey. I realize now I was discounting my story because I thought that, without gripping experiences, it was dull and even uninteresting. We learn from our stories and the stories of others. From each we take away a little and carry inside us those moments we relate to. Whether it is living through love or with tenacity, we retrieve these experiences and solutions to help us through our own difficult situations.
We often get caught up in the last difficult situation. We are critical and replay over and over in our minds the situation and the negative outcome. When we remember, we bring all our experiences with us. We can remember the last success rather than a past of negative experiences. We don’t forget. We recognize and remind ourselves of the road traveled, where we have been and how far we have come.
Telling our story is a part of the healing process. What I have learned and realize now is the purpose for telling my story, our story, is about giving ourselves to another. A gripping story allows another to relate, open up, and see by example, resilience. If a story is about thriving despite hardships, it can also help heal. I realize now that telling my story, our story, has purpose. Stories help us heal and help others heal. It tells us that we are not alone.
There is a power in discovering we are not alone and that we are part of a community that listens, cares and understands.
And so now I’ve come to this thought…we have to share our story! Our experiences are the most cherished lessons and memories we have. Filled with sadness, grief and even humor, they prepare and help us, and others, face life’s greatest challenges.
And again I remember my dad’s words; “Those people, or any given situation, cannot define you! What do you want to do?”
How does this provide you with a take away that will enlighten or inspire? I hope you realize your individual value, and that together we are part of something big and powerful. There are hundreds…even thousands of us, and each story told is like a vine growing and entwining, reaching and connecting people all over the world. And even if your story reaches the heart of just one person, that is one person whose life you have helped and perhaps a life you have changed.
I want to share with you a quote from author Brene Brown
“When we can let go of what other people think and our own story, we gain access to our worthiness-the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we are supposed to be, we stand outside our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness-that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging-lives inside of our story.”
Understanding who we are and where we have been, accepting ourselves, realizing we are “lovable” and worthy of love, allows us to love and be loved. When we share our story we foster courage, connection and even change.
I invite you to begin to celebrate yours.
Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfections. Center City, MN: Hazelden.
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