Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Me

Someone recently told me that their approach to life was to be themselves and not worry about what other people think. I responded that I wished I could be like that. And I was asked why I couldn't be.

I really started thinking about that. Why can't I just be who I am without worrying about other people? Why have I spent my whole life focused more on what other people think of me than on enjoying who I am?

I've spent most of my 40s trying very hard to accept myself just as I am. To finally stop trying to make myself better, trying to look at myself under a microscope and inspect all my flaws so I can understand them and try to change them. I've tried to accept that I have flaws - that everyone has flaws and maybe it's impossible to fix them all. I've tried to just acknowledge and accept myself without constant criticism.

In some ways I've done well. I've allowed myself to pull back and put distance between my mother and I. I've accepted that contact with her causes me pain. I've stopped trying to force myself to believe that I can live above that pain - that I can be the bigger person and understand why she is the way she is and pretend that it doesn't get to me. That's bullshit. It does get to me and I don't have to be the bigger person. So now I don't call often and I keep conversations short when I do call. And when she complains I try not to apologize or make excuses - I just let her know I wasn't able to call.

I've tried to not stress as much about my body. It is very likely that I will always weigh more than I want to. I still try to find time for exercise and to eat right - but I try not to beat up on myself too much about my size. This is has been hard for me. I frequently don't like what I see in the mirror. But I've tried to focus more on what I like. I take pictures of myself that I find flattering and they help me see my beauty - which makes it easier to accept the flaws.

Still I worry a lot about what other people think. I frequently curtail my behavior, or don't speak my mind because I'm worried about others' perceptions of me. I have a hard time trusting in the ability of people to accept what's different. So I'm afraid to be different. And quite honestly, if I spoke and acted without censoring myself - I would be very, very different.

But the last year - really the last year and half to two years have really taught me something about worrying so much about other people. I've begun to realize that people judge no matter whether you try to please them or be like them or not stand out or not. I've also known, for a long time, that people perceive you how they're going to see you sometimes regardless of how you see yourself or how you try to behave.

A perfect example of that is that my shyness is most often taken for being aloof or snooty. People don't readily see that I am shy and insecure - instead they see me as confident, self- assured and unwilling to interact with them. This happened to me recently. Spice's teacher confronted me and wanted to know if she'd done something to offend me because she felt I was snubbing her. To the contrary - I adore and respect her. My behavior towards her was a combination of being a bit self-absorbed (caught up in my own worries and often forgetting to exchange niceties with people - even sometimes just not seeing people because I'm so often lost in my own thoughts), being a little intimidated by her and thus feeling shy around her, and wanting to give her space and defer to her when I'm in her realm. But all that just came off as me being aloof and rejecting her. So even though I spent a lot of time trying worrying about what she thought of me and trying to behave in a way that would be pleasing to her - I actually did just the opposite because she perceived me and my actions in ways that I didn't intend.

So the reality is, if people are going to see what they see, regardless of what my real thoughts, intentions and motivations are - then why not just be myself? Why worry about what folks think? Because the real people - the ones who really matter will, like Spice's teacher, take the time to talk to me and listen and really get to know who I am and why I do what I do.

And isn't it better to be surrounded by people who know the real me and still want to be around me, than people who only know the me that is modified to be liked by them?

So, my one and only resolution in 2010 is to be me. Straight up, no holds barred, bare bones me.

And my first step in doing that was to go back through all my drafts of blog posts and just put them up - unfinished, raw thoughts. More than likely no one will ever read them. I think they were just incorporated into the blog in the places they would have originally been and I don't expect anyone to go scanning back through the blog and find them.

Even though they won't be read, it's a big deal for me that I put them out there. That I am willing to put unedited, uncensored writing out for anyone to read. I mean, I do frequently write posts and put them up without editing them - but I usually feel confident that I have at least completed a thought. In the case of all these drafts (some dating as far back as July 07) the thoughts are often random and frequently ramble on without point. But they're my thoughts and I'm not hiding those anymore.

I'm a little scared of this new way of living. I am afraid that people won't like me anymore. I'm afraid I will lose friends. But I'm more excited at just being me.

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