If you’ve been reading this series along with me, you have probably noticed that self-worth (or lack thereof) has been an underlying theme in many of these stories. Starting from the time I was small, I was always trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. I was never good enough, no matter how good I was. A quick illustration which may seem silly, but it isn’t – before I saw my grandmother (my mother’s mom, who was hypercritical of everything and everyone) I would either take pains to fix my hair nicely, or, as an adult, get a haircut before I went to see her. It didn’t matter. “What have you done to your hair??” was inevitably the response. It got to be a joke among the rest of us, but it really wasn’t funny at all. When I married my first husband, I married my grandmother. The wearing down of my self-worth continued and intensified for seventeen years. I was in a marriage where I felt unworthy – nothing I did was good enough, or “right” enough. On the other hand, I continued to have professional success, serving on national boards of music education groups, traveling all over the US presenting workshops, and teaching at Kodály summer training programs in St. Louis and Baltimore. This disconnect began to wear on me – how was it possible that I could be so capable professionally and such a “bad” person in my own home? My professional success became the lifeline that pulled me through this time, even when I came to wonder how it was possible.
The scars of that first half of my life came with me to Atlanta, despite years of counseling. As I sat and processed, I came to know definitively that unless I released the behavior patterns in myself that I had set up to deflect praise, to always apologize for things whether they were my fault or not, and to not really hear the good things that people said about me, that I would not be able to succeed in opening my own business.
The mental power of habit here, in my own experience, was stronger than any physical habits I had worked to change previously. And if you saw the photo of me slumping with my head forward last week, you know that changing that to the woman you see today was formidable.
Dave, my husband, has been a huge help to me here. He has set himself up in my life as the Apology Police. While it sometimes drives me crazy, I really do appreciate having someone to remind me that I have no reason to apologize when something is not my fault. Periodically I still slip into this old habit, and I’ve come to realize it’s when I’m not feeling very good about myself. I’ve also come to realize that apologizing for nothing makes me feel worse. When the habit does come back to me, I pause, I ask myself why I made the choice to apologize. And then I take it back, or explain what I really meant. When I’m on top of my Alexander game, I can even pause beforethe apology comes out of my mouth. I have to take a step back and consciously apply the tools of Alexander Technique in order to release this habitual pattern again and again. Maybe someday it will finally be gone.
Back in the day when I was teaching school, at the end of concerts or musicals that I had directed parents and colleagues would usually come up and congratulate me on a job well done. I had a hard time hearing this. My pattern was to deflect the praise on to the students. “Oh, the children did such an excellent job, didn’t they?” I told myself I was being modest. In reality, I know now that I just couldn’t hear that kind of effusive praise and believe it was about me. Now, I listen. I take in the praise at the end of gig. I pause. I look people in the eye, and I say a sincere “Thank you. That means a lot.” Because it does.
I love what I do. I have the freedom to pursue all the things that make me happy. If you look at my website, (www.robbinlmarcus.com) you’ll see that I teach Alexander Technique, I still direct and teach folk song materials in the Kodály teacher training program at George Mason University, I teach piano lessons, I call contra dances, I play in 3 dance bands, and I travel the US giving workshops in both music education and Alexander Technique, sometimes at the same time. Choosing to do what I love has turned work into play. Having a belief in my own self-worth has made it all possible.
Do you believe you are worthy of praise and love?
Are you ready to begin your personal Alexander Technique journey?
Folk Music Materials Class in the Summer Kodaly Program at George Mason University.
Our Summer Kodaly Program website is up and running for July 2019! Come and join us in Virginia for Kodaly certification, or our new hybrid Master's Degree Program.
Come in and see me at the Decatur Healing Arts Annex Studio, 627 H East College Ave, Decatur, GA.
Give me a call at 678-720-8717, or send me an email: