About ten years ago, my family and I were at the zoo, sitting at a picnic table having a snack, when we noticed one of the free roaming peacocks close by. But this peacock was not showing off its beautiful feathers. Instead, it was standing in front of a soda machine, feathers down, staring at its own image reflected in the machine. All of a sudden, the peacock began pecking at the soda machine. Not just a few gentle pecks, but aggressive pecks, angry pecks. I assume it thought that there was another peacock glaring back and was trying to protect its territory, but actually its behavior was aimed at itself.
The peacock reminded me of myself and almost every other woman I know. While I may not physically peck at my image, I examine every blemish and imperfection when I look in the mirror. I don’t need a real mirror though to put myself down. Words and thoughts can be just as powerful. I can mentally list all of my shortcomings with ease, and I tend to recite them often. If do not live up to my expectations as a mother, wife, writer or contributor to the community, I beat myself up emotionally. Even if my expectations are completely unrealistic, I feel bad about myself when I do not meet them.
Even though my actions often mimic the antics of that particular peacock, I could take a few lessons from the other times I’ve seen peacocks in the zoo. As recently as a month ago, we were at a different zoo and came upon a peacock with its plumage on full display. This peacock stood proudly in all of its beauty with its gorgeous blues and greens. My kids and I were in awe of the breadth and reach of its feathers as it acted as though it knew we wanted to see all of its glory.
Fighting against myself constantly is not actually effective in making myself better. I do not improve by berating myself. I cannot move forward but become paralyzed just as the peacock attacking its own image. If I focused on the pieces of my being that are special or unique, I might find that I too would be more confident and more willing to reveal my true colors to others instead of hiding behind convenient masks that dull my luster. Like the peacocks that fly freely throughout the zoos, I have freedom to pursue my dreams and desires – I am not caged. When I dwell on my flaws though, I build my own bars and restraints. By focusing on my strengths, I might start to understand that I am not my own enemy.
Getting out of my own way is not always easy. Honestly, at times, I don’t even realize I’m sabotaging myself. But when were at the zoo last month, I bought a small zippered pouch with an image of a peacock on it. Maybe if I carry it around in my purse, I will remember to give myself a break, stop pecking, and believe in the worthiness and beauty inside me. Inside all of us.