The fear of being misunderstood and criticized has driven many of us long enough. We want what our soul desires and to share our talents because it lights us up. No more explanation needed.
I posted pictures earlier this summer I was cautiously pleased with, and that changed…
On a rainy June day I dragged an old crate out of my closet and dumped it into a glorious colorful smear onto my living room floor. There were pictures of plays I’d done, play programs, photo shoot pictures, class certificates, and behind the scene photos from creative adventures. They felt like they were from a lifetime ago. With good warm fuzzy feelings in my chest and conflicting loud voices in my head, I grabbed the back of my neck to rub a thundering ache of thoughts away.
Rifling through paper remnants of accomplishments I had forgotten about, my fingers whisked by some black and white photos that took my breath away. My eyes watered and softened, holy hot hell, I thought.
Leigh Kiernan | Photographer
My mind spun backwards years ago into the time frame the pictures were taken. I was new to town; my support system was nearly non-existent. The life I'd experienced up to this point made me absorb limiting ideas and snarky or jealous comments people would toss my way. Not knowing I could question what I was hearing, I multiplied that gross feeling energy inside myself. It felt like the world around me automatically assumed that if it looked pretty, then it had no problems, struggles, and was supremely confident. The way I appeared and the way I felt did not match. In my search for answers, I constantly explained my puzzling mental mess and the gravitation tugs in my soul to people that inquired and to those people that were in my corner. Often receiving dead end responses, I felt so confused about what I was discovering in myself. My belief system was on autopilot and like a high powered vacuum cleaner sucked up every poor quality story outside myself that held me back and pushed me down. With few good internal tools and meager positive reference points, I clung to those external negative narratives like the last life boat sinking with the Titanic. It’s no wonder the modeling I attempted didn’t go anywhere…
If you could go back in time to encourage your younger self, wouldn’t you just bear hug yourself and verbally impart mustard seeds of self-worth, self-esteem, confidence, and belief in yourself? When these photos were taken, I couldn’t see, feel, or believe I was capable of the creative story calling me from my soul. Nor did I really know how to value what I had, elevate or support my talents, and share them. So I thought, anyways.
Reflecting on these pictures and past accomplishments, I began to feel a fiery pride in every pore. of. my. skin.
Hot tears leaked down my cheeks. Feeling weirdly dizzy, I saw my younger self from the outside looking in. I realized this younger self didn’t know I’d learn to snowboard, mountain bike, travel all over the country, and some places outside of the U.S. I didn’t know I’d discover acting and be cast in over two dozen stage productions, act in six independent films and a dozen film shorts, attend film acting classes in LA and Portland, model for photography, make new friends, and have many more creative adventures! I didn’t know I’d experience the resilience of making a life after a heartbreaking failure of marriage and friendships and relationships, handle my borderline eating disorder, be a scrappy single mom living hand to mouth, or be with my dad through his cancer and passing. I’d also go through so many other life challenges that would bring me to my knees… only to heal, rise up wiser, stronger, and even more gorgeous in spirit. The younger self I saw in those pictures didn’t know or believe the power of my creative and life story resided within me -in words I say to myself and those that I chose to live.
When I sense a wild heart discontent that makes me feel like my teenage self who skinny dipped in the wooded lake areas of Minnesota and smoked cigars after too much whiskey, it’s time to take that feeling and grow. Digging deeper in myself these past months to own my life story, talents, and evolve acting skills with more radiance and confidence, I grabbed that old crate of pictures. Mining through the photographic bones of my past, I was looking for clues to open a vulnerability to myself I had long shut down.
Connection to others is messy, wonderful, often unpredictable, and confusing. The connection with myself is no different. I’ve tried so hard to keep connection compartmentalized, all neat with little bows. As you might guess, that, just doesn’t work.
After too many months of comparing how I’m vulnerable with myself to how other people do it, I figured out, as usual, I need to do things my way. Vulnerability, a seemingly elusive transparency that allows other people to see us --how we really are and also how we see ourselves. My vulnerability is messy, sad, nonsensical, funny, curious, and is often embarrassed to ask for help. My close friends, some family, and a few random human angels have been saying, ”you got this” and have graciously offered safety, listening ears, wisdom, and patience to help stabilize my floundering struggles.
As I rediscovered the amazing inside myself in these pictures and programs of shows I‘ve done, I felt myself appreciate my accomplishments for a minute, and then pretend I didn’t see them. It was a splendid (and friggin’ exasperating!) never ending game of hide and seek. I hide myself… from me.
Leigh Kiernan | Photographer
I have a deep need to hear sweet external encouraging words about myself and the artistic story I’ve been creating. These pictures (and programs), however, made me focus on words I’ve said and say to myself… Why have I had one hell of a hard time creating remarkable words consistently inside myself so I can hear them clearly AND believe them? I don’t have a perfect answer. The best one seems to be that I’ve had a paralyzing fear of being criticized or misunderstood so I stop owning my natural & cultivated talents, intelligence, and experiences -and pretend they don’t exist.
Rubbing the teary mess off my face and closing my eyes, I felt a strange but awesome prompting to bless and honor my younger self. My shoulders unhooked themselves from my ears and a delicious buttery sense of pride made me grin ear to ear. I had followed my intuition. I started pursuing a form of artistry (modeling) and I didn’t quit exploring, living, learning, achieving, falling on my face, and getting up regardless of what life threw at me or choices I made to discover myself as an artist. That, was SO brave. Declaring this to myself deep down, I sensed I had planted a flag on the moon that no one could take away.
Discarding narratives that do not serve my soul as I keep finding my way as an actress/artist is bold and courageous. I am meant to do and be something here on the planet; I am worthy, have valuable talent to contribute, and to share. It takes guts to admit this to ourselves, feel it deeply, and to allow ourselves to really fall in love with believing we are totally capable of creating from the story in our soul that guides us.
Self-vulnerability that recognizes and accepts our own assets, whether we are born with them or have cultivated them, feels somewhat magical and may be the missing ingredient in your own internal narrative.
There are two basic stories we tell ourselves in our own head: you suck (fear) and/or you are capable and wonderful (love). Putting those traits and experiences you consider brilliant about yourself into the love story you tell yourself about you… is brave self-vulnerability. I feel embarrassed, and silly sometimes, with how long it’s taken to put way more of my personal story building power inside myself.
I’m giving myself the warm bear hug I needed and still need now by evolving my beliefs about myself through mindset shifts and energy changes in my spirit. Using these transformations, I’ve been swapping out old narratives in favor of improved ones that support me.
It’s interesting and surprising how posting those pictures recently, now with support of good friends, family and some life experience, helped me start rapidly re-scripting even more of my emotional narrative from the ground up. Being recently inspired by a quote from Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly, “When we bury the story, we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story, we get to narrate the ending.” has helped strengthen my focus inside myself.
Having boosted importance for narrating my story internally (with support for it from the outside) and owning what I’ve done so far is what these pictures clarified in me. They re-lit a sparkling fire of passion as an actress and emboldened my artistic voice to continue creating more vulnerably with all my talents and experience.
I’ve waited for the right time. I’ve waited for someone to allow me to feel and or tell me how begin that narration. I’ve waited for someone to answer the 'am I enough question in my story.' I’ve waited for critical narratives to stop and waited for other people to ’get’ what I’m creating. That narration begins, and began, when I decided it did AND it is what I desire it to be. No more explanation needed.
In sharing my heart and growth through blogging, stories, and poetry, I have faith you'll find possibility, empowerment, and inspiration to create like a champion in your own life.
Sharing is awesome...Love to hear respectful thoughts or comments. Please share with your friends and family if you find something helpful or entertaining!