I Don’t Know Why I’m So Afraid To Shine

Brooke Cagle
Brooke Cagle

I have always considered myself to be confident. I’m a people person – what my friend Victoria calls “a great conversationalist.” She was describing herself, but these are small details.

Even so I’ve noticed that I consistently do things to undercut myself. My very labeling of my articles as “ditties” speaks to the fact that part of me doesn’t think my writing is worth the same semantic clout as a “piece” or an “essay.” I’d rather be little Hayley writing little ditties, cutely condescending myself to beat others to the punch.

I write “just” and “sorry” in emails where I’m “Just following up!” or “Sorry to …” I’m the one on top of it, and I needlessly apologize for that. All the time.

I do this physically too. I went through puberty on the early side and quickly became taller than most of the boys. I felt awkward around my peers, so I’d hunch over and contort myself to accommodate the height disparity between us. I still do this reflexively whenever I feel insecure or somewhat unsafe in a situation.

When I meet someone new or “important” or when I’m the youngest in a meeting, my shoulders shoot up. This obviously, stupidly, calls more attention to my seeming uncomfortable. Ugh! When I met the man my mom is currently seeing, he low key asked her if I had scoliosis.

I am genuinely puzzled as to why I don’t think I can or should take up lots of space in the world. I know I’m the best! And yet I do shit like this routinely. Is it a gender thing? Or a younger thing? I know a lot of it’s ego. My ego is a fiery pit of ass juice.

A part of me is scared to shine at the level I know that I have within me – like that Marianne Williamson quote from A Return To Love, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

I guess identifying as the sort of broody cousin of humble – she wears tons of eyeliner — is better than acting self-important. And I know I’m not the first to do this. Funny women do this. But I so wish they didn’t.

In the meantime, my mother will keep saying the code word to signal me to stand up straight and I’ll fake it ‘til I make it.

My Kanye playlist helps. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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