In addition to the outside stresses going on of late, I've had my own internal struggles happening. It's frustrating to hear people say positive things about me and not be able to believe them. It's frustrating to give a genuine compliment to someone and hear them not be able to believe it's true. It's frustrating to believe the negative/unkind things I say about myself without a moment's hesitation. But I genuinely don't know how to change these things.
Except to try.
And, yes, I've been working on myself for a decade or more, really. But this feels like it is key. So without being currently able to afford a life coach to guide me through this, I thought I'd try a couple of things myself. A project of sorts.
So I got a small notebook and made myself write down things I'm either good at or people have told me I'm good at. I dug out some letters a counsellor had had me ask for about ten years ago, and wrote down what my family members told me they liked about me.
It was an awkward thing. I wrote down "I am a good photographer" and "I am a good (insert job name here)" and I stopped. Did nothing more in the book for over a week. It just felt impossible.
But this weekend I got about two thirds of the book's pages full. And my plan is to just look through that book every day at least, or as often as I can get myself to and to start to build those neural pathways in my brain that will hopefully soon lead to me believing those things. "I am a good writer." "I am good with words." "I am good at helping people." I cringe to say them out loud and I do wonder if that's something to do with not wanting to seem boastful or something, I don't know, it's just weird.
I talked to Sarah, who's a talented singer and musician and I talked to Jason who's a talented photographer and I realized that they both, from a young age were told and knew/felt that they had talent, even if they got frustrated and picked on themselves. So if I somehow missed that as a youngster, maybe I had to force it on myself as an adult?
The other thing I started doing, which may not seem related, but I think somehow is... is I started to take flattering pictures of myself.
Because people tell me I'm attractive. And I don't understand what it is they're telling me or why and I can pick apart their motivation instantly. "They're just being nice, they don't have good taste, they think ugly people are attractive.... etc." And I watched this documentary about women who are using their looks to fleece men. (They call it rinsing. I tried not to judge but my moral compass alarm was going off something fierce.) And I thought, man... why don't I have even an ounce of their self confidence.
I talked to Jason about it and he said that a) they didn't start off necessarily feeling that way about themselves, and b) they probably heard all their lives that they were pretty.
So again. If I somehow missed or didn't believe this growing up... could I start to now? Not sure....
But, if over the last ten years, I've managed to stop thinking I'm fat and ugly (no, really, I thought that for most of my life... sad sigh) maybe I could go from thinking I'm neutral/ok to I'm pretty? Attractive? Something positive?
Most of the time I see myself it's either in a mirror (which is hit or miss depending on the day) or it's in the reflection of my laptop screen (which is always always the most horribly unflattering angles and oh man do I ever look ugly in that reflection!) and I never feel good about my looks. Or... very rarely. Now, I'm not going to turn into a girl who suddenly spends hours every morning on hair and makeup, but maybe I could improve my self confidence...
So I thought I'd try the whole self portrait thing. The "selfie."
Not to show anyone (cringe at the thought) but just for me. I've never taken a selfie before, but I've seen that it's all about the angles. So I started to try to remember to take a self potrait every day.
And then I'd choose the best (most flattering) one of the bunch I'd tried (and quickly deleted the awkward ones!) and edit it on my phone until I thought well, that photo's not too bad. So now I have seven photos of me from seven different days and I'm not unattractive.
But I rarely let people take my photo. And if I do, I never share it. So how can I expect to think of myself the way I think of people who put up a ton of photos of themselves on social media or around their house? Why not try for a collection of flattering photos of myself so that I can see me the way other people present themselves?
I don't know if it'll make a small difference or a huge one or somewhere in between or what, but as long as I can keep anyone from looking through my phone (I would find that embarrassing, for people to see I've got a bunch of self shots) I've got nothing really to lose, right?