Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Different, Weird, Strange, Whatever. . .

I struggle, as I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’re a DDT reader of some length, with my self-image. My self-image has plagued me from childhood. I have always seen myself as “different” and not in a good way, not in the way that something (or someone) unique might be prized or at least valued, but in a way that is flawed, something not quite right. As much as I wanted to believe as a child that I was “okay” or “normal” I knew better. I got the messages and took them to heart.

A few things people said to me (things said not just once, not by just one person, but things I heard repeatedly from varied sources) during childhood that stuck and became permanent fixtures in my self-image:

What was said: “What an unusual name! How do you pronounce that again?”
What I heard: You aren’t like the rest of us. You have a name nobody can spell or pronounce correctly. You’re different.

What was said: “Oh, you’re left-handed! That must make your life difficult.”
What I heard: It isn’t as good to be left-handed as right-handed. Something is wrong with you.

What was said: “How come you can’t [insert choice here: skate, run fast, swim, turn cartwheels, hit the ball]?”
What I heard: You’re a klutz and not as good as the rest of us who can do these things.

What was said: “You have such a pretty face. You’d be beautiful if you lost weight.”
What I heard: You are fat, and because of that you are ugly.

The image that I carry around with myself, but am trying to shed for myself, is the following:
Fat (therefore unlovable), clumsy (therefore unlovable), different (therefore unlovable), and with a weirdass name thrown in for good measure so that either I, the person mispronouncing it, or both of us can be embarrassed by it.

I fight against this self-image every single day of my life. I try to get over it. Some days I do better than others. Today I found myself wallowing in it, and rather than let it get to me I decided to write about it. Writing about it, and reading it back, gives me the ability to look at it in perspective and see the absurdity of it. It helps me identify the negative self-talk so that I can work to replace it with positive self-talk.

Here’s the image that I am striving to believe about myself (some days I almost do too!):
The physical body is just packaging, and I am lovable no matter my size or shape because of who I am on the inside. What I don’t have in physical coordination is more than made for by the things I do have going for me: an intellectual brain, a giving heart, a passion for cooking and baking. I don’t have to be good at sports because I have many other talents. Being left-handed is okay, and those who feel it necessary to comment on are the ones with the problem. I do just fine being left-handed, using scissors just like everyone else’s without any problem at all. My name is not who I am. A weird difficult name does not mean that I am weird and difficult.

Okay, that last paragraph was hard. You know why? Because deep down inside somewhere I just don’t believe it. I just don’t. Deep down I believe that I will never be thin enough, or athletic enough, or right-handed enough (I try to do as much right-handed as I possibly can) to be anything but the strange person described by the strange name attached to me.

This is the fight over self-image that plays in my mind almost constantly. Sometimes I am more aware of it than others, but it’s always there in the back of my mind at some level. All it takes to bring it to the forefront of my thoughts is just one little comment.

If you take any message away from this please let it be this:
Be careful what you say to others. They just may believe you.

13 comments:

Jeni Angel said...

Hmmmmm,

I am fat and I am a HUGE klutz (I literally fall down a flight of stairs at least once every 2 weeks).

When I was teenager, I practiced writing with my left hand all the time so that I could be left-handed. Because it was different. (I can actually now write pretty good with that hand when I want to)

I don't have a weird name, but I spell it differently on purpose because I WANT to be different. I can NOT stand to be part of the pack. More than once, if I have seen someone wearing the a shirt I own, I'll give it away. I do not want to be like anyone else.

And if I have a point it's that . . .Fuck everyone else. It's FUN being different! :-)

Sailor said...

That's a hard, hard thing, that attempting to overcome our own ingrained beliefs.

I remember best, "He'd be so handsome, too bad he's so skinny." (You're an ugly skeleton, is what I heard)

Hugs for you, you *are* beautiful

Buttafly32681 said...

I struggled and still struggle to this day with my excess weight.

Like your first comment- i do tried to write with my left hand when i was younger...

i give you lots, and lots of credit being able to even write about how you feel about yourself... there is no way at this point that i can even being to....

Stinkypaw said...

I think your name is lovely, and maybe because I'm French (with a name very few English speaking people can pronounce) but there's nothing strange about it.

Cherish your qualities, your strong points - you know what they are just as much as your weaker ones, so focus on them.

If anyone would tell me that I'd be beautiful if... I'd tell them to fuck off so fast their head wouold spin! You are beautiful for who you are, not what he/she thinks you should look like!

