Stepping Out of Shadow

The Department Managers hashed over a sticky problem that needed a solution.  Mostly men with far more corporate experience than me, I felt dwarfed.  I kept pushing aside an idea for a possible solution.

As my boss and I left the meeting, I said, “Instead of going through such complex hurdles, couldn’t we…?”  I described the idea I’d been swallowing.

“Amy!  That’s brilliant.  Why didn’t you suggest this in the meeting?!”

“Well…I decided if it was such a great idea, you would have thought about it already.”

“It’s an amazing approach.  Get a memo to those managers immediately before they start spending money on George’s idea.”

“It would be more appropriate if it came from you.  You’re the Vice President.  If I hadn’t gone today and had told you about it, would you have suggested it?”


“Then go ahead.  They’ll pay more attention if it comes from you.”

He shook his head and made a bee-line to his secretary.

Sitting in the Shadow of Another

Sitting in the Shadow of Another

No surprise, in my next performance review, he wrote, “Become more willing to share creative solutions, in writing and verbally, to benefit the greater good of the corporation.”

At the time, I believed those more experienced managers would surely have thought of the idea.  Since none of them suggested it, I figured there must be something wrong with it.

I paralleled this approach in my personal life.  “Amy, the way you look at life!  How do you come up with these insights?”

“My mom had a rare combination of intelligence, common sense and wisdom.  You can thank her.”

It was true, my mother did hold a triumvirate of talent. As a teacher, she knew the value of helping people formulate their own answers.  Besides my siblings and me benefiting, so did her students, new teaching staff, friends and family.  Even the Anglican clergy came to our home for regular visits with Mother.

A church person once said, “As hard as I try to minister to your mom, I end up being the one more served!”

In other corners of life, I’d work diligently to remember sources of any degree of help found while I whittled mindfully at an idea.  When a concept was ready to be shared, I’d give the source full credit  – no matter the degree of contribution.

A few years ago, I realized I was diminishing myself.  I didn’t want to be a person who deceitfully took full credit, but I began to see the injustice I’d been serving myself.

Finally, I began catching myself.  As I was about to sing the praises of another, I would stop.  But I didn’t know how to fill the empty space.

It took a while to find my language.  I still wanted to lean on the crutches of others so I became determined to figure out this tendency and clean it up.

A few months ago, through a University course, I uncovered the nub (click here to read about the course at Operation Blind Spot).  I exposed the sensitive core, the open wound that caused me to flick the spotlight elsewhere:  I was petrified of being criticized.  I didn’t know if I could defend myself.  I wasn’t sure I could trust myself to respond with calmness and sound thinking.

My sagacious teacher-mom had a way of helping me without criticism.  She formed relevant questions that allowed me to dig out my own assessment or evaluation.  Though it was one of her qualities, it meant I was ill-equipped to handle criticism so readily offered by a judgement-oriented world.

After years of denial, I saw how my big-heartedness i.e. giving credit to others, was not my true motive.  I was actually placating my fear of being criticized.

Did I change my behavior immediately?  First, I had to accept there are very few ideas formulated without a great deal of influence from all sorts of sources.  I realized it was okay to take credit for my willingness to gather, assimilate, percolate and punctuate data.  I was given the seasoning, but I had given birth.

Gathering the Orphans to Bring Them Home.

Gathering the Orphans to Bring Them Home.

Then, I discovered the Thrive program and signed up for an integration process.  It meant discovering and lovingly reassuring this 4 year old part of me, my “orphan” or soul fragment, that I would always protect her.  At that fragile age of four, I’d experienced two significant lies being told about me – by other children. Two different mothers on two separate occasions confronted my mother.  They each repeated the lies told by their children.  Each time, I became terrified that Mom would believe them.  Lies were foreign; they didn’t compute in my young brain.  The only defense I had was my word.  Both times I stood silent, full of shock and horror, and didn’t hear my mother’s responses.  The minute we were alone, I could only cry my innocence to Mom.

Both times, she assured me, “I know you wouldn’t do that, Darling.”  I melted into her with relief.

Both times, she gave Dad the same message:  She told each mother it would be beneficial to discover the reason her child found it necessary to fabricate blame and lay it on another child.

May I be this kind of blessing to my integrating “orphan”.  What a delight to bring her home where she’ll handle criticism just like a big person.

25 thoughts on “Stepping Out of Shadow

  1. What an amazing mother you had Amy – a real blessing… I found this story pressed many buttons for me… lack of confidence has always dogged me… and that in-ability to defend oneself !
    I shall be following up all the helpful pathways you’ve sign-posted us to, thank you Amy. love Valerie

    • Exactly, Valerie, and I was so tired of that lack of confidence. (People seldom believed I had it!) There have been times I’ve shared ideas with another and watched them soar. I didn’t regret their success one iota, but wondered why I would put on the brakes instead of jumping in. So the process I learned is brilliant. I’ve not run across one so effective – and you know I’ve been an inveterate student/seeker!

