I’ve heard this familiar refrain most of my adult life. Family and friends have tried to coax me into playing games, singing karaoke, or twirling on the dancefloor. I always decline. What if we lose? What if I sing off-key? What if I look like a fool?
I’m not sure why I care so much what others think. I’ve been told that others don’t think about me nearly as much as I think they do. In other words… get over yourself, Molly.
I love to sing and I think it would be a blast to hold a microphone and belt out a favorite tune. But Delilah reminds me of sixth grade when I auditioned for the school play. When I finished singing I looked over at the teacher and saw a big zero next to my name. “Remember,” Delilah warns, “you can’t sing.” So I content myself to sit in the audience and enjoy the performance of others.
Summer break after my freshman year of college, Geoff invited me to his house for lunch. Mom asked if his parents would be home. No, I responded, they both work. What will the neighbors think? she asked with such disdain I could hardly breathe.
I learned in that moment that it is not enough to BE a good girl. I must also live up to the good girl reputation of everyone around me. This is a heavy load to carry, my friends.
Three summers ago I attended a weekend writing seminar. I love to write, but rarely share my words with others. As part of the class, we had to write a three-page travel article and bring copies for all to critique. I followed the directions. I revised, edited, and revised some more.
There were twelve people in the class. The idea was to critique six essays on Saturday and the remaining six on Sunday. I was diligent in writing commentary on the essays, but I never spoke in class. I was too afraid my comments would be considered useless, off-topic, or ignorant.
At the end of the Sunday afternoon session, the instructor was ready to dismiss class. My paper remained unread. Apparently, my fear of voicing an opinion made me invisible – non-existent – worthless.
In the end, the instructor shared my paper and the class offered feedback. Some of it was difficult to hear and temporarily deterred me from writing. But three months later I re-read their comments and realized the criticism was only a fraction of the positive remarks.
I wonder if my fear is rooted in Delilah. Perhaps others don’t think about me as much as I think they do. And maybe, just maybe, if they think about me, it isn’t all derogatory.
If I can’t completely silence Delilah, I need to stifle her screams. I don’t want to be non-existent. I want to be me.