I'm also not promising it's going to stay here very long, so if it suddenly vanishes don't blame your internet connection.
27 July 2017
Finding Myself Again
As most of our friends know, Steve and I have been travelling to business events four times a year and having an absolute blast doing it. We choose to serve as volunteers at each of these events and will continue to do so as long as they’ll allow us to. The experiences there, the friends we reconnect with, the family ties we’re building… there’s simply no way to explain all that we get from serving and if we ever find ourselves not being able to serve, I’m sure it will be absolutely heartbreaking for us both. One of the biggest gifts we get from these trips is how much we learn about ourselves and the opportunities to grow as individuals in ways we’d never consider if we weren’t part of this community.
However, I’ve been struggling for the past four events. During the events I’m always having fun, always smiling, always planning for the next event, always watching for the next opportunity to help, always looking for the next bit of knowledge I can get my paws on. But as soon as the event is over and we’re ready to go home, I begin reflecting on myself and it’s been a pretty miserable downward spiral of personal disappointment, internal criticism, and self-loathing that I can’t seem to control. This past event was so bad that I couldn’t even keep it bottled up long enough to make it back to our hotel room before I exploded at Steve and let it slip that I’ve actually been suicidal for a few days after each of the last few events, and this time was already worse than any of them.
I don’t really know why I’m feeling it so important to write all this out. People say it’s therapeutic to put our thoughts and emotions down in words, but to me it just feels like I’m trying to make myself the center of attention and throw a pity party. As I’m writing this out, I’m already strongly considering not letting anyone see any of this and just keeping it to myself where it belongs. After all, what purpose does it serve to put this in a public forum if I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself? Maybe I’m just trying to explain myself. Maybe I’m just trying to justify my actions. Maybe I’m just being selfish. Maybe I’m just trying to catch my thoughts as they fly around my head in fast forward and stick them down on fly paper so I can make sense of things myself. All I know for sure is that I need to find some way to release all this pent-up confusion, anger, disappointment, and God knows what else is running rampant in there before I really do lose my grip on life in general.
In my quest for personal growth, I’ve been looking to a group of mentors who set amazing examples of what leadership should look like and what I’d like to embody. Their opinions are incredibly important to me, their advice is something I take to heart when I hear it, and their disappointment would absolutely gut me if they were to voice it where I could hear it.
I’ve been doing everything I can to live up to what is taught to everyone in the program. We’re taught to stop hiding in the background and to let people see us shine in all our glory. We’re taught to look at ourselves and see unmatched beauty in everything looking back at us. We’re taught to celebrate our achievements and to stop criticizing ourselves even in jest. We’re shown ways to envision all of our potential and the first steps we need to take to get there. We’re shown opportunities to grow as individuals, as parents, as business owners, and as leaders. Most of all, we’re taught to get out of our comfort zones and to embrace what scares the hell out of us so we can turn ourselves into those people we want to be.
In trying to do these things, I’ve not only stepped way out of my comfort zone, but I slammed the door behind me and tossed the key into the nearest bog so I couldn’t flee back as soon as it got frightening and difficult. People may have seen me changing in unexpected ways; some good, some bad. I’ve been attempting to accept flaws in myself that I have considered unforgiveable my entire life, and I’ve been trying to avoid being complacent in the things I just haven’t wanted to face or fix.
A few years ago, I was quite happy being in the background where I was unseen and I was free to do what I felt inclined to do when it needed to be done without anyone knowing I was doing it. I was a bit like the little cobbler elves in the stories, I suppose. Things just got done without anyone really knowing when or how, especially tasks no one else wanted to do. By staying in the background, I didn’t have to answer to anyone but myself, and let’s be honest, my expectations of myself are pretty damned astronomical. Especially as I’m arrogant enough to believe that I can always do better than what I’ve done. Yes, “arrogant” is the correct term here as opposed to “confident”. Why? Because I’m a perfectionist and I will always point out to myself what my errors are and how easy it should have been to avoid making them. And, for the most part, I won’t make them again.
