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Friday, 25 October 2013

To Thine Own Self Be a True Bitch

It's a little bit astonishing how self-destructive an assertive woman can be. I don't let anyone else tear me down, but I'm really good at doing it myself. The truly amazing thing about our minds is that we are what we think. There's no escaping self-hatred when it's all that you spew at yourself.

Just think for a minute about all the messages you give yourself every day. If you can't think of any off-hand, let me fill you in on a few of mine:

  1. I trip because my prescription medications make me a little dizzy sometimes. My self-talk? "God, you're such a klutz."
  2. I miss my boyfriend when he's not around. My self-talk? "You're so pathetic. Stop being so desperate and needy."
  3. My jeans get too tight. My self-talk? "Disgusting. You're fat and hideous. You better lose the weight right now."
  4. My body isn't perfect. My self-talk? "Why the hell would anyone want you?"
  5. Everything I do is on my computer. My self-talk? "You're such an anti-social loser. You're lazy and boring. You have no life."
Now, as a feminist I look at that self-talk in sheer horror. If a person actually spoke to me that way outside of my own head, they'd be out of my life so fast his or her head would spin. However, all is not lost, because I have managed to re-train my thought patterns to auto-correct the negatives. It's not a perfect system, and it's taken me years to get to that point, but it's better than allowing the negatives to remain. For example:
  1. It's because you're medicated, and besides it's kind of funny and unique. It gives you something interesting to talk about that has livened up your day a bit. As long as you don't kill yourself, it's all good.
  2. The whole point to being in a relationship is to open yourself up to someone. There's nothing pathetic about it, and it requires a great deal of courage to open your heart after everything you've been through.
  3. Concentrate on whether or not your diet is healthy. You just spent a month having to eat every two hours because of a low blood sugar issue, and exercising isn't an option right now with your injuries. The weight will come off. Besides, anyone who loves me for myself will still love me however I look - otherwise they're the jerk.
  4.  There isn't a single person in the world who has a perfect body. Anyone who expects perfection is an asshole. Love what your body has done for you and what you've accomplished because of it. You earned all of those marks and scars, and it shows that you're stronger than everything life has thrown at you.
  5. There's nothing wrong with being yourself and doing the things you truly enjoy. Never mind the fact that your work is all online. What difference does it make that you play computer games in your off time? It's a hell of a lot better than zoning out in front of a TV. At least you're still using your mind.
Where does the bitchy self-talk come from, though? Is it everyone that's doing it deep inside, or is it women who are sexualized and conditioned by the media? Well, I know it's not just women who do it. I've known a lot of men who were just as self-conscious about their appearance, or various other aspects of themselves. I present a pretty sympathetic ear to a lot of people, and people tell me things I know they're not comfortable revealing to most people. It's one of the reasons I'm able to contradict myself when I get rolling on a self-directed mean streak. Through the confessions of others I've learned a valuable lesson, which is that not one of us is perfect.

Nobody will ever be truly self-confident about every single thing. We all have our vulnerabilities. Whether we're concerned about physical characteristics, mental disorders, habits, or personality traits, there will always be something. Most people who do anything creative will feel vulnerable about their work. As many times as a writer, artist or musician is told how wonderful they are, however many accolades they might achieve, there will always be that little voice that wonders if we really deserve the praise. Whenever something new is created, there's the fear that people will hate it.

This lack of confidence comes from somewhere, though. Whether we were told by our parents that we were lazy, or got teased for our weight in school, there's a beginning to the voices in our heads. There it lies, dormant sometimes, until something triggers it. We might already be in a bad mood and feeling down, so we revel in making ourselves feel worse. Of course, the more we hear something the more embedded it becomes, and the more likely we are to believe it. A broken record. The initial voice can be lost to history and we hear nothing but our own, or maybe we hear that other person instead.

It can be very hard to buck the voices that tell us nasty things about ourselves. The truly scary part is that a lot of the messages we absorb are flat-out lies. So many of them are things that have been flung at us by someone else in an immature rage. They go to great lengths to say the most wounding thing possible, and they succeed beyond their wildest dreams. I learned a very long time ago not to do that to someone. Once the words are spoken there's no taking them back. It doesn't matter if what you said wasn't true - they will never really believe that you didn't mean it. They will absorb it into their subconscious and then they will taunt themselves with it whenever the situation seems appropriate.

All of it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, even if it's only within our own minds. If we see ourselves as physically inadequate, it bleeds into every aspect of our physical relationships. If we see ourselves as incompetent at our jobs, suddenly we're not performing as well as we could be. We worry to point where our fears might as well be true. The only solution is to break the pattern in any way that we can. That starts with acceptance of our own reality. Sure there are things that are real flaws, and we get down on ourselves for them, but the solution there is to fix what we can. There are some that can't be fixed, and if that's the case they're not really flaws but the reality of a living, breathing human being that's unique.

I'm not much for praying, since I'm more spiritual than specifically religious, but the serenity prayer comes to mind. Accept what you can't change. Change what you can. Understand the difference. Most important, however, is to know the difference between reality and self-hatred. Step outside yourself for the moment and be honest about whether or not you would criticize someone else for the things you're beating yourself up over. If you can't think of anything nice to say to yourself, try just asking yourself if you'd say something like that to anyone else. Not saying anything at all only works if you haven't already been mean to yourself.

We become our thoughts. Everything we are is what we think. Or, cogito ergo sum,"I think, therefore I am." René Descartes was a wise soul. He may have been talking about existence, but it applies to who we become as a person, too.

As for me, well, I occasionally feel like my subconscious has taken on the role of school bully, grabbing my arm and forcing me to continuously slap myself in the face whilst saying, "Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!" Now that's a provocation I can't resist, and I'm forced to fight back in any way that I can, because that bully is just not going to get away with it.