One thing I’m really good at is putting myself down.
I have so many years of solid experience in this area that I challenge anyone to prove they could be more self-deprecating than I am.
You’ll lose. Unless, due to my self-loathing, I let you win and then tell myself I couldn’t even be good at that.
This is who I have always been. Every good grade I got was because the work was just that easy. Every basket I made, every strike I threw, every ace I served, was only because I had practiced so much that anybody would be able to do the same, and the real truth was I should have been better than I was.
It carried through as I became an adult. I had friends and dates because my parents were awesome, and we had a pool and a movie theater. Not because I might be funny, or interesting. I got jobs because people knew my family. My grades in college weren’t super great, which made sense because I wasn’t super smart. And there was always, from the age of about nine forth, the ever-present voice in my head telling me that I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t thin enough.
I just wasn’t enough.
Reading this back to myself now makes me so profoundly sad. Sad because this is the dialogue I grew to adopt. Sad because I’m not writing it now because I was the only one who ever went through it.
I’m writing it because I’m not.
Once I left Nevada and moved to a bigger community, nothing changed. I got the job I had because my then-boyfriend worked there and pulled some strings. The next job, I got because he was going to a new company and pulled some strings. While I am a strong advocate for leaving the planet better than we found it, I didn’t ever feel a particular passion for solar energy. Probably because I wrote roughly 40 blogs about it, at 500 words each. I’d exhausted the topic. And since I was a writer, once the words ran out, I had nothing left to give.
But something else was playing out as I trudged through my days. As much as I put myself down, I also loved myself just enough to seek out a workout family. I found The Studio in April of 2016, and started working out in a group, always in the back of the room, never speaking to anyone.
Even though I kept to myself, there were several beautiful souls, students and teachers alike, who reached out to me. We became Facebook friends. And that is how I came to land the freelance writing gig at 417 Magazine. An editor had seen some comments I made on a fellow yoga student’s Facebook wall. She requested a meeting and – bam – I had a job that I had gotten based on my own talent.
That was the first spark. And it remained an ember. I was so thrilled to be associated with a publication I’d loved for so long, but that didn’t mean I started buying myself flowers and telling myself I was pretty.
But then, there was another spark. Jamie, the owner of The Studio, took another instructor and went to New York in that same month. When they returned, something had changed. They were preaching self-love in every class. They had always been supportive, but this was next-level. They spoke to us lovingly and with so, so much encouragement. It was a miracle to get out of a savasana without crying.
And slowly (so, so slowly), their words began to take. I started to view my body less as a holding chamber for baked goods and self-hate and more as a strong vessel that was capable of so, so much good. I started to realize that I did have my own talent. That what I had always dismissed as dumb luck was actual true skill.
That I was worthy of love. More specifically, that I was worthy of my own love.
I realized how completely miserable I was working where I worked. And, about two or three days later, casually perusing the Indeed job app, I saw it.
You know how, as an adult, you accept certain responsibilities? You have to have a job. You have to pay your bills. You have to do all this stupid grown-up stuff that’s so lame sometimes. But you accept it. It’s the ultimate joke after all those years as a kid when you thought everything would rock once you grew up.
That’s where I was. I just figured I’d work at some job or another, and that I would always be fine because I always got along really well with the people in my day-to-day life, so no big deal.
That feeling changed when I saw the job posting, on September 8, for the Alamo Drafthouse Creative Manager.
I had grown up in a movie theater, sometimes almost literally. My educational background was in public relations and communication. I had never read a job description that felt more right for me, not to mention that genuinely excited me all the way to my core.
So I applied. I applied completely on my own, sitting right there in my recliner, before I lost my nerve.
And then I applied a second time, on LinkedIn, for good measure.
At the urging of my husband, I called the theater that next week to check in, and left my name. Then he called back for me because I had forgotten to ask for the name of the general manager, so that I could contact him directly.
I checked back again the next week. I tried to ignore the fact that LinkedIn Premium told me the number of applicants who had also applied for the job.
By the following Monday, I had become completely discouraged. I decided to send one final email.
And the general manager almost immediately responded.
He was just about to call me, the email said. Could I come in for an interview?
And so I did. I had one interview, with the owners.
Then I took a seven-part, timed assessment that made me feel like the dumbest human in all of time.
Then I had another interview, with the general manager.
Then I had another interview, with the head of programming.
And then, after I had worked myself into day seven of tension headaches and day three of a massive cold sore, after I had calculated how long I could pay my bills and not start selling everything I owned, I got an email offering me the job.
I TOOK THAT JOB SO FAST.
And then I let myself really, really accept it. I didn’t let myself give the credit to anyone else. I didn’t second-guess my actions. I didn’t tell myself I could have done better. I didn’t let myself get nervous that maybe I couldn’t cut it, and what was I even doing?
The general manager called me to set up the training schedule, enthusiastically.
“Jennifer, we had so, so many interviews,” he said. “There were a lot of people that we saw. But you sold it. Your enthusiasm, your humor, your passion for the position…it wasn’t even close.”
In my yoga class this morning, my instructor spoke about instilling confidence in her 12-year-old daughter.
“I tell her that confidence isn’t in wanting people to like you,” she said, “but in being fine with it if they don’t.”
Part of me still didn’t want to write this, because what if people thought I was cocky? What would people think if I praised myself?
Screw that. I did a thing, completely on my own, achieved with my own ability and experience. And I am so proud of myself.
If you were to name all of the things you love, how long would it take you to name yourself? When you think of all of the people who have had an impact on your life, do you put yourself at the top of the list?
Because you’re kick-ass. You’re amazing. And the sooner you start telling yourself that, the better off you’ll be.
Like, literally. Every day, just say it.
“I love you.”
Say it quietly at first.
And then louder.
Say it with conviction.
But keep saying it. And don’t stop.
I believe in you.