At the core it's my ever-present problem with self-confidence and feeling and really believing, all on my own, that I'm wonderful and fabulous and beautiful and smart, etc. Instead, I often tend to base my worth on how others see me and feel about me. Even at the times when I do really know that I'm beautiful and wonderful I still kind of need some affirmation that others know and see it as well and it's not just in my head.
I'm having a really hard time writing this post and I've just begun. Because it requires me right off the bat to kind of generalize the way I feel and think, but some days I really do have self-confidence. Okay even as I write that big statement I know it's not completely true because I probably got the "self"-confidence in part from outside sources. But it's still hard because I don't want to give the impression that I'm always walking around with my head down and feeling awful - many days I walk around feeling fabulous and knowing that I'm so wonderful in so many ways and feeling like I can do anything and the world is my oyster. But it's so easy to crack that confidence, and what I base that confidence on, in part, is what bothers me.
There's this woman at my work who I love and adore for all the silly things that make her the person she is. I know this seems like a completely different topic but it's not. She's a feisty, tiny woman, maybe 4'11" at most. She's I think almost 50 (nothing wrong with that by itself of course), she's never been married and lives in a two-flat with her mother (her mother lives downstairs, she lives upstairs), she's well overweight, she has bad rosacea, and she's mostly bald on top so wears her hair very short and combed over on top (the baldness is completely apparent even with the very thin comb-over). She isn't physically attractive and she's not particularly intelligent. But she has more self-confidence than most people I know combined! And she's always having sex and she's actually been "the other woman" in the past. It always confounds not only me but others at work when we talk about it, about how much confidence she has. And I know I'm speaking critically of her in many ways but I also love her - she's so feisty, I love teasing her and she always jumps for the bait, she cracks me up with all her little stories, she's genuinely a good-hearted person, and when she's not at work I miss her. I know I'll never meet anyone like her and I try to mentally take note of silly things she says and does because I don't ever want to forget her.
But so anyway, how did she get so much self-confidence?! This sounds really awful but if I looked like her I wouldn't want to leave my house, whereas she walks around as if she looks just like everyone else. Is it a genetic trait, our level of self-confidence? I think it probably is, to an extent. My own personal view is that, talking about just the trait of self-confidence (and yes I'm calling it a trait but I know it's more complicated), let's say for all the human race people can fall somewhere between 1 and 100 in their level of self-confidence. My belief is that genetics gives a kind of possible range, so maybe one person has a range of 10-50 and another from 65-85. And then it's the environment and the "nurture" aspects that determines where on that continuum each person actually falls within his or her "genetic range". And of course it can and does change throughout the years depending on all kinds of external factors.
Wow, that was kinda way off point now, getting into my own view of the nature-nurture debate! But so for this woman at my work, I think she was just born with a really high capacity for self-confidence, that's the only real explanation I can come up with for how she can have so much! Well okay there's one other thing too that I think may possibly be a partial explanation, but I haven't really fully thought it through so I don't want to put it out there.
Anyway, back to square one again. I sometimes suffer from low self-confidence.
I want to think and know that I'm wonderful, and sometimes, yes sometimes I can even be privately vain and feel really spectacular for all I am and who I am. But to me, it almost doesn't matter if I think I'm wonderful because I need to know that others think it, too. Otherwise maybe I'm really not.
Now I feel like I have to explain that better, too. Back when I was a sophomore in high school and was anorexic, I would look in the mirror and just see an ugly fat body. Everyone else saw something different, and when I look back at the pictures I see that I wasn't fat in the least bit. But yet I still saw something totally different when I looked at myself in the mirror. So I think the way my mind is working is that if I think I'm wonderful and beautiful, it doesn't really mean I am - I need to confirm it with other people to make sure I'm not seeing or thinking something that's very wrong.
Well anyway though - all that doesn't matter too much, the why's and all. What's really bothering me is that at times I get worse and I start to tie my self-worth to something or someone too strongly and forget my own ability to build myself up and control my thoughts and feel inside that I have great worth, and that's the thinking behavior that I want to change right now. I know that it's always a struggle I'll have and at certain times in my life I'll have to struggle much more with self-confidence, and at certain times I'll need more help and support and assurances and love from the people around me. But right now nothing is bad in my life (instead everything is wonderful and I'm happier and more hopeful and content than I can ever remember being), so I need and want to start controlling my thoughts again and start feeling and seeing and really believing the wonderful in me again, all on my own. And be content and happy and accepting of who I am and stop comparing myself always to other people and to my illusions of perfection.
The reason for me writing about this - I've just realized that over the past month or two months, I'm sometimes being incredibly needy with Mr. H and asking for so much love and so many assurances, even though I know inside that there's no need for them. But my mind starts running and I start seeing myself as less and less and I build him up more and more and suddenly I feel like a little fat ugly shy boring troll compared to his wonder, and I start worrying that he'll see it too and then my mind jumps to what would I do without him and it keeps making me spiral downward further and further. It's really a terrible little mental thing that I put myself through and while I'm thinking all those things I know I should try to pull myself out but I can't or don't.
