While describing my life to one of my closest girlfriends yesterday, the metaphor of a crab came to mind. That's a first.
Feeling like a crab...
But it captured my feelings, "I feel like a crab who has outgrown her shell but doesn't yet have a new one to protect me. Like I'm this little naked, vulnerable, soft animal waiting for my new shell to harden."
She laughed, but understood completely.
I googled crabs after I hung up the phone. Apparently some crabs wait in their outgrown shell until they find a bigger one that fits them. That's not me. I don't feel like I yet know what the new shell looks like or feels like. I don't feel like I'm shopping for something new, rather I feel like I'm becoming something new. But some crabs, like the Fiddler Crab simply have to be reclusive and hide until their new shell hardens. Yes, that's me. Soft and vulnerable waiting for my new shell to harden.
But I can't be a recluse and hide like they do.
Feeling insecure about my new projects...
My life is anything but hiding under a rock right now. In fact, I feel like I'm being called to step out of my comfort zone in ever-expanding ways--fundraising for my business, developing a book club campaign, scheduling my book tour in February, and just continuing to dream about new ways of fostering meaningful friendships among women. Which sounds so good, but still feels scary.
Not scary because I'm uncertain about my path. No, I feel quite sure that I am meant to have stepped out of my last shell, which felt comfortable but was limiting my growth. But scary in the way it always feels when you're somewhere you've never been, doing things you've never done.
Little voices whisper haunting questions in my ear, "What if you can't pull this off? What if you're not the right person to be doing that? What if you fail in front of everyone?" And my little critical voice is quick to take advantage of my insecurity as it senses that I might listen more closely now than I normally do, "Shasta, you're not even a business person, you don't know the right people, you don't have the money or the platform that this project requires." And there I am, a little crab running around on the sand naked. Squishy. Vulnerable.
But the reason I thought it was worth sharing my vulnerability with you today was because I've observed something else that accompanies these feelings of insecurity: comparison.
Feeling jealous, going into comparison-mode...
When I'm my healthiest, I rarely feel a need to compare myself to others. Ingrained in me is the strong belief that we're all wired to fulfill different functions on this earth so I don't need to be jealous of someone else's path. I know that I am the best person in the world to do my purpose and that I am not lacking anything I need to fulfill my contribution. And that the same is true of others. Also, having been a pastor and coach, I've seen the underbelly of a lot of lives that would appear perfect to others. I've sat with women who others envy and seen the secrets they hold and the pain they hide. I know that their journey is theirs and mine is mine-- no need to compare and contrast and covet.
But that's when I'm at my healthiest. When I start feeling insecure, all bets are off.
I've observed this partnership between my insecurities and comparisons of others with curiosity this time. I've noticed that as I wonder if I have what it takes to, say, launch a book successfully, that I begin to compare myself with others who are seemingly successful at this very thing. And as anyone who compares, my only choices at the end of that line of reasoning is to conclude that one of us is better than the other. Neither result feels all that good.
It hit me today, again, what a huge connection there is between our own personal health and our ability to engage in healthy relationships. The more insecure we feel, the more we'll walk around trying to impress others, or worse, devalue them and try to make them feel bad about something. I haven't gone there yet. I think just noticing this in me-- that I'm more prone to feel jealous right now-- is helping me show up with a bit more intentionality than at other times in my life.
This time, I'm trying to breath deeply and remind myself that it's a good thing to outgrow a shell. And that it's normal to feel vulnerable in between the shells--in between the jobs, the relationships, and the goals we take on. So I can be gentle with myself. I can nurture myself with more self-love and grace. I can forgive myself generously for not knowing all the answers, having "enough" money, or being as amazing as I see everyone else being.
And I can be mindful of not letting my own insecurities bleed into my interactions with others. I will keep cheering for them. I will be inspired by them. I will give to them when I can. I will keep giving time to helping others on their journeys. I will remember that we all feel insecure in some place-- maybe I can help someone else navigate the waters that feel new to them. We all have something to give.
And I will remind myself that it's when I'm most vulnerable that I actually have so much to gain by having friends and people around me. I need them. I mustn't risk pushing them away or letting my fears bleed onto them.
My shell is soft, but that's okay. Being a naked little squirmy thing has its advantages too. :) I can get closer to people, feel things more freshly, move more quickly, and see the world in a different way.
Today, even without a shell, I am as I am meant to be.