Well, you can say many things about me. Some of them might be charitable; others I wouldn’t be too comfortable with; still others I would not agree with; but some I would concede are pretty much me. Some of my friends (bless you) might have a few good things to say.
I don’t think I could fairly be called a quitter though. Once I get my teeth into something I usually hang onto it. Those who know me well would say that’s fairly typical. As I write this I am mentally leafing through the autobiography I haven’t yet written. Don’t concern yourself. it won’t be on bookstore shelves any time soon. Stretching back through to childhood I can name a stellar list of achievements . . . well . . . in my own mind anyway. The thing is, for quite some time now I have realised that, as stellar as some of these may have been (in my own mind), nobody else ever seemed to notice. It has become obvious (yes, I’m a quick learner) that other people are not at all interested in what I have achieved. Instead, if they are interested at all, they want to know me as a person, rather than me as a collector of trophies (not too many of those), titles (none of those – at least no polite ones), or any other paraphernalia I used to think I needed in order to earn myself a place at the table.
I look back with sadness at the energy I wasted chasing such things over the decades and wonder why it took me so long to understand that the main game was elsewhere. So many pieces of paper, so many, what now seem rather pathetic, milestones achieved; boxes ticked; all being sought after by me as evidence that I counted; that I mattered. Yet they did not assure me. All they ever did was to disappear along with all the others down into a rather large hole inside me whose bottom I couldn’t see and whose origin I could only guess at. Empty achievements.
People around me were right to dismiss their importance. They wanted to know me – not my ‘achievements’. It must have been pretty hard to know me though. I wasn’t there to be known. I was hiding behind those ‘achievements’, hoping people would notice them and affirm me. No such luck I am afraid. I persevered however. I’m not a quitter, remember?
How on Earth can a person get themselves into such a position, I hear you ask? Well, I don’t know that I actually did get myself into that position. I had a bit of help.
I also don’t think I want to bare my soul by describing the circumstances that taught me to doubt my intrinsic value, except to say that their origin is in my childhood and early teen years. Water under the bridge. Water that has taken far too long to flow downstream to the sea. Water that has now receded enough for me to see the bottom and understand with love and acceptance what did this to me. Lots of personal hurt and also caused by me for those close to me. Lots of richness lost in relationships. Tragic and sad doesn’t come close to describing it.
The good news is that these long ago circumstances no longer call the shots. They have been told quite firmly to bugger off, and they seem to have done so. (If that conjures up images of me as a super hero standing in a superman outfit, please put them away.)
Through God’s grace I have been led to realise that I have real value that is independent of the things I do or achieve. Somewhat belatedly I find myself in a position where I can actually like myself and can appreciate the friendship and love of people who do not care about my achievements. What a wonderful liberation that has been.
After all, trying to impress is pretty exhausting and self defeating when no one is watching.