Sunday, February 6, 2011

In honor of my shiny new button...

which currently resides over there on my inspiration board in the left sidebar, I'd like to share a guest post I wrote back in November for Untypically Jia.  Jia is hosting an event she calls Self Esteem Saturdays, and has invited several of her readers to share their reactions to self-esteem, be it negative or positive.  It was a hard post for me to write, but something I felt I really needed to do.  It's even harder for me to share it here for all of you - in a space I consider my "safe place" and for an audience who generally expects lots of fun craftiness (not that I think you are only one-dimensional or anything... just that I understand that you go to certain blogs for certain reasons, and I'm kind of breaking that norm right now.)  Anyway, I encourage you to check out Self Esteem Saturdays.  And write yourself a love letter.  

Jia encouraged us to share a picture we
weren't proud of.  This definitely qualifies.
My "awkward" years were unkind.
I’m in kindergarten. The girl who sits at my table is laughing with her friend about the shirt I’m wearing. It happens to be a hand-me-down from my brother. I am embarrassed.

I’m in fourth grade and wear my brand new 
(and totally rad) hot pink glasses to my school holiday concert for the first time. The boys behind me laugh their heads off and call me four eyes. A boy a year older than me tells me I even LOOK like a bookworm now. Suddenly I don’t feel so cool.

I’m in fifth grade. Two boys from my class follow me all the way home, taunting me and making crude and revolting comments regarding me and another boy in our class - whom I hate. I am mortified - I’ve never even heard some of the phrases they use. I cry all the way home.

I’m eleven. The boy who lives across the street makes fun of me for having hairy legs. He tells me I look like a monkey. I go home and tell my mom she has to teach me to shave.

I’m in sixth grade and walk home in front of a boy two years older than me. He begins to yell insults and I try to ignore him. I walk faster. So does he. He starts to throw things at me. A pine cone strikes my cheek so hard it gets stuck for a moment. I walk the rest of the way home with a bloody, stinging cheek, but manage not to cry until I’m in my living room.

I’m 13 and a girl tells everyone in class that I’m going to Hell because I’m a Mormon. She tells them I don’t believe in Christ or the Bible. I’m confused. I never knew people thought that. I try to stand up for myself but no one’s listening.

I’m a freshman in high school and I’m at a dance with my biggest crush ever. A girl I used to be friends with comes up behind me and spits her pepsi all over my hair. I guess she was upset that he went with me and not her. I wash my hair in the bathroom and go back to find her dancing with him.

I’m 16 and have never had a boyfriend. I’ve never been kissed. I’m the only one of my friends.
I wonder what’s wrong with me.

And the stories continue. Stories much like yours. Stories worse than yours. Stories nowhere near as bad as yours... but that’s not the point. The point is that we all have something in common. Somewhere, at some time, someone or something has made us feel small. Sad. Ugly. Stupid. Just plain bad.

I went through ups and downs.
This was taken at my BF's wedding,
right before a was engaged
the first time, and I felt pretty good.

Through every disappointment, big or small, I feel as if it is my fault. I am not as pretty as, as skinny as, as smart as, my friends. I have acne, huge glasses, crooked teeth, thick ankles. I fail tests. I lose contests. I audition for plays and am rejected. My fiance calls off our wedding. I’m lied to, manipulated, left drained - a shell of someone I thought I was.

The truth is that I’m a closet no self-esteemer.

I have never had good self esteem. My body image has never been very healthy. Why? Because someone in elementary school made fun of my freckles? Because I got dumped time and time again? Because I don’t look anything like the models and actresses on TV or in the movies? Yes.

And no.

All of these things contribute to the self-image I built in my head, sure. It’s hard to ignore cruel comments and jokes, no matter how many times your mom tells you they don’t mean anything; to stop caring what people think. But I believe a greater evil is at work than the gangly (and probably insecure) boy across the street.

See, I’ve been taught since I was young that I am a child of a very loving Heavenly Father. I was created in His image and He knows and loves me. He gave me talents and abilities and supports me in my need. Did I believe this? Yes - all of it. I still do. So how can I feel so unloved and insecure? Why do I feel useless and ugly?

Well, I was also taught that there is an opposition in all things - and the greatest opposition we’ll face in this life is The Adversary. He delights in my despair. He laughs when I feel hopeless. His greatest joy would be in watching me drop so low I lose hope completely. Hope in God, Eternity, and blessings to come. Then he will win. So he works at my inadequacies. He uses them to his advantage. He needles and needles me.

But I really can’t blame it all on him, either. Over time, I’ve learned what I never would have admitted earlier in life. And that is this: A lot of this rests on me. A lot of this is MY doing. Yes, I have - along with society - been conditioned to expect certain things of myself. But it is me alone who judges so harshly when I fall short. Yes, I’ve battled teasing and failure and health issues and depression. So many of us have.  It is me alone who internalizes criticism, who remembers taunts best forgotten, who believes the bad and never the good.

And it is me alone who continues - to this day - to compare myself to other people, real and fictitious. (Yes, I said fictitious. You know you have an issue when you say to yourself, “Wow.  Sydney Bristow is quite possibly the most amazing person alive. Why can’t I be like her?” or “If only I had powers like Vin.” [And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch Alias on hulu and read the Mistborn series.  Now.  I’ll wait right here for you.  Done? OK.])

