Otherness & Muchness.
When I was in high school I remember a distinct feeling of “otherness”. I felt otherness at school and I felt “muchness” at home. Muchness is the term I like to use for that quality some people have where they’re just a little too much. Between the otherness and the muchness I, strangely, also had a very pervasive feeling of confidence. It may have been rooted in rebellion or the grit and determination of wanting to prove myself, but, for whatever reason, I had it. I HAD IT. I stood on my own two feet. I worked part-time jobs while finishing high school. I kissed the hottest boys. I drove around my 1982 silver Jetta (Jenna) with the windows rolled down and the stereo up. I wore glitter over my blue eyeshadow and grew my hair out long. I wore red doc martens and rolled my uniform skirt too short (which always landed me in detention). I never bought into the people around me being “better”, “prettier”, or “cooler”. I really didn’t. I wouldn’t stand for it. I had insecurities of course. What teenage girl doesn’t? I knew my eyebrows were too bushy and my posture was bad. My teeth were crooked and my lipstick was too dark. I suspected every cool girl in the room was whispering about my Canadian accent or the size of my nose but I looked the other way and chose not to feed those demons. Oh god, those creeping, sexy demons… the ones who lure you in seductively with thoughts of beauty, power and possibility until you realize you’re knee deep in comparison.
As an adult I’ve realized again and again that these dynamics don’t change much. I’m still confident and I still feel otherness. Both are true. Women now cluster in groups that get names like “cool” and “smart” and “mom” and “single”. Names like “kind” and “bitchy” and “annoying” as well as “inspiring” and “beautiful” and “cliquey”. We may be well past our teen years, but we huddle together like we’re lost in a darkening forest and glance sideways quickly to see who’s beside us. How do we measure up? Who approves? Who seems to be judging? Who’s competing? Who’s copying? Who’s trusting? Who’s loving? Who’s willing to be my friend???
Much like in high school, I find myself with feelings of “muchness” and “otherness” in this thirties era of a thing we call life. I don’t feel like I have a distinct place and I also feel like I teeter on the edge of too much. As a 36 year old I am more comfortable in that space than I was at 17 but it’s still a thing. It’s still me amongst my people thinking thoughts like, “Am I enough? Am I doing enough? Am I being enough? Is this ok? Is this not ok? Did I just blow that? Am I a fraud? Do people think I’m nuts? Do people think I think I’m great? Do people get what I’ve been through? Do people get how hard I work? Do people understand how much I love them? Why don’t I have anyone to call when I’m truly upset or in pain?” All the while I’m acting confidant because I am that too. I am both. I am insecure and I am standing on my own two feet giving insecurity the middle finger.
Am I alone in recognizing societal & relational patterns that follow us into adulthood from high school?
Here’s the thing about it all: recognizing this stuff is one thing. Continuing with it unchecked is another. Part of adulting is practicing letting go of the bullshit that keeps us behind walls so we’re safe and protected from pain (aka: safe and protected from those who may cause it).
Starting my business was a leap forward for me in saying to the wold, “Hi! I’m Meg! I often feel otherness and I’m the queen of muchness but I’m here and that’s who I am and I want to love you and connect with you despite it all and hopefully you’ll be gracious enough to see past the ‘other’ and the ‘much’ and give me a chance.” We each have our own version of this. Maybe it’s, “Hi! I’m Lacy and I often feel alone and angry but I’m working through that and I’m dedicated to healing and I would love to practice my love on you” or, “Hi! I’m Clementine and I often feel left out and resentful… unworthy and shy… and I’m an adult now who’s overcoming those hurdles and practicing a different way of being.” Whatever those old patterns are for you, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you see them and you OWN them. You feel them. You work through them. You build your life despite them.
Worthiness is our birthright. We are born worthy. Just as worthy as every other human. We question it when we’re small and we’re hurt by someone. We question it more as we grow and get hurt even more. We allow pain to take away our worthiness and then we have to reclaim it with very hard, very thoughtful work… day by day. It’s God’s work really. The work of the goddamn angels. We heal ourselves so the world can be whole. We can’t change Sally next door but we can do the work on ourselves.
Often I’ll be sitting with a client and it will come up that they feel unworthy of success, uncomfortable in regards to money, or in some way, shape, or form like a fraud. There’s a real sense of not being legitimate. This is so common that I’ve come to wait for THE moment in any given conversation when this topic rolls around. More often then not, it will.
I always say some variation of the same thing: You are legitimate when you believe that you are. People take their cues from YOU. No one else can give you legitimacy or worthiness. That work is done on the inside. It’s highly intimate work that can only be done by you.
Cool girl Karen can’t give it to you. Sporty Susan can’t. Happy Helen can’t. NONE of them can. The ones who took it from you can’t return it to you. Your abusers can’t undo what’s already been done. Your ex-husband’s forgiveness (or apology) won’t make it appear. Your father’s acceptance won’t overwhelm you with validation that overcomes it all.
No, my love. No, no, no.
You lost it along the way and now you must take it back. You’re an adult now and it’s your job to do big adult things that are terrifying and don’t feel fair but that you are 100% capable of doing if you persist.
Pause if you can for a second and consider how these old patterns creep up in your work. Are you really “not into sales” or are you just not yet great at asking for things that you need? Are you really “not sure you’re a legit creative because you didn’t go to school for it”, or are you just not yet great at expressing gratitude for your gifts? Are you really “working too hard” or are you just not yet great at managing your time and being efficient? Notice where you’re declaring something about yourself that feels concrete and then see if you can flip the script a little. What could you be practicing that would lead to important growth in an area where you aren’t strong yet?
Instead of putting your stake in the ground and declaring your lack, see if you can open yourself to the possibility of a new way of being, behaving, and showing up in the world.
My name is Meg and I often feel “otherness” and “muchness”. I’ve felt that way off and on since I was a kid. I’m also really confident and bold. I am open to a new way of being this year. I am open to practicing belonging and acceptance. Belonging and acceptance. Belonging and acceptance. I’m not 17 anymore and I’m ready to let go of those old ways. You are my people and I would like to practice with you if you’ll have me.
Join me, will you?