A few years ago, I wasn’t the least bit interested in trying to pretend I was pretty or had a model’s physique. I knew I had a decent chance of waving to a small child without that child bursting into tears and hiding behind a parent’s leg, of walking past a group of people on the street without hearing sniggering or jokes about dogs or cows, and of being able to find clothing that was reasonably close to the current fashion fads despite not being a super model. I was the girl with the “great personality and sense of humor”. That was more than good enough for me.
A few years ago, when someone asked me how my health was and how my body was holding up I was able to congratulate myself on defying what the doctors had told me and being able to push myself even when I wanted to quit and take the easy route the doctors were offering. It was expected that I wasn’t going to give up and that I was simply going to “out-stubborn” my condition.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been going out of my way to change all of these things. I’ve forced myself to join parties with friends and have made a fool of myself to ensure that I’m not a wallflower anymore. I’ve changed my wardrobe and my hair, begun wearing jewelry, and dabbled in make-up to show off my looks and body shape. I’ve slowed down my physical activities and allowed people to do things for me so I don’t risk hurting myself the way doctors keep fussing I’m going to if I don’t let them shove medications and surgeries at me. I’ve changed my behaviors, changed my goals, and changed my daily activities to suit what I think we’re supposed to be living up to when we go to our quarterly events around the country.
And it’s not working the way I was hoping it would or even close to the way it is intended to work.
I’m not getting braver by being out where everyone can see me and what I’m doing at all times. Instead, I’m second-guessing my every decision and every move, sometimes refusing to do anything until I’ve gotten reassurance or permission to take the next step. I’m not getting any more confident about my looks and the way I dress. Instead, I’m getting angrier and angrier at my reflection for not measuring up to society’s idea of beautiful or what I want to look like, and too many times I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s skin. I’m not getting healthier by resigning myself to my health issues and letting everyone take care of me the instant I feel a bit of pain. Instead, I’m getting weaker and less able to accomplish basic daily tasks that my family counts on me to be able to do, and my frustration is rapidly becoming the only thing that is getting stronger.
And I’m growing more and more ashamed of myself and floundering more and more at the conclusion of each event when I don’t see the results I know my mentors are looking for.
Looking back over what I’ve written here, I think I’ve found my answer, and I’m quite certain it’s going to upset some people and really disappoint others. While I’m sorry about that, especially as those I think I’m going to let down the most are the very same people I have been striving to model myself after, I am actually quite confident that I’m doing what is best for me.
It seems to me that I’ve been so busy trying to be someone new that I’ve lost track of who I am. I’ve been so focused on everything I need to fix about myself that those attributes I was proud of to begin with have somehow morphed into the very things I’ve been so ashamed of these past few months, which is pretty much the opposite of what is actually being taught. Somehow, my mind took their teachings of ways to develop our strengths and twisted things around so that, to me, my strengths appeared to be character flaws that needed to be erased.
I LIKE being in the background where I can choose when I want to be seen and when it’s someone else’s time to shine. I LIKE knowing that when something needs to be done, I can find the most effective, most efficient way to do it without having to go up the “chain of command” or ask permission to get it done. I’m not afraid to step up and admit when I’ve made a bad decision, but I can’t do that if I’m too bloody afraid of disappointing people that I won’t make any decision at all. I LIKE knowing that while I’m not the prettiest gal in the pack, I actually do have a pretty cool personality and I’m confident enough in myself that I can make jokes at my own expense without worrying that I’m damaging my self-esteem or allowing others to make fun of me. I LIKE knowing that I’m still stubborn enough to tell my body and my illness to suck it up until the job is done, and knowing that I’m still strong enough to ignore the discomfort and push through like a big girl because that’s how my body will get stronger.
While I’m going to continue to grow and develop myself, I’m no longer going to cast aside who I was before and try to start over completely. I forgot that personal growth doesn’t mean eradicating everything and trying to rebuild from scratch. It means accentuating the good while grinding and polishing the bad until it isn’t something that needs to be hidden.
I’ve finally realized that personal growth doesn’t mean turning myself into someone else.
Personal growth means learning who I am, what I have that I can offer to others, and how to thrive with that knowledge.