Comparing yourself to others is a sure way to completely and totally lose sight of who you are. It is the best way to make yourself feel as if you will never measure up. Because you’re absolutely right. You WON’T ever be like that person. You are you. And when you try to be someone else, you inevitably and epically fail. But there it is: the constant urge to be beautiful, smart, talented and make my parents proud, like my older sister or be in honors history classes like my friend or receive a full- ride scholarship to college due to a stellar GPA like my husband. Why do I do this to myself?

As a Theatre Major, I spent a lot of time 
looking like this.  Crazy hats, 
lots of makeup, arms around good friends, 
big smiles, hard work.

So I’m a theatre major. An actor by nature. That means I have an excuse for being overly-emotional, melodramatic, loud and animated. It also means I’m a magnet for rejection, criticism, teasing, and being overly-emotional, melodramatic, loud and animated. But the upside is that in moments of stress or vulnerability, I’ve always been able to fall back on my training. And this is why I’m a “closet” no self-esteemer. Because people are always so shocked to find out my dirty little “no confidence” secret. I fool them all. Sometimes I fool them too well, because I’ve been seen as a snob by some until they get to know me.  (So I guess I question whether that’s really an upside or not?)

If I’m being honest with myself, I know that the times in my life when I was happiest, were the times I was truest to ME. Not the me I thought I should be, but the me I really was. The theatre major who bounced back from crummy auditions, the actor who worked hard to get cast and achieved the results she wanted. The girl who laughed too loudly and freely, who cried too openly, who wasn’t ashamed to show emotions and knew that being dramatic was her strength. The optimist who loved so hard and so easily her heart was broken a million times. The person who forgot about what others thought and what others said and just lived and loved and laughed. The me who focused on other people solely as OTHER PEOPLE - people to connect with and help and bolster and love - just as I wanted others to do for me - instead of viewing them as competition or critics or impossibly high standards.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have had periods of great happiness and joy in my life. I have had moments of confidence. I’ve felt loved and needed. I am so lucky in so many ways. I’ve always wanted a happy marriage with my best friend. And I have that. I’ve always wanted to be a mama. And I’ve got some adorable kids. I’m close to my family whom I consider my greatest friends. I know a lot of people may look at my life as “charmed.” Maybe it is. But the spectacular moments and wonderful blessings don’t cancel out the image I have in my head.
Me and the LOVE OF MY LIFE.  On the day we got engaged.
I am blissfully happy here.  Are my self-esteem problems
over now that I have everything I've always wanted?
NO.  But at least he's by my side.
With age comes wisdom. And because I understand myself better now, and understand my personal pitfalls and the contributing factors to my negative self esteem, I should be completely cured. Right?

With each new role in life, there are added stressors. With each new experience there are more expectations. Why can’t I be a better wife? Why can’t I be more supportive? Why can’t I keep my house clean? Why am I so impatient with the kids? Why do I let my two year old get the better of me? Why can’t I be more fun? Why can’t I lose just 20 pounds? (ok, that last one doesn’t really have to do with new roles in life... aside from the fact that we all know the best way to gain weight is to get married...)

When I became a stay at home mom, I felt pressure from all sides... I should contribute more to my household. I should bring in some sort of income. I should be empowered by working. I shouldn’t be satisfied by “just” being a babysitter. On the other hand, I felt torn up by other stay at home moms who had everything together. I should be homeschooling my kids starting at 18 months. I should never let them have sugar. I should only redirect, never reprimand. I should never lose my temper. I should always be fun and loving and laugh and praise my children. I should love every. single. moment. And I don’t. (Though I do love many of them...)

And now that I’m out of the closet, I may as well tell you that blogging is no different for me than any other experience in my life. When I started blogging, I felt measured by followers and comments. When I got my first follower who was not related to me or real-life friends with me I was shocked and elated. And I became an addict. And although I love blogging, it does make me even more aware of my tendency to be overly critical of myself. If I don’t have any emails after I post, I wonder why no one is commenting. Don’t they like me anymore? Isn’t anyone really following me? I admit to checking Google Analytics (though not obsessively, I promise). Why do I have a high bounce back rate? Why are people viewing this and not that? Why aren’t more people staying to look around? Why don’t you like me???? And I hate that. I have to take a step back and remind myself why I do this blogging thing in the first place. Yes, I love my followers (they’re like chocolate, or pepsi) (Oh, I know you know what I mean...), and yes I love comments and connecting with people.  But I blog because I love to create.  And that should be good enough for me.

I should be good enough for me.

I just can’t live up to unrealistic expectations or romanticized images in my head. And I struggle, obviously. But I’ve found a few things that help de-romanticize what I “should be” and keep me focused on who I am, which is really who I want to be.

