Over the past few days, I have been feeling that I don’t like myself very much.
I’ve been noticing how temperamental I am, how judgmental I can be and how, when I am feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or low on energy, I have very little patience for anything… or anyone… whom I find even the least bit effortful or annoying. As I witness the thoughts going through my head about this thing or that, I’m growing ever more uncomfortable with those parts of me, of which, I’m not very proud.
What makes it harder is that I have a “reputation” for being kind and loving and compassionate and… blah, blah, blah…. and, while I certainly do appreciate and accept that I am all of those things, sometimes I feel like it’s just too much effort to live up to that reputation. Sometimes being “good” seems like a burden. I mean, maybe… if I let myself show my more selfish, judgmental, irreverent or impatient side on a regular basis, I’d never feel as if I had to hide it.
I’d never feel as if I’d be disappointing anyone.
Last night, I went to a meditation event hosted by a friend and facilitated by others in the spiritual community. I was looking forward to attending because I wanted to see my friend, meet new people and share the experience. When I arrived, I was extremely low energy and so I was happy to just take a seat, close my eyes and listen. The meditation was lovely. I felt peaceful and relaxed.
As the event was coming to a close, the facilitator asked if anyone wanted to share what they experienced and I suddenly felt my body go stiff.
“Oh, no”, I thought. “I don’t want to share. I just want to be invisible.”
As I listened to the others give their feedback, it was clear to me that I was not in a good place… or, at least, I was not in the place where I usually am in this kind of environment. Normally, I’m very engaged. I’m always happy to share and I enjoy the exchange of insights between participants. I feel empowered. I feel as if I belong. I feel that I have something to offer.
Last night, however, it was the opposite.
As I heard my friend say “Wow, I just realized that I’m sitting between two ordained ministers”, referring to myself and another woman, I felt like crawling under her beautiful new carpet. That title, in addition to all the other “hats” I wear as a “healer”, “entrepreneur”, “mentor”, etc. felt like a twenty-tonne weight. In that moment, I didn’t want to have to live up to any of those things. I just wanted say my goodbyes and slip out, unnoticed.
This morning, another good friend called to ask me how a couple of recent dates had gone and, almost immediately, I found myself telling her how I’m noticing that I don’t like myself these days.
At the beginning of the conversation, I was simply sharing what I was feeling in that moment. I didn’t have much clarity as to where it was coming from except that, because of some research I’ve been doing for my book, I’ve been exploring the importance of “rumbling” with, forgiving and, ultimately, embracing the disowned parts of ourselves as part of the Self-Love journey.
Self-Love is about cultivating a healthy relationship with ourselves but before we can do that, we must come to terms with the truth of who we are, warts and all. The next step is having the courage to let our true selves be “seen” by the people closest to us and trusting them to hold space and love us, no matter how we show up. That is scary enough to do with family and friends but, now that I’ve stepped back into the dating arena, I’m now faced with the reality that I will have to show up on a whole new level. I will have to let myself be “seen” in the most vulnerable way possible… by an intimate, romantic partner.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of a funny example of what it means to be seen and accepted, no matter how we show up. Last night, in the Riverdale Players community theatre group I belong to, there was a message thread about farting.
I had posted something about my concerns regarding dating a particular guy and one of my cast mates offered this:
“I must admit, a well-timed fart on a first date can go a long way toward determining compatibility.”
Another cast mate shared this:
“I waited years until I farted in front of my boyfriend. Now it’s routine. And every time he gives me a look, I yell “YOU LOVE ALL OF ME SO DEAL WITH IT.”
In a strange way, these comments really do say it all. We must find a way to be comfortable enough with who we are to reveal our most unattractive features with our intimate partners and not fear judgment or reprisal.
On a date I had recently, I wasn’t feeling great. I was tired, vulnerable and fighting off the flu. Because of this, I wasn’t my “best self” and it was apparent in the way I showed up. I did my best to be polite and kind but, I admit, I had very little patience and I could not help myself but to be honest about what I was feeling in any given moment about whatever topic we were on. Perhaps, most people… even my date… might not have noticed much but, to me, it felt awful. Funny… I have an extremely high tolerance for inappropriate behaviour when it comes from others but almost no tolerance for my own ability to simply be cranky. That experience, coupled with these other insights, makes me realize that I still need to practice getting comfortable with letting romantic partners see me when I’m not 100% and trusting that, if I do, It will not (necessarily) disappoint them, cause them to judge me or run away.
I may have learned a lot about Self-Love over the past few years but, the truth is, the only way I will find out if I’ve really mastered it is when I apply what I’ve learned to my future romantic relationships.
And this scares me.
I didn’t get around to writing anything about this year’s experience with Riverdale Players and our recent production of ‘Bad Habit’ but I must say that the connection I have with each of my cast mates, similar to the connection I have with most of my friends, in some ways, makes the process of dating that much more challenging. The bar has been set really high. There is nothing that I would not share with them. There is no area in which I feel judged. There is no part of my story that I feel ashamed of.
However, what I wrestle with is the story I make up in my head. The story that says:
“I must never let you down.”
I realize that this is why “being good” seems like such a burden. I put that pressure on myself.
In the course of the conversation I had with my friend this morning, what came out of it was this:
As scary as it is, I really am ready to share my whole self. I’m ready relax. I’m ready to throw the fucking rules out the window and just go with it… Farts and all :)
And that readiness is part of the frustration I’m feeling.
In her most recent book, Rising Strong, Brené Brown speaks of the power of owning our stories, lest they end up defining us. She writes:
Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending–to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how the story ends.
Perhaps, in owning the parts of me that I’m not crazy about, I’ll finally be ready to choose the happy ending to my story.
I’ll leave you with Brené’s video: Manifesto Of The Brave And Brokenhearted…