Feel Unpretty Too

I’ve been on a little bit of a journey recently. Okay, longer than that, but if I get into all the details of my journey it will end up being a How I Met Your Mother 10-season situation, and ain’t nobody got time for that. So we’ll call it recently, as in like the last two months.

It started when I signed up for a six week “fitness transformation” competition. After spending the months of June-October physically, mentally, and emotionally abusing myself at work (my job is…complicated…), taking a break over the holidays, and then subsequently finding myself in a near-cataclysmic-depression at the thought of returning to work, I decided I needed to take some kind of action – no matter how small.

So for five weeks now I’ve been eating green smoothies for breakfast, sticking with lean proteins and veggies for the rest of my meals, and participating in a cross-fit-like group workout three times a week. And let me tell you, I LOVE it. Minimal weight-loss, no visible differences (that I can see), but it just feels good, dammit. It’s made me feel a little more confident and happy about taking care of myself.

But, inevitably, the typical life stuff has continued to occur around this, and in the last two weeks I’ve really found myself giving into insecurities. This is pretty typical for us all, right? Right. So why did it take my husband saying, “How is it possible that one person/event/comment do this to you?” to get me to really recognize just how stupid that is?

What he meant was that I seem to be this larger-than-life badass, seeking and achieving success, impressing (some) people at work, making friends, leading a humble but incredible life, always up for adventure, and fairly consistently emerging as the natural leader in any group. I go to my workouts and beast through them like a champ, stick to my nutrition plans, start loving myself enough to get a little selfie-obsessed, start receiving tons of compliments, and then… A single person, an off-hand comment, a minor event (that of course I obsess over and ultimately overthink into a much bigger deal than it is until it starts festering and chews me up from the inside out) sends me into a tailspin.

Loving my job, my life, my appearance, the person I’m becoming is suddenly turned into feeling incompetent, second-guessing my career, believing I’ve been consistently lucky and not deserving, wanting botox & a boob job, and shaming myself for eating dessert because my cellulite-encrusted fat ass does not deserve chocolate cake! What am I? A pizza-faced 14-year-old? Have I developed adult-onset bipolar disorder?

This is frustrating to me because, as we all know, I value logic. If you weigh the hard facts, there’s no reason for me to be so insecure as to allow a few individuals or minor stressors to tear down the very fabric of my self-worth. So I did what I do when I get obsessed (and, yes, this is the third time in one blog I’ve used a variable of the word “obsess” – I’m obsessive; you’ll get used to it) and I took to Google to research.

Turns out, according to Psychology Today, I’m not bipolar or regressing to my teenage-angst-phase, or even all that unusual. I’m just a narcissist.

“As humans, once our basic needs are met, much of our conscious and unconscious behaviors are meant to make us feel loved and valued. But this love and value can come from external or internal sources. Internally, the source of love and value is self-esteem. And externally, this love and value tends to take one of two forms – either the long-term reinforcement of the self that comes from good friends, family or a committed relationship, or the short-term benefits of narcissistic behaviors in which we seek attention, admiration or adoration. One is a cure, the other is a band-aid. If enough of your external validation comes from attention, it can become an addiction – a dependence on the affirmations of others in order to feel a sense of worth.”

Ouch.

I may not go out “seeking” attention (I’m actually something of a crowd-avoiding introvert. Unless alcohol’s involved. And, c’mon, who can’t say the same thing when alcohol’s involved?), but I definitely seem to let the external forces dictate much about how I feel about myself.

Ugh. You’ll have to pardon me – I’m a little grossed out by myself at the moment.

If this was one of my girlfriends talking to me I’d be inclined to slap the shit out of her (I’m sort of a tough lover) and then hug her and stroke her hair and tell her how amazing and kind and beautiful she is (because I’m also pretty sympathetic and nurturing at the same time). We are ALL beautiful – really! I actually believe that. I love to watch people – maybe it’s that introvert in me; I tend to be an avid observer. And I have been fortunate enough to observe beauty – real beauty, not the airbrushed, over-pornographied version of beauty that suffocate magazine stands and music videos – in many forms.

I remember vividly a moment in high school when a senior guy was walking toward me and spotted his girlfriend. His face lit up, and when he hugged her he really hugged her. He wrapped his arms around her, closed his eyes and inhaled her sent, and smiled this amazingly contented smile that I didn’t think teenaged boys were capable of. That was beautiful.

I’ve seen the wide brown eyes of a curious little Iraqi girl who couldn’t speak to me but wanted to know everything about me; I’ve been in a roomful of friends and strangers singing Don’t Stop Believing on karaoke night; I’ve been lost in the contrast of icy blue eyes in the ivory face of a boy with dark hair; appreciated the luscious curves of a full-figured woman with tattoos; adored the strawberries-and-cream complexion of my niece when she was just a baby sleeping on my chest; longed for the intimacy and lasting love of an eighty-year-old couple still holding hands as they walk down the sidewalk together; seen the kindness of a good heart behind the eyes of a horribly scarred woman in the checkout line at the grocery store.

This and so much more I’ve experienced, and still – for me – I can’t simply have a good heart, or do good work, or be in an amazing relationship with the sweetest, most attentive man on earth. I have to do all that AND have the unanimous approval of everyone else around me, no matter how much or how little they mean to my life.

And that. Is. RIDICULOUS.

So what to do?

Well…I haven’t decided yet.

But it feels like it’s time for an experiment. One based on sound logic and factual information that will recondition my brain to stop being such a needy little bitch and start auto-reinforcing the badassedness that makes up the woman I want to be.

Stay tuned.

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