Truth Byte #21

Truth Byte #21

For years, my friends and family had me on a pedestal.  I was the straight A student that was destined for great things, that shining star that made people smile and made people proud.  I was the eldest daughter of a single mom, and I was wise beyond my years.  The pedestal they had me on was a tall one.

So when I fell off, it was a steep drop.

It happened slowly at first, people feeling let down when I would say no to them, or passing judgment on how I chose to spend my time and with whom, who I dated, how short I cut my hair, who I chose as a business partner.  And slowly it became more and more obvious.  No longer was I the family go-to person when something went wrong.  These days, when there is a crisis or even a celebration in my extended family, I am often the last one in the loop.  My friends, the ones who would routinely come to me for support, felt I left them behind as I moved into “the happy life”, and felt hurt and betrayed that I couldn’t be there for them the way I always had before.

Over the years, this has been hard on me, because so much of my identity was wrapped up in being liked, being nice, and being the family favourite.  People would fly in from around the country to celebrate my achievements with me.  Once I ran out of milestones (graduation, next graduation, next graduation, final graduation, engagement, wedding, birth of babies) I also ran out of reasons for people to rally around me.  

And so falling off the pedestal came as a huge shock to my self-esteem.

When you have spent your life having people look up to you, it can be terrifying to be the one everybody is mad at, or even worse, just an after-thought in the minds of those you love the most.

And yet, it was in the fall that I found myself.

For a while, I grasped for those heights.  I hosted dinner parties and planned surprises for people.  I went out of my way to be a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter/niece/grand-daughter.  But eventually I saw how those were just empty roles, and the people whose approval I craved had already made up their minds about me.

And it hurt.  And sometimes it still hurts.

But I would not trade in who I found at the bottom of that pedestal.  

The person I found has grit.  She is happy to be alone, and also a great companion if you let her in to your heart.  She is strong and capable, and yet knows how to ask for and accept help.  She has scars from her past, but they do not define her.  Most important of all, she knows she is enough.  Good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, kind enough.  Just plain enough. And she knows, deep in her most secret heart, that she is actually not better than anyone.  

Which makes her great at helping people who are in pain.

I share this private part of my life today in the hopes that all the golden children out there, the ones who have been put on a pedestal, can see that the fall can have it’s perks.  We spend so long trying not to fall that we move farther and farther away from who we truly are, and that is a much bigger tragedy than letting a few people down.  

If you are ready to fall off the pedestal, here are my six truths to get you through it:

  1. Know that you will lose people.
    • There are those who will drift out of your life once you stop making it all about them.  Let them go gracefully and with gratitude for what they are teaching you about setting boundaries.
  1. Know that it will be uncomfortable.
    • Golden children are used to believing they cannot fail.  When you start to falter in the roles you have mastered, it will feel weird.  Fall anyway.
  1. Know that you are not alone.
    • Your social support system may have dwindled, but know that you are making space for people who love you for you, not what you can do for them.  Meaningful, quality relationships are more important than being popular.  The right people will turn up as you keep doing you.
  1. Know that you are stronger than you have been made to think.
    • People on the pedestal are often coddled by those who want to keep them there.  You have been protected from feeling bad about yourself.  It is useful for you to be honest with yourself about your personal shortcomings, and use them as motivation to be a better version of yourself.
  1. Know that your reference point is changing.
    • Rather than relying on external validation, you will now have to cultivate your inner compass.  Rather then wondering “what would ______ think about this decision?”, the question now needs to be “what is my most courageous next step?”  You have to own your life, and be willing to take accountability for your decisions.
  1. Know that some people just won’t like you, plain and simple.
    • Once you start living from the ground, like everybody else, you no longer have that celebrity glow.  There are some people that will be really pissed off that you are not perfect, and that you are not living up to their expectations of you.  As a wise leader once said, their opinions of you are none of your business.  You will have to come to terms with being “not liked”.  After all, you can’t be everybody’s flavour!

Each time you take yourself off the pedestal (or are kicked off it through life experiences), you evolve into a more real, more whole version of yourself.  And if you have a habit of putting others on a pedestal, know that it’s just a matter of time until they fall, which is painful for everyone.  Today is a chance to embody equality, and evolve into that person who can connect with all kinds of people, while refusing to play the comparison game, in your own head and with other people.

Dr. Saira Sabzaali

Dr. Saira Sabzaali

Dr. Saira (she/her) provides mental health support through individual counselling, groups, immersive workshops/courses, and free educational content. Over the last 14 years, we have helped men and women of many backgrounds find answers to their questions about work, life, love, and meaning. Much mainstream psychology overlooks spirituality, family values, and community context, so we have decided to specialize in serving clients who are ready for change and also want to include their cultural values and spiritual beliefs into therapy.

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