The Courage to Become | Kim Pena
The “Courage to Become” is such an all-encompassing subject. When I first brainstormed this I thought of things I had “become.”
From a daughter-->friend-->educator-->wife-->mother-->strong woman the list was long but not super interesting. I reached out the Catia and she asked me a simple but powerful question, “What do you feel has been the most difficult for you? What were you most scared of?” I almost immediately responded but then I just sat back and really reflected for a few days because as an adult not much scares me, but that has by no means always been the case.
How did I go from a child who was scared of even speaking to a woman who not only finds strength in herself but works hard to surround herself with a village with other strong and amazing women?
On being young and scared
When I was young I was scared of everything. I don’t know if it was being the youngest child with an older brother who liked to pick on me or watching America’s Most Wanted (John Walsh gave me nightmares for years) but I was afraid of a lot. I grew up with a speech impediment and so I was always on guard. Over time I became not only scared of how I said things but of what I said. I spent my life trying to be who I thought people wanted me to be. I was most afraid of being myself.
I learned early on how to play a role. With friends and even with family I wasn’t fully me, I worked hard to be who I thought they needed or who they wanted me to be.
I learned pretty early on how to manipulate a false connection. I’m not proud, but it’s true. I let people see sides of me, maybe a dramatic side, maybe a loving side, maybe an intellectual side, maybe sometimes a mean side but never authentic me. I sat in fear that that they might figure me out and judge me or worse, hate me.
As a young woman I held my tongue and told myself that it was a good thing. That if I didn’t say certain things I was being strong and picking my battles – but really I was just holding myself in because I was scared.
I was scared of being wrong, scared of being judged, and sometimes even scared of being right.
The only person who I was completely myself around was my mother. I honestly wanted to meet and exceed any goals she had for me but not because I felt pressured. She was the source of love and strength for me. If I have any goals for myself as a mother it is to make my children feel as comfortable with me as I have always felt with her.
On growing up and finding authenticity
During my senior year of college I went to Austin to find a job.
I wanted to move and get clean break from everyone. I had lived by myself once in college (and even though it was a bad part of town and I almost froze to death) it was exhilarating and I couldn’t wait to do it again.
After I landed in Austin, I had coffee with a guy and I tried my basic first date formula, i.e. ask questions all about them, but it failed. He was the first person who saw through all my bullshit and asked me questions that really made me search for honest answers and then challenged me to defend my answers. So, I decided to try something radically different – I tried to be authentic. I spent time on my own and got to really know myself. And while not everyone was happy with the new me, I was able to form some of the most genuine friendships of my life.
Being authentic was definitely harder than I thought. There were still people in my life that I was terrified would judge me. There were people I loved -- and I really wanted to be who they wanted me to be – but it never quite worked. It is so difficult to reflect on whether the choices you have made are your own or someone else’s expectation of you. It is even harder to accept that the choices weren’t yours and aren’t something you wanted or are particularly happy with. The reality is that when you find courage to challenge the people in your life to get to know the authentic you, you can’t control the outcome.
I was heartbroken over some outcomes and relieved at others but either way my fear melted away and I emerged stronger.
On continuing to evolve
I have discovered the truth in the proverb that change is the only constant. In the last decade, everything about me has changed.
And as I grew so did my drive, my empathy, my capacity to love, and my self-will. I give as many chances as people need. I accept and still love those who don’t like me or still see me as the person I once was. I don’t judge, I embrace. I do everything I can to empower other women. I have friends who don’t agree with me on everything and yet we engage in respectful conversation and I adore them. I cherish my family. I make sure every day that my children and husband are loved and appreciated. I don’t hold my tongue, but I listen humbly.
Ladies, if you don’t have the courage to let your voice be heard and become strong enough to speak for yourself then you’ll never be heard. If you don’t love enough to listen, then nothing can ever be fixed.
If I could leave you with one discovery, it would be --
I have become strong not because I let someone in, but because I learned to let myself out.
And that same power, is waiting for you. -Kim
Essay by: Kim Pena
I'm Catia, a woman, wife, mama, sister, sister friend, you know -- I wear a million hats just like you.
One of my biggest whys is that I want people to feel good about ALL of who they are. Including you.
If I could choose ten words that best describe me I would say: honest, welcoming, giving, curious, loving, earnest, empathetic, spiritual, playful, and sassy. Let's add: adventurous. That's 11.
Nice to meet you!
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