birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Inferiority Is A Painful Thing

I wouldn’t have called what I experience “inferiority” until quite recently. It leaves me second-guessing myself all, I do mean ALL, the time, regarding the smallest things.

I have learned a fair bit about its contours in the past 12 months, but I don’t understand where it came from. Is it genetic—some familial curse rooted somewhere in our DNA? Is it societal—stemming from the denigration experienced by German Americans during the two world wars? Is it class—having grown up poor and working-class I often feel like a fraud in the upper-middle class world I inhabit now.

How does a blue-collar girl become a bluestocking? Not quite the right question, but it will do?

It is both a wound and a scar to carry these frames of oneself. I feel a tightening in my chest as the words come off my fingers onto the page. There is also a faint burning sensation at the corners of my eyes and behind my nose—the threat of tears. I don’t like it! At all!

When did I come to know that we were not like other people? I was around 11 years old. I began going to a Methodist church, and I joined the girl scouts. Also, cliques started forming then.

The ones who were “in” went with mothers to San Francisco to buy school clothes. They had Capezio “Wishbone” Mary Janes. And, they had “bucket bags” of real cowhide leather. I had my cousin’s old skirts, and saddle oxford shoes—sturdy enough and big enough to last the whole year—chosen under the eagle-eyed watch of my thrifty father. To be honest, he was penny-pinching—necessarily so. He scoffed at fashion, and the “plutocrats” who practiced it.

The “in”-s were in Campfire Girls, not Girl Scouts, with their pretty blue skirts and white blouses instead of that drab heathered green bag of a dress we wore.

The ins had shining faces and wore pale pink lipstick, even though the school didn’t want them too. The ins didn’t do homework, and they snuck out from their slumber parties to take walks with boys. They went to the dances—and danced. The Twist and The Watusi. They even had boy-girl parties, with pizza from a restaurant.

Am I so shallow that this is what I believe makes one good: food, and clothes and amusements?

There must be something more to this haunting, enfeebling thing that my inferiority is. It doesn’t give way to any kind of reason, to any kind of proof of achievement. It keeps me that gawky, self-conscious, self-condemning 11-year-old. What am I to do with it? For it? To it?

I would like the wound to become just a scar—merely a line of silver skin that fades into the rest. Like the four tiny scars from my gallbladder removal last year—I have to hunt now to find them.
What would it take to heal the wound of being so dang different, so that the scar would no longer show, and I could go on, ahead, aside—and stop comparing myself to every Tina, Di and Jane. I am so tired of finding myself wanting, and so wanting to find myself fulfilled.

The path I was given was education, and I have become one of the most educated people I know. I have a bachelor of science in microbiology with a huge does of chemistry thrown in; I am a master of the divine [that’s tongue-in-cheek, you know—the degree is a Master of Divinity]; I have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and a license to boot that allows me to use that protected appellation. And—I am now working on a Certificate so that I can call myself “Jungian Analyst”. But none of these achievements has been, or likely will be, the remedy for the pain of being not-enough.

The path was not enough. Maybe I am just scarred. My supervising analyst recently said, “Inferiority is not a bad thing….”

I guess it can produce humility, which allows you to ask when you don’t know, to seek further when others might stop. Humility is a good thing.

Can I stop the self-humiliation? Am I the source of my own wound? Can I become the balm for my own scar? It just now occurs to me that ritual scarring is often part of initiations. I even had a dream once of a client with red lines all over the face—that I finally understood as this kind of ritual scarring. Even Jesus had—has—his scars. I guess everyone has her scars.

And, still, this is not enough. Perhaps, it is just that—there is simply not enough. Best stop straining for enough—time to scoff, with my father, at the “plutocrats” and their fashions.


He Has a Soul!