Trueself said...

Jeni - I love your perspective on it. That is exactly the perspective I'm trying to achieve for myself.

Sailor - Thanks so much. Hugs are always welcome here.

Buttafly - Writing about comes easier as you work through it and get closer to coming out the other side. At least that's where I hope I am!

SP - Well, yes I would expect you to think my name is lovely and of course you would pronounce it correctly given your background. Perhaps if I lived in a different part of the world my lovely name would seem lovely to me. As it is, it is the rare person who pronounces it correctly.

Desmond Jones said...

You know, Truey, I like what Jeni said - embrace the 'different-ness'; celebrate the 'you-ness' of it all. . .

I've been overweight my whole adult life (and even after some pretty drastic weight loss, I'm pretty sure my BMI still says I'm 'obese'; stupid-ass BMI. . .) My football coach told me many times that I was 'pretty fast for a fat guy'. . . So, I've got that going for me, which is nice. . . ;)

I grew up in a town with a pretty large Polish population, so I know a thing or two about 'unusual' names. Actually, my own family name is pretty simple - five letters, German-English, and really pretty basically phonetic, as far as I can tell - but probably 90% of the people who read it for the first time mispronounce it. And if I say it to people, they misspell it. Even if I spell it out for them, they'll write it down with the wrong spelling, until I correct them. Which doesn't make me feel weird, it makes me think they're morons. . .

Molly and I always said we wanted red-haired, left-handed twins, just for all of the 'oddball factors'. One of our sons is ambidextrous (possibly two; the jury is still out on 8M); he writes left-handed, but throws right-handed. The only thing I insisted on is that he was gonna hit left-handed in baseball, just because there are so many advantages to it. . .

Bunny said...

I always thought lefties were cooler than the rest of ordinary right-handers. Spousehole is ambidextrous. He can write with either hand, throws right-handed, golfs left-handed, and can bowl with either. It's kind of cool.

My first name is somewhat different, just because it isn't terribly common. People spell it wrong all and just plain get it wrong all the time. Melissa, Melanie, Melody, Melancholy, Michelle - if it begins with an M, I've been called it.

My maiden name is Welsh, but thankfully not terribly complicated. Still, people seem to find it odd just because it isn't too common. And you would be amazed how many people can't pronounce 5 simple letters. My married name is much more common, but people spell and pronounce it wrong all the time anyway. I just assume they are doofuses (doofi?), not that there is anything wrong with the name.

You are beautiful, athleticism isn't all it is cracked up to be, and you are intelligent and a wonderful mother. Don't let the turkeys bring you down.

Desmond Jones said...

When 4M was in grade school, he would do his schoolwork left-handed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and right-handed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Pretty anal for a little guy, but that's the way he was. . .

I remember playing catch with him, when he was about 5 or 6, and he was switching back and forth between hands - had two different gloves that he'd swap back and forth - to try and figure out which hand he was more comfortable throwing with. But even today, when he's playing football, if he gets caught in a 'bad angle', it's no big deal for him to throw left-handed, if he really needs to. . .

Val said...

I'm with Bunny - don't let the turkeys get you down...
You won't be surprised to know that I struggle w/that "positive self-talk" all the damn time; it comes much more naturally for me to curse myself w/the usual epithets when I'm clumsy, lazy, forgetful, or careless...

Trueself said...

Des - I love the Caddyshack reference. Thanks for the perspective.

Bunny - Maybe it doesn't matter what name I have. Maybe everybody gets called the wrong name on a regular basis. Nope, sorry, I think I average way more mistaken pronunciations than average.

Des - In high school I used to turn in assignments written in mirror image, something that was easy for me to do for some unknown reason. Only one teacher, my geometry teacher, appreciated my talent. The rest reamed me for it. You might suggest 4M give it a try. It's fun, and sounds like he might have the talent for it.

Val - Isn't it interesting how much easier it is to beat ourselves up rather than build ourselves up? What's up with that anyway?

oldbear said...

Hey gal, you ar eda kine!

I am sorry it still hurts you so much sometimes!

Fusion said...

I I liked your name when I first learned it, my daughter has what was considered a different name (although quite common now) back when she was born, because I think common names are boring. You are a lovely person TS, and I think you drive a pretty cool SUV too ;)

Trueself said...

OB - Thanks friend.

Fuse - You are too kind.