Recently, I attended a weekend long country music festival with my niece. It came at a time when I was transitioning from leaving my job to running my own business full time and having that weekend of powerful music with someone I love was just what was needed. Music is healing and I have always found comfort and solace in it, no matter what was going on in my life.
We were lucky enough to see the performance of an amazing singer, Tenille Townes, whose lyrics have always spoken to me. As I listened to one of her songs, Girl Who Didn’t Care, I found myself feeling really emotional and thinking deeply about the lyrics she was singing. The song is about going back to find the child in all of us who never worried about what people thought and just did things because they felt good. It speaks to the idea of how as we grow we lose the parts of us that were simple and pure. For me, I realized as I was listening, that I never had that as a child and I felt a sadness for the little girl who had to grow up so fast and never lived with that feeling of freedom.
I was never the girl who didn’t care. In fact, I spent my life worrying about what everyone thought, what their needs were, what I needed to do to keep people from being upset or angry with me, and always worried about the next loss or big blow that would happen. As I grew older, I became obsessed with helping people and volunteered everywhere. It was a passion to be sure, but it was also something I felt I had to do to be a good person. So much so that I constantly was burning out but didn’t take the time to heal and just kept pushing through. I can recall one of my volunteer colleagues saying to me one day, “you care too much”, and it actually made me angry! I dismissed him as my brain told me that there is no way you can care too much about others and helping people. Believing that would go against everything I had programmed myself to think. Then one day I realized that he wasn’t saying that caring was wrong, just that I was losing myself in it and doing it at the expense of caring for myself.
It is only when I hit my forties that I started to see how caring could be different. I learned through my recovery process that it was okay to say no and to set boundaries. I started to finally become the girl who didn’t care, but not in the way you may think. I focus on the things I am most passionate about rather than try to change the world. I truly don’t care what others think of me so much anymore and I started nurturing the needs of that little girl who wasn’t able to live the childhood she should have. And you know what? She is happy and grateful! There are times of course when I fall backwards and catch myself going back to that old mindset, but they are fewer and far between. I had one of those moments recently where I was seeking external validation desperately and it took a hold of me for a period of time. But then I remembered that the only person who I have to worry about being validated by is myself.
There is nothing wrong with being a caring person and I am incredibly proud of all that I have accomplished in my ‘helping’ mode over the years. The difference now is that I have had a chance to finally become that girl who didn’t care. I screamed at that concert like I haven’t done in forever. I act silly and do things that I want without worrying how others may perceive it. And, despite a few setbacks, I look inside myself for validation and love because I know now that I am worth it. As Tenille says in the song, “I know she’s still in there somewhere” and I have been lucky enough to find her.