On Being Small

It is never too late to be who you might have been.

George Elliot

There have been a few moments in my life I am not particularly proud of. They were defining moments when the worst of my character was exposed. I remember in college, when the green eyed monster spurred by insecurity took over my tongue and I denigrated the achievement of a close friend to a professor, basically implying that her earning a top research award was not intellectually merit based but because she was very attractive and a favorite of the judges. Me, a woman in STEM who claimed to celebrate women, made a statement to pull a female friend—a good friend!—down because I was jealous. I was immediately ashamed after the words left my mouth, acknowledged the terrible thing I said and apologized, and sought out my friend to ask her forgiveness. She was kind and understanding and forgave me.

That incident, in my early 20s, was imprinted in my psyche. Those feelings of inadequacy I had, and how I responded to them by lashing out, was a lesson that I have carried with me and try to put to good use when faced with similar events. It was a step in the direction I try to head each day, one of growth and improvement, if even slightly, on this path I walk in life. Now, I recognize my feelings, why they are there, and in most cases eliminate the reason they happen. But I am not a perfect being and on occasion (usually when I am outside my comfort zone) these undesirable character traits resurface. It is at these times I wonder, have I grown? Have I changed? Or am I still struggling and will always struggle with these things I am not proud of in myself? Yes, the frequency is less, and I deal better with these emotions, but they still come back, sometimes out of nowhere in situations where I lack confidence. And at times I purposefully indulge in these emotions, petty though they are, when I am experiencing feelings of frustration or anger concerning things that I can’t control. Despite my knowing better I find myself in the ditch rolling in mud. If only for a moment, I project those intense emotions onto a “safe” place. But at what cost? If I keep repeating patterns, how can I move forward? Because every time I act this way, I make myself small.

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