There are things we give up on.
We all gave up on something at some point of our existence: it may be on singing, or on dancing, or on being sexually attractive, or on being successful or on being slim… the list may be endless, and we all can add something relevant to it from our own life story.
As children we were able to dream, we didn’t know yet that as humans we were limited by many variables we just could not control. To navigate between them, bearing some frustration is one of the challenges of the human condition.
Sometimes it happens to us very early in childhood, sometimes later in life.
We may have tried these things out as well, but somebody has laughed at us at that moment, and the feeling of shame hurt us in such a manner that we then decided to not take this risk any more.
These unconscious beliefs can also be inherited from our family: some of us grow in a family where children were accepted and noticed only if and when they were strong enough, or calm enough, or sporty enough. Children are all smart enough in order to adapt and to deliver what is conveyed as the “right” way of being by our early environment. At that time to fit in the environment was a question of survival. But not any more: as adults we revisit these things and give them another try, maybe in a different way.
The reasons why some of our childhood dreams remain out of our adult’s life frame may vary, but usually the decision to stop trying transforms into unconscious believes shaping our life, impacting many of our choices.
HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
Here is my story, which is very certainly similar to many of other people’s stories.
When I was a child, I loved music and got involved in a choir. I was not gifted but I admired my music teacher, and her opinion meant a lot to me. The day of a very important performance, she inadvertently shamed me in front of other fifty children, asking me during the concert to open my mouth without making any sound.
Shorty after that incident I gave up singing and playing piano, and decided that music was not for me. I was not even good enough in order to enjoy others singing, it was sending me back into that painful place when I sank in front of other “better”, more gifted, children.
This is not a big deal, you may think.
But let’s explore how this may have impacted my later choices.
Since then I used to be attracted by people who had this cherished gift I did not have. So, I went out with boys who played instruments, I was around girls who sung… but all this time I was painfully aware of how agonizingly unable I was to produce a sound in tune. It made me feel ashamed and uncomfortable, but I was still choosing to be around these people.
As you may guess, any party involving singing (Christmas Carols, Karaoke or even a birthday, with a group small enough to let my voice be heard) was not something I was particularly looking forward to. So, I declined many of the invitations and stayed alone.
When somebody you really treasure asks you to shut up, it may as well sound as a message about your voice not being welcomed. So, I guess I learnt to speak quietly, and this soon became a habit. I surely do not scream, and it happened to me more then once to not being able to place a word in a conversation. Every time in the group of people who were skilfully using their voices I felt small and ashamed. The old “choir” situation got replayed again and again, and every time I was directly sent back to that painful experience.
So, after that day I gave up not only on singing, but also on making my voice to be heard.
It took me some time and work in therapy to realise this, and eventually I am getting better. I am able to sing a loud “Happy birthday!” in the middle of a restaurant to a friend, but Karaoke is not yet an option.
These auto-limitations are deeply ingrained in our bodies and in our minds, but we can still challenge them. Sometimes we need some external help in order to overcome them, but it is surely worth the effort.
Consider how different your life may be if only you wouldn’t give up any more on these little things.
I would be able to sing loudly in the shower and eventually to better use my voice to defend my opinions and to make myself seen and heard.
Sometimes we forget what these things really are. And we might need a reminder. Old journals often do the trick, or if you never wrote one, you may consider revisiting your childhood dreams. Somewhere among them lie buried those little things we gave up on…