I’ve spent the past little while in a fog of wrongness.
Maybe it’s post-holiday malaise, or self-diagnosed seasonal affective disorder, or the stifling of an inner urge to do more, be more.
Regardless of the shape it takes, these days, when I find I’m most self-critical about the stuff I’m not doing as well as I’d like to be—like writing, managing my time, saving enough money, taking care of my body and health—I often hit a point where I make the connection, “Oh, that’s because I’m comparing myself to men, measuring my progress against men, or trying to adopt stereotypically masculine working methods.”
I was raised by a perfectionist father, and took a long time growing out of that “one of the boys” mentality. You know, that whole Wendy and the Lost Boys thing of being the only girl in a big, rowdy bunch of guys and feeling special because of it, but also, of course, super-protective of my status against other women who might encroach on it. I do have a good group of close female friends and find it way easier than I ever have to make new women friends at this stage of my life. But still—it’s a pernicious mindset that I find hard to shake. I work on it, but it crops up, many times before I’ve realized it.
It’s somewhat more acute these days in that, as my daily habits and schedule have been restructured quite a bit over the past two or three years, I find I don’t have nearly as many female friends as I would like to whom I can talk about creative pursuits. By and large, the people I have conversations with about my writing and my music and my other grand schemes are men. Men that I adore and respect and find endlessly fascinating and inspiring and who encourage me in so many ways that I appreciate so much, but . . . men nonetheless.
So, it’s terribly important for me to read so many wonderful blogs (and Twitter feeds and Tumblrs, etc.) kept by women. It’s especially important when these women write about their own struggles with insecurity and anxiety. More than just that typical rah-rah-internet cri de coeur of finding togetherness, globally, from behind our computer screens, it is an active reminder to me that sharing my thoughts and perspectives is truly valuable—even when the self-critical voices keep harassing me with putdowns along the lines of “what makes you so special?” and “who cares what you think anyway?” If these women can find a way to turn their own demons into words, and loudly talk about their experiences in order to make the stings feel less venomous, surely I have a responsibility, at some level, to uphold my end of the cosmic bargain to do the same.
I’ve been swatting away a lot of those internal putdowns of late. Here are some of the pieces I’ve read online that have helped keep my strength up while I’m at it.
Veronica Varlow, “Battling the Dark Weather in My Brain”
The [negative brain] loop was murdered by thoughts of calling out to Big Foot and the Loch Ness and letting them know they could be safe if they lived on my mountain, that I wouldn’t report them being there to the papers, that I would bring them food if they wanted, I could just be there and leave notes or wave from the house and they would know that they weren’t hated or hunted and that
this crazy girl in this crazy house loved them
and they weren’t alone.
Lauren Percz, “Love Thy Self“:
My boyfriend is thin and athletic and I’m the complete opposite. When we first starting dating, I was in constant fear that he would be grossed out by my body and dump me. I dreaded the day when and if he would ever see me without clothes on. I figured he would really be disgusted by me then. But he wasn’t and he isn’t. I find that even now that we are an official couple, I still fear that he doesn’t like the way I look.
Mama Gena, “Results that defy logic“:
your resolution slowly begins to vaporize. And you are left with a shrug, an ‘oh well’ and an eerie sense of failure.
Why? Because there are circumstances which actually create creation, and allow for the fulfillment of any and all new year’s resolutions, but the culture we live in is not structured in a way to support a woman’s dreams coming true. We live inside this culture like round pegs trying to fit into a square hole.
It’s not through setting goals.
Not through logic.
Nor doing the right thing that cuts a woman’s imagination and creation loose.
It is her connection to her own pleasure.
Bri Emery, “Anxiety & Insecurity“:
even with this post, i am having this voice inside that wants me to have someone read it first so i can ask ‘should i post it? is it too much? do you think it’s okay?’
Heather Havrilesky, “Ask Polly: I Feel Bitter About All My Exes and I Can’t Get Over It!”
At my lowest points, I was (unconsciously) committed to repressing all ME-ness and approximating what I saw as my current boyfriend’s ideal woman. Needless to say, I was not convincing at this charade. But I didn’t even know that I was acting! I thought I was just trying to be less WRONG, less BAD, less CRAZY.
Kat Kinsman, “Living with anxiety, searching for joy“:
Despite my best attempts at slow, deep breaths and all the rest of the therapeutic tricks I’ve been taught, I’m unable to slow my firecracker pulse or the explosion of toxic thoughts rotting me from brain to skin. ‘You’re so useless. You let down the people you love. Everyone who’s been stupid enough to love you will regret it when they realize how weak you are.’ It goes on and on until my body just shuts down for a couple of hours.
Elisabeth Geier, “Choice Horses and Basements I Have Known“:
The neighbors were young and in love. I learned to keep earplugs next to my bed because I could hear everything that went on in the room above mine. I sat for their baby a few times; when she cried, she shouted ‘water-eyes, water-eyes’ and shook her head, alarmed by her own tears. I did my own crying into pillows and missed Chicago every day until the day I still missed it but wasn’t crying anymore.
Chelsea G. Summers, “Unmentionables, the second”
I