Who's That Woman in the Mirror? And Why is She Covered in Sticky Notes?

Hello, my name is Suzanna. And I’m too Emotional.

I’m also too Sensitive, too Needy. I’m IncapableUnqualified. I’m such a SillyGirl.

I’m Mean (if I’m not Nice). Too Loud. Too Quiet. I’m Nice (when I’m not Angry).

My behavior is UnbecomingInappropriateIndecentUnladylikeNaïveNasty.

I’m Like a Sailor (if I cuss). Like a Virgin (when I play Innocent). Like a Whore(when I play).

I’m a Prude. But also a Bad Girl who’s Slutty. A Good Girl who’s Naughty. In short, I’m a MessHelpless. Powerless. Useless.

I’m often Mistaken, and very often Wrong…unless I’m right, then I’m Out of Line. Then I Have It Coming. Because I’m such High Maintenance.

My boobs are too small. My legs are too skinny. My nose too pointy. My clothes are too tight until they’re not tight enough. My hair’s not long enough, but then it’s too short and do I really want to look like a boy? I used to be too young. Now I am too old.

I’m Unworthy. Incompetent. Irrational. Inferior. Not Quite, which means Never Good Enough.

I need to smile more. I need to think less. And I need to be Quiet. Silent. Because shhhh Suzanna, no one wants to hear what you have to say anyway.

*

I stared into the mirror. She stared back. We were both covered from head to toe in bright yellow sticky notes with words that were in someone else’s handwriting — husbands, boyfriends, fathers, mothers, friends, enemies, strangers, society — and because of it I couldn’t recognize her. Even her mouth was covered so she couldn’t speak.

Her eyes pleaded with me, while we shared the weight of our labels, words we’d acquired throughout our lives, which now burdened us to the point of exhaustion. Is this who I really am? I asked her. Is this why I can’t breathe? Why I can’t move? Why I can’t think without being interrupted by the chorus of voices in my head repeating all these words over and over again?

I needed to hear her answer, so I removed the sticky note covering her mouth, which read: Good Girl. And as though I had been swimming up from a great depth, hoping to reach the surface before my lungs collapsed from lack of air, I gasped and inhaled, unaccustomed as I was to be breathing on my own.

All this time I had taken these words, these labels, these accusations, these descriptions that claimed ownership and branded me, and believed them to be my own. I believed them to be true. I believed in their internal existence, when now I could see their only power was in my submission to their external adherence to my being.

But I looked fucking ridiculous, didn’t I? And I felt ridiculous, wondering why I had allowed such an invasion on my body. Why did I believe him? Her? Them? That perfect stranger who said I’d be pretty if I only smiled? The affront wasn’t in the actual words themselves, because I knew that sometimes I was silly, or angry, or naïve, or mistaken, but in the fact that I had allowed someone else to tell me I was any of these things at any given time when the only one with the real authority in the matter was the woman in the mirror, who by now was as equally pissed off and fed up that we’d allowed this to go on for so long.

We removed the sticky notes together, she and I, and with each label removed, I knew that she who stared back at me was actually no stranger at all. She was that girl, the one from a long time ago, from my youth (8, 11, 14? I saw her clearly) when I was moving too fast and flying too high for anyone to have success in sticking on a label. She was still in there somewhere, helping me to see that all I had believed about myself, all that had kept me down, kept me quiet, kept me from my own power, was actually not about me at all.

I wasn’t too emotional, too sensitive, too this or too that. I wasn’t inept, incapable, too little or too much. In fact, none of these words had anything to do with me but everything to do with who put them there. And now that I knew this, the choice was clear, so one by one I removed each sticky note with each label scribbled on it (some were harder to take off than others due to their repetition over time), and with each removal I ceased to be defined by anyone other than that girl, that woman staring back at me, loving me, in the mirror. We smiled at one another, and then we laughed because we knew: Freedom was finally ours.

All it took was the willingness to examine the source of the pain, and the courage to challenge reality as it presented itself to be. These labels that had become the foundation of my existence, that had altered my life in such a way that my very soul had been compromised, words that were behind every decision I avoided and every test I failed, were not any source of truth that came from within. Instead, these sticky notes that covered me were only projections of those around me, who needed for their own ego/supply/insecurity/shortcomings to be satisfied and fulfilled. People who also believed they knew who I was.

As if they had a fucking clue.

Once I realized that I didn’t own another’s projection on me, it was easy and effortless to remove each label and toss them back into the wind from whence they came, with some of the sticky notes having barely adhered and thus falling off on their own.

Herein lies the beauty of what it is to be truly free. And it was that girl within and the woman in the mirror who helped me find this freedom once I decided to allow them to speak again, a right that they should have always possessed but that I had stripped due to my attachment to others’ definition of who I am.

I’m still in possession of sticky notes, but today they serve not as a tool for others to label me and weigh me down, but as a reminder as to who really holds the pen and is the author and authority of my experience. I am the one and the only one to write who I am on any given day at any given time, which never includes the word “too” in front of any adjective since that signals I’ve done something wrong by going overboard on any emotion. Maybe I am emotional today because something awesome happened, or maybe I’m angry because an injustice has occurred, or maybe I’m anxious or stressed or giddy or goofy or dropping f-bombs like nobody’s business because my kids aren’t around and it makes me feel better to do so. No matter what the adjective is, none adhere to me permanently and I’m the only one with the authority to decide each day who and what I am.

And today, with the conclusion of this particular piece: I am vulnerable. I am bold. I am honest. I am free.

And like a sailor who is just like me would say: Fucking A.