The Motivating Mantra of My Younger Years
March 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
While most 18-year-olds and the law consider an 18-year-old an adult, I still felt like a child. Like a little girl in a big girl’s body who had to hide. Someone who couldn’t cope with normal things, like driving on the freeway, going new places, meeting new people, or getting out of my comfort zone – and my comfort zone was really, really small.
And so, with much encouragement from my parents, I enrolled in college. I no longer had the incentive to see Tom Jones perform in Las Vegas, so this is the slightly twisted mental game I played with myself in order to give myself the courage to move forward in my life:
“If I am going to get Tom Jones to fall in love with me… I have to get out of the house.”
“If I am going to get Tom Jones to fall in love with me… I have to drive to college.”
“If I am going to get Tom Jones to fall in love with me… I have to walk into that classroom.”
Why did I need to use the idea of Tom Jones falling in love with me in order to do the things I feared? Obviously there was a lack of ego strength; a lack of confidence and self-love; a teenage self-loathing based on anxiety, teasing, bullying, rejection, not relating to “normal” kids at whatever age, being different from others, etc. The sheepish teenage girly-girl in me liked his exhibitionism and told me I needed my motivating mantra because he was handsome and must be as wonderful as my youthful hopes and dreams (projections, really).
My subconscious was sending some kind of message I didn’t know or understand at the time, and had something to do with me knowing that Tom Jones would never fall in love with the person I was. So somehow I had to become the kind of person Tom Jones might fall in love with. I couldn’t become the kind of person I needed to be just for myself, so I had to become the kind of person someone really special, someone who had a gift, might fall in love with. If someone who has value loved me… it would mean I had value… right?
If you look at ego development from Erik Erikson’s (esteemed developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst) point of view, adolescent occurs between 12 to 18, and is a time in which you find your identity through what you do, who you socialize with, how you define your beliefs, how you begin to grow away from your family, begin to move into your own social circle, and become part of society. Somewhere during the normal course of childhood development, I grew physically tall, but was emotionally stunted; my family defined my beliefs and I had accomplished none of the steps of maturity listed above.
While I did a lot of praying, I didn’t know any other ways to help myself, so I “attached” to this singer who was able to express so beautifully and powerfully, in song, every emotion a human being could feel. I depended upon his voice to always be there for me; I depended on his songs to identify or express how I felt; and once I saw Tom Jones sing live in Las Vegas I depended upon him to make me feel like a woman. I also depended upon Tom Jones to never reject me.
In Tom Jonesville I was safe. Entry into the real world as a college student, however, was challenging because I had become so withdrawn it was difficult to be around strangers (basically, anyone I didn’t know, which meant everyone). I lived in fear that someone, especially a professor, would speak to me and I would have to respond.
Thus began my secret life with my motivating mantra, “If Tom Jones is going to fall in love with me, I have to…” And though it may sound odd, this is what helped me negotiate the scary dark corners of my younger years, and yet another way… the singer saved me.