Critics Be Damned
“You’re your own worst critic.”
One the the most justly over quoted string of words because:
A: It's true.
B: No one else really gives a damn about the things we're beating ourselves up over. Not only are they not thinking that particular thing we're self flagellating over, they're not even thinking about us in the first place. They have their own suitcase of shit they're lugging around.
However, I have found my journey these past three weeks proving just how dreadful of a self critic I can be. And frankly, it was a surprise.
With a strong abundance of confidence, self actualization, and minimal fear, I’ve arrogantly thought I avoided the honey trap of Self Cruelty. I had enough voices, and conditioned behaviors I weeded from my garden, to think that my recent adult self was pretty dang Self Kind ... until I realized the polar opposite reality of my thoughts.
Whether it was the inability to say “no” that I worked past, or learning I did not always have to put myself third in line when it came to prioritizing my daughter and husband’s needs, or even preferences. And when it comes to business, I realized I could eviscerate myself with the label of "failure" for unavoidable mistakes and technical glitches beyond my control.
I didn’t graduate any of these Self Kindness feats Summa Cum Laude, but I manage to tap myself on the shoulder when I am falling into old habits, or losing myself in an insurmountable task list of to-dos. My achilles heel in the list mentioned above is definitely business. However, in a time when small businesses are hanging on by the skin of their teeth in today’s online climate, I’m also choosing to be kind and give myself a break on that one as well. I didn’t stick the landing on curbing my workaholic tendencies, and when glitches and errors happen out of my control, it’s something I really need to work on not allowing to harsh my mellow.
However, this morning I realized one area where I am a hypocrite in my self actualization. Where I have seriously let myself down, is with my self image. The vanity kind. And quite frankly, I've been pretty flipping brutal to myself in my own mind.
Having already shared in Tag, Not It, I stopped flying my fashion freak flag for a good three or four years because I simply didn’t feel worthy of the effort. It had already been a handful of years into fighting undiagnosed symptoms when I cried defeat. In losing control of my own physical body, I put a lid on my self expression.
The issue, however, was that self expression has been part of my complete expression since I can remember. It is as important to me at 46, as it was since I insisted on wrangling the choice of what to wear from my Mom as a toddler. I may have won the battle on clothes, but clearly lost the war as my first grade Dorthy Hamill bowl cut proved. Hair independance took me far longer.
I went to Catholic School for twelve years and did nothing but work to push the boundaries of the dress code year after year. Knee socks easily rolled up to thigh highs, and when you graduated from jumpers to kilts, those kilts looks adorable rolled up at the waistline and into miniskirts. I rejected the prescribed Garanimal labels from early on, and shopped for graphic t-shirts from the girls' department as a full grown women in the years only young girls got all the good stuff from retailers.
See? Always self expressing.
I had also touched on in Tag, Not It, that there is an unfortunate tangle with self expression being mistaken for wanting attention. Two completely different things, but usually not perceived as such. And when you already suffer from the affliction of loving self expression, but not attention, throw in an allergy to camera, and you’re screwed in the day of social sharing addiction.
And I bring up the camera thing, again, because I had not only had been fighting my camera allergy for the last handful of years, but also tried like a ninja to evade having photos publicly shared. But it was a failed attempt. There has been more than one photo where I conceded to have taken, requested it not be posted, and boom there it is.
Documentation of my swelling self, I had no control of, lives in social media histories. That is all I saw with every pinged notification of a photo I was tagged in. Unhealthy me. A me which I had no control over any longer. Not a good time, not good company, nor good memories.
Now that I am both feet back into health (knock on wood), I decided to revisit some of the photos that made my gut churn. I’ve lost 15 pounds, but more importantly, I feel like a million bucks. My husband even commement this AM: “look at that six pack showing.” I hadn't even known it finally decided to return. It's not like I suddenly earned one from popping Synthroid and Iodine, it’s just that I am finally taking medication my body desperately needed to function healthily and reflect the lifestyle I work my booty off to enjoy.
So I took a trip into the social media rabbit hole, and found there are photos (the public ones), that I still abhor and wished weren’t there. Quite honestly, it’s not just because of vanity, but I can remember how goddamn awful I felt. Plus I really did not want my photo taken. You can see it in my constantly strained smile, and eyes not matching my lips forced into a grin. It’s that look in my eyes and faux smile that make me cringe.
I ejected from social media after just a few photos, and dove into my private ones on my phone. All the ones I took, or had requested to be taken. Photos for my, and my tribe’s, own enjoyment. And I love them.
And with this realization I felt a surprising jolt.
I realized how freaking cruel I was to myself, in my mind's eye. From my size, to all the unlovely changes one experiences being hypothyroid. Yes, I weighed considerably more for my admittedly small frame, but for goodness sakes and Sweet Baby Jesus, Jess, stop creating yourself as being the Hunchback of Notre Dame wearing sackcloth in your mind.
There are photos of me rocking a Diane Von Furstenberg metallic wrap dress during the Holidays, and then a series from our trip to Chicago for Easter, where we were all rocking some serious fashion and having the time of our lives. So there is evidence that I didn't solely live in my infamous elastic, and it wasn’t even just the fashion that I forced into this dysmorphic memory that made me happy to discover.
With fear of seeing myself as an ogre I photos, there was so much joy and amazing memories I cruelly restrained myself from indulging. It was the smiles, in my eyes, and on my lips, and being surrounded by love evident in each shot that had me not even taking notice of, or cataloguing all that was physically wrong with me.
These glimpses of happy made me realize I was being a really catty bitch to myself. Even in some of my most frustrating times with wellness eluding me, the true happiness that was captured, trumped any physical manifestations of my less than A+ health in my photo archive.
I have to wonder, am I the only one who sees social media's blight ruining memories?
Who sees photos posted on social media through a different lens than personal ones of memories?
Am I the only one who suffers from the ability to take and enjoy photographs for private, but turn into a camera fearing lunatic with a smile that is tragic when it comes to being photographed by someone you know is a post-aholic?
Looking at old personal photos, the love and milestones are so flipping joyful. Self reflection of the vanity kind is ridiculous when swiping through the memories. But I also type this knowing, I am at this point of being able to be kind to myself, because I have been diagnosed, and am back to myself. Those photos went un-indulged for months, and even years.
The confidence knowing I can control my body again, not just through food, lifestyle, and exercise, but through medication my body needs to function properly, is helping me be sensai level sweet to myself once again.
What about you as far as Critic or Kind?
Where are you on your path?
Are you celebrating all that you are, or are you still wrestling for control of it?
What is your achilles heel? Is it your career, health, or lifestyle that has you needing to be a bit more kind to yourself about?