Here’s my top ten list:

  1. Do things I love. I love to act. I miss this. Right now, it’s not really a viable option in my life, but I can keep it alive by watching live theatre or reading plays. I love to write. Ever since I was in second grade. When I felt I’d lost my flair for writing I started blogging. I love my blog. I love to create. This is why I craft, sew, paint, sing. And why my blog is what it is. I try to make all of these hobbies and loves as much a part of my life as possible (while juggling other duties, of course. Like dishes. What am I saying... we all know there’s been a huge pile of dishes up in the sink since Monday.) 
  2. Be around people I love. I know this seems like common sense, but often we accept subpar friendships or acquaintanceships for a number of reasons - proximity, lack of options, guilt, feeling unworthy of anything better... blah, blah... But the real point is that I need to separate myself from negativity and surround myself with the positive. I’m lucky to have a supportive family and a few loving friends.
  3. Be open (with hubby) about everything. Everyone needs someone to talk to. Someone to keep them in check. Someone to offer advice. Someone to say, “Hey, you aren’t allowed to say things like that about yourself in this house.” (which comes out of my hubby’s mouth at least once a month). Someone to just listen. Because they care. Hubby, Mom, friend, counselor... it doesn’t matter who. Being open just helps.
  4. Allow myself to feel. Even if that means crying. Even if that means crying three days in a row. Even if it means being enraged. Or going out into the garage to scream in order to avoid screaming at the kids. I used to be picked on a lot for my emotional nature. Now I embrace it. And I don’t care who sees it. I consider it one of my strengths. Not everyone can allow themselves to cry in front of a huge room of people. But I sure can.
  5. Keep busy. I feel utterly awful with myself on the days I am unproductive. In any capacity. I must get some cleaning done, some playing with the kids done, some time with the hubby done, something creative done, EVERY DAY. If I laze on the couch all day, I feel horrendous. Like a beast. Even my husband can tell when I’ve had a lazy day. Not that I never relax. That would be silly.
  6. On the same note, clean. Organize. Me, my house, all of it. You know how they say that a clean house is a happy house? Ok, I don’t know who actually says that except for maybe June Cleaver, but I can attest that it’s true. Not because my house is clean. Just the opposite, actually. And while we are happy as a family even with a messy house, I can tell you that the state of my psyche directly correlates to the level of disorganization around me. And as for the me part, well who DOESN’T feel better after a shower?
  7. Drink lots of Pepsi. Ok, no, it doesn’t really help with my self-esteem. Actually, it’s probably part of the issue since it contributes to my weight gain. But some days you just need one.  Right?  Let's not beat ourselves up over that.
  8. Make fun of myself. I know, I know. If done in excess this is unhealthy, and actually pretty annoying. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of self-deprecation as long as it’s funny, right? Besides, we all need to be able to laugh at our mistakes and then carry on.
  9. Most importantly, remember that there are people who care about me. Not the weird built up me in my head, but ME. I have to remind myself of this. I have to remind myself all the time that there are some people who really know me - and they love me in spite of it.  (Or because of it?)
  10. Pray. I know that not everyone is a religious type. I know we are all at various stages with our faith or spirituality. But this is what has worked for me. Through prayer, I’ve been able to feel Heavenly Father’s love for me, and that has helped me more than anything. Through prayer, I’ve been able to catch glimpses of the way Heavenly Father sees me. And THAT is simply miraculous. Through prayer I’ve been able to gain strength. Because whatever I am lacking, the Lord will make up for. I know, I know.  It’s not a belief that’s common to us all, but it’s one that buoys me up when nothing else will.

It would be easy for me to end with another list - one a mile long of things I hate about myself, or things I need to do better. But Jia asked in an email to me what I truly loved about myself. And that made me pause. Why is it so difficult to honestly answer that question? Well, for one, because I tend to focus on the opposite, of course. But also because I’ve been taught to be modest. And I hope this small list of loves doesn’t translate into being prideful or braggy.

I love my green eyes. I am the only one of my siblings that got my dad’s eyes. And I like them. I love my dramatic flair. I don’t ever feel anything halfway - it’s all or nothing - I think it’s a strength, not a weakness. I love my kids. I know, I know. They aren’t ME... but in a way they kind of are. They have parts of me. And I define myself at least partially as “mom.” I love my honesty. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest. Sometimes I don’t want to be. But I usually am anyway. Even with my failures.

I think we all need a little list like this that we can look at from time to time.  A love letter to yourself, just so you don’t forget that that’s what you should be aiming for.

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow Kimberly... I feel like I've been on a journey with you after that post... And I feel like my comment won't do it justice here because the post contains so much.

So I'm just going to say a couple of things:

I agree: Do not compare yourself with others. You are not somebody else. You are you, and you are unique. Comparing yourself with someone else is a waste of time.

I disagree: Don't drink Pepsi. It's REALLY bad for you!

I agree: I definitely agree that at some point in their life, a person has to become the master of his/her own destiny. In other words, if we want to get anywhere, we as victims of abuse or neglect or bullying or WHATEVER, must stop acting like victims and begin to take charge of the decisions that shape our lives and happiness.

I agree: You are a great writer! I love reading your posts. You are funny and real and I can relate to you, and as far as the no- or low-self esteem goes, you are certainly certainly not alone.

I will leave it at that, I could go on probably all night but others are no doubt waiting to get a word in edgewise...

Thanks for the great post once again, Kimberly!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...