Sometimes I feel like a scarecrow. Stuck, lonely, insignificant. A good servant, as long as I am doing what I am asked to do. Standing still in the field. Why don’t I just quit and go my own way? Because it comes with the belief that if I walk my own way, I’ll get rejected. And that belief seeps through most of my life.
As a kid in high school I thought: as long as I act as a cool, but sweet girl, dress a certain way and say this but certainly not that, people want to hang out with me. If I stop adjusting to their standards, they won’t like me anymore.
The same happened in my adult life. For example when I had my own business making softies out of children’s drawings, I loved doing it but I also believed this: as long as I make their designs, they’ll like my work. If I stop and do things totally my way, people won’t like what I make.
That makes me feel stuck. When adjusting to others it doesn’t feel right, and although walking your own way feels right in my heart, my mind is telling me not to go there. It tells me I’ll be a weird, walking scarecrow and nobody will like me. So what to do?
How do you start going your way? It’s scary. It’s vulnerable.
Every baby is naturally confident, so was I. That means I am naturally capable of living from my heart and going my way. That’s good news: living from the heart is not something you have to learn. You are already very able to do it.
BUT there’s something holding you back. It wants you to stay little and safe, it wants you to stay put. It’s like a large scary snake at the doorway towards your path. The snake is very loud and intimidating.
The snake lets you know it will attack when you try to pass by. Your own way is right in front of you, but you have to to pass the snake to get there.
How to pass by the snake?
First you’ve got to know where the snake comes from. It wasn’t there when you were a young child. Then you were dancing around going your own way. But when you are growing up, you get hurt from time to time. You’ll say something or do something and get rejected for it. It hurts, you get wounded.
We get wounded especially in our childhood, because in those years you’re dependent on caretakers and therefore more vulnerable. But you’ll get hurt in your adult life as well. Critics are everywhere. And here’s the thing. If your wound doesn’t get appropriate love and attention, it will stay there for the rest of your life. Every time a wound doesn’t get the love and attention it needs, your snake grows. It has to. To protect you from getting wounded too much.
Every time you don’t get the love and attention you need, you armor up some more. Your snake grows, and you adjust more to the social standards because it’s the only way possible to get into the outside world and not get wounded too much. Every time you adjust more, your snake wins power and it gets scarier and scarier to go your own way.
Your snake may even get a sturdy, keratinised skin. It’s like a scab on a real wound. Once the scab forms, your immune system starts to protect the wound. That brings us at the next thing to know about the snake: The snake isn’t there to scare you, it’s there to protect you from getting hurt again.
Turn it around
If you want to stop being a scarecrow, you have to turn it around by giving yourself more love and attention, from the heart. We search for love in others, and they can help us with this process. But to heal our wounds and go our own way, we have to love ourselves first of all.
A couple of days ago I was going to a creative market and felt a bit scared to be there amongst all of those people I didn’t know. That morning, I imagined all of those people being horses. Crazy right? But hey. What would determine my feeling of worthiness if I was the only human being there? How I looked? No, a horse doesn’t care one bit. What kind of work I do? How I present myself? How many friends I have? What I say or don’t say? No! None of those things would determine my feeling of worth. Not if there were only horses there. A horse doesn’t react on me socially marketing myself. A horse reacts on love, attention, being real, on care taking and playing.
Want to know a secret?
Human beings want the same things as those horses. But we hide it, under a cover. We have armored ourselves. We have snakes.
As Brené Brown says in her talk ‘Why your critics aren’t the ones who count’: “When you armor up from vulnerability, you shut yourself off from everything you do and what you love. […] As a creative being, what you get asked to do is walk up the stairs and get naked. Get really real. Put yourself out there. Let people see what you’ve made.”
Have you ever seen If You Really Knew Me on TV (‘Over de streep’ in Dutch)? Teenagers from all walks of life gather in a room and they’re asked to walk over a line when they have experienced a certain thing, or have felt a certain way. The goal is to demonstrate to students the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression. And it works. Every person loves unconditionally. But we armor ourselves and often don’t show our love, or even don’t know we have it in us. When we are all vulnerable, we show our unconditional love. We show who we really are. We turn it around. We stop bullying, criticizing and being guarded. We are really real and at that point we heal our wounds.
Why is it so hard to follow your heart?
It’s because we’re scared of the snake. Want to know another secret? The snake isn’t real. It only exists in our head, it’s imagined.
When a wound doesn’t get the love and attention it needs, the head takes over. We learn we shouldn’t be crying and whining babies because someone rejects us and says we’re stupid or ugly or dumb. We learn to get a sturdy skin. We learn that when we do what others ask us to do, we get appreciation in the form of candy, money, or social approval. The head starts covering the job of the heart.
Your head isn’t capable
And now your head tries to do everything. It rationalizes everything. But your head is not capable to show you your worthiness and enoughness. Only the heart can do that. You’ve got a heart, a self love-me, that is very capable and willing to show you your incredible worth. But you’ve got wounded through life and it didn’t heal. So you had to armor yourself (get more rational). And you got more intimidated by the snake. It protects you from getting hurt again.
Now you want to walk into the world, where you will get hurt. Your snake is raging, shouting at you not to go through that doorway. Especially not naked. It wants you to stay small and safe. Scaring you from the world outside is the only way it knows how to keep you safe.
What you’ve got to do now is focus all of your energy to your heart.
Put down your armor. Your wounds are showing. And you walk towards the doorway. Light is shining through. The snake is hissing. But you know the secret now. The snake isn’t real. You also know there’s unconditional love under everyone’s cover. It’s hard and scary, but start walking your way. There’s so much more. You are so much more.
Say something you held back before, wear that pair of pants you really like but you’re unsure whether others will like it, follow a course you love, walk outside during your lunch break to enjoy the flowers, or whatever you feel drawn to.
When you start walking and follow your heart, you won’t be a silly poor scarecrow. You’ll start healing your wounds. You’ll start giving yourself the love and attention you need to heal. And when someone rejects you, it’s okay. You know what to do.
Whether others like it or not. Share your feelings, share you, what you make. Focus on sharing from your heart.