I have a distinct memory from childhood that plays in my head from time to time. I had to be no more than 8 years old. My little brother and I were sitting on the floor surrounded by G.I joes, legos and barbies. The sounds of Bugs Bunny being chased by Elmer Fudd played quietly on the tv in the background. However, none of that had our focus. Our attention rested on the four tootsie lollipops my mom had brought home for us.
We immediately began chanting that we wanted one. Mom told us we could each have two, but we would only be able to eat one today. We gleefully shouted and as we dove for the candy my mom stopped us in our tracks with a stern look followed by an “AFTER dinner.” We slumped our shoulders completely deflated. We couldn’t understand why mom enjoyed killing our joy but clearly she did.
Dejected, we slowly started to walk away when suddenly I thought of something. I quickly spun around and practically shouted “But can we at least pick out the two we want for later?” My mom paused for a minute and sighed. “That’s fine. But NO fighting! If I hear any fighting, I’m picking what you each get.” We promised we wouldn’t fight and she gave us one final “I’m serious” look before leaving the room.
My brother and I assessed the situation. There were four colors: red, blue, orange and brown. I immediately felt anxiety. I would rather shove toothpicks in my eyes than be stuck with orange or brown. This anxiety than morphed into feelings of betrayal. “Why would she get orange and brown anyways?” Nobody likes those colors! Nobody!” As I quietly contemplated how my mom was the worst, I see my brother reaching for a lollipop. I panicked.
“What are you doing?” I say as calmly as I possibly can to not inform him that my body was currently forming an ulcer. He smiled sweetly, completely unaware of my schemes. He said he wanted blue and orange. My heart rose up into my throat and then dropped into my butt. I wanted red and blue. Everything in me wanted to scream, but I knew a fight would result in me ending with the brown lollipop, while my brother sat on my mom’s lap, happily eating the red one.
So I began to talk sweetly. I convinced him that orange and brown were the BEST flavors. I told him that the brown one tasted like chocolate ice cream. (I know, I’m a monster!) He being the sweet, innocent soul that he was, believed me. I ended up with the colors that I wanted and he ended up with a fate worse than death (to an 8 year old.)
I may have got what I wanted, but I was completely disgusted with myself. Later on we got to have our lollipops. The guilt overwhelmed most of the taste of my precious cherry flavored treat. I looked over at my brother happily eating the brown one. I felt sick. My mom smiled “You guys like your candy?” I sat quietly. My brother shouted “Yes!” This made me cringe. In my mind, I was officially the worst and there was a special place in hell waiting for me with unlimited brown and orange lollipops and yellow starbursts.
I tossed and turned in bed for days over that and almost two decades later I felt myself feeling that same guilt. For years I carried a secret in my marriage that ate at me. It woke me up in the middle of the night and caused me to toss and turn until my body ached. I wanted to talk to my husband about it, but I couldn’t. I was petrified of how it could change things. So I suffered silently.
One day in the midst of an argument, it came rushing out. The one thing that I couldn’t bring myself to tell the man I loved, although he literally knew everything else about me, was out in the open. He retracted back like I had just slapped him. “What?” he said. “Is that true?” I put my head down not wanting to look at him. “You really believe that me loving you is a mistake? As though you tricked me into this? You think that I love you not because you are truly amazing, but because I’m just such a nice guy?”
I just looked at him. My face contorted into the ugliest expression and I cried. Giant tears rolled down my cheeks and soaked my shirt. I felt ashamed and incredibly embarrassed. I sat there waiting for the light to come on in his eyes. I anticipated his jaw tightening the way it does when he is angry as he realized he had been duped. I was the orange and brown lollipop. I was the flavor nobody wanted, but somehow I convinced this sweet man I was worth loving.
He was devastated, but not for the reason I believed. It crushed him to think I had been walking around all these years assuming he couldn’t truly be happy with a girl like me. Not when there were so many better women out there. He titled my chin up so he could look me in the eye and said “Listen, I wasn’t tricked. I got exactly what I wanted. You understand me? You are everything I wanted.” I collapsed in his arms and cried tears of relief.
Our relationship changed for the better that day. I didn’t realize how much believing I wasn’t worth loving affected our marriage. Turns out I was the girl my husband wanted. It also turns out that my brother actually did like those flavors as well. For years after that he would pick those flavors on his own. And if you know my brother, you know he loves anything chocolate or orange flavored. Also, orange is his favorite color.
I believe right now there are many who can relate to this story, and you don’t even have to be married. Some of you hold those who love you at a distance. It’s because you believe that they couldn’t possibly value you since you don’t value yourself. It’s as though you are always waiting for them to figure it out. If you let them get too close, they’ll see you aren’t really worthy of love.
Oh, but you are!
It’s time to appreciate your own unique flavor. I know in the past there may have been some who turned their nose up at who you are, but please understand that has nothing to do with you. You might not be their preferred taste, but to someone you are! The people in your life that want to be with you aren’t confused. They aren’t trapped with the flavor nobody wanted. They are there because the want to be. They chose you because you are everything they ever wanted. It’s time to let go of the shame and guilt. Collapse into the arms of the community that embraces you and know without a doubt you are so worth loving.