Envy is Unrealized Potential

I wrote this over six months ago.  At the time, I wasn’t ready to let it be public. It still isn't easy to share, but I know now I can help others by speaking up.  My life feels much different now.

Are you tired of playing small?  Are you ready to show your true colors?

At yesterday’s pity party, I was alone, in a corner, drinking a nice cup of “woe is me” tea, when along came Hillary to spill it all over me.  She was flailing her arms via cellphone while lovingly kicking my ass. What I heard loudest through my personal fog was “HOW DARE YOU INSULT THE UNIVERSE BY PLAYING SMALL”.   I’m not prone to using all caps, but she was speaking in them, I assure you. 

I was having a hormonally challenged morning, on the heels of an alcohol fueled night of dark obsession.  I was aimlessly web surfing “the competition” and seeing all the things that I was doing wrong….all the things I wasn’t becoming, all the pictures I wasn’t taking.  Worse, I knew it didn’t matter whether or not I was a good photographer, because I really suck as a marketer and self promoter. 

I was seeing fabulous blogs, information products, testimonials about massively multiplied income, and book publishing deals….everything I didn’t have and wasn’t doing, and somewhere on a low boil, envy and jealousy were preparing to burn my vessel.

Hillary prescribed some “pattern interrupts” for my insanity:  take a walk, get out of the house, move your body.  I think I was also supposed to make a list of all the people in my life I was grateful for, and the ways they supported me.  Nice idea, but if you know depression like I do, you know that even simple tasks are not simply done.   Note to HR: I still haven’t made the list, though I sense its vague formations developing in my head. 

I tried an afternoon nap, but I ended up reading a magazine (ok, looking at the pictures) while not watching some serial murder investigator on Netflix, on my laptop, while in bed.  Brain numbing, multi non-tasking.  Let’s just say yesterday was roughly a total loss.

Now I have today.  So far, so good…no early morning run to school (school’s over for the year!  Hallelujah!!).  Coffee in hand, laptop in bed (only when boyfriend is away because officially, we frown on bedroom electronics) back to some potentially dangerous internet surfing. It always starts so innocently with “checking Facebook, or email”.  Where it goes from there is like a daily, dreaded weigh in on the bathroom scale.

But this time, better things come to my screen, and I am inspired by this tidbit that speaks to my soul:  “Envy indicates unrealized potential.  It indicates areas of growth so deeply important that it sparks a profound reaction.” – Amber Rae.   Profound words from some youngster in Colorado with an energetic smile and a snazzy website (upon further investigation, it turns out she’s some kind of star  badass).  Hillary says I have an “issue with age”.  She’s right.  I wish I had been smarter when I was younger.  I hate that my wisdom has been paid for in years…if not decades. 

Meanwhile, how can you not believe in a higher power when the internet sends you such insightful wisdom in such unlikely places when you need it most?

Unrealized potential.  Shizzle.  My fourth grade teacher, Mrs Hansen (who came to mind three times yesterday), used to talk about my potential.  She said I had a lot of it.  She also said I should be more patient with people who didn’t catch on as quickly as I did.  Ouch.  She was saying this when I was 9 years old.  I must have been one smug beech.  Looking back, I see that this was the year my parent were divorcing (and now I know divorce doesn’t happen overnight, it takes years of emotional buildup). 

What kind of pain was I internalizing and pushing out sideways?

By eighth grade, many of my classmates hated me for my straight A’s, athletic prowess, and teacher’s pet status.  You know why prom queens and quarterbacks are not the stars at 25th reunions?  I think that being that ‘successful’ when you are young makes a lot of people hate you.  As a teenager, that is a lonely and awful place to be and not one of your peers has the emotional maturity to see that you might just be a normal person inside with all the same self doubts that we all have. 

In fact, I believe I was something of a star at school because I was trying so hard to get the love and attention from adults (like teachers) that I wasn’t getting at home.   Unfortunately, attention from teachers appeared to be inversely correlated to approval from my fellow pre-teens.  

To fit in with the ‘cool kids’, I needed to screw up, make some waves, hang out with the kids who were experimenting with sex and smoking (thank god I didn’t pick up the latter), and most of all, I had to stop trying so darn hard to be so good at everything.  My parents didn’t seem to notice since they were too busy hating and verbally assassinating each other. 

My peers, particularly in Spanish class,  rejected me as “Miss Goody Two Shoes”.  That was not a term of endearment.

No wonder all of this is coming up now.  Yesterday my son finished seventh grade.  Eighth grade was the year I really took steps to self-sabotage and play small.  “If you hate me for being a pretty girl and a good student/writer/artist/athlete, I’ll show you”.  I lived that year in deep emotional turmoil and conflict.  I’m not saying I am quite that childish today, but Hillary sees that little girl in me and knows she needs some love.  She also needs a stern talking to.

HOW DARE I INSULT THE UNIVERSE BY PLAYING SMALL??  Now it is my turn to yell at myself, with love.  I mean really, Tanya.  How many more people have to tell you how genius and fabulous you are?  How many more people have to say how great your photography is or what a great writer you are?  “How many more people do I have to send?” said the Universe,  “You dare to insult me by not listening to anyone?  Maybe I should stop sending them.  But I love you too much.  Maybe if I just send you a quiet little internet quote by a stranger, you will listen to me.”

When messages this big finally get through, I honestly want to laugh at myself for being so stubborn and having such a thick skull.

This one bears repeating: “Envy indicates unrealized potential.  It indicates areas of growth so deeply important that it sparks a profound reaction.” 

I notice I do not envy many people.  I do not envy many other photographers.  But there are a few that really fuel that burn in me, and I see now exactly why.  I see myself in them.  Something they are doing triggers this profound reaction in me and it really has nothing to do with photography.  It has everything to do with courage, and having a willingness to step into my potential, out onto the stage, under the big bright lights.

The last time I tried living in my potential, I believed that people hated me for being good. Since I really needed to be liked and loved more than I needed to be good, I just played a little smaller.

Finally I have realized I
am liked and loved for reasons that don’t have all that much to do with my work. I have been incredibly fortunate in all areas of my life, both personal and professional almost in spite of myself.  

I am so ready to stop wanting other people’s lives and start loving my own. I know some people will envy me for that, and I can only hope they will learn to step into their unrealized potential faster than I did. 

Whatever happens next will be whatever I choose to create.  I’m living on an edge, about to step out of one paradigm for living and into another.

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