    • Thanks, Granny. How is your eye doing…and I’m wondering if the house is almost inhabitable. Just checked your blog and it looks like you are posting as erratically as me.

  2. A most interesting post…it made me wonder about how society produces a lack of confidence in various groups as a means of control…just some random thinking engendered by your post.

    • Now there’s fodder for a good conversation over a pot of tea, Mr. Martin! Was it, “They’ll pay more attention if it comes from you.”? The truth of that statement made my skin crawl, but that’s how it worked at that time…well, even now in too many ways. So I used it as a means to some of my ends.

      Another point I’d want to share is the one about feeling powerless…i.e. I only had my word. That is one very scary space to occupy. I experienced it, once, while doing a work contract. I was a member of both a racial and sexual minority – and did fear for my life. But I knew the contract would end. And, yes, the experience certainly made me consider the lives of people whose safety isn’t simply going to return in a matter of time.

  3. What an appropriate message to come across today, Amy. After having a major panic attack yesterday and then browbeating myself over it…these are the words I needed to hear. My little “orphan” child was wounded too and still manipulates situations to (I think) protect herself in a no longer useful manner. One of my sisters and I are doing an online workshop based on our Inner Mean Girl…so we are attending the Inner Mean Girl Reform School together! Yay!

    And what a wonderful mother you had, Amy, you are so fortunate.
    Gayle ~

    • Oh, Gayle – the best of success with your online workshop. I am going to look for you online – sounds like a class for all of us!

      Yes, I’ve been very blessed. In fact – as I grow, I am more and more humbled in seeing how blessed I was. Though we’re taught we chose our parents, I am grateful for whatever Divine reasoning caused me to choose her – and my father.

      • Thank you, Amy. I still need to reassure that soul fragmented orphan within that she is safe and no longer needs to act out. As part of my healing I wrote a poem yesterday. Do you think it’s useful to write about these things or does it just fuel the fire so to speak?

        • P.S. I forgot to congratulate you on coming up with a great idea for work and having your boss give you such accolades…wonderful. And then for you to realize that you need to give yourself credit and pushing through your fear of criticism…yes!

          • Gayle, any approach that gives you an opportunity to “see” – to have more clarity – is worthwhile. You are a poet, dear woman, and that’s one of your passions. When it feels good and right, it’s yours for expression. Use it.

            I understand your question hopefully – we’ve been told to focus on the positive. However, wounds need healing. Ignoring or denying them “air time” means the wound continues to fester and puts us where we are today…still living ‘woundedly’.

            Acknowledging the orphan and listening to that orphan tell her story does not bring power to negativity. Listen as deeply as you would any loved one’s story. There is no need to re-live it, but it is important that it be given voice. It’s that process that allows the wound to weep as a cleansing. Otherwise, it stays in your soul, continues to fester (even more with awareness) and nothing changes.

            Your orphan may be that poet crying to come through. Let her.

            XO – Bravo, Gayle.

            • Thank you, Amy, for your very helpful and generous reply for me. The fact that you said “when it feels good and right”…those words really resonated within. Some time ago, I had consciously decided to tap into what feels good and to steer away from that which doesn’t. Maybe it’s time to get back into my writing on a more frequent basis…it was more helpful to me than I realized.

              I very much appreciate that I was led to you to find some answers…thanks again, Amy.
              Gayle xoxo

    • Tell me, Kim…how is it that mothers have that extra reserve to give even at the lowest of times? You ALL amaze me. I’m not exaggerating when I say that mothers are the most God-like humans on this planet. A mother’s brand of love cannot be topped – even by a very loving, contributing father. As a single woman, I’m in the same category as engaged fathers. I have lots of love to give, but could I find its tap and give like a mother in the depth of invisibility or devastation?

      Ahem…you caught me on a day when I’m feelin’ the love…even though she’s on to another dimension.

  4. I too have had the time when it was only me and my word, it is a scary place, but we must be true to ourselves. I am playing catch up today with all your posts.

  5. Such a thoughtful and lovely (and loving) post! Well played, Dear! I admire the way you continue growing even though your “problem” was one which might actually make you more popular with many people. I’m sure you agree, greater personal empowerment is worth going through this growth process 😉

    • I appreciate that discovering the humanity in others can offer great hope. I’m willing to share any “problem” if it is going to be fodder for someone else.

      I’m fascinated and I hope you see my question: what causes you to add “Dangerous” in front of your name? Your comment is the antithesis of danger.

  6. Dangerous Linda is my nickname from babyhood — it seems some people find my lack of conformity somewhat threatening. I hope you will visit my blog sometime — I think we may have much in common. You don’t need to be afraid 😉

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