When I was a kid, I used to get teased.
I walked down back alleyways, trying to avoid the town kids who made fun of me.
Looking back, it’s easy to see why they did.
I went to school at a Bible Institute.
I wore homemade clothes. And ugly glasses.
My mom cut my hair.
How could they resist?
One of the boys named me Smelly Carcass and it stuck.
When they laughed at my lunchbox, I tried to break it so my mother would give me a bully-approved paper bag.
This started a backwards approach to my self-esteem that lasted well over twenty-years.
It seemed clear to my nine-year old logic, that if I could just look the way they wanted me to (more normal? less weird?) the pain of humiliation and rejection would stop.
I thought the right clothes would help.
As soon as I was old enough, I ordered real nylons and leather shoes through the Sears Catalogue.
I saved my baby-sitting money and bought contacts.
I went to a hairdresser.
And outwardly, it worked.
No more Smelly Carcass in her stupid leotards and hand-me-down shoes.
I didn't realize that those boys weren’t targeting me because I was ugly and awkward and different.
They were targeting me because I was unsure of my essential value and worth.
Insecurity has it’s own frequency. It’s like a radio station broadcasting to everyone who's on the same channel.
My shame called them in.
I was caught in the mistaken belief that I was inferior and fundamentally flawed.
My young mind had wrongly interpreted my inability to measure up to the religious expectations of my parents and teachers.
I thought I was permanently bad just for being me.
This radiated out to others who were feeling a similar stress.
Bullies and victims are just opposite sides of the same coin.
On the inside, they're really scared kids who feel vulnerable and alone.
One tries to find safety by expressing superiority and dominance, while the other tries to find it in approval and acceptance.
I suppose it's no surprise that I used fashion as a survival strategy.
Looking better made me feel better—and feeling better produced positive results.
I gained approval. And slowly, confidence.
By the time I reached adulthood, all traces of Smelly Carcass had been eradicated.
I was stylish, polished, and successful.
But I noticed I was still choosing alleyways.
Instead of hiding behind bushes, I was hiding behind an image, avoiding situations where my real, unacceptable self might be revealed.
I didn't speak up about the matters that were important to me.
I didn't stand up for my right to be whole and imperfect.
I was harsh with myself—punishing all the parts that didn't measure up.
I was STUPID for stuttering and stammering when I got nervous.
I was an IDIOT for getting confused when it came to directions.
I was a WEIRDO for needing time alone.
I was a WEAKLING for being so sensitive.
The truth was, my confidence was completely dependent on the good opinion of others.
Which, by the way, is a sign of co-dependence.
John Bradshaw, author of Bradshaw on: The Family—New Way Of Creating Solid Self-Esteem, puts it like this:
"Co-dependence is the loss of ease with oneself, a feeling of inner emptiness, a state of not being at home with oneself."
A less than nurturing upbringing that produces childhood shame.
My parents were good people who loved me, but they were taught a destructive parenting style that demanded blind obedience.
This meant the suppression of healthy emotion, and the denial of individuality and separate identity.
They wanted me to present a false self, and not the truth.
As a result, I never learned how to have a healthy relationship with myself.
I began looking to other people to replace the sense of self that was missing from my centre.
Co-dependence isn't a medical condition.
It's the aftermath of impaired boundaries.
Which is why my youngest brother, Damon, bought me my first book on the subject in 2002.
He was in University at the time, majoring in Psychology.
He recognized the signs of enmeshment in our family and knew that we couldn't get healthy if we didn't start learning about BOUNDARIES.
That first book changed my life. Not immediately, but slowly and steadily.
I learned that boundaries aren't just about setting limits and saying no—they're about creating a container on the INSIDE where true self-esteem and self-love can exist.
I don't have to feel shame for simply being human.
This realization has healed a lot of pain from my past.
It’s taken awhile, but I’ve finally arrived at a place where no part of me is unacceptable.
Not my desires, not my faults, not my limitations, not my imperfections.
Not even Smelly Carcass.
The truth is, I'm not whole without her.
I need her awkwardness, her introversion, her sensitivity.
I'm truly sorry I ever abandoned her and I'll never do it again.
I've created a beautiful, healthy container for ALL of me.
And now that I have . . .
It's time to bring Smelly Carcass home.
Sending you so much love,
I love fashion and beauty and always will. We don't need to abandon style in the name of authenticity or even spirituality. It's wonderful to wear clothes that feel good and pleasing to us. I know there are people who condemn fashion for being shallow and materialistic—something of the ego and not of God. I don't believe this. Heaven and Hell are states of mind. We give everything power through our intention, or hidden motivations—our connection or disconnection. Fashion isn't good or bad. It can only be used in a healthy or unhealthy way. Let's use style as a way to express true creativity, inspiration and joy. And NEVER as a substitute for self-love.
l created a Boundary Course called "Creating The Container of YOU" So if you know of anyone who could benefit from learning about inner boundaries, I've made it extremely affordable and would love if you took a look and passed it on! xo