Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Greatest, and Hardest


Today will start my new contest, but first I want to talk about the old contest for a while.

I'm trying to wrap my head around a pretty difficult concept here, so forgive me if I ramble for a while.

I was... surprised at first, that no one leaped in to answer my contest question. Then I was disappointed. Then I was somewhat confused. Then sad. Had no one seen my entry? Have I lost readership? This blog was very popular at first, have I lost that verve that keeps people coming back? Then I wondered if no one was interested because I hadn't said specifically what my prizes were. And then I wondered if people really do hate themselves that much. Which made me sad.

I've always thought that my low self-image and low self-esteem came from my parents, for whom I could never seem to be pretty enough, or smart enough, or interesting enough. My mother, who thought I was gangly and awkward and unattractive, and certainly never interested in good-looking, rich young men. (My tastes in partners have always leaned towards the intelligent and funny, rather than the studly.) My father, who thinks an adjective is a useless part of the language, thinks majoring in Literature was a waste of his money, and that I never think about anything "real" or "important" and the "greatest shame of his life is that he raised a child who voted Democrat." I always looked at what I got, and it was no wonder to me that I didn't think well of myself. The two people who were supposed to be the most important, most influential people in my life didn't think I was worth bothering with. What the hell else was I supposed to think?

But you know, not everyone's family is screwed up.

Is it the media? I mean, we see airbrushed and photo-shopped models everywhere. I could point you at some very scary links, but I think everyone's seen them before.

Is it that whenever we see someone do something incredible, or act with self-assurance, that we feel this need to "take them down a peg"?

I remember, at my cousin's wedding, one of her younger cousins did some singing for her - sang Beautiful Soul at the reception - in front of probably 200 people. And all my step-mom could talk about on the way home was how arrogant and self-centered and self-absorbed this 13 year old girl was. I mean, excuse me?? She's 13 years old and she's got the nerve to stand up in front of that many people and sing? And it's not like she sang badly, either. She has a pretty good voice.

Once in a while, my mother would admonish me by saying, "You always wanted to be the center of attention!" The tone in which she made this statement clearly conveyed that I should feel ashamed of myself. It worked: I did. Whether or not she intended it, I got the message that expressing myself in any way that might be different, that might call attention to myself, was deplorable... and to enjoy my own talents, to recognize my gifts -- or (God forbid) to feel good about myself -- was even worse!

Leslie Karen Lobell, M.A.

I don't know why we do this to ourselves. Or, even worse, why we do it to other people. I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else. I know I've often though something along these lines, "Oh, look at her, doesn't she think she's just Mz. Thang?" I know I've wanted to "show someone that they are just not as great as they think they are." And I certainly know I've thought that pretty people are somehow more shallow, or more arrogant, or not as interesting as more normal people. (That latter bit might still be true; there are many things I'm willing to reconsider. That Victor is a vain, self-absorbed, shallow man is not one of them.)

I notice as I've worked (and worked damn hard!) at getting thinner, that I'm really not any happier with myself. I notice more flaws and more problem areas than I did when I was heavier. My teeth, my skin, my hair, my feet, my legs, this, that, and the other. It's like... like making a clean spot in a dirty room. You clean one thing and what you notice is how much worse the rest of the room looks. Until you're cleaning this and changing that and in the end, it doesn't matter how much progress you made because you're still upset, and now you're tired as well.

We all know about the whole "love yourself before you can love someone else" motto. It's so overused that it's cliche, and honestly, we all dismiss it. Yeah, right. We involve ourselves in negative self-talk, we beat ourselves up over mistakes we made yesterday - and to top it off, we bring up past failures that are so long ago, we might not even want to change them! I mean, seriously...

