"Our perceptions are always coloured by how we see ourselves." - Debbie FordI remember the first time that someone referred to me as a 'woman.' I was in my teens and it was a boyfriend. Unfortunately for him it probably had the opposite effect from the one he wanted. I was so absorbed by and frightened of the fact that he had called me a woman that I was incapable of being near him and went home shortly afterwards. I'm not sure why it freaked me out so much. I think that I was really enjoying thinking of myself as a Girl. Being a Woman meant that I had to deal with a whole lot of other issues that I was not yet prepared for.
I think that that moment and others like it stalled me more than I realized. Just a few years before this poor boy's blunder there was a high profile serial killer caught in Southern Ontario. His victims were girls who were about the same age as I was. He had pulled them off of the street and done unspeakable things to them before he (and his wife) finally killed them. This was a very public case, and it frightened me so much that in many ways afterwards I was afraid to be seen as attractive. This early knowledge of sex and violence made me nervous of being the object of attraction. Unfortunately, in my head I equated being seen as sexy or beautiful with being vulnerable.
It's not that I have never tried to be beautiful or sexy. On the contrary, I would have really liked to have been seen in that way. Inside of my own head, though, I lacked the confidence to pull those looks off. Deep in my subconscious I did not want to be noticed. People told me that I looked beautiful and I didn't believe them. I really think I did not want to be that girl.
This is one of those posts that don't end up being the post that you started. This all came up because I have been reading a fabulous book called, "French Women Don't Get Fat." by Mireille Guiliano. In the chapter on Life Stages she says: (in the aged 17-35 section) "Now that you are making choices as an adult for the first time, make sure they are adult choices. The rules you violate are no longer your [parent's,] and it's no longer simply a matter of getting caught." For some reason that passage brought me up really short. I really realized for the first time how many of my choices and my actions have been about old fears and old patterns.
The most obvious example of this is that I still 'steal' cookies and other foods knowing that I am being a bit naughty. In a lot of ways I still behave like that little girl who was trying to put one over on her parents, or trying to get away with something. I still avoid going to the doctor, avoid cleaning up after myself, and I am definitely still that young teen who was frightened of the bogey man. The trouble with these rebellious teenaged actions is that I am no longer a teenager. There is no one now to catch me. I am now the boss of me. And I am not doing a very good job.
Somewhere along the line I forgot to look in the mirror and really see myself as an adult. Thinking that the way I was acting was right, I kept up those old protective patterns, kept playing those old tapes, and kept behaving like a child. That passage in that book made me truly realize that I am not that little girl anymore. At my center - my essence - I am still her, but I am a stronger, fiestier, braver, more resilient version of her. I can still look at the world with the wonder and the joy and the delight of my younger self, but now I think I am ready to also be her parent. I think I am ready to make my decisions from the center of who I am now. I can let her know that she is finally safe and that I have learned her lessons. I can tell her we're okay. And you know, I think I am also ready to be called a woman. Finally.
"One is not born a woman, one becomes one." - Simone DeBeauvoir