THE BLOG

Dancing in Second Place

02/27/2014 06:54 pm ET | Updated Apr 29, 2014

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I have walked successful and powerful. I have wandered broken and scared. I have loved and lost and moved on. But it is only now, after much work and a lot of pain that I am beginning to see and feel myself -- and to deeply learn myself -- with clarity. And so much of who I am, has its soul-deep core in the years that formed me.

I was born to a large family of fierce pride that held its members quiet with a bright yet brutal control. These childhood years that I once glossed as perfect, really held confusion, push-pull love and "be seen and not heard" abandonment. The message that I was given loud and clear was, "You are not really important. Your opinions and your feelings don't count. Do what we ask of you and don't make waves. Then, you may be loved."

So all the years of my life -- launched from this place of feeling unlovable and not quite whole -- have been ones of seeking my own worth, while being terrified at a soul-quiet level that I have no right to stand for myself in the first place. In taut stoicism or in heart-silent tears, I have allowed people to take advantage of my generosity and my open heart. In denial and the "it doesn't really matter" words that make me small, I have stepped aside as others take what should actually be mine. I have chosen to put myself second in the dance of my own life. I did this because I truly believed that I had to give more to others than to myself -- or they would never love or approve of me.

This damage to the foundation of my being has teetered my feelings and behavior at a level so deep that it twines through me like the DNA that colors my eyes and calls the tones to my voice. It has made me doubt my instincts and not trust what I feel, what I need or what I want. And when I do at last stand up for myself, when I do finally say, "I can't do this anymore," I am terrified that I have upset the beat and the tone of things. So I reach back in and ask for the self-damning dance to continue.

The good part? The powerful part? I see this reaction now and am beginning to do things differently. I don't have to go back for a repeat performance of allowing myself to be over-ridden or minimized. I know that I have value in the very basic and beautiful fact that I am -- that my feelings and thoughts, my words and actions have merit and grit simply because they are mine.

I now choose to dance in first place in my own life. This has taken courage, self-love, determination and a pure-hearted willingness to go through big, big growing pains. But I am worth it. A happy, joy-calling life is worth it. I know this now. Even though for so many, many years in my life I did not.