Phrases like “you’re beautiful”, “what a phenomenal job you did” or simply a “thank you for being you” can instantly demonstrate to you how you perceive yourself based on your response.
My upbringing was strict to say the least. There was little to no room for error and God forbid you made an innocuous mistake. The verbal abuse that followed was enough to convince you, you deserved the death penalty. My brother and I were taught to consider our appearance according to others’ perceptions before we made any decisions; big or small. It was drilled into us that we couldn’t be mediocre and even if we were the best, celebrating wasn’t the norm. We were to always focus on the next goal, the next task, so on and so forth.
In our adult lives, I see us both attempting to not spiral out of control. I’ve become so composed, I don’t even know how to react off script. I constantly drive myself into a frenzy worried about the drivel that people may utter about my actions, my words, my silence, or simply my presence. And even when there are compliments given, I diminish the comment, create the negative version of what was said and accept that as truth. This causes me to have a severely low outlook on myself and of course self destruction comes. I don’t find solace in a bottle. Or from a cigarette. I find it in toxic people or situations. People who in one moment seem perfectly healthy for me then turn out to be abusive. Me being the introspective person I am, have drawn the conclusion, I’m repeating the pattern from my upbringing. I’m used to verbal lashings, it has become the norm for me. It’s why when a compliment is given, I minimize or diminish it. It’s why when a critique is given, I internalize and let it rip through my insides. I berate myself for not being better. It’s also why I have set up the same dynamic between my daughter and I.
This isn’t a post to say I had a horrible upbringing, it’s to acknowledge the deficiencies and notice how they are affecting me in my adult life, in my parenting, in my relationships (personal and professional), and most importantly how I view myself. It doesn’t matter how often I’m praised for a job well done, I find it incredibly difficult to celebrate in a way that’s healthy. I look for the things that went wrong and focus so much on it, that I cannot stomach myself.
Much of this year has been difficult on and for me. A few weeks ago I turned 29 and feel like I have accomplished nothing. There seems to be an existential crisis I am going through; a constant state of vacillating between panic and paranoia, some days I’m so unmotivated, I literally cannot peel myself off the bed. I realize this is ok (the feelings), we go through these bouts of not really knowing what’s what and we begin to question every decision, fill up on regret, stay stuck on not forgiving ourselves, and somehow we come out of it. How we come out of it is up to us. I’m at the point where I can admit and accept, I can’t undo or unlearn all of this by myself. While journaling has helped, it has also brought many unresolved issues to light so I (meaning most friends and my husband have strongly suggested) made the decision to seek out therapy. I’ve come to realize how ridiculous it is to think such degrading things about myself for the span of my life and choose not to do anything about it.
Let us remember, we have the power to shift our lives. We have to be radically inclined to do so even if/when it makes us uncomfortable. As I grow in my artistry and as a person, I’m learning there are lessons that I cannot learn from, because I’m still hurting. Because I’m still broken in certain areas.
Once we identify yes this is a problem, the next part is doing something about it. I can say I need to lose weight all day but if I am refusing to change my food consumption and how I eat, refusing to go to the gym, or engage in some physical activity consistently, I will not lose the weight. This is the same treatment our state of mind needs and deserves. If we are in soil that is unhealthy for growth, we cannot reach actualization.
I encourage you all to take a look at some of your behaviors, especially the ones holding you back. Research the ways in which you are able to overcome this pattern through rehabilitative measures such as therapy, writing, music, art (painting), dance, and even church. Some of these solutions will require you to do homework to propel you out of that sunken place of defeat, hopelessness, anxiety, and fear. Let us commit to being and doing better together, so we can fulfill our purpose one day at a time.