Helen collapsed on the brown leather chair. She stared at the spotless grey carpet. The lighting from the natural light coming in from the large windows bothered her eyes, so she kept her sunglasses on.
Her life coach, Gregory, a guy in his mid-forties, hazel eyes, leaned on his desk while waiting for Helen to answer the question. “What do you think about self-doubt?”
She inhaled and exhaled a few times as Gregory had taught her in a different session. She played around with long wavy hair and stared at her fidgeting hands.
“Self-doubt,” she said underneath her breath. She moved forward on the chair and put her hands up and said in an energetic voice, “What is it about self-doubt that pushes us into despair–that kind of feeling that wears your mind down and this inexplicable sense of loss in the deepest core of the chest, reaching beyond the soul and spirit. Every time I experience this type of doubt; for some reason, it helps me redirect my path toward my goals and dreams.”
Gregory raised his brows, “Really? And…”
Helen interrupted him. She looked focused. “I have to admit that when I am in this state of self-doubt and loss, I beat myself about it. For example, I beat myself a lot about my character and my life as a whole–something I am trying to quit doing.”
“I see. And the first step is acknowledging it,” Gregory encouraged.
“You see,” she paused, “I grew up in a household where, how do I put it, where everyone was a firecracker.”
Gregory creased his forehead, “Define firecracker. What do you mean by that?”
“Okay, so like if I dropped the milk or broke a glass, I would get into trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?”
She sighed. “You know, yelled at, ‘You idiot,'” or I’d get slapped around on my hands or arms. I mean, obviously, I grew up with anger issues and reacting. Everything was a reason to yell, even for tripping by accident and falling on my but. Not that we didn’t have our great moments as a family, of course. I’m obviously here with you, and zooming in on these issues.”
Gregory replied. ” I’m glad you had great moments. But those things sound a bit rough. So you learned that mistakes are bad, and the way to manage it was by reacting with anger? Or that you were an ‘idiot’ even. That’s a lot for a child to take in.”
The more she talked the less energetic she sounded. Her real voice of pain wanted to protrude out of her vocal chords.
She continued, “Yeah, I’m always afraid of mistakes and failures. Also, growing up, my parents called me, “brava,” meaning, an angry person. I was always so mad, you know. I wanted to be a good kid, a better person. But my mistakes were always bigger. It’s almost like they were waiting for me to mess up. I’d cried bitterly every time, and then they’d call me ‘crybaby’ or ‘manipulator’ or ‘crocodile tears.'”
“Ouch, that must have been so hurtful.”
Helen bobbed her head in agreement.
“So perhaps you feel that you were never rewarded when you tried your best and that when you made a mistake, they pointed it out or called you names.”
Helen tried to make eye contact with Gregory. But she couldn’t. It made her uncomfortable that he listened without judgment. She thought to herself, “Well, it’s his job.”
Gregory stayed quiet once again, giving her room to gather her thoughts.
Helen chuckled ironically, “They also called me…”
“You mean your parents?” Gregory interrupted politely. Something else Helen wasn’t used to.
She nodded yes once again and smiled lightly. She chewed her gum around before continuing, “Yeah, my parents called me stubborn, disobedient, back-talker, rebellious and I don’t know what else. And that’s who I am now. Turning into adulthood, my brother and sister agree with all of it. They even call me ‘their bully,’ which hurts me so much. I probably was. And maybe this is part of me. I don’t know. All I know is that any mistake I make is frowned upon and severely criticized. I could have six great days, but if I mess up on the seventh, that’s all I am–that 7th day. I can mess up six days, but if I have one good day, I’m the six days. I just feel bad for being that person. I try not to be though. It’s just so embedded in my core.”
Helen’s sunglasses fogged up. Gregory reached for a few napkins and handed them to her. He squatted in front of her.
“I’m so sorry,” Helen said with a broken voice.
“Don’t be sorry. It’s okay to cry, Helen. And no, you’re not defined by words assigned to you by your parents or your siblings, even your older self. You have the right to change, to be your own person, to pursue success, to pursue love. You deserve respect and love. And Helen…” He gently removed her sunglasses. “You must forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, and just like all of us, you’re allowed to learn from them. And if you fall, you need to get back up. That gut instinct that you feel about pursuing your dreams and goals, listen to it. You get to pave your future. Understand?”
He held her hand.
Helen stopped writing in her journal. She called her journal, Gregory.
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