You People

Click through for a really interesting (if somewhat disturbing) study on modern day trolls. Yes, they exist!

Click through for a really interesting (if somewhat disturbing) study on modern day trolls. Yes, they exist!

Today I experienced something new, but unfortunately it wasn’t very nice; I was trolled. Without going into it a great deal, I’ll say that it was a series of vaguely threatening messages via Facebook PM, starting and ending with accusations that made no sense. At first, I thought that I’d actually done something somewhere online to upset the person, and was really apologetic, but it soon became clear that this wasn’t the case.

During our short exchange, one of the things the troll wrote to me was “You people are so full of yourselves.” It was completely out of context with the rest of the conversation, but that’s probably what made it so effective in her little psychological skirmish. In fact, I’m still having trouble getting it out of my mind. To whomever could the troll be referring? People who like it when everyone’s relatively polite to each other? People who appreciate not being scared out of their wits by weird, threatening FB messages? I don’t know who she thought she was talking to, but mostly I just feel sad that she was too blind to understand.

Umm, yeah.

Umm, yeah.

Most of my life I wasn’t cool enough to fit in with a crowd. I couldn’t be part of a “you people”. But now that I’m older, I’ve finally got a tribe. I know the people I’ve chosen to include in my life, and they’re thoughtful, open-minded, progressive, and almost to a person some of the most understanding and empathetic humans I’ve come across. I’m attracted to their light, like I hope that they’re attracted to mine. We’re mostly nerdy and quiet, and none of us are going to change (that much of) the world, but my “you people” is awesome. The members of my “you people” would NEVER try to scare a person for kicks, or say cruel things while hiding behind their computer monitors. Maybe that’s because most of us were bullied as kids, and learned pretty early that bullies are the worst. They are to be pitied for their lack of humanity, and ignored whenever possible. It’s how we survived. We’ve still got battle scars, but we’re alive, strong, and successful.

Ruminating on this reminded me that I was due for another Beautiful You post, and it just so happens that today’s is all about confronting the negative things other people have said about you over the years. The theory is that we internalize what we hear, whether we want to or not. If someone calls us ugly or fat or stupid, even if we don’t believe it, our minds hold on to that information and replay it from time to time to see if the data is true or not.

For me, there are four specific things I can think of that impacted how I saw myself as a child, and probably still today:

1) When I was about 9 or 10, I visited my paternal grandmother (my Nana) late one afternoon. That morning she’d had a tooth pulled, and she was in a bad mood. She took one look at me and told me that if I kept gaining weight, I was going to have a double chin. I’ve been obsessed with my chin fat ever since, which is stupid because it’s actually quite well defined – and singular.

2) In 4th grade, I got my first pair of glasses. They were huge and red, like Sally Jesse Raphael’s (anybody else remember her?). One of the boys in my class, Blake, picked on me a lot. He started calling me “Red Rims” and everyone else followed suit. I grew to hate my glasses, and I’ve never really gotten happy with myself in them, though I still wear them all day, every day. I’d really love to get Lasik sometime soon.

Really? You've seriously never heard of Sally Jesse Raphael? Click the image for the Wiki link.

Really? You’ve seriously never heard of Sally Jesse Raphael? Click the image for the Wiki link.

3) In 6th grade, I was being picked on a lot. Blake was still picking on me every day (let’s just clear this up though – he’s gotten a lot nicer as he’s gotten older, and I’ve come to realize he might have just had a crush on me). He threw broken pencils at me, called me names, and was generally an ass any chance he could get. But his friend Adam was worse. Adam hit and tripped me every chance he got, and called me “Pigeon Lip” because I had an overbite. That one stuck around, and even followed me into public school the next year, since he was friends with a kid in my grade at the new school. I’ve hated my mouth since then. I’ve had Invisalign, but my teeth aren’t movie star straight, and that’s not good enough for me. I’m pretty sure that my current obsession with getting braces again stems from my days as Pigeon Lip.

