The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

August 2022: Feistiness

Posted on Aug 19, 2022

August 2022: Feistiness

Being a person who is considered small in stature (and once upon a time in girth), the first description is quite apt—especially considering the context in which this musing developed. I have been known to be lively given the right circumstances. Determined and courageous definitely fit my personality in general. There is not much I let get me down—at least not for long.

However, having OCD, PTSD, GAD among my alphabet soup of conditions, I am easily triggered at times. The most frequent shame message to surface is that of being in trouble or getting in trouble. And not the mischievous kind. 😉 Most recently, I interacted with a new case manager at an insurance company on behalf of a client. I couldn’t read his response for a few days because of this shame message. It took a bit of time to process. In the end, as per usual, the trigger was all for naught as his response involved a version of backpedalling rather than further provocation or recrimination. Whew.

But I misspoke. The internal struggle was not all for naught as it prompted me to reclaim my feistiness. As said person who is short of stature (and once upon a time of girth), I often heard the infuriating phrase: You’re cute when you’re mad. Talk about not being seeing or heard! But that’s for my memoir. The point is, once upon a time, I was feisty. Full of spunk. Had a strong will and was unafraid of showing it in difficult circumstances or when challenged. I remember that younger version of myself. Even though pathologically shy, I somehow managed to be feisty when circumstances called for it. Due to my shyness, this spunk often took people by surprise.

At the time of writing, I was working through a meditation book on self-compassion, using it more for journalling prompts. Quiet reflection is a form of meditation; I just don’t follow a structured approach. Here are some of those reflections from that time of processing my getting-into-trouble shame message…

“I did well, not poorly, speaking up for my client. His quick reply (which I haven’t read yet) triggered my internal shame message of being in trouble. And what the hell is wrong with being in trouble? It means I stood up for someone or something. I no longer need to fear being in trouble. I need to embrace it. To raise a little hell! My spirited, feisty self has nearly been squelched twice—first in my adolescence and then in my marriage…I need to own /re-embrace being feisty—not disavow it…Well, I gotta say I was NOT expecting that in this journal entry [about being receptive to good things including opportunities]. Self-compassion at its finest. 😊 I do miss that feisty girl. She was (and is) pathologically shy; but she did have spirit and gumption.”

In my youth, my world was a weird mix of “I can do anything” and debilitating insecurities (along with undiagnosed anxiety and depression). I had this sense of untapped potential, if only people gave me a chance/believed in me. Somehow, I was expected to believe in myself when that was never modelled for me. No one showed me how to do that. That actually stayed with me for a very long time. Even when I was studying for my Master’s degree in counselling there was this sense of: “If only I could get my shit together…”

Well, my poop is no longer in a group. I think a better analogy would be that it’s been spread liked fertilizer. My life has expanded and grown. I have evolved from someone who had no idea who she was to someone who is getting the hang of owning her own life—however it looks or whatever it entails. This also involves reclaiming my feistiness and seeing “getting in trouble” through a whole new lens.

What character trait do you struggle owning? What lens may need tweaking to see it in a different light?


  1. What character trait… for me it would be I’m a scrapper. As a general rule not physically (although I won’t shy from that if absolutely needed). I’ve been called all sorts of things like hostile, unruly, antisocial, disruptive, idiotic… you get the idea. It never made me feel sad really, more frustrated and misunderstood. I’ve been told many times I need to dial it down, be more placid, etc. I guess the lens I’ve always tried to look through is that I’m a responder, not an initiator, and that I need to follow my instincts. If I feel it’s for a good cause I’m all in, guns a blazing, whether it’s popular or not, or whether it’s considered a hopeless cause or a slam dunk. But there needs to be a that trigger. Most people don’t want to understand that. So while I’m a scrapper, I’m not an aggressor, if that makes sense. It’s a hard trait to own because I upset a lot of people in the process (including some friendships being ended), but I just don’t know any other way. I’ve taken the path of least resistance and sat on the sidelines when I’ve caved in to external pressure or when I simply haven’t felt mentally up to the challenge. All that happens is it triggers self recriminations that can last for years if the situation turns out badly, or at times crippling guilt for not doing my bit if it goes well without my participation. So I just try to always focus that I’m doing my best regardless of the criticisms thrown my way. Not sure if this was the kind of response you were looking for, but it feels good to share it at any rate!🙂

    • Thanks Doug! Love the share.

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