Have you ever thought about how the way we describe ourselves, even to ourselves, affects how we feel about and perceive ourselves?
One way I’ve been thinking about this lately is when we use “I am…” versus “I feel…” and “I have…”
One way attaches a feeling, judgment, and even a diagnosis to encompass our identity which almost sets up a permanence in our self-perception and maybe how others perceive us. For example, saying, “I’m so dumb” when we make a mistake or “I’m a worrier” when we struggle with anxiety.
Another way is a description and observation. It could describe a chronic, permanent condition in your life, but if you say, for example, “I feel depressed” or “I have diabetes,” it feels more like we are describing just a small part of the wholeness of ourselves, like, “I have blue eyes and brown hair.” It solely describes us without trying to tell our whole story. In regards to chronic health issues or disabilities, it can put a responsibility on us that we don’t deserve and don’t need to bear beyond managing them with self-care.
This isn’t a “you aren’t fat, you have fat” type of thing or me trying to politicize how we describe ourselves. I AM tall. I AM fat. I AM white. I AM a cis-het woman. But that’s not my whole story. I have chronic physical and mental health issues, but they don’t identify me, just name how my body responds to my DNA and environment. I have privileges, but they don’t define me and they aren’t something to feel ashamed of. My identity is not wholly wrapped up in nature or nurture. You get what I’m saying, I hope.
It is about expanding, not diminishing, ourselves. Not narrowing ourselves down to a few words. Seeing what happens to us and how we perceive it is important. Attaching our identities to temporary experiences like making a mistake or permanent conditions like chronic mental or physical health or something traumatic that happened to us growing up limits us and can invoke unnecessary shame. Narrows our story.
It is totally okay to acknowledge the experiences we’ve had. To share what we feel and experience. I’m not trying to diminish that or silence anyone. Telling others what we feel, have, deal with, and are healing from is part of the human experience. All of our feelings and perceptions are valid and happen for a reason.
A few weeks ago, on my way home from a weekend at my mom’s, I decided to skip the 30 seconds it would take for my apartment complex’s entrance gate to open and go through the exit gate. Chewy, my dog, had to pee and had whined about it for 50 miles, it was 12:30a, and I was tired. All I could think about was “I hope no one tries to come out as I go in.” It was as I pulled over the tire strips that I realized what I’d done and why you don’t enter that exit gate.
“Oh, fuuuuck” came out of my mouth as air began gushing out of my front left tire. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten, the first time in the nearly two years we’ve lived here. How could I be so stupid? I chastised myself.
But I had been thinking about the topic Rosie wrote about in the prompt at the. Bottom of this post, so when I walked into the house with Chewy, I looked at John and said, “I did something really stupid and I need your help.”
Calling running over the spike “stupid” is still a little shame-inducing, but separating my actions and my identity in the moment helped me realize it was a temporary experience, a mistake and lesson learned. I was tired and ready to get Chewy and me out of the car and I made a mistake. Shit happens, ya know? And thankfully John is a kind and compassionate husband. He and I immediately started making jokes about what happened while he put the spare on, and the next day, he took my car to Walmart and bought me a new tire. Crisis averted, gratefulness and relief felt, lesson learned.
It is so easy to allow shame, trauma, health issues, and abuse to reduce who we are and cloud our judgment and perception of ourselves. We can’t control a whole lot in life (but I struggle with control issues; I’m not a “control freak”), but we can decide how to perceive ourselves and how to live our lives.
One exception (but not the only one) in this I am vs. I have/feel/do idea I’m writing about here is when we want to label ourselves by things we do but feel like we can’t because we haven’t won public accolade for it. If you write, you’re a writer even if you never get your words published. If you sing, you’re a singer even if you never sing outside of your shower. Dancer, if you dance. Hiker, if you hike. Runner, if you run. This is where participation awards totally count. If you want it and do it – or sometimes not do it because creativity is vulnerable even with us as our only audience – you are it.
This is all just a little newborn idea in my head so I’d love to hear what others think. I like the idea of holding thoughts at an arm’s length and observing them, not immediately absorbing them. Being curious about them. Curiosity is how we keep ourselves open to what life has to offer and helps us expand and grow. Shame and judgment are the opposites of curiosity, creativity, and vulnerability.
Like Brené Brown says, while paraphrasing Teddy Roosevelt’s grand speech, if you are brave with your life, if you live in the arena, you are going to get your ass kicked.
Don’t be an extra foot in your ribs and face in that arena. Use those feelings instead to pull yourself back up to persevere. There’s a lot of beautiful life to be lived in between those ass kickings.
Today: I want you to continue to shift your energy away from judgment to curiosity. When you feel inclined to judge yourself, shift your words. No longer condemn your choices or reality. Instead, I want you to gently ask, what information is this experience giving me? And prepare yourself to powerfully move forward with that information as a guide.
My words for 2019 were originally going to be “Focus” and “Finish.” The thought behind this was this was going to be the year I focused on things like my debt and health and finished the bad habits that got me in debt and have been detrimental to my health.
