Much of my personality was shaped growing up in an emotionally dysfunctional and disconnected environment. My physical and educational needs were being looked after, but there was something missing like a wilted plant receiving water and sunlight, but deprived of nutrients.  My “friends” were always competing to be the best athletes as if that was all that mattered. I was always trying hard to win recognition, but due to my underdeveloped athletic skills, I never got close to getting it nor playing on the school team.

Now as an adult, I am learning to turn my insecurities into strength by not allowing others to quell my love and creativity.  Just because society rejects your sensitivity, doesn’t mean you have to reject it.

~ vincenzo ©

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Heightened sensitivity has occupied a prominent place in my head and heart.  As a boy, I’d often gaze at the reflection in windows or mirrors to look at my face. Although I could vaguely recognize or detect it, invalidation permeated my environment. Little by little the emotionally toxic world sowed self-doubt within my sensitive nature. I tried to decipher what triggered the contempt. Why were only some children targeted while others favored? Was it my dark skin, my slower speech or my hesitancy?

When growing up, resources about emotional issues were scarce. Internet was still in its mother’s womb. In order to survive, I grew up out of touch with my emotions. By example, I learned to express pain as little as possible. To complicate matters, communication was minuscule in my family of origin. Thus, I felt unworthy, though I pretended none of the antagonism was having any effect on me.

Self-esteem comes with healing. A background full of pain, anger and sadness often creates dependency without realizing it. When Christ’s love becomes a reality, you begin to feel less compelled to seek approval, and yet it takes time to process insecure attachment, especially when it is the driving force behind all your endeavors.

~ vincenzo ©

I inherited the name Vincenzo from my grandfather. For a little child,  however, it was a suit several sizes too big — so everyone just called me Enzo. From the first day of school, this diminuitive version attracted attention, but not the kind I enjoyed. In a North American context, kids would mispronounce it; twist it into an “enzyme” or an “end zone”. It resonated as an utterance from another cosmos that didn’t fit beside Rick, Steve, Raymond or Ted. Even other Italian boys had rather admissible names in comparison like Tony, Philip, Joe, Gino or Carlo. Other smaller versions of Vincenzo could have worked, but for my taste, Vince sounded like a mafia hit man, and Vinnie reverberated in my head like the star of a popular sitcom series from Brooklyn.

At twelve years old, I spent several days at a relative’s house in New York State. Since the family had no children my age in their home, I decided to make friends with some of the neighbourhood children. It was my big chance to experience what it was like to have an acceptable name. For several days I called myself “Andy” just to savour the sound of something normal.

At twenty five, I finally pulled “Vincenzo” out of the closet. One afternoon, a philosophy professor from the university happened to spot me leaving at the same time so he offered me a ride close to home.  During the course of the conversation he metamorphosed my name numerous times – Valencio, Venecio, Vinicio and Victor. When he finally dropped me off he politely declared, “Well, it was nice getting to know you, Lasagne.”

My host country was one day away from celebrating Children’s Day. As a result the talk at church focused upon the nature of children and their rights. Whether or not it was true, the lady speaker commented on how we live in an adult-centered world where children are subjected to the whims of adults. She said with a commanding, yet constrained voice words to this effect:

“Adults often act as if they the owners of truth. Although society idealizes youth (as a way of marketing products) it treats them as irresponsible beings…”

She finished by pointing out how Jesus not only defended children, but considered them to be the ultimate model because of their believing, trustful nature.

My ears had a difficult time stomaching these words, not because of the content, but the icy/defensive/bossy tone in which they were delivered. As I reflected further, I began to examine my own incongruency — how many of my reactions seemed to follow a subconscious script emanating from the wounded self. It mirrored how I was treated as a child. The only drawback to the red lights on my dash was how they consistently advised me too late.