4) In 4th through 6th grade, a girl named Shelby picked on me daily. She mostly commented on my clothing and accessories, and pointed out to the other kids how poorly I was dressed. My family didn’t have much money, so most of my clothes were hand-me-downs or from yard sales, and the ones that weren’t were from Super 10 or (if we were splurging) Wal-Mart. I’d get one pair of sneakers to last the school year, and if they got holes we’d just tape them up or do whatever could be done to make them look presentable until the next year rolled around.

Since most of the kids I went to school with were comfortably middle class, if not wealthier, Shelby wasn’t the only one to notice that I didn’t fit in. But she was the only person who rubbed my nose in it in front of people at every opportunity, eventually getting them into the action. I can’t stand being dressed shabbily. I’m not a fashionista, but when something is worn out, or out of date, or not in style, it has to go. I have a lot of anxiety over my wardrobe, and that’s probably why when I get dressed up in regular outfits that look nice, I often visualize myself putting on a costume. Pretty clothes are like armor for me. Like maybe the bullies can’t see me.

The truth is that I have great taste in clothes, people always tell me that my slightly uneven teeth are “cute”, my glasses give my face character, and I’ve tried out the getting fat thing, and STILL NO DOUBLE CHIN (ha! take that!). The things that people picked on me about when I was younger were just silly little nothings, brought on by their own insecurities. Blake was as unhappy at that school as I was. Adam had just moved to town from Ohio, had an unhappy home life, and was trying to assert some kind of dominance over the class. Shelby was obese and unattractive, and wanted to prove she wasn’t a loser by pushing someone else around. Nana had just had a tooth pulled – honest, she was always super sweet otherwise!

Beautiful You says to replace the things that these people said with better lessons that I can carry around in my psyche. Lessons like: “you’ve got kissable lips”, “those glasses make you look quirky”, “love your style – it’s really brave”, or “glad you inherited my side of the family’s great bone structure!”

It’s OK, I already know. My you people have been telling me.

Beautiful Is

Helen-Keller-quotes-about-beauty

It’s funny the things that we grow up learning not to say. When I was a little girl, my mother would have a fit whenever my father sometimes uttered “shit” or “damn” by accident. She wanted me to grow up to be a lady, and ladies never use what people in my neck of the woods call “cuss words”. In the end, her plan backfired. Every time she shushed my father’s errant cusses, it only served to make me more excited about the day I’d finally be able to pepper my own conversations with those juicy and forbidden verbal fruits. I actually added a few words in, just for good measure. Yes, Mum, I talk like a sailor when I’m not around you. Sorry about that.

The failure with cussing aside, sometimes her lessons worked. There were other things that I was instructed to avoid saying, things that still very rarely cross my lips. Two words that almost never see the light of day in my household are “ugly” and “stupid”. Even writing them feels unfair, crass, cruel. I mean, sure, every now and then I’ll describe an inanimate object as ugly, or an action as stupid, but when it comes down to it, I’d still rather use other words if possible. I don’t even like it when people talk about having an “ugly Christmas sweater”. It makes me feel sorry for the poor sweater. Guess that means I was programmed well.

That being the case, I’d especially never use either word to describe a person. But even though “ugly” is something I’d never call myself, neither is “beautiful”. Why is that?

Today’s prompt (Day 13) in Beautiful You is to talk about what the word “beautiful” means to us, and consider what it is that makes us use the word to describe other people. Maybe through exploring how we feel about beauty, we can be one step closer to understanding that we might just fit into our own parameters, and be beautiful, too.

To me, the most beautiful people I’ve met are those who shine from within. I’m picturing a handful of truly beautiful folks right now, and comparing them with each other in my mind. Each is kind, and would never be cruel intentionally. Each is willing to listen. Each is willing to help. Each is quick with a smile, and bounces back easily from adversity. Whether or not they believe in a higher power, they’ve each seemed to be a product of fate, as far as I was concerned. Each of the most beautiful lights in my life has appeared just when I needed them most, and imparted some kind of lesson to me. None of them are conventionally physically beautiful, but their attitudes and behavior make that kind of thing unnecessary. The light within gives them that kind of glow from which no sensible person can turn away.

