When I was in third grade I was bullied by a group of girls who were alternately my friends and my enemies. On any given day it could change, there was no logic to it. When they were friendly, I felt included and basked in their approval. But I knew this was fragile and could disappear at any moment. And the bad days were bad. So, of course, I tried desperately to figure out how to stay in their good graces.

This was a time when satin jackets were all the rage. Think Charlie’s Angels and roller skating. All my “friends” had them and so, naturally I thought I should get one too. Maybe this would make me fit in enough to be liked more consistently.

My Mom (who knew nothing of this bullying) took me shopping to get a nice, baby blue satin jacket. I loved it. The jacket made me feel confident and happy. That Monday I walked to my classroom with pride and this I how I was greeted: Oh what? You think you are a hot shot now with your shiny jacket? Hot shot, hot shot, hot shot.

I was persona non grata the whole day. I can’t remember if I ever wore that jacket again, but I do remember the utter humiliation and disappointment I felt for trying and failing so hard. Sadly, the “hot shot” thing stuck and they used this phrase whenever they decided the moment was ripe for teasing and ostracizing me.

As a grown up, I have come to understand those girls. They had their reasons for behaving that way and not one of those reasons was me. In other words, there was nothing I could do that would have made a difference. There was some pain or insecurity in their spirit, so to quiet the hurt they needed to squash mine.

But still…

For this one example of mistreatment, I have a thousand examples of being loved and supported. People have been on my side and believed in me in ways that astound and humble me. Most times I feel like I won the lottery.

And yet…

There are times I find myself frozen, unable to move forward to success or fulfillment. Something stops me in my tracks. Don’t be a hot shot. Don’t be a hot shot. Everyone will hate you. It will be awful. Step back, stand still, don’t try too hard. Be safe, be safe, be safe.

That voice in my head has been there a really long time but I hear it with a blossoming awareness. I recognize where it came from and that it is trying to save me from harm. It still wants to protect that 8 year old girl from being teased and taunted. Its timid warning, however, no longer serves me. In fact, it never really did. Now I see that holding back is actually scarier and more dangerous than stepping forward. What amazing things might I miss?

Having gained an understanding of that voice, I want to hug my 8 year old self and thank her for being so brave. I want to make sure she knows I love her and wouldn’t change a thing about her. I want whisper in her ear: it’s ok, I’ve got this now, we’ll be safe, let’s just go for it!

I genuinely believe that for every person out there who tries to dim your light, there are hundreds who want you to shine. You have allies you have never even met. The World needs you at your brightest. The Universe loves you exactly as you are and wants to experience you at full volume.

I implore you, by all means, be a hot shot.

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