Recently, Wellness Connect had New York Times best selling author Laura Munson come and run a one-day workshop. It made me think about a writing I once did.
I am afraid. I am afraid to write. I am afraid to expose myself to the judgment and criticism. Society is really hard on us and women are really hard on each other. I am afraid I'm not good enough. Where does fear come from? Where does it breed? How does it grow and how do we stop it? Having four children I want to help guide them to be confident individuals. We can only control so much.
My son George was born fearless. He was a risk taker the minute he was born. A firecracker, he ran before he walked and he barely crawled. We nicknamed him “Thud” because every morning he jumped out of his crib with a THUD and arrived by our bed with a very loud greeting "It’s time to wake up!"
He could undo his car seat which always led to interesting car rides. Fast and furious and fearless, I thought, until one day when he was 4. He was going to a Red Sox game with my sister and it was really cold outside. George had spent the entire year in a fleece frog costume - I mean hot summer days sweltering in his favorite frog costume fearless and fixated. So on this cold fall evening I insisted he wear his coat over his frog costume. He threw a fit... Finally I asked, "Why do you not want to wear the coat?"
Remember, he is in the frog costume with big googley eyes as his hood. He said to me, "Mom, everyone is going to laugh at me because my coat is too puffy."
Nothing about the costume, it was all about the coat. Here was this little boy afraid of nothing except judgment ... Of course I thought, what have we done as parents to make him feel this way? Nothing. At four years old he had already decided he just wanted to fit in. The fear of not fitting in was scarier to him then going off a jump skiing, riding a 2 wheeler and falling or learning to surf. To this day that's my boy, fearless yet so afraid of what others will think. I try to instill in him there’s no need to fit in and the benefits of standing out.
It's hard because we always want to fix it for our kids but all we can really do is love and support them. This is his journey, not mine and he needs to decide when he will no longer worry if his coat is too puffy.
It took me 45 years and I am finally wearing the puffy coat proudly. Recently I was talking to a friend about my fear of sharing my writing. I was so proud of myself for being vulnerable and admitting my fear that I missed something else that she pointed out to me: self acceptance. I was so proud that I had gotten over everyone else accepting me when she pointed out I wasn't embracing myself. She actually called me a perfectionist, which made me almost fall off my chair and become a bit defensive. Then I took a moment and listened. Shit, she was right –I didn’t want to take a risk for fear of failure. Here I was a perfectionist when all I preach is authenticity and vulnerability. I didn't want to be a perfectionist because it felt like a dirty word in my book. No one is perfect, which is something I tell my kids all the time yet I was striving for it.
She said "Remember Charlotte, your good is great." So I am putting on my coat, one arm at a time, proud to be me.
As George's mother I know his good is great, he needs to believe it too.