But those are impossible, black and white, all or nothing goals, and that kind of thinking is the most detrimental of all and allows no grace or room for failure and growth.
Grace and room for growth are what I’ve starved myself from most my entire life and why life feels too hard to live most of the time.
The past several months, basically since my last blog post in December, have been quite challenging.
There has been some good, like I have a new job that pays well and offers benefits I haven’t had in 3 years, and we have a new dog, a 5-year-old terrier mix named Chewy:
But there have been some challenges:
When I went for my annual exam back in December, my OB-GYN did bloodwork, which showed my thyroid was very underactive again, my triglycerides were high (though my overall cholesterol was great), and I am pre-diabetic.
The worse hypothyroidism is likely the reason for my intense and chronic exhaustion and weight gain/struggle to lose weight over the past year, along with the hair loss and scaly and dry skin and hair I’ve had.
My PCOS-related insulin resistance is leading to diabetes, and I have felt really betrayed by my own body while also beating myself up for not eating better foods and not exercising. Trying to get a grasp on IE when my insulin levels and blood sugar are all over the map and I am constantly exhausted and craving carbohydrates feels really hard too.
John and I had our worst fight ever in mid-January to the point I worried our marriage was over. In hindsight, it was a fight we needed to have because we both said a lot of things that needed to be said, but it felt so awful and scary in the midst of it.
My mom and I had a big fight at the end of December because she wants me to believe in God the way she does and I can’t and she won’t try to understand where I’m coming from and accused me of being defensive and combative when I tried to explain my feelings and it just reminded me so much of our past fights and how powerless I felt in them.
I also feel like I will never be able to talk to her about my struggles with Christianity, as I know she feels I will never understand her faith. I do understand how much it has saved and comforted her in her pain, and I am grateful she has that. It is the close-mindedness and political side that I can’t understand, that pains me and makes me feel like I can’t be totally open or safe in our relationship.
I started the year with $9200 in credit card debt and felt very frustrated all of January because the whole transition with my new job kept me from really paying anything off right off the bat.
The driver job I had for the week of the Super Bowl turned out way differently than as advertised, and I lost a week’s pay from it that I didn’t really recoup.
In the midst of all of this, I have had this little voice inside of me telling me, “Speak up for yourself. Stop just going along with everything. What do you want?“
In the fight John and I had, out of anger, he said, “If you just had more confidence, everything would be so much better.” He also said everything was going well and I just “had to fuck it all up.”
That little voice led me to tell John two things:
Just because things are going well for you in our marriage DOES NOT mean they are going well for me.
While I struggle with confidence in my body and how I look, I am very confident with who I am as a person. I know I am smart and strong and extremely capable and I am confident to show this to others which is one reason I beat out over 600 applicants for my current job. I know I am a good person and know I deserve to treated with kindness and respect.
I have allowed people to run me over for so much of my life. To tell me or shame me into what I believe, think, feel, and how to act. To cause me to shrink and shrivel myself down to nothing. I have allowed people to keep me from inhabiting my whole body, no matter what it looks like, and to convince me it is not and I am not good enough. I have allowed people to convince me that, like John said, I am always fucking everything up with my feelings and needs and words.
That voice telling me to speak up is a small one in a cacophony of a lifetime of self-criticism and self-loathing that demands that I stay small and quiet. But it is growing louder.
After two jobs, one for 6 years and another for 6 months, where I allowed abusive and demeaning behavior because I felt like I had to, just as I did growing up, I am finding myself thinking more of what I need in my new job and how to speak up for it. It’s still tough though. I still feel timid asking my new boss for things and telling her when I am overwhelmed and need help, especially because my tendency is to just suck it up.
My new boss seems to be a very genuine person and doesn’t try to be formal and definitely doesn’t micromanage. She says what she thinks, comes to work in flip-flops, khakis, and a polo shirt, and she believes in me. Said I was her first interview of the day and I set the bar for the rest of the day so high no one else could reach it, and she had to hire me as soon as she could.
But then again, after being burned twice, I have new boundaries when it comes to work.
I started to go with “Speak Up” as my words for 2019, but no, it is more than that.
In speaking up for myself, I am SHOWING UP for myself.
And that is what I need most, to show up for myself in all aspects of the words.
I am showing up for my health by rejoining the LA Fitness gym by my job so I can exercise after work. It is funny how we can feel too tired to exercise but it is by exercising often times that we gain more energy. I also want to feel more wholly inhabitative (is that a word?) of my body and exercise helps me do this.
I have also followed my doctor’s suggestion of increasing my Levothyroxine dosage to light a fire under my thyroid. I started the 175g dosage in mid-January and when he did follow-up bloodwork in mid-February, my thyroid hormones were already improving. It takes about 6-8 weeks to start feeling better, so I am trying to rest more/get more sleep overall and in the meantime.
I also got a much-needed haircut (and went back to my natural brunette color so I can grow out my roots without it being so obvious) to help with the health of my hair and the hair loss.
In addition, I started taking a multi-vitamin again.
