I was talking with one of my dearest friends a couple days ago about my most recent therapy session. I have been feeling a lot of fear and a lot of grief lately, and my therapist walked me through a visualization where I saw and spoke to younger versions of myself. One of the versions was the 20 year old me. In this visualization, she was very suspicious of the 33 year old me. She wanted to protect the 6 year old me. She wanted to prove that she had it all under control. She wanted me to get the hell away from them.
I told all of this to my friend. As we processed, we talked about the ways we internalized perfectionism and the embarrassment we feel about our young adult selves.
When I was 20, I was pretty sure of myself. I *thought* I knew a lot about the world and myself. I *thought* I was a bonafide adult who was motivated by love alone. But I had very low self-esteem. I wanted to be liked and loved. I projected an image of myself as someone who was both responsible and fun. I gave everyone a lot of space to hurt me and gave myself zero space for imperfection. Everyone else could be people who learn and grow, but not me. If I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t going to be tolerated. And if I wasn’t tolerated, I was never going to be loved.
It was a vicious cycle.
I have a 21 week old baby. He does nothing but learn and grow. No one expects him to be anything but a 21 week old baby. He can mess up without being a failure. Or worse, being cancelled. He gets to start exactly where he is.
But what about the rest of us? Do we get to know what we know when we know it? Or is everything I have ever done in the past up for scrutiny using the lens of what I know in the present?
Because the 20 year old me really could use a little grace. Like the same amount of grace that I give to Row for not being able to feed himself. It’s just not something he can know how to do yet. And 20 year old me didn’t know a lot yet.
I attended a conference last Thursday and Friday, and one of the keynote speakers said that learning is sacred. Learning is sacred. If this is true, and it probably is because we have stories about God learning (Noah and the flood story come to mind first.), then why is it so easy to get stuck in perfection, shame, and embarrassment? Why can’t I just say I didn’t know any better?
Can we all just say we didn’t know any better? And then show up with our full selves ready to grow and be better than we were before? Can we all have the right to learn?