When I was eleven years old, my family moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia to St.John’s, Newfoundland.
Up until that age, I was energetic and outgoing. I made friends easily. I was invited to all the birthday parties. I loved school and naturally did well. Life felt easy.
I approached the impending move with my usual excitement and enthusiasm. A new house! New school! New friends! I looked forward to it all.
That summer we travelled by ferry to Newfoundland. A couple months later, school started.
And that’s when everything changed.
The girls at school didn’t welcome me with open arms.
In fact, they often deliberately left me out, putting their arms around each other to keep me out of their circle. I continued trying to join in but they either ignored me or laughed at me.
It didn’t help that I was 11 going on 12 - a difficult time for girls anyway. I was also the only non-white girl in my class and my body was going through changes including the horrible pubescent facial hair growth that most East Indian females face (read: a mustache). (By the time we are teenagers we are well versed on all the hair removal options inside and out!).
I remember standing on the side of the playground wondering why I was watching the others have fun. Why was this was happening to me - couldn't they see the real me? And then of course those thoughts turned into wondering why I wasn’t good enough. And finally, what was wrong with me?
And that is when the disconnection from myself began.
Gabor Maté defines trauma as disconnection from self. For some this disconnection happens through more serious traumatic events, like abuse or neglect, - “big-T” trauma as he describes it.
But even “small-t” trauma can cause a disconnection from self. And it was during those lonely days in sixth grade that the disconnection from myself began.
Dr. Maté says that much of what we call our personality is actually adopted coping styles that do not reflect our personality but the loss of it.
For me this manifested into an acute need to be accepted and liked. From every angle and for most of my life, I worked on proving to myself and the world that I was worthy of friendship, love and respect. I needed proof that I belonged.
While I experienced more big-T events later in life (my dad’s death when I was twenty and of course my husband's long illness and then passing in my 30’s), it is that feeling of not being good enough exactly as I am that I still struggle with the most.
Even to this day, though I’m surrounded by loving, ambitious, open-minded, incredible friends, I still often feel like I’m standing just outside of the “cool kids club”. I may hang out with them now, but I'm not one of them.
But here’s the thing.
Now that I know that within me still lives that hurt kid, left out on the playground, I don’t have to leave her there.
I can go get her. I can kneel down next to her whenever she needs me. I can hug her and let her know that I’m here, that I’m going to take care of her and that she is perfect as she is.
I can tell her that she is beautiful, wonderful and whole. And that life is so much more expansive than what she is feeling at that moment on the playground. That she has unlimited potential to become whoever she chooses.
Do you have a playground story? A specific moment where you lost sight of your perfect, unique spirit?
For some of us, there isn’t a defining moment. There is just a gradual sense of loss. We often don't even notice it until much later in life. When we've done all we are "supposed to do" to feel good about ourselves and gain approval from others, but it isn't enough. We've checked all the boxes but still don't feel whole.
But in reality we emerge into this world already whole. We are born a beautiful spirit manifested in human form. We are perfection and at birth we naturally embody that knowing.
And then through the human experience, we lose that knowing.
Our ultimate life's journey is finding our way back to ourselves.
In my group program for women, Be All You Are, we focus on tuning back into that knowing. We shut out the outside noise and allow our strong, clear, intelligent inner voice to come through.
Together we tap into our innermost desires, cultivate the courage to take inspired action and bear witness as our confidence grows.
The rejection I experienced as an 11-year old girl will always live with me. But it no longer directs how I live my life. If anything I now recognise when 11-year old me has taken over and I gently let her know, it's ok, I got it.
The 3rd cohort of Be All You Are begins on Thursday, January 26th. Join me and a group of warm, open, supportive women as we remind each other who we really are.
If this resonates with you and you'd like to learn more, simply sent me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you more details.
Kena Paranjape, Founder, All You Are
"Before the program I was feeling lost and disconnected from myself and my path. I was on the edge of making a huge change in career without really understanding what it was I wanted or needed to do. This program enabled me to center on what I was missing and what was important to me. It didn’t mean extreme changes in my life but incremental actions I could take to change how I viewed challenges and establish goals to make positive changes in my day to day life that enabled me to focus on what I valued most." - Sandi, Be All You Are Alumni
"Kena's kindness, strong leadership and appetite to challenge me and the way I would think about myself was incredible. I didn't know how much I needed that "someone" in my life to help lift me and think outside of the box I was putting myself in. I left the program with more confidence in my decision making, my skill sets and a real belief that I could do hard things." - Lesley, Be All You Are Alumni