I can recognize that my insulin resistance is causing my constant up and down with hunger and this is triggering all of my fears about gaining more weight, becoming diabetic, and that I need to restrict foods which will just lead to more disordered and likely binge eating. I have started looking into seeing a HAES nutritionist and maybe a therapist but I need to figure out if I can afford to pay for either since I’ve found neither that are covered under my insurance.
I am showing up for my financial health by taking a proactive stance with the money I make and how I spend it. I have a spreadsheet with probably 10 tabs detailing how much I make and how I make it (regular job, selling stuff, side gigs like the Super Bowl gig) and how I spend it.
My two main goals for this year are to pay off my credit card and save at least $2K. Since January 1st, I have paid off $960 of credit card debt and will probably end the month at over $1000 paid off because I get paid weekly now instead of bi-weekly. I have also saved up $400 in the past 6 weeks or so.
I will get two paychecks from my Super Bowl gig, one for regular hourly pay which I got in the mail last Saturday and one for the 20% gratuity of each job which I will get in the mail a month from now. Both checks are going straight to my credit card debt. Any money I get outside of my paycheck like from rebate apps I use goes straight to savings. Same with money I make selling stuff online, like over $100 from selling clothes, a purse, and shoes on Poshmark.
I also spoke up and asked John for his credit card to pay for Missy’s mouth infection surgery this week (4th one since July 2017, sadly, and no idea yet why it keeps happening) when I picked her up after work. I’m glad he paid for it because the $815 her oral surgery cost was more than I had in the bank and would’ve wiped out all the progress I’ve made on my credit card debt payoff.
Like many Americans, we learned we owe money to the IRS on our taxes this year thanks to the new tax bill. Because John was smart and maxed out his IRA contribution last year, we owe a lot less than we would have. He paid the $994 tax bill since he has the money from working so much overtime and paying off all of his own debt, and he wants me to focus on paying off my debt this year. We are getting $886 back from the state of Georgia, which is massive and more than we’ve ever gotten back before. He said I could use that towards my debt too, which I will be. I am very thankful for John’s help in this.
It is hard for me to say no to myself just as it is for me to say it to those closest to me. I still want to shop online when I’m bored or sad. I still get tired of eating a sandwich every day at work and want to go to Chick-Fil-A or something.
I am also so incredibly impatient. I know just like with weight gain, the debt accumulation didn’t happen overnight. And in the same way, I won’t pay it off overnight either. Even slow progress is progress, and I am trying to focus more on the present and what I can do now instead of thinking so far ahead.
Showing up for myself allows for me to acknowledge and validate where and who I am in my life. It helps me see me. I so often want to feel seen by others, like John and my parents, but I neglect to really see myself. It allows me to recognize failure is not the end but a re-route to a new road in my journey. I can stop myself in the middle of catastrophizing I am prone to doing and say, Hey! Shit happens, okay? How can you learn from this? What can you do differently?
I was not taught to explore and be curious growing up. I was taught to be rigid and small-minded and always on alert. To rest was being lazy and worthless. To think outside the box or question anything was being disrespectful or ridiculous and isolating. To feel and ask for anything was being burdensome and shameful.
June is the only person who really showed up for me growing up, and even she had her limits when it came to emotions, affection, communication, and needs, and the environment we lived in together was an endlessly volatile battleground where to be vulnerable could damn near kill you or make you wish you were dead.
I am so grateful for that now small voice that whispers to me to speak up for myself and cheers me on when I do. I don’t know where it came from, but I am thankful it is there now. This year, I want to encourage that voice to grow louder and for me to trust and follow its directions.
This is not a year for more rigidity and self-defeat, self-doubt, self-loathing, and allowing myself to be trampled under the expectations and opinions of me, and needs of others.
What do I want?
Who do I want to be?
How can I think, behave, and live differently?
How can I fully live in this body I have as it is?
How can I finally see myself exactly as I am and stop sending myself the same hateful messages sent to me growing up and still all around me in our society?
How can I have a job I like that doesn’t become toxic?
How can the money I earn finally become mine?
How can I focus on each day alone as it happens and stop getting ahead of myself?
How can I do my part to have a healthy marriage with John?
By showing up for myself.
I know by proclaiming these words this year, God/the Universe will throw lots of opportunities for me to prove I am on my team, but I have known for a long time that conflict creates growth and fosters healing. I just pray for some grace and courage to be packed in with those opportunities.
I have really not felt like writing over the past week. The weather has been dreary. I had to drain half of my savings account to make my credit card and car payments for December and I have about $700 left to my name. I am still applying for jobs, but with the holidays coming, my email and phone have been radio silent in terms of getting interviews or any real responses to my applications.
When the weather permitted last week, I took Missy for a couple of walks and went on one by myself. This time of the year feels so brutal both in the wet, bone-chilling cold and wind and emotionally. I don’t do well with early sunsets and shorter, cloudy days. I only love cold when it snows and as a reprieve from the intense summer heat. If it doesn’t snow, I require sunny and at least 65-70 degrees to feel good in the winter time.