I can only hope to be as beautiful as that one day. Until now, it’s never occurred to me that I was hoping for that kind of thing, but I’d love to be someone’s beacon one day. If it happens, it happens. But if not, that’s OK. I feel good about being me. It’s hard not to, when you realize how much beauty surrounds you.

 

Dissatisfaction

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?”

– Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Today’s prompt (gee, I’m going slowly – just on Day 12) in Beautiful You is to realize that my dissatisfaction is not about my body, but rather other things in my life. I’m supposed to consider that fact, and see what my mind is really trying to tell me. What else should I be addressing?

I don’t necessarily believe that being unhappy with the way I look is to be blamed entirely on other life problems. That being said, of course there are a ton of things that all of us need to work on to create better lives for ourselves. I could write a thousand page dissertation on all of the things that I’m dissatisfied in this world, starting with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, easing into the destruction of the rainforest, and rounding out nicely with bigoted, low-IQ’d fundamentalists and their conservative buddies in Congress who are trying to shove their ideals down our throats at every twist and turn these days.

But given today’s reading, I feel like I’m supposed to be talking about what in my life is so dissatisfying that that I’d turn it all inward and focus on being ashamed of my body. Let’s see.

I’m terribly smart, so it’s not that. I’m witty, and I make people laugh. Not uproariously, of course, but I’m not devoid of humor, so that’s a good thing. I’m mildly successful, and creative, and I try very hard to be very nice. So none of those. I’m not really that talented at anything though. I’m a good writer, and a good singer, and I make origami, and I put together great outfits when I try. I’m also a good cook, though I hate cooking and try to avoid it as much as possible.

OK, I’ve figured it out. Kinda. I procrastinate a lot. When I’m anxious, I freeze up (if it’s the good kind of anxious, because otherwise I have a panic attack or something similar). When I freeze up, the only way I can calm myself down is by ignoring the thing that made me anxious. Since almost everything makes me anxious these days – phone calls, emails, talking to people, social engagements of any kind, social media, trying to write long form, trying to be creative, you name it, it’s stressing me the fuck out – this process of ignoring things turns into procrastination. Procrastination begets its own kind of stress. Now, I’m not stupid, I can honestly look at this situation and go, “well, if it stresses you out to procrastinate, wouldn’t it be better to break down the things you have to do into small, manageable chunks and accomplish them that way?” No shit. It’s how I end up making it through every day without boiling over into panic attack mode. But every single day is a repeat of the scenario. It’s driving me crazy. It’s definitely driven me to depression.

But now I’m reading back through this, and I don’t know if I’ve answered the question at all. Maybe these are two different issues that happen to be going on at the same time. Hmmm.

I guess the other reason I might be dissatisfied and taking it out on my body is that I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out. But no, that’s not either. I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out, so I overeat and drink, which in turn makes me gain weight (along with the thyroid issue), and then I’m dissatisfied with my body. But I guess that works. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with my life and blaming it on my body, it’s that I’m dissatisfied with life and find a way to treat that dissatisfaction in an unhealthy way that allows me to turn my attention on my body. Woohoo! Great to know.

Well, I’m already treating part of the issue – I’ve been eating paleo (including no drinking) for a week now. I’ve lost over 6 lbs already, and aside from being tired from my workouts, I’m feeling pretty OK with my body right now. It feels strong, and that’s good. I deadlifted 105 lbs the other day!

I guess that being dissatisfied with the way I look could very well be related to being embarrassed and awkward when it comes to presenting myself physically. I hate being looked at, and any time I get in the spotlight, it makes me really uncomfortable. The same thing happens all the time at work and in social situations – I’ve just learned how to hide how I’m feeling and project a somewhat more confident exterior to my clients and colleagues. The constant doubt and fear does impact me on a personal level every day, and probably also has something to do with my procrastination and interpersonal relationship issues. This is something to think about.