I will be starting a new venture this spring by being an assistant coach for Girls on the Run here in Sedgwick County. We had our training yesterday, and on the way to it I was listening to one of my favorite songs, Sara Bareilles' "King of Anything." Such a great song. And within this song, there is a small refrain that I've always liked, but really struck me as I was driving:
All my life I've tried/To make everybody happy while I hurt and hide/Waiting for someone to tell me its my turn/To decide
For as long as I can remember, I've been a people-pleaser. I've always had it in my head that other people, and their needs and feelings, are more important than my own. It seems like I've always felt the message, ever since I was a little girl, that putting my own needs and wants above everyone else's made me selfish, and uncaring. That I needed to smile, and be happy, because people didn't want to be around a girl that was unhappy. And that I should be happy making other people happy; that it was something that should be inherent in me as a girl, and if I wasn't then there was something wrong with me. And so for many, many, many years I carried that people-pleasing, and that low self-esteem, and that general view that how I felt... about anything... didn't really matter. I lived in this horrible existence of hating my body, hating myself, and being afraid to do anything. I curled up in the fetal position, blamed everything but my own attitude for holding me back, and plugged along. Feeling miserable, and alone, and pathetic.
I posted on my Facebook at the beginning of this year that this last year of my life, for the first time ever, I had really started to appreciate myself more. This last year has been an incredible journey for me. I started having some realizations, or epiphanies, or whatever it is that you want to call them. I stopped looking to other people, or material things, to try to make myself happy. I finally went for something that really scared me, and ended up realizing that 'where the magic happens' is always going to be outside my 'comfort zone.' As I listened to the song, and then sat through the GOTR training (which is a program all about building up the confidence and self-esteem of young girls), I thought about what changed for me this last year. Here's what I came up with:
1. Confidence is sexy. I think too many times women get the message that they are being full of themselves, or bragging, when they are proud of themselves or their accomplishments. Somehow, guys don't seem to have this problem. I don't know how many times I have done it, or have heard female friends do it. "I don't want to brag, but..." The people that care about you want to celebrate your accomplishments with you. The people that are going to get jealous about them, or try to bring you down, are probably people you don't need in your life. As long as you're not in everyone's face 24/7, or act like you're better than everyone else, then it's totally okay (and good for your soul), to go public with your pride.
2. Learn to take a compliment. This goes hand in hand with the first one. I used to be horrible about compliments. Someone would try to say something nice about me, and I would instantly downplay it, or focus on the negative, or joke around. For whatever reason, I couldn't accept a compliment at face value, or worried that I would appear too self-indulgent by agreeing to a favorable remark. Total bullshit. Don't do it anymore. And once you get really good at genuinely accepting compliments from other people, you'll also get a lot more adept at genuinely handing them out as well.
3. Being a martyr is unattractive. And dumb. I had played this game for way too long as a mother, and try to keep from falling into the trap anymore. I knew I wasn't taking any time for myself, and was bending over backwards for everyone else, but instead of saying or doing anything about it, I silently pouted and held a pity part for myself. Poor me. I work so hard, and no one appreciates me. But guess what I learned? My husband didn't know I was feeling taken advantage of, when I wouldn't say anything about it. My kids obviously weren't going to be able to do anything to help me. Resentment is terribly toxic in relationships, and I have begun to refuse to let it build up in mine. If I needed a break, or some 'me' time, or a life outside of my family, then I was going to have to be the one to create it. This doesn't make you selfish. And no one is going to die for the hour you want to go for a run, or meet a friend for dinner, or take a bubble bath. Start demanding that you get time to take care of yourself, and don't ever apologize for it.
4. It's okay to cuss like a sailor. Young girls and women definitely get certain messages about 'acting like a lady' and what 'nice girls' are supposed to do. Clearly, I've worked through this. It's important to me to be a good person: compassionate, nurturing, positive, and helpful. But just because I want to be good person, doesn't necessarily mean that I have to give up some of my own personality for it. I'm no Mother Teresa. For me, this means that I can still be snarky and sarcastic with the best of them. I cuss sometimes. (Okay, a lot). I have an inner-16 year old that likes to show up. But as long as my behavior isn't hurtful to others, or toxic for myself, then its totally possible to be a good wife, great mother, awesome friend, caring social worker... and still be irreverent and crazy sometimes.
5. Don't be your own worst enemy. As I mentioned above, it became very clear to me that the only one that was really holding me back, keeping me down, or telling me I couldn't do something, was myself. A lot of this negative self-talk and inner doubt came from a lot of the messages I got about what it means to be a girl, or a wife, or a mother... but in the end, it was up to me to decide how I was going to let others make me feel. I had spent so much time beating up on, torturing, criticizing, and insulting myself, and it made me really sad to think about passing that on to my kids (especially my daughters). Once I finally decided that I wasn't going to listen to my own inner demons any more, it became easy to love life, be happy, and let things go.
In the end, as I've always said, I'm a work in progress. I don't have everything figured out, and I don't do everything right all the time. I stumble along the way (lots). There are days when the anxiety and the negativity get the best of me. And that's okay. But the important part is that I keep moving forward, and keep trying to make progress... no matter the setback. I owe a lot to my husband in helping me through a lot of the ickiness, as well as my friends. When you're surrounded by people who love you, who challenge you to grow, and who want nothing but the best for you, then those voices don't have as much of a chance. I'm so grateful for the family I have, the friends I have, and the life that I have. I won't apologize for it, I won't go back, and I keep my distance from people who feel the need to bring others down. I'm really looking forward to spending these next few weeks with a group of 15 girls, ages 7-10 years old, in hopes of being a great coach, a new friend, and more than anything else... an excellent role model.