But on these walks, I started talking…to God, I guess. I don’t know. Sometimes I really miss the faith I had growing up because it felt so comforting and I trusted I was being heard. Now, I just talked out loud (because thankfully, due to the cold, no one else was on the trail) and hoped Someone was listening. I obviously don’t trust God because when I ask for change, I say, “But hey, please don’t take that as let something bad happen to me so I lean closer to you or whatever because that just sucks and seems so narcissistic of you.”
I am angry at God. I can’t fully not believe in God, but I can’t believe in the God I was raised to believe. And with that, I have no idea who God really is or what to believe. But it feels good to be out in nature, wrapped in trees with the sky above, and to just talk. Speak out my hopes and wishes and unload my pain and fear. Maybe if anything, just talking whether anyone hears me or not is a gift in itself because it releases the pressure valve of anxiety in my brain just as writing always has.
When I can’t think of anything else to say or when I start worrying God is going to bring something devastating into my life that makes me wish I was where I am now, I just start saying out loud what I’m grateful for. My family. John. My closest friends. My healthy and capable body and brain. A warm apartment. Hot water. Food. The ability to buy what I need even if it’s with a credit card. Internet. Books. My tiny little Christmas tree. That John has a good job even if he’s working extra hours and we still don’t get a lot of time together to do stuff because he’s so tired when he’s off. Being able to have all of these feelings even though I feel so overwhelmed at always feeling things so acutely.
My mom asked me last week if I know what HSP is. I said yes, highly sensitive person. She said, “Did you know you are one of them?” I said yes, very much so. I feel fucking everything. I’m like Cyclops in the X-Men series where if he doesn’t clamp his eyes shut or wear the special googles, his eyes burn through everything. I feel like I need some sort of shield to protect me from all of the feelings that are burned through me everywhere I go and with everyone I’m around. Maybe I’m not Cyclops but a victim of his, haha.
But anyway, on to the writing prompt from Day 13 of Rosie Molinary’s “Beautiful You”:
Today: In your “Beautiful You” journal, write down what the word “beautiful” means to you. When are you compelled to use that word to describe a person? What has informed your definition? Knowing and owning our personal definitions of beauty is an essential step in celebrating one’s own brilliance.
What does the word “beautiful” mean to me?
When I think of the word “beautiful,” I think of words like “radiant,” “colorful,” “vibrant,” and “open.” A sunset that paints the entire sky in an array of oranges, pinks, yellows, and blues. Flowers. The constant ebb and flow of the waves crashing thunderously along the beach. Seeing the world around me from the top of a mountain or hill. Nature’s inhalations and exhalations in the form of clouds and storms. Christmas lights. The morning after a snowfall where the snowpack muffles all of the sounds around you and the world seems quiet and still for once.
When are you compelled to use that word to describe a person?
Those same synonyms can be attached to my definition of “beautiful” in people as well as “kindness,” “compassion,” “passion,” “perseverance,” and “strength.” I saw this picture on Reddit over the weekend of Hugh Jackman meeting an older lady who was a dear fan of his. There was so much joy in both of their faces as he kneeled down to her in her wheelchair and held her hand. He took a moment of his very busy life to show such kindness and that really touched my heart. It made me cry as much as all of those “People of New York” stories do. Honesty and openness in times of sorrow and great strife is beautiful. When we see the fruits of those struggles in a marriage, the birth of a child, recovery from an illness, and etc. The way John shows up for me, especially in darker times like now where my depression threatens to swallow me whole, is beautiful. Yes, there is physical beauty, but it means nothing without a story behind it. It is a book cover, a book jacket, without a book. The book itself, the story, is what is most beautiful.
What has informed your decision?
For me, beautiful is not what something looks like. It is an action. Like love. A choice. A story. A whole picture. Not just the sun itself setting along the horizon but the colors it projects as it burns into Earth’s atmosphere. Not just a giant supercell storm cloud but the way nature uses weather to keep our planet habitable. Not just a beautiful face but the story and emotions behind it.
Our stories don’t really feel all that beautiful when we are in them. They feel dark, looming, ugly, and we feel fucked up, lost, destroyed, and broken. We see the cracks, we don’t see the gold filling those cracks. It is when we look back that we see the hope, love, character, compassion, and strength that were defined in us during those times.
I can’t wait to see the beauty in this chapter of my life. I know it is coming and that’s the only thing that keeps me holding on.
You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful Youhere.
The past several days have been really rough for me. I let my depression and anxiety and the negative thoughts that come with them destroy my peace of mind. I shut myself off from friends and John. I woke up crying yesterday and then really broke down when John pulled me out of bed and asked me what was wrong.
While thoroughly soaking the shoulder of John’s nice shirt with my tears (and snot, sorry), he told me about an article he read on a study of learned helplessness in dogs (it is so sad, I can’t even write it out here, but look it up if you’re curious) and how the only way the researchers could get them to get up and eat and move instead of cower in fear of being shocked over and over again was to grab them up by their back legs and pull them up.
