Over a year ago I helped write a curriculum for a “motivational” class. It was a step into unfamiliar territory. Recently, I have been asked by a friend to help her with a small group. I wanted to include a few of the lessons taught in that first class I worked on, so I began looking back over my old journals. I found an entry where I was agonizing over writing the first session, beating myself up because the words would not come and I was ready to give it up. I remember locking myself in my room to “work”. I had been at it for hours. I was calling myself every name and criticizing myself for thinking I could do anything like this. I recall crawling into my bed and burying myself under the blankets. It was a self-made cocoon. It was a place where I could think my foreboding thoughts and hide away from my obligations. It felt safe and comfortable. It required no effort or risk. I could live a life-like this, doing just enough to get by and forgetting those far-fetched dreams. I did not need to do this; a phone call to my co-author saying “I CAN’T” would end all this misery.
There was a full-length mirror in the corner of my room and when I crept out of the safety of my bed to look for my phone, I came face to face with myself. I look at myself everyday, but that day my image riveted me. I hungered for something more and I could see the longing in my eyes. I could also see the fear. I then imagined those names I was calling myself earlier appearing on the mirror. This is what I fear, that people will see me the way I see myself.
I took a dry erase marker and wrote the names I had called myself on the mirror and then I stood in front it. I have accumulated a few labels over my lifespan. I realize that this is what was cutting off my creativity. To be creative means exposing oneself, I could not risk the public seeing the real me. I could feel the fear as it filled every inch of me, forcing me away from the outer edges of my comfort zone. Pushing me to go back to my safe cocoon. To push past this fear I needed to tackle each label, one at a time. Knowing where to begin took the edge off my fear. I started with the first word “STUPID” and I drew my finger threw it. I thought of why I thought I was stupid and decided that I wasn’t going to be that any longer. I spent the rest of the afternoon working on each word on my mirror. After I was finished with the labels, I sat down and wrote out the first lesson for the class. The words flowed out and filled pages. I was finished within an hour, words spilling over the dam that was created by those labels.
When the class started, I watched the class facilitator and co-author teach this lesson. It was an incredible experience. I dug deep to find this lesson, but it was the way she taught it that drove the lesson home. As I watched her interact with the class participants, it was like she was reflecting what people needed to see in themselves. People related because they could see themselves in her. I realized now that it was because of her that I was able to face those labels in the first place. She saw something in me and I wanted to find out what it was. I want to be that for somebody else and I am hoping this new group will give me that opportunity.
I have prayed about this all week, and the fear will not back down. There is this thing that happens in the pit of my stomach when I think I could step into that role of teacher. It’s the mirror episode all over again and when I stand in front of it this time, the word “HYPOCRITE” forms. How can I teach people to disregard labels when I have such a hard time doing it myself? How can I speak of how damaging labels are when I dish out my fair share to people? And now “SHAME” appears and “GUILTY”. These words must be erased too, but how?
I imagine the word “STUDENT” appearing, written by the one who created me. He knows. I am a student and need to learn from the lesson I am trying to teach. He also writes the word” HUMAN” and therefore I cannot be perfect. I am flawed and with that He writes “FORGIVEN”. I cannot change the past, but I can erase the labels that come with it. I can learn from all that has happened and apply it to my future. If I am going to reflect on others the healing wonders of choosing the right kind of labels, then I must learn to be that type of person.
In order to be a mirror to others I had to face my own mirror first. If I am to keep the label of “STUDENT” then I must do whats required, which is hours of studying and reflection. I can’t accept the label, write it on my mirror and expect magically to be that person; there is a process that needs to happen. Whatever I choose will take energy, effort and risk. If I want to be “STRONG”, then I will need to find ways of becoming stronger – which means working my muscles. If I want to be “HONEST” then I must be willing to face the truth. The list goes on and on.
This new group will be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more. It will allow me to share what I have learned so far, but most importantly it will teach me how to be a mirror for others.