I'll get on a real tear about myself and remember doing something bad in a fifth grade class (stole another girl's colored pencils... my justification at the time is that she kept leaving them in the coat closet, and honestly, if she didn't want them, and I did... why not? So I took them. And yes, I got caught. And then I lied about it. And got caught at that, too. And then had to do parent-teacher conferences, and demerits and etc, etc.) Does this matter today? Not really. Did it matter in the years after it happened? Sort of... strangely enough, I hadn't known the girl particularly well when I stole her pencils, and then... a few years later, we had some more classes together. "Hey, you're the girl who stole my pencils!" she said. "Yeah, it was stupid, I'm sorry." "Nah, it wasn't a big deal." And we got to be friends. Pretty incredible. And honestly, if she could forgive me for it, so soon after the event to the point that during high school, she was one of the only friends I had, why do I still see the need to wince about it now? (Why yes, I'm still cringing, tell you all about it.)

Speak to yourself in ways that are more kind, and less mean or abusive. Many of us have very harsh inner critics: When we make a mistake, this critical voice inside our head beats up on us, saying things like, "That was so stupid! ... I can't do anything right! ... What a loser!" We need to replace these negative messages with other, more positive ones. For example, "I made a mistake. That's okay: That is how I learn. I'll know better the next time." With awareness, over time, you can "catch yourself" when your self-talk is negative, and change the message to something more positive and "ego-enhancing."

Why do we have this obsession with not seeming too arrogant? I've found myself editing out about 15 apologies so far, or explanations, or reassurances that I haven't suddenly "Got this", that I'm still working on self love. Why do I need to apologize for that? Do I think that you won't like me, won't read my blog, if I suddenly stop hating myself so much? And... if you did... does that matter?

Well, yes, it does. I would be sad. I would be very sad. There are so many great people I've met through this blog, and reading their blogs, and... I would be sad.

But that's no reason not to do it anyway. Okay, so... I love myself, I become a total bore, no one likes me, and no one reads my blog. Is that actually going to happen?


It's that simple.

No, it's not going to happen.

(For one thing, I don't think it's possible for me to become a total bore. I'm a good writer, and I'm pretty comfortable with that. And I think of my readers as my friends. My friends are not going to abandon me just because I no longer join in the sewing-circle of self-loathing. If they were that sort of people, I wouldn't like them anyway!)

Is what we need permission? We need permission from someone else to love ourselves? That's easy. I hereby give you all permission to see yourselves as the wonderful, special, and interesting people that you all are. And you're beautiful. And handsome. And loving. And smart. And insightful. There. You have my permission to acknowledge that.

(And no, you don't need to write me a long email detailing all of your failings in order to point out how wrong I am. I can match you screwed up for screwed up, and really, there's no winner in a contest like that. Stop it! I can hear you composing it in your head. Don't do it! Stop! Right now! That means YOU, TOO! Sheesh, people!)

Yes, we need to acknowledge our mistakes. Apologize for them when we can. And learn from them. And then, move on.

Much like our lifestyle eating plans. My husband's friend at work calls it the Elmo plan.

Eat it.
Log it.

So... the contest.

I only had six entries... so, my grand-prize winner is WVSooner for this entry he wrote a few weeks ago. He didn't write it for me, but that's ok. The whole point wasn't to write it for me. The point was to write it for yourself.

WVSooner wins a CD from Putumayo World Music, which sells some really gorgeous CDs to expand your musical horizons. Get with me with your selection, as I'm ordering a few more CDs from them in the next week and I will just add your order to mine. Also, email me at tisfan at gmail dot net so I can get your mailing address. Congratulations and enjoy your music!

My runner-up winner is Irish Mom, who wins a Purespring Shower gel in Jasmine Tuberose scent. Ditto on the email me, Irish Mom, so I can mail out your pampering scented shower gel.

(While you're congratulating the winners, take a few minutes to read around on their blogs, they're both very interesting people!)

This week's meeting (National Self Indulgence week, remember!) our leader had a nice picture of a tree.

Imagine someone did this to you; they planted this tree, and then they said 'hey, this is your tree. And when it gets sick, you get sick. And when it dies, you die.' So, what would you do?
Everyone jumped in with all these suggestions about checking the soil, watering the tree, hiring an expert, building a fence around it, putting mulch down for it, etc etc. Of course, the punchline is, why would we do so much for a tree that we don't seem to realize that we're NOT doing for ourselves.

We don't water ourselves and take care of ourselves. We get stuffed to the back burner of our own priority list and forgotten. How many things have we not done because of family, friends, children, no time, it's too expensive... when what we really mean is "I don't deserve this."

