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I had an epiphany this past weekend at a coworker’s bachelorette party.

No, it was not while going barhopping all over downtown Columbus, Ohio sipping fruity cocktails out of something-shaped straws and ending up and a male strip club that I had an epiphany. We didn’t do that (thankfully, I’m too old for that foolishness). It was while drinking Sauvignon Blanc and painting Starry Night. Wine and Canvasses. (keepin’ it classy LOL!)

So picture me and about 20 women in their 30’s sitting in front of small easels around a long table in a beautiful historic home with a blank canvas, 3 brushes and a palette in front of us. Now I’ve really been looking forward to this evening – I’ve been seeing my friends posting their masterpieces all over Facebook with notes about what a good time they had, they can’t wait to go back, etc.

Out of the 20 women, I know the bride-to-be and one other coworker. Everyone else seems to know each other… So I tend to be shy and feel a little anxiety in situations like this, but I’m getting a TON better every time I do it, so I start some small-talk with the girl sitting next to me, “Hi, I’m Shannon. I work with Molly – how do you know her?” I know how totally weird it can be to bring all your friends from all your different compartments of your life together at once and just cross your fingers that they get along. This is going pretty well!

So the art teacher explains how we are going to paint Starry Night in layers: Start with a blue background… okay, let it dry and get more wine… Now we are going to use chalk to draw the trees and paint the trees but put green and blue on your brush and show your strokes, leave paint lines… let that dry and drink some wine… And so on.

So during this, every single woman starts talking crap about her own painting. “Mine looks horrible.” “These don’t even look like trees.” “My colors just look grey.” “There’s no way mine’s gonna look anything like that.” “Why’d you pick something so hard, Molly?” I’m silent, I’m really enjoying the whole experience (and the wine).

The teacher starts walking around, telling people they are doing a good job, or to add more paint to their brush, or showing them how to do the stroke properly. She gets to mine and says, “You’re doing a great job – that’s exactly what I meant.”

I feel the anxiety in my chest right now as I’m typing this, seriously.

I remember back in 5th grade, I was selected for a gifted and talented program where one day a week, I got on the bus with two other boys from my class and we were sent to another elementary school in our district. Each school sent 3 or 4 kids, and we all took this class where we read The Old Man and the Sea (at 11 years old). We invented things. We learned algebra. We learned how to write a computer program and store it on a giant floppy disk. When you called up that program (C:/ or something like that) a square made of X’s would display on the screen.

I dreaded getting on that bus every week. All the kids at my school would call us names as we were getting on, and when we were back in class the next day they would make fun of us. The teacher would say “Shannon, Tim and Ryan, we covered this yesterday while you guys were out.”

Lunch at the school where the class was held was even worse. We would go into the cafeteria in a line together, CUT IN FRONT OF THE STUDENTS THAT HAD BEEN WAITING, go through the lunch line and all sit at table together while the whole cafeteria whispered and pointed.

I'm now close friends with one of the girls whose group of friends were relentless. She said to me once, “We were horribly mean to you guys. I’m sorry.”

About halfway through the year, I went to my mom and asked her if I could quit the program. She could see I was miserable, and she and my dad were going through a divorce at the time so I know she couldn’t help but to give me some relief. So she said yes. She called the school and told them. I don’t know what they said, but the next time that bus rolled up, I didn’t have to get on.

I feel some relief as I’m typing this, seriously.

So back to the bachelorette party, as soon as that art teacher praises my painting, people start making fun of me. Calling me teacher’s pet, saying theirs will never look that good. Molly tries to make it better by saying “Hey, watch out, that’s my boss!” And we all laugh, and I say, “I can’t help it, I’m a total nerd. I totally practiced before I got here. Haha! You guys are just too hard on yourselves.”

And I KNOW it was good natured teasing. There wasn’t a mean-girl in that group. But from that point on I started to shrink, to stay small, to minimize myself. Every time someone walked behind me they would say “Look at hers, I’m terrible at this.” And I would get smaller and smaller and quieter and quieter.

So here’s the epiphany: I still do that to this day! I don’t take compliments well because I’m always trying to deflect the pain that came with being singled-out as a kid. Even though I got good grades, I NEVER talked about it to my friends. I didn’t try to excel like the other super-smart kids because I didn’t want to be different. I just wanted to be accepted. I didn’t want my friends to feel less than if I excelled at something, probably because I didn’t want them to ever feel how I felt. And I know why I react so strongly to people I perceive as thinking they are better than me.

So for 20 years after that (okay, 25), I’ve stayed in my comfy-little comfort zone where I don’t get singled out, I don’t get ridiculed, I care too much what strangers think of me and I don’t take any chances.

Well, BFFs, I’m done with that. I’m letting it go right now.

I don’t care what a bunch of strangers think of my painting skills. I don’t care what those kids in the cafeteria did to us. I realize now, at 35, that it's not about me. I wish I could say to each one of them, “I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m sorry no one told you that you are enough. But you are. And your very first time painting, you try a Van Gogh? Great job!”


P.S. I'm totally not going to be shy anymore about telling you that I think the BFF Academy is right for you, and that I know that the tools and resources I created for you are going to help you build your site even faster – and help you in your journey to build your business online. So there, I said it.