When he finished telling me about the article, he said, “I’m not sure how this applies to you, but it came to mind.”
I replied, “Are you saying someone needs to grab me up by my legs and make me move?”
He responded (paraphrased because I can’t remember his exact words), “I think you feel like you can’t go anywhere or do anything because you don’t have a job yet or extra money so you wind up doing nothing and feel like shit.”
This is true. This is the story I’ve told myself over and over again. I don’t deserve to do anything. I can’t afford to do anything. I need to be applying for jobs 24/7.
This past week, I think I got dressed and left the house twice. My sleep schedule got all screwed up. John said when he left for work at 2p, I was in my PJs in my usual spot on the couch and when he got home at 4a, I was in the same PJs and in the same spot, and to him, that screams that I’ve given up even though he says he knows better. I don’t think he’s totally wrong though. In a lot of ways, I have given up lately.
This past week, I let the negative, critical, demeaning stories I tell myself break me and leave me sobbing in my husband’s arms for 30 minutes. (Progress though: I used to never be able to cry in front of anyone else, and John has grown in leaps and bounds at showing empathy instead of immediately trying to fix the situation.)
The crying helped though. Right before John pulled me out of bed, I was lying there picturing a town filling with water, flooding with no way for the water to escape. And as soon as I started crying, I saw the dam break and the waters flow out. Sometimes, no answers can be found, no relief can be felt until the tears come. This is something I wish I knew and honored growing up, but with my family, I understand why it took so long for me to know and honor.
From Beautiful You, by Rosie Molinary, the Day 12 prompt which plays into a lot of what I’ve been feeling most of my life:
TODAY: In your “Beautiful You” journal, consider that your dissatisfaction is not about your body. When you accept that thought, what comes to mind? What is your dissatisfaction really about? What is trying to tell you? What part of your life could you address to foster more overall contentment?
All right, let’s do this.
When you accept that thought, what comes to mind?
That I’ve made my body my excuse and scapegoat for most of my life and punished it for something it never did.
What is your dissatisfaction really about?
Fear. I often blame my weight and body for why I can’t do the things I love, like sing or dance in front of others. I blame it for an unsatisfying sex life. I blame it for not allowing me to be stylish and beautiful even though there are plenty of adorable clothes in my size. I blame it for not being able to do the physical activities I love without struggle, like hiking and running, even though I can definitely be athletic and fat because I was for the first 20 years of my life. I blame it for why I didn’t get to have fun in high school and have boyfriends and etc. and kept myself at home instead.
My dissatisfaction is in my fear of being seen, making mistakes, looking stupid, being a beginner and what others think of me. What’s crazy is, John told me yesterday that NOT doing what I want to do, and not my weight gain, is what causes him to be less attracted to me at times. No one wants to be around someone who lives like a bump on a log. I definitely don’t like me when I am being a bump on a log and can totally understand being unattractive to others for being this way.
What is it trying to tell you?
That it is not my body I often dislike, it is me. Because I know I am better than the person I allow the bullshit lies in my head make out to be. I know I am smart and capable. It’s telling me hiding myself with the idea that my life will finally be perfect and everyone will love me when I’m thin or out of debt or whatever is really what is wasting my life. It is telling me this is all I’ve got – this body and this life – and I can’t keep waiting for something that will never come.
What part of your life could you address to foster more overall contentment?
Like John told me yesterday, I GET to go outside. I have nothing keeping me from walking out the door and going wherever I want. I might not be able to afford the dance classes I want to take right now, but there’s YouTube and just putting on music and dancing in my living room. I want to work on realizing that there is so much I can do without a job or money and in my body as it is and to actually do it. Sitting in my dark apartment all day and night with no concept of time sure as shit isn’t cutting it for me and only adds to my greatest fear of wasting my life and not living it to the fullest.
You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful Youhere.
On Day 11 page of Rosie Molinary’s book Beautiful You, she writes about her struggles growing up with what others thought of her and how they defined her. In her twenties, she realized it was how she felt about herself – not how others felt about her – that defined her and helped her accept herself.
I wish I was there at 36, but I think I have made a lot of progress. Growing up, being thin seemed to equal being pretty, attractive, and feminine. With my broad shoulders and big belly, all the jokes were about how masculine I looked and carried myself and I was told I’d never be able or be loved by any “normal” man unless I was thin.
In my twenties, I learned how to dress myself better. My friend Sia taught me how to shop for clothes that flattered my body shape and showed me how to accessorize. I went from the teenage girl who went to class in overalls and a t-shirt, track pants and t-shirts, or jeans and t-shirts and who just wanted to be invisible to a woman who loves floral prints, loves dresses, and loves baring my shoulders which I see as beautiful and strong now. I don’t go out of my way to be visible – still don’t wear makeup or a lot of accessories – but I do try to present myself in a way that shows I care about myself and how I look even if I still struggle to feel beautiful and feminine in my body.