Or, we give ourselves rewards for small accomplishments: Oh, I'll get a pedicure when I reach - 10 pounds. Hell, I do this... and half the time, I don't even buy/get/do my rewards! How motivating is that? Not really, is it?

So, my challenge for this week; reward yourself. Go ahead. You have my permission. (Pffft. Like you need it, but isn't it good to know you have it anyway?)

Not for losing X number of pounds, or remembering to drink your water, or sticking to your plan all day. Heck with those things. Give yourself a reward just because you deserve it. Because YOU DO! And then tell me about it.


Irish Mom said...

Excellent post, I could not agree more. It is so funny how something negative can imapact us for a lifetime. Yet, when given a compliment we simply brush it off.

A reward to my self?!?! OK fine, I'm going to take the kids for icecream. Right now!!

Have a great day!!

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

Great Post! And you're right on so many levels. We can be our own worst enemies; we bash ourselves for our shortcomings, as we bash others for theirs (probably because we recognize those same characteristics within ourselves).We wallow in negativity without even realizing we're hip deep in it. It's like a nervous tick or something.

Okay, so this week I indulge myself just because? Groovy! Im going to treat myself to a pedicure AND a pair of shoes to shoe my toes off (because I actually like my feet!). Maybe I'll even post a post-pedi pic. (probably falls under TMI but what the heck).

Thanks for the wake up call. :)

Grumpy Chair said...

Just to let you know, I think everyone is busy at the beginning of summer (in the northern hemisphere). Last few days of school, holidays and vacations. So don't feel bad about not getting as many responses as you used to. Blogging season has slowed down.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why we try so hard not to look arrogant either, but it's definitely a phenomenon I experience too. I don't know why it should seem arrogant and unacceptable to feel good about ourselves!

I know that's something my friends and I always used to say when we saw someone sashaying along looking all confident and everything that we weren't..."Well, she sure likes herself, doesn't she?" Like that's a crime. I think my response now would have to be, "Yeah, isn't it beautiful?"

Thanks for the reminder that it's okay to like ourselves. :-) Now I need to go think of a reward that I can afford!


Unknown said...

Such a great post! Although, I do think there is a fine line being confident and arrogant. I have my moments of self loathing but I think for the most part I love who I am. In fact, the man I am dating and I were talking the other day and told him that I am in a challenge to lose 30 lbs by Labor Day and he said he would do it too. He said to me later in the conversation, about how I would be the total package (giving me a hard time) and I told him I already am the total package, it will just be prettier wrapping. I believe that most days (until I see pictures of

Anonymous said...

Alright, it was a semi-cheat, in that I'd already put in the order a little while ago as a weight loss reward.... I am rather addicted to fine tea, so along with my regular order to Upton Tea (hey, I'm not above giving them a little extra business), I went a bit nuts with the sample ordering this time.

Today I used my day off to set up a mini-tasting for myself with a number of flavored varieties, and (besides getting in 5 waters at once) introduced myself to the delights of their Mao Feng Huang Shan Sunset (a decadent peach-scented tea, which I also want to try iced), Gui Hua Osmanthus (a light floral even better than jasmine, IMO), and the cocoa-nib-and-cardamom-laced Melange de Chamonix (which made me think of klah, and, with some milk, might even trump hot cocoa for me).

Okay, so maybe I haven't quite gotten away from the "non-food indulgence" idea (although lingering about in my jammies, reading a trashy novel and drinking tea was equally nice), but at the least, it was a lovely indulgence that I may partake of freely (dare I say... wantonly?) within the scope of a healthier lifestyle. ^_^

Cammy@TippyToeDiet said...

In my case, the reason I didn't put in an entry was because I like to see other people win stuff. (I'm a sucker for awards shows, too.*G*)

I'm the Queen of Self-Indulgence. This week's indulgence was a manicure (Essie Escape--kind of coral in color). I also had a food indulgence: an extra square of pumpkin seed flatbread with my mega-healthy salad at dinner! :)

Unknown said...

So where are you? No update in several days. Hellllooooo, anyone out there?