I know of course that when I get that way it's very stressful for Mr. H, it's stressful for me, and it certainly doesn't make me more attractive or wonderful when I'm believing the exact opposite about myself. And then the light bulb went off the other night and I realized that I've started to, more and more, base my worth on Mr. H and how he loves me, instead of on who I am as a person and all the wonderful things about me. It's a really unhealthy thing to do and makes me a needy girl sometimes then. Not that I still won't sometimes be a little needy and I know I'll usually need more assurances and affection than many people do, but I need to get away from this beating myself down while building him up and then feeling unworthy. I need to really respect my own worth at all times.
So, coming to the realization and all that was step number one and I've gotta say, I feel empowered and good just realizing all this. Step two - I'm going to broaden my horizons a little and do things that are fun for me and that will make me feel good.
So first, I'm going to sign up tomorrow for a First-Time Painter class at a nearby art studio - it's once a week for four weeks and they say it's for total beginners so I think we only actually use paint for the last week or two weeks and first we learn about line, value and color using charcoal. I've always wanted to learn how to paint and I do have oil paints and some canvas paper and now and then I get it all out and try to paint some masterpiece vision in my head, but I soon get really frustrated by my complete lack of ability to paint even close to the image in my head and I end up just swirling beautiful colors around on the paper. So this will teach me something even if I never do become the master painter! :) I'll like even learning about lines, value and color! I love colors! And I'm excited about it!
And second, I'm going to re-join the gym on the monthly basis. For the past couple months I've been, on and off, getting a craving for that little adrenaline high after working out, and I've also been craving the sore feeling that lets you know you're working your muscles in a good way. And we all know that working out is so good for us, and increases energy and for me, it'll increase my self-confidence in first the body-confidence way and second because I'll be proud of myself for doing something that's good for me! And I love feeling strong and fit!
So that's my plan for now - 1) recognizing my tendency, 2) painting class, 3) start exercising again. All the underlying stuff will still be there of course, and I'll still have lows and I still want to deal with some of those underlying issues, but at least looking at the behavioral aspect, I'll stop beating myself down and tying my self-worth to Mr. H's love and I'll go back to being the normal me most of the time and being fabulous and also proud of myself for taking action!
I also want to start seeing a counselor again sometime soon. I want to learn how to stop the negative swirling of thoughts in my head once they get started. It's so hard to stop them and they go from negative to terrible scenarios to future possible pain and on and on. The Meat suggested trying a Pavlovian route and pinching myself really hard or punching myself in the arm - something to make me associate the thoughts with physical discomfort. I don't think that'll work, since I'd be inflicting the pain on myself and my mind is stronger than that. But I'll still try it.
I just really wish I could have more control of myself mentally, so that'll be one thing to talk to a counselor about. And also about my self-confidence and my feeling like I have to be perfect and have to be the best and the only one and the everything. I worry about what will happen as I get older if I can't grow beyond this comparing myself to everyone else, and this worry about other girls being more beautiful and more sexy, etc. I think summer is harder for me because there's more to see and compare myself to in all the girls I pass on the streets. I SO wish I could be one of those people who is just ALWAYS content and so pleased with the person he or she is and not feel threatened by or jealous of anyone else. It would be so much easier. And I know from experience that the times when I'm feeling confident and content and fulfilled are the times when I'm least affected by those negative thoughts, and I'm better able to push them out of my head. So I'm hoping that by giving myself more to do and filling my life and time a bit more, I'll get more of that inner strength to (getting dramatic here) slay the evil negative swirling thoughts!!! I'll still want to work on them with a counselor on and off for probably much of my life, but getting the strength to stop them or slow them down will be such a good feeling.
This was a long post. And I probably could have said all this in a much shorter and more concise way. But oh well, I sometimes work stuff out in my head as I type so that's why it's not concise and instead can be very stream-of-consciousness! And I'm fabulous and I like my stream-of-conscious long posts! :)
Whew, I feel so much better now after writing all that!!! A little low because it's hard talking about and acknowledging the nutty tendencies I have, but still overall better for recognizing the problem finally and having a bit of a plan! Plans make me feel good!!
Okay I'll give myself a little pep talk, but I can't promise that I'm going to be 100% buying all that I'm saying with regard to my mental issues not being a huge flaw:
no one is perfect and we all have some little imperfections, and my racing and sometimes nutty mind and my lack of self-confidence don't take away from my kindness and compassion for other people and for all animals, from my enthusiasm for so many things and my love of so many people and things, my love of having fun and ability to have fun doing almost anything when I'm with friends, my intelligence and interest in learning and knowing about many things (including cultures, politics, spirituality, psychological and sociological issues, and so much more), and the fact that I'm a really good and nice person. It also doesn't take away from my easy laughter and frequent smile, from my wonderful creativity and my desire to always grow and become a better person. And I believe that being emotional and occasionally overemotional is far preferable to not really feeling or caring. And also, I just thought of this - my flaws (lack of self-confidence, crazy racing mind, lack of self-discipline and lack of ability to light a fire under my own butt) are all things that I can work on and improve. I'll always struggle with them but at least they are workable/fixable/changeable and aren't serious character flaws. And my desire to try to work on those flaws is a positive that should chip away a little piece of the negative in the flaws. :)
I need to stop writing now, or my mind will never stop running and I'll just keep writing more and more and more. It's a monster sometimes, this mind of mine!! :)
BTW - I appreciate any advice, observations or comments. This is a pretty hard thing for me and I want to let it affect my life and relationship as little as possible.
[Photos by me, taken on Thursday while partially walking home. It's amazing how perfectly these favorite ones of mine fit into this post.]