Rosie also talks about how a lot of our dissatisfaction comes from buying into the societal belief that we are our bodies, that all of our value lies in how we look. Like she writes, our bodies are simply vessels that take us through life, that allow us to experience the world. Our bodies change so much throughout our lives and can change significantly in one fell swoop that to put all of our eggs in one basket in regards to our value and self-acceptance is dangerous. How can we live fulfilling lives if we spend so much time trying to maintain a body type many of us were not born with and none of us can maintain throughout our lifetimes?
Like a lot of fat teenagers, I tried to focus more on being seen as funny, smart, and kind, someone people would “make an exception for” and “forgive” for not being all that aesthetically pleasing or able to fit in with a thin body. While it makes me sad how much I did this for the approval and acceptance of others instead of myself, it was a gift in that I developed a real personality and became a woman of great depth, introspection, empathy, and developed one hell of a sense of humor that has helped me survive so much of the trauma I’ve been through. And now those are things I appreciate, approve of, and love about myself even as I still worry too much at times about what others think of how I look.
Today: Embrace the notion that you are not your looks; that your value is greater than how you look. If you are at war with your body because you believe it should look different in order to fit some mainstream beauty standard, life will not be fulfilling. This not to say you shouldn’t care for your body and keep it in good operating order. In fact, you have a responsibility to do this. But if your project in life is to alter your looks, you are neglecting your purpose. In your “Beautiful You” journal, without mentioning your looks at all, explore what you really offer this world.
I am in the midst of a season of searching for a new job, my third in as many years, and the question of what I can offer has come up quite a bit as I write cover letters to convince an employer I am worth interviewing and hiring.
I have a tendency to sell myself short. As I look for jobs, I often find myself thinking, No way can I learn that or do that, like I didn’t teach myself Microsoft Office when I left my job with the State of Alabama where we were still in the Stone Age and using WordPerfect and Windows 95 and everyone else was using Office and at least Windows XP and like I didn’t get an administrative assistant job after a grueling in-basket assessment and four hours of brain draining behavioral “tell me about a time when…” interview questions.
What I offer this world is my open-mindedness and being teachable; my love for learning and the quick ability to do so; my transparency and honesty and self-awareness and willingness to be vulnerable at least on paper; my sense of humor and willingness to be goofy at my own expense but at the entertainment of others; my courage to keep digging at my struggles so openly in the hopes others feel less alone and like someone else understands what they’re going through; and my love for books, food (especially baking for others), singing, dancing, and traveling.
My mom calls me a “groundbreaker” and says no one can get people to open up and talk like I can (I say this is because I keep talking until they can’t take it anymore and start talking so I will shut up). John says I have helped him by calling him out on his shit as well as pushing him outside of his comfort zone. Where I was seen as too emotional growing up, I am now able to help others feel safe in showing their emotions by being unafraid to express mine. My mom now says my closeness to my emotions is a strength that everyone, including her, tried to break when I was growing up because they’d all been taught that to show emotion was weak and were overwhelmed by me having completely normal, healthy reactions to life (most of the time, anyway).
I hope I am seen as someone who wrings the most I can out of life even if I feel stifled by my financial situation, where I live, and sometimes my physical and mental health. I want to be as supportive, encouraging, gracious, and compassionate towards myself as I am towards others and to be as confident in myself and my abilities as I am of others.
I hope I am seen as authentic and genuine. I hope to grow in the courage to be more authentic, genuine, vulnerable, and trustworthy and to love myself as much as I love others. I don’t want to live the highlight reel where everyone thinks I have my shit together and I am perfect. The real life reel is hard, but it’s life, and I want to be relatable and to help people that way.
As the saying goes, “Life happens outside of our comfort zones,” and I am constantly hurtling myself way past my comfort zone so in the end, I at least know I tried everything I possibly could to make the most of my life. My offering to the world is the journey I take and who I become through it in the hopes someone else can learn and feel less alone from it.
You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful Youhere.
I meant to post this yesterday, but wound up napping during the Iron Bowl (Roll Tide!) then again after dinner because I got very little sleep Friday night, so I didn’t get around to finishing it up. (I’m a light sleeper, John has a cold that has him stopped up and snoring like I don’t know what, and this is why we need to get the bed for our spare bedroom put together already so I can sleep there when I can’t sleep next to him.)
I went to bed about 9:30 or 10p last night and woke up at 4:45a and never could go back to sleep, so around 8a, I finally decided to just get up. I wound up having an idea that relates to this post, which you can read about on my Instagram page.
Onward to today’s writing prompt…
Today: As you begin to make Self-Appreciation Jar deposits for things you no longer want to be saying, take note of your words. What is it that you say about yourself? Why do you say it? What are your emotions when you say it?
Write it down in your “Beautiful You” journal, then consider what you are really saying. If “I am fat” is always coming to your lips, think those words through until you are holding some truth.
Are you unhappy with your weight because you would like to be more healthy – perhaps able to walk up stairs without losing your breath or get off a certain type of medication – or are you unhappy with your weight because it doesn’t meet a Hollywood standard of beauty?
