Recently, I shared something on FB that prompted a former elementary teacher to comment “Leah… I’m not at all surprised by your dedication, sensitivity and compassion. I observed these same traits from the time you were ten years old.”
Really, those traits showed when I was ten? Why didn’t anyone tell me?
Or did they?
In my early twenties I had such deep yearnings to be an actress, but barely knew how to recognize them or respond to them. I had been a dancer, and that part of me wondered how to become equally alive on stage through words instead of through music. To ease my insecurity, I wanted proof that I was a good actress, that I had talent, and that I could be competent at it.
This is why, when I found myself sharing a subway ride with the leader of an acting intensive that I was doing over the weekend, I had to ask. Did he think I was any good? He answered that acting was 90% communication, and that I was a natural communicator. His answer left me only slightly encouraged. I translated his words to mean: “Eh, maybe you have some potential”
Only in recent years, I have come to really understand how well he perceived my talents and potential and what a gift that was for me.
Just a few weeks ago, I heard from a former principal of the elementary school where I taught in Texas. She commented: “You were, are and will always be the most amazing kindergarten teacher I ever hired and had the joy to get to work with!” I was floored.
How had I come to think the opposite was true? That we had just learned to respect each other nonetheless?
In all these stories, I had been so busy focusing on what was going wrong, listening for what I wanted to hear, and caught in my own narrative, that I couldn’t recognize the acknowledgement or empowerment around me. I totally missed the recognition of my strengths and the positive reflections of how I was showing up in the world.