As a twenty-something, I was not very cool. I was diligent. I was somewhat neurotic and not particularly adept at dressing to the trends of the time. I was a plain jane. But most of all, I was strong. I was a strong girl.
Those were my own labels, my own unique set of limitations that I had slowly invented and evolved. And as a twenty-something, I wore them daily without so much as a glance at them. Each time a party reared its head, I would bow out if I could or buckle on the armour. It’s not to say that I never enjoyed myself, but I was strong in the face of something that was a challenge. And challenges surely came my way: those that tried to blow me off course and those that tried to break me. I knew how to stand tall. I knew how to bear masks when needed and create temporary fortifications until I could crumble quietly and humbly alone in a corner at home later. I was strong and I survived it all. And as much as I could ever ask for, came, of course. My strength was my gold star, my sheriff’s badge that allowed me to respect who I was.
And then one day, I caught a glimpse of a mirror. And it looked something like this. A girl who had been out with me for an evening had an experience that turned sour. She was crashing at mine, her on the futon in the lounge and me in my bed and my bedroom. And I got a text from one of her friends asking me to go check on her because she wasn’t handling what happened to her very well. My reply? ‘I can’t help her, I haven’t dealt with my own similar experience so I won’t be of any use.’ I sent the answer and then stared at my phone. I was strong. There was nothing I couldn’t handle. But I couldn’t go and deal with a friend in pain, because her pain was too similar to mine. I was strong but I was sitting on a well of pain which I had never dared excavate. And I started to see….
I’m a thirty-something now and I am many things. I have strength but ‘strong’ is not the label I sew into the fabric of each day now. Back then, I was strong and therefore I pulled challenges to me: large, small, constant and consistently painful. It gave me purpose and a story, a sense of significance and a certainty of who I am. But it held me back from so many joys and so many connections. Thank god for mirrors. And trust me, they are all around, all day and every day if you only care to look.
As a thirty-something I am working on being my own unique blend of perfectly imperfect. The labels I choose are ones that will allow me to grow, affirmations not restrictions. They are aspirational: ‘loving’ and ‘respectful’ and ‘optimistic’. They give me pro-active power, the ability to remove myself from circles that undermine me and do things I need to do to bolster my own sense of happy self. I am working to be rid of those limiting statements that I bore for so long. I’ve a long way to go, but at least I know I’m doing more than circling around flag posts flying colours that do not serve my growth.



4 thoughts on “mind-sewn labels

  1. Your twenties reminded me of my mid/late teens all through my own twenties… Though I wasn’t strong, I was ‘too mature’, too mature for being goofy, too mature for playing music loudly, too mature for most parties… Sure… I wore the mask well when the truth was I was too scared of not being mature enough to enjoy myself like others my age, I was scared of the thin line adults had pointed out existed between being safe and not, between the good and the bad teens fall prey of… I missed out on a lot and if i did give myself permission to enjoy I had a blast and can say I have rarely laughed as hard as I did back then… regret is useless now, right?! Today I pray for level-headedness when my children reach that fabulous moment in their lives… I’ve planned to make the rest of my life a collection of memorable moments, no self-limiting labels or beliefs… thank you my dear friend, I am always transported to incredible places when i read your posts! Xo, alexandra

    • And you always make them so much more by finding something in them for you – so thank you. And no, no regrets, better to realise some day than never at all! Wishing you a beautiful weekend xS

  2. Beautifully written Safi, I just love the statement about mirrors. Becoming a mumma has almost forced me to look in every mirror. Mirrors I’d covered up and put into storage for decades. A painful process, but necessary, in order to bring out the gentle, humble, steady, honest and respectful leader I want to be for my girl. Thank you for your truth and your insight. xxx

    • Thank you, Mary, for reading and bothering to comment too 🙂 And although the learning’s tough, I’d always rather do it than not. And you have the most beautiful motivation of all 🙂 xxx

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