Among the biggest challenges in this volunteer experience was figuring out a way to adjust to living with a roommate. The final two years of college, I didn’t have a roommate. As a junior, my roommate transferred to a different room the first week of the semester and I never got a replacement. During my senior year, I was able to live with a family I met through church. I lived with other people, but it wasn’t the same thing as having a roommate.
But the focal part of this new experience was living with someone much older than me. The best way to explain why this relationship was so challenging is that we were polar opposites. This was truly my introduction to the differences between extroverts and introverts. She was a solid extrovert, and I was a bottled up introvert.
Recently I’ve spent a lot of time trying to recognize and understand the impact of my inner critic. Those times when I let the negative self-talk have more leverage than it deserves.
This awareness began about two years ago when I finally realized the way I spoke to myself had all the hallmarks of a verbally abusive relationship. I could do no right. Every effort was twisted around. And I’d berate myself over making one mistake while ignoring the numerous things that went right.
I recently addressed the topic of self-worth here and It got me thinking of other doubts I allow to roam freely in my mind. I decided to lasso up as many as I could and confront them directly.
In no particular order, these relate to personal matters as well as with my writing.
Accusation: You’re not good enough.
TRUTH: This pops up under a variety of circumstances. Every time it’s clearly untrue: I’m competent at my job. I have friends and family who love and care about me. And the only real way people have asked me to change is to embrace and love myself more.
At the end of sophomore year, I started running near campus. I had gained weight at college. Somehow I forgot that my eating habits needed to change from high school. Those two hours of basketball practice every day, five days a week really made a difference! Imagine that. My interest in that fall semester basketball course was an effort to help me regain focus of being physically active.
I had never been interested in running as its own activity; I hated it as a form of conditioning in high school. But I gave it a chance anyway. Somehow, I came to enjoy the rush of adrenaline, well, after the “I hate myself for doing this” wave passed.
I’d experienced shaky moments before. These encounters typically meant my legs would shake, and perhaps I’d become lightheaded. My vision and hearing might be affected, too. I recorded a moment like this in fifth grade and then an experience in eighth grade when I was walking to another room and then finding myself on the floor the next moment. No one could explain these episodes.
It happened several more times in college. Regardless of whether I actually blacked out or my vision only blurred, I considered them equally as blackouts.
As I turn the page on another year (happy birthday, Lindsay!) and look at what I’ve achieved so far with this blog, I really want to focus on improving my negative attitude toward myself. I want to continue to remove the blinders I seem to have, which lead to getting stuck with tunnel vision.
I’ve been reflecting on the yearbook comments I received and the resulting blog post. Throughout my life I’ve had a tendency to get so caught up in a few details, in insignificant things, that I miss the big picture.
Maybe we won the basketball game, but all I can focus on are the shots missed instead of the ones I made. Or perhaps I got a 95 on a test, but I mentally beat myself up for the stupid mistake that lost me 5 points.
Seventh grade was the start of asking as many people as possible to sign my yearbook. I don’t know what prompted it because it had never been a thing before. But I asked friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, people I barely knew, people who rode the same bus as me. I knew a lot of people’s names but that doesn’t mean I knew them well or they had any idea of who I was.
It wasn’t a popularity contest of trying to get the most signatures or messages. That may be hard to believe because in high school especially I had people writing over ads and I even taped in blank sheets of paper just to create space. I brought my tenth grade yearbook with me to Governor’s School and asked as many people as I could to sign it. I received quite a number of weird looks from people as they reluctantly wrote something down.
But it was never a popularity contest. It was deeper than that. I was trying to cobble together some sense of what people thought of me. What was their impression? How am I actually viewed?
Along with being unable to accept compliments, there was also this long held concept of being less than and inferior to others, which began early on for me. I struggled in so many ways to match the speed, ease and ability of my classmates that I saw it as a flaw in my very character rather than strictly my ability. It defined me to the core, this idea of not measuring up. That even if I managed to improve, it seemed to matter very little because someone else was still better. My focus was all about how I compared to others instead of establishing my own track of development.
You’re supposed to pay attention to your interests and abilities to recognize talents as those might influence future areas of study to pursue and a potential career path. How do you successfully accomplish this with a negative view of yourself? Yes to a degree I saw that writing and creative writing were more strong suits. But it wasn’t enough to completely draw confidence from it or to see it as an actual talent. I still felt misunderstood for preferring to write in a notebook rather than trying to talk with others.
I twisted most of the compliments I received, convinced that people were just trying to be polite or telling white lie because they felt sorry for me. And with this internal, self-defeating attitude, you can tear yourself down pretty far. I didn’t need extra help in this area. So the emotional and sometimes verbal bullying/antagonizing that I received in previous years just reinforced this feeling of being inferior and incompetent, unworthy.
You could say by 9th grade I had a lot going for me. I got along with my classmates, even if there wasn’t a lot of socializing outside of school. I had a few close friends who went to public school, and we still got together often. I was playing basketball and had made the varsity team. And that first year of high school I was making good grades and doing well in class. And yet …
Yet somehow there was still room to write this.
I honestly don’t remember what inspired this poem, what specific thing happened to prompt writing this. It was kind of a shock to find when looking through old files, but there are a few lines that seem familiar. No matter. It’s another clear indication that things weren’t okay. There were definitely problems beneath the surface, problems that for whatever reason I didn’t feel I could vocalize directly.
This was written at the end of my freshman year in high school.
This is the poem that got me started writing poetry on my own time. In previous classes over the years we had written poems, usually following a form or writing haikus and limericks. Those were good ways of being introduced to poetry, but they didn’t seem to be very personal.
In May 1998, near the end of eighth grade, I was at home in the den/family room. I remember Mom called out asking me to bring her the newspaper or something. So I got up and walked toward the kitchen as requested, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. I had blacked out or something. They ran tests at the hospital, including an EKG, but no one could find anything to explain what actually happened. I was given a heart monitor to wear for 24 hours.
I didn’t fully understand the seriousness of what happened that weekend. I just knew I detested having to wear the monitor. But I just wrote down what I felt on paper.