My sister texted me this picture this morning. I instantly, deeply embraced it, posted it on Instagram, and sent it to a few select friends that I knew would most appreciate it.
One of them fired right back with this:
Omg! This has been the topic of conversation in my own head today. Seriously. Me and myself go back and forth all day about how awesome I am vs how much I suck. This is definitely today’s. Wow. I’m kind of creeped out right now.
It creeped me out, as well. A few weeks ago, I had a good, raw, honest reality check with myself. I owned the fact that I was allowing some past, deeply buried trauma to justify my current poor choices. Any time I had cognitive dissonance about, well, most things, I would bring those years up to myself and then be like, it’s totally okay. Spend that money. Have that drink. Eat everything in that cabinet. You deserve it.
And it was a little weird, because the last thing I am is a fan of myself. I talk to myself all day, every day, like an abusive partner talks to his spouse in a Lifetime movie. So these little measures of self-indulgence and pity-partying seemed to be in direct contrast to that.
In short, I found the crystal which utters only truth, and I thought its proclamation that I was the one to blame for myself was kinda shitty.
JUST LIKE THE PICTURE! GET IT!?
So it was that my friend’s text response segued into a Facebook post made by my workout instructor in tonight’s yoga class. She talked about why BUTI yoga is such a life-saving experience (and it really is..but that’s a whole other blog). She went on to explain how it helped her:
I’m a perfectionist and a planner by nature, I can’t help myself! When I step into the studio for a BUTI class, all that goes away and I get to be free from all the pressures and stresses of life! I’m free to be exactly who I am in the moment, no expectations, no judgments, no fear. I can get lost and found all at the same time.
I’m the same way. Every single day, I need things to be a certain way in order to feel comfortable. I’m a bed-maker, a nonstop blanket folder. I stay on top of laundry like it’s my damn job. I want things to look nice, and I want to take care of the people I love.
At the same time, the background noise in my head is a constant berating. When I focus on the thoughts I have about myself, I’m alarmed. Here’s a sample:
“Wow, do you have bad skin.”
“You are never going to be pretty.”
“Why can’t you try to research stuff you don’t understand so you’re not such an idiot?”
“You are terrible at this.”
“You just sounded like an idiot.”
“Your son doesn’t talk to you because you’re a shitty mom.”
On and on, all day long. So much and so relentlessly so that I’m not consciously aware of it much of the time. Until someone compliments me and I immediately don’t know what to do with my hands or my voice.
A thing I like to say is that my biggest strength is knowing my own weaknesses. One of my weaknesses is the inability to accept a compliment, or believe it to be true. Unless it’s a compliment on how good I am at being self-deprecating.
My second-biggest strength is the art of self-deprecation.
But I digress. This nonstop berating cycling with a desire to master everything immediately, followed by more berating when I don’t master everything immediately (chess comes to mind, or graphic design) leads to a lot of exhaustion. Tonight, when I went to BUTI yoga, I almost immediately started to sweat in a way that I find super uncomfortable, so I stripped my shirt off. That’s all my briefly-dormant inner dialogue needed.
“Tell yourself that’s loose skin all you want, but it’s straight-up fat.”
Fortunately, I was busy enough getting my ass handed to me with the cardio that I didn’t have time for that shit. My yoga girls and I finished rocking that class, and then Jennifer, the instructor, spoke to us before we adjourned.
She reiterated that she was very hard on herself, very structured, very much a perfectionist. She told us that when she came to work out, and saw all the strength and beauty in the room, she was inspired, and felt finally, wholly, free.
When she finished, I made myself look in the mirror again. But this time, I did it through the eyes of former versions of me. I told myself that 13-year-old Jen, with the braces and bad perm and acne, would look at current me in awe, with my straight teeth and clearish skin and healthy hair. I told myself that 35-year-old Jen, with the cancer and the baldness and the puffiness, would look at current me and cry, because she never thought this level of health and confidence was possible.
I reminded myself of all of the things I have accomplished. I reminded myself that just because I surrounded myself with external negativity for so many years didn’t mean that I was ever the person that I was accused of being then. I allowed myself to be grateful for the countless amazing people in my world instead of nervous that they would all eventually get over my bullshit and leave.
I’m not writing this because I have the answers and the magic crystal of truth and BAM, everything’s great now! I’m writing it because I don’t have the answers and I’m a ball of alternating narcissism and insecurity, and because I really want to know that I’m not alone. I’m writing this because I wish I could find stuff like it and remember that we’re all dealing with our own inner demons.
And I’m writing this to tell you that you are not what you tell yourself. You are so much better, and smarter, and more capable, than what you think. And I don’t expect you to believe me. But I do want you to take a minute and acknowledge one single thing that you do well.
And then tomorrow? Do it again.
And try to allow people to love you, because you’re kick-ass.
Everyone says so.