By really examining the motivation behind your words, you can see the truth and act accordingly.
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you and I didn’t get the numbering wrong.
As Rosie writes in the intro of the book, I skipped a day that didn’t really apply to me.
But it isn’t that it didn’t apply.
Day 8 was about creating a Self-Appreciation Jar and putting quarters in it for every critical thought to visualize how costly it is when we knock ourselves.
I have not done this because, well, I am unemployed and don’t have any extra change to toss into a jar. Also, with all of the thoughts that fly through my brain on a regular basis, there aren’t enough quarters or jars in the world to fill. Okay, maybe I just think that because I don’t realize once I started throwing money in, I might see how expensive these critical thoughts are and think, Hmm, maybe I should stop before it costs me everything.
Those expensive critical thoughts, however, go something like this:
I’m too fat.
I’m going to wind up having diabetes or dying of heart disease because I won’t lose weight.
I will never have a fulfilling life.
I am a boring, uninteresting person.
I am wasting my life.
I’m too lazy.
I’m not creative.
I am a failure.
I am stupid.
I will always be struggling financially.
John probably wishes he’d married someone else.
I am a burden and a drain.
I will never get my shit together.
Why do I say these things about myself?
Because I am constantly comparing myself to other people who seem to know what they’re doing and I come up short. I don’t know how to market myself or draw pretty graphics or write professionally or take beautiful photos. I keep settling for jobs that are emotionally draining because I keep chasing the feeling that being out of debt will make me feel better. (It does for a little bit, but like with losing weight without dealing with all of the emotional shit, it winds up being not enough when you haven’t really done the work to be smarter with your finances.) I look at other people my age and think they are so far “ahead” of me because they have good jobs, make enough money to enjoy doing things like travel without going into debt, and they own their own homes while I have none of those things at the moment.
Because I grew up in an environment where it was thought being mean and critical was the only way to teach someone to change their behavior and I carried those behaviors with me. I remember getting so angry at my dad because the only time he really paid attention to me as a kid was when I did something wrong and ignored me the rest of the time and his explanation was, “I figure when you’re behaving yourself and being quiet, it’s best to just leave you alone.” And now I pretty much do the same thing to myself and to John. I really struggle to bring light to the good in both myself and John and our marriage and tend to focus on what needs to be “fixed.”
How do I feel when I say those things?
Defeated. This morning, while trying to make myself sleepy enough to go back to sleep, I saw a post on Reddit that asked, “If you had killed yourself a year ago today, what would you have missed out on?”
Instead of answering that question, I thought instead back to 14 years ago when I had all but decided to kill myself after I finished college. I had so many of those same thoughts back then about my body (weighed what I weigh now but had zero cardiovascular endurance and walking more than to my car from my dorm made my whole body hurt), being a burden (this was around the time my mom told me I’d been one to her growing up), feeling so lazy and unambitious and like my college degree was a waste (I was so depressed I could barely function and just barely graduated), and I could not see my life ever being good. Everything hurt. Everything felt like shit.
I still feel like that sometimes, but when I think back to all I’ve done and all I’ve experienced in the past 14 years? Oh my god. Yeah, a lot of shitty stuff happened, but the good! I moved to Atlanta and started a life of my own. I met a man unlike any I grew up around whom I fell in love with and who loves me just as I am. I made such incredible friends. I now have a great relationship with my mom and my brothers and I are best friends and we love talking to each other and love the time we get to spend together. I’ve traveled places on my own. I’ve lived in a big city (Chicago makes Atlanta look like a small town). I’ve seen and played in snow (and lots of it)! I’ve read such great books and seen so much cool stuff and I’ve seen myself grow more and more into the person I wanted to be then but felt I never could.
Those thoughts are the “nothing” thoughts in my vicious all-or-nothing cycle. All I see are those words. Grace would tell me, “I am fat, but I am healthy and I feed myself nourishing food and move my body when I feel able to.”
I could apply “Yeah, but…” to just about anything.
The idea I had this morning instead of throwing quarters in a jar every time I have a critical thought about myself is a “How Did I Make Today A Day” list in my journal, on Evernote, or a scrap of paper. I am so much a “Today will be THE day” about eating healthier, exercising, saving money, not spending, looking for jobs, etc., and when I do something that feels like a mistake (eat ice cream for dinner, lie on the couch all day, buy something online or at Target, etc.), I send myself into a shame spiral and wind up on a quest to numb my feelings, which means binge eating or shopping with my credit card or whatever.
So on this note, I will write things like “Took Missy for a walk around the apartment complex,” “read a book outside on my settee,” “applied for one job/spent 30 minutes looking for jobs to apply for,” “uninstalled Ebates from my phone so I wouldn’t go online shopping out of boredom and buy something for the cash back,” and etc.
Social media, television, books, and more lead us to believe we live life on a rigid timeline. By 25, we’re supposed to be married. By 35, we are supposed to be established in a career. By 40, we should have two children. As a late bloomer who started her period a month before her 14th birthday while all of her friends started around their 10th and 11th birthdays and who didn’t get her first kiss or have sex for the first time til just prior to her 29th birthday, I know damn well there’s no real timeline.
