Learning to Speak Again

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“I heard you’re back at work. How’s that going for you?”

“It’s been really great. But it’s just part-time.”

***

“Goodness, your boys are busy. Do you have any other kids?”

“Nope, just the two.”

***

“I really loved the last essay you wrote. How often do you write?”

“Just the one piece a month.”

***

“You did amazing on that last workout.”

“Thanks! It’s just because I’m fast at skipping.”

***

Just. Just. Just. I’ve been speaking this way my entire adult life, and I’ve only begun to notice it recently. That word, that tiny, seemingly insignificant word, creeps its way into my conversations all day. It is woven into the fabric of my speech as deeply as “please” and “thank you.” Except that this word isn’t about good manners or showing my appreciation for a kindness—quite the opposite, in fact.

It tumbles out of my mouth so darn quickly. It is hell-bent on deflecting praise and devaluing me at every opportunity, however trifling it may seem.

Just part-time. Just the two. Just the one piece. Just because.

In other words:

I’m small.
I’m underachieving.
I can’t handle more.
I got lucky.

I’m not sure how diminishing myself became so completely natural. It has become the way I move through the world. Of course, I’m not only undercutting my work and life choices to those around me. I hear myself say those words. And I don’t hear it the one time. They run on an incessant loop in my mind, tormenting me in pockets of stillness.

Just, just, just …

I’m not enough, I’m not enough, I’m not enough …

I know it isn’t true. Logically. But it’s so difficult to argue when I hear myself say it every day, in dozens of innocently crafted ways. It takes great self-awareness and effort to interrupt the white noise of negativity I’ve been lulled by for years. My brain doesn’t receive my clunky efforts at truth telling nearly as seamlessly. All my destructive thoughts pass like fine grains of sand through a sieve, while my childish attempts at speaking goodness and grace are the misshapen pebbles that get lodged in the holes. They rarely make it through.

This habit has been deeply imbedded in my brain for more than twenty years. I assume it will take time to undo. One of my initial efforts will be to answer those questions above once more. Except this time, no “just” allowed:

“I heard you’re back at work. How’s that been going for you?”

“I have gone back to work. I absolutely love it.”

***

“Goodness, your boys are busy. Do you have any other kids?”

“No. Two kids are perfect for our family.”

***

“I loved the last essay you wrote. How often do you write?”

“That means so much, thank you! I write once a month.”

***

“You did amazing on that last workout.”

“Thank you, I was really happy with my effort.”

Writing the words is one thing. Saying the words is another thing entirely. I’ve already caught myself throwing in a “just” a few times today. It’s so automatic. But at least I caught it. I’m hearing it. I’m desperately trying to reroute those well-worn grooves in my brain. Those grooves keep me small and apologetic. They undermine me and squelch my belief in who I am. And who I could be.

After twenty odd years, I’m learning how to speak all over again. I’m finally ready to be done with shrinking.

I think I’ll give taking up space a try.

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Megan Gahan
After over a decade in the fitness industry, Megan now spends her days chasing two pint-sized tornadoes disguised as little boys. By night, she is a writer and editor for SheLoves. A proper Canadian, Megan can often be found in the woods or at Tim Hortons. She writes at megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
Megan Gahan

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