“You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.”
~ Isadora Duncan
I happened upon that quote a while ago. Isadora Duncan is called the creator of modern dance, so I’m sure she was talking to a fellow dancer who was maybe holding back, not dancing to their full potential. Clearly not me, but the first time I read those words it was like an electric shock. They ran straight through me.
A slideshow of moments flew through my mind. Moments when I’d held back. Stopped myself. Hesitated. Flinched. Became smaller. There were plenty to choose from.
After a while I started to think about who I was when I was younger. I was so fiercely individual and independent back then. It didn’t bother me to be different from everyone else. I never minded not being part of the pack. In fact, I can remember times I was frustrated with friends of mine because they were so driven by the popular groups. “Why,” I would wonder, “Who cares?”
Now I see that quote and it hits me like a brick…that’s exactly what has happened to me. I’ve been tamed.
A lot happens between elementary school and adulthood. We all have our stories. Our list of things that happened over the years and changed us, good or bad. Someone who hurt you, let you down. Or maybe you had someone who became a hero in your life and made it better. I certainly have my list. Maybe you’re thinking over your list right now.
If you picture a house….One thing causes a crack in the foundation. Not a big deal, you think. Then a little water gets in and the crack grows. More water. A new crack. Before long the foundation becomes so weak that any little thing causes more damage. The earth starts moving bit by bit. Sinkhole. The entire structure is in shambles.
This is the best way I know to explain what happened to that confident, independent little girl from elementary school. As an adult I avoid certain situations and interactions. I haven’t really written since I was 12. I am quiet in groups. I am slow to voice my opinion to others. I’m still just as independent as I’ve always been, but I hide it from other people. I’ve spent a lot of years making myself smaller to avoid notice, confrontation, attention, vulnerability.
Little by little over the past few years I have fought to “become myself” again. I will tell you, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Every single day I fight. Whether it’s fighting negative thoughts that go through my head, or forcing myself to do something I would normally shy away from.
Even this blog is a fight. I’m so used to keeping myself locked inside, not sharing my thoughts and opinions that doing so is a foreign concept to me. The writing, putting my thoughts into words…that’s another fight.
Those of you with social anxieties know what I’m talking about. Or if you are fortunate enough not to have them, you probably know someone who does. It will be difficult for someone without an anxiety issue to relate, but try to keep in mind that while their issue is invisible on the outside, it’s a battle on the inside. A damn war. Every. Single. Day. Against ourselves. Our own minds.
Imagine, if you will, having someone follow you every day. Every time you voiced your opinion, they matter-of-factly stated, “That was stupid.” Every time you wanted to join a group of friends or call someone you’d hear, “They don’t want you there,” or “They don’t like you.” This person following you would point out every tone of voice, every bat of an eye, “See? They think you’re stupid too.” Every time. All day every day. Imagine it, really. Stop for a few minutes and imagine what that would be like for you. I think most anyone who dealt with that constant barrage of negative thought would shrink away and become a shell of their real personality eventually.
I keep that quote near and use it as a mantra of sorts. Don’t let them tame you. I repeat it in my head whenever I feel myself hesitating or trying to be smaller.
My anxieties have ruined friendships of mine. Years of my life have been stolen or given away. I am working on it. I’m far from where I need to be, but I’m trying to move in the right direction.
If you are someone who deals with this same thing, I feel you. I know what you’re going through. My hope for you is that you will find a way to fight too. Don’t let the anxiety win.
Don’t let them tame you.