There’s no one way to have a body.
Debt is not the worst thing in the world (though man, it must be nice to not have any).
NO ONE has their shit completely together because there’s really no such thing because no one is perfect.
EVERYONE is figuring things out as they go along.
What is meant to happen in my life will happen. Like Liz Gilbert says, my boat will not leave without me.
What am I really saying?
I want to lose weight because I want to feel lighter in my body. What I mean is, it is really hard to do the activities I want to do, like hike and run and cycle, with 270 pounds on my back, hips, and knees. It hurts. I have really fucking strong legs because they hold up this weight, but the weight causes me a lot of pain. Funny, but painful story: One time, John and I were hiking Kennesaw Mountain and when I jumped off a rock, my BELLY SLAPPED THE TOPS OF MY THIGHS. Like slapped so hard, John looked around thinking someone had fallen somewhere. I screamed from the sharp pain then started laughing and told John what happened.
I don’t want to be super skinny and know I will likely never be thin. I want to be able to do the activities I love without feeling so heavy and weighed down.
I want to be out of debt so the money I make is mine to do the things I want to do and so I can also help others. I am so tired of giving my money to these huge banks and credit card companies because I couldn’t afford what I wanted and had to borrow money from them. I am not a victim to them by any means. I am just tired of depending on them.
I want to be creative and smart and know how to market myself because I want to work for myself and be my own boss. I am tired of working for someone else and putting all of my efforts towards something I don’t ever really reap the benefits of. My last boss called us admins her “factory.” Cogs in the machine. I am tired of being the factory for someone else.
I keep getting myself stuck in the “I don’t know how” phase of each of these goals. I know the statistics to regarding weight loss, getting out of debt, and working for myself, and they all say failure is all but guaranteed. I want to stop seeing failure as a sign I shouldn’t bother trying. That there are no lessons to be learned in failure. That there is no success in failure when successful people fail more than anyone.
Being alive means there is a 100% chance of failure at some point, but that doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t try. To not try is a failure in its own right.
I want to write down my daily steps in the direction of grace and compassion and accomplishments, not charge myself a fee for every negative thought because those charges will only feed further into the debt I feel myself in throughout every aspect of my life.
And if some days I don’t do anything at all because I couldn’t even get out of bed, I will write down, “I’m still here and that’s the most important gift of all.”
You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful Youhere.
Soo, it’s been a few days. I have thought of giving up on this, as I always do, because I haven’t been able to do it “perfectly,” meaning every single day. This is my MO. I start something, miss a day or make a mistake, think it’s a total waste and I should just clear the slate and start over again. Except when you do that, no progress is made. I have to just jump back in and keep moving because life is moving no matter how many restarts I try to make.
I can see over and over again how much I need grace for myself, but giving up being a perfectionist is so freaking hard.
Today’s entry from Beautiful You is pretty timely as I’ve spent the day beating myself up about everything and convincing myself I’m a huge – physically and otherwise – disappointment to everyone, especially John.
I feel very lost and have no idea what is next for me. I am trying to trust that I am on the right path and everything is coming together, but I just feel like I am standing blindfolded in a pitch black room with zero idea of my surroundings and no way to get my bearings. It is so uncomfortable just sitting in this moment of great unknown and not trying to worry about my bills and lack of income and lack of job prospects and etc.
Today’s Prompt from Rosie Molinary’s book “Beautiful You”:
Give that voice a name – Sylvia, for example, or Agnes. And when she pipes up today, put her in her place.
“Agnes, I’m not listening to you.”
“Sylvia, you are so negative.”
And then spin her criticism on its head.
“Agnes, it doesn’t matter if I am skinny in your eyes. It matters whether or not I am healthy in mine.”
“Sylvia, my hair looks perfectly fine.”
Calling out your inner critic and changing her direction is a vital step in moving from negative self-image to positive.
I’m not sure what to do with this prompt. Naming my critical voice feels like giving it power but at the same time, it’s like, Well, you’re already here and it’s obvious you aren’t going anywhere so might as well make you official.
I’m not sure where the healthy, middle-of-the-road voice is. I still haven’t found the gracious voice or the voice that is compassionate without allowing me to slack off. Or maybe I don’t totally understand either. I don’t know.
I thought about names for my inner critic since I last blogged. Linda is my mom’s name. I considered that. Not knowing if the name should be specific to my gender or not, I debated Charles or Charlie after my uncle who belittled me every chance he got, especially about my height, size, build, and weight. My mom almost named me both Amber and Amanda and I’ve never gotten along long with girls of either name so I considered those.
Right now, naming the voice feels cheesy and weird, so I will focus on just observing when that critical voice comes out and saying, “Hey, I am doing the best I can here, so could you please give me some slack?” I never felt comfortable saying that to those who criticized me growing up, but maybe I can give myself that boundary now?
I guess we will see.
You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful Youhere.