For a long time, I have related to giraffes. I towered over my classmates at an early age and felt like my awkwardness made me stand out. Just like the giraffe, it was hard to blend in. There’s no place for a giraffe to hide, and I felt like all of my insecurities were equally on full display for everyone to see.
Experiences over the past two weekends have left me with an overwhelming sense of peace in the realization of how far I’ve come on this journey of self-acceptance in just a short time frame. And I credit it with being honest and open in writing while working hard to internalize these new ways of seeing others and myself.
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 know that by having a blog, it should be obvious that I’m a writer. However, a recent social situation has made me take a harder look at the way I see myself.
When offering an introduction to a new group of people, the words “I’m a writer” did not flow out of my mouth. For some reason, since it’s not part of my official job, it seemed strange to identify myself in this way. So, I need to be more confident in acknowledging that I am a writer. It’s not just a secret hobby; it is very much part of who I am.
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.
I’m not sure where the phrase “show me, don’t tell me” first originated. I think it was through exposure to creative writing exercises and other writing efforts. But I took that to heart. I took that seriously. And in many ways that influenced my approach to poetry writing.
You don’t want to just say “she was upset”; that doesn’t tell you much. But instead you describe the used tissues scattered on the bed, the box laying nearby, how her eyes are puffy. You acknowledge the remnants of a bowl of ice cream. You describe the girl curled up on a bed, clutching tight to a pillow or stuffed bear. These images offer more details, they help tell the story. She probably didn’t just screw up a pop quiz; it’s more likely that she had a fight with her boyfriend or they broke up.
I was much more interested in showing the details of a story and describing the scene versus being straightforward. I still had trouble balancing what was described and how much to describe rather than saying things outright. I often went overboard on the descriptions and imagery, especially early on, but I was trying to find my style, trying to figure out what worked. How much detail do you really have to give?
My church was trying to establish a consistent presence with the youth in our parish. There had been a few different leaders/youth ministers over the years but none at the time lasted more than a year. The constant turnover didn’t help with creating stability in the program and keeping interest.
By tenth grade church leaders were trying again, and there was a guy in charge. I remember we had a social event. It must have been an actual dance because there was dancing that night and I can’t imagine dancing just being a small part of the evening rather than the focal point. Anyway, it’s awkward enough to go to dances, but I was trying to push myself and trying to meet people.
Anyway, what I’m sure was intended to be a fun ice breaker ended up having an isolating effect. Wouldn’t it be fun for the girls to leave a shoe in a pile and the guys pick up a shoe and that’s how the first dance begins? What could possibly go wrong?
Since my preschool diagnosis of sensory processing disorder and the completion of eighth grade means about 10 years have passed, I thought I would do a review of how things have progressed. I’m looking to address these questions:
What areas seemed to have improved?
Have I grown out of anything?
What am I still struggling with?
Has anything new developed?
If you missed my big rundown of sensory issues, you can find it here. And don’t worry, throughout this list, there will be links back to appropriate blog posts to offer further explanation.