Hypothetical Conversation inside of chicken’s head: Should I have worn the chicken costume? Maybe I should have chosen something else. I don’t know about this color on me. I think these feathers make me look fat. I better workout more. OMG. I bet people are staring at me. This is stupid. I am so awkward. My brother looks better in his bunny costume. The newspaper took a picture of him! They did not take one of me. I am the world’s biggest loser. Ugh, ugh, ugh!
I had a revelation this past weekend after doing a lot of work on the self, including writing letters to my fears, persistence, courage, my tribe, my future self, etc. I would write these letters, bleeding my heart out onto a page and then have to share it with a stranger. That part was easy. I have shed my inhibitions around people in regards to my vulnerabilities, so I was able to easily say anything with a straight face. But something else bothered me. I just kept thinking, hmmmm. Something feels weird. I kept reviewing my notes, my letters, the writing on the page in front of me, and the conclusions felt the same in my head.
It was starting to appear that each and every one of my problems existed in my head. Like, maybe I was the biggest problem in my life.
That couldn’t be right, I thought. I couldn’t be the problem. I’m awesome. It has got to be another reason. Somebody else is to blame. A person or circumstance or something.
I chewed on it some more. I wrote more letters. Shared more letters. Journaled. I went on solitary hikes and runs and soaked in the hot tub and journaled some more and read deep books about life. I thought some more and more and more. That’s how I operate. I just like to stew in my thoughts. I treat feelings like the flu. Just get it out of your system. Let them work their way out, and then move on.
But I couldn’t shift the growing realization inside of me. The facts (I gravitate toward logic) all pointed in the same direction. The facts were saying that I was my biggest problem in life.
I spent the better portion of my life riddled with consuming self-doubts. Like, all of my life. Not even a portion. All of it. Often those nagging thoughts have been something that served me well–pushing me to do better. Ambition. Persistence. Always wanting something more. But if left unchecked, those same consuming thoughts of not feeling enough can turn into stagnant waste in your brain, festering and holding you back from even better things in life.
I asked myself a few scenarios regarding my self-doubts.
I’ve always thought that I wasn’t skinny enough.
“Okay, Self. You don’t think you’re skinny enough. Has anyone ever told you that? What has the jury said on the matter?”
Hmmm. Well, that’s interesting. No. Nobody has ever told me that. Nobody has ever shamed me for my body (except the usual societal expectations–but never to my face. That’s certainly enough, but no direct comment.)
“Has anyone ever told you that you disgust them with your physical appearance?”
No. (I’d probably kick their ass if they did, which makes me wonder why I cared to begin with. Another hmmmmm.)
In fact, recently I was telling someone about how I should run a marathon so I can lose more weight, and the person looked at me strangely and said, “Why? You look fine.” I remember saying, “Really?!” I had never considered this option. Fine. It’s always “not good enough” in my brain. Fine had never been an option.
Has a guy ever told me, “Sorry, you’re totally not attractive. You have an ugly body.”
But my torso is too short. My thigh gap not big enough. My chest too flat. I will never pull off a super thin frame. And…and…and…
Come to think of it, I have had multiple conversations with men who were unanimous in their opinion that women just don’t know what men like. Meanwhile, we are beating ourselves up for not meeting a standard that may or may not exist with the good men of the world.
Then I moved on to other self-doubts. Not a good enough writer. Not a good enough mother. Not a good enough friend. Not a good enough former wife. Not productive enough. Not motivated enough. Blah blah blah blah blah.
Again, I asked myself to present the evidence. Could I find a jury of people to convict me of my crimes against not being good enough?
Hmmmm. Well, maybe. Of course. The world is full of critics. But nobody that I knew in my social circles.
So, I am just assuming that I know what other people think.
I am wasting my time caring about what I think other people think. This makes me tired just repeating the ridiculousness.
Nobody has actually verified these fears to me. At least not to my face.
In conclusion, I have determined that I am the enemy. The tangled mess in my own head. I have been the cause of all of my problems.
My first reaction to this revelation: OMG. I can totally talk to that Bitch! I can rein her in! She will probably listen to me!
Actually, she’s not known for listening to other people very well. She apparently only listens to herself, so she definitely needs the authority of her own wisdom to step in.
(Also, I know “Bitch” isn’t very feminist, but, at this point in the essay I am not caring what other people think about me, as long as I am not referring to you as one.)
Anyway, how freaking simple, and how freaking hard all at the same time.
But I like a good challenge.
I love that me–a single mother of three little ones and a widow–came out of all of this self-reflection declaring that my only problem in life was myself. Those are some first world problems right there. But somehow, that makes the problem feel more manageable. At least I have theoretical control over what goes on in my head– more control than I have over other people.
And this makes me feel less stressed.
Past experience has taught me that I should enjoy the quiet stillness that I feel right now in my heart and mind, because you never know when the other shoe will drop. And it will drop. But at least I know this is my center–right in my gut–a deep trust in my own self, even when she hasn’t always been right. But that bitch figures things out, and we’ve been together for this long, so I’m going to stay on her side.
I just need to remember that this center is where I can return to even in the most difficult of times.