Thursday, 1 December 2011


I have been learning lots of new language in the last few months.  Mainly as the result of going to see a counsellor for the first time.  The one that keep coming back again and again through each session is injunctions.  Now I know the definitions of this word and I am sure that I have used it on occasions, however not in the context of feelings and emotions.

Many of the injunctions that we hear as we are growing up are very regularly used by lots of parents and are well needed - 'Don't do that' can stop a child sticking their fingers in a plug socket.  These are injunctions that we all learn from.  However I have discovered the biggest injunction (an authoritative warning or order) that I ever received that has really restricted my personal growth was 'STOP SHOWING OFF'.  I am sure that I am not the only child that had this said to them.  My problem is that it was said to me all the time, in front of all sorts of people.  Until I have started to really think about what this injunction means, it was just one of those phrases that if I ever heard it made me shrink inside.  So what does 'stop showing off' mean to me:

Don't do that you are embarrassing me.
Stop expressing yourself that way.
That is no way to behave.
No-one is going to like you behaving like that.

All these can be summed up in three words to me - stop being you.  You see, I am naturally extrovert, I don't mind being the centre of attention.  In fact I often thrive on it.  How sad that it has taken me 43 years to get to the point that I can accept this part of me.  I have probably ended up craving far more external validation that is actually healthy just because of this in juncture being so repeatedly handed out as I was trying to find out who I was for myself.

It is a very hard phrase to get rid of, there have been a few occasions when I have even found myself saying or about to say it to my children.  I feel so very grateful to the dear friend who once quietly pointed out to me that I had said it as an adult (in front of my mother to my children).  She did it with such grace knowing how deeply wounded I have always felt by the words.  And I am absolutely positive I have never even considered using it again since.  I have just tried Googling the phrase only to find it filled with really negative expressions.  If people didn't 'show off' how would we get to enjoy the art that other people are able to express by showing it off?  All writers would keep their books in their heads, all artists their pictures, all actors their skills of expression - what a dull and lacking world we would live in. 

So I have decided if you have an urge to 'show off' then do it!


  1. Every word rings bells with me Jane. Your experience of the dreaded phrase echoes my own and does indeed leave its mark in adult life.
    As children, we, my three brothers and I, were always encouraged to do our best, but, should we ever try to demonstrate how well we had learnt that song, poem, math's table, we were instantly shot down in flames.
    This inhibited our social development to a very considerable degree, and in my case, meant that should I be asked to sing in public, I would only do so behind a curtain or a partly closed door.
    The constant injunction to "be quiet and don't show off" left one brother tongue-tied to such a degree that he is even now, almost unable to express even his most strongly held opinions in a remotely articulate way.
    Too late for me to re-learn behaviour but not for you.
    Do show off, do speak your mind, do display any talent you may have. In other words, be yourself.

  2. Well said! The biggest injunction given to me was 'you're the eldest so you need to look our for your younger siblings/cousins' and look where that got me! It's good to let them go and get on with your life :) you can show off to me anytime :)

  3. I so agree with you Jane! I am an introvert, in part, I feel, to having my personality stifled by shame as a child.
    We should all be given the freedom and love to express ourselves as we are. I have some very expressive daughters and I try to be very mindful about preserving their self esteem and individuality.
    God made each one of us beautifully unique!!!