It’s odd, because this is now the end of November, and for a month that is usually saturated in social media posts about thankfulness, I actually have only seen 2 posts of the sort this month. The month has flown by for me, and without being intentional to cultivate gratitude in my heart in this season, it has almost passed me by. Except, for no November reason, last night I found myself thinking about how grateful I am for one specific type of people in my life.
Confidence has always come naturally to me. For example, as a two-year-old I distinctly remember being so upset my first time riding a horse because they wouldn’t let go of the reins and let me do it myself. I was sure I knew how to gallop, even, by myself, and that I had the situation under control. Sometimes I have self-doubt, or am uncertain about my body or my skill or the way I measure up to others when I play that ugly comparison game of life — but for the most part it’s just come naturally. Not in a cocky way, either, I would say, though it can come off that way.
But I’ve been changing, growing, breaking and healing a lot over the past couple years, but part of what’s been broken that I haven’t looked in it’s glaring eye is the fact that I am no longer naturally confident in myself in many ways. I have kept up the confident charm, almost out of habit I think, but this past week two different close friends called me on it. One sensed my laughter and doubt under my tones of false confidence, and it was painful to realize that as she said, “You ARE amazing, you know that don’t you?” I couldn’t even look her in the eye.
“Look at me,” she said sternly as she watched me involuntarily look down when hearing her words.
I looked up at her, met her eyes, and with pain that I couldn’t explain said, “Please. Don’t.”
“No. We’re doing this. Look at me,” she pushed.
“We’re in public, celebrating, and I have mascara on my lower lashes. When I cry, it’ll run,” I said as matter-of-factly as I could.
“You’ll cry?” She was taken aback.
“Please,” I could feel the tightening of my throat and chest as I sensed her need for me to hear her on what she sees as true and good about me.
“Ok. We’ll talk about this later, then,” she said, and she let it slide as I had asked her to, but she gave me the same look I was subconsciously giving myself — the one that asks ‘Who is this person who can’t accept the good truth about herself without pain?’ She certainly wasn’t someone who was always this way.
Then later in the week, another good friend called me on it, too. “Look at me,” sounded out again as my eyes found their downcast way as if on command when my friend tried to affirm me. Several times, persistently the call of “look at me” washed over me and a gentle finger lifted my chin up to meet the gaze of someone who knows me and affirms me. Again, it was painful, but so necessary for me to hear those words of affirmation, for me to be forced to look at what’s good in me when I forget that there is anything there that’s good sometimes.
I am so grateful that I have a few close friends who see me, really see me, and who persistently want to remind me who I am — what I am — when I don’t remember, when I don’t feel that way. I’m grateful for these kind of people in my life who don’t just let me look down, but lift my face to meet theirs as they remind me of what’s true.
A long while ago, I wrote a poem with this line in it: “Grace stings the wounded soul like hydrogen peroxide on a skinned knee. The cleansing hurts.”
That’s the image I got again with these friends this week. I am thankful for people who are full of the hydrogen peroxide of life, and who continue to help me clean this metaphoric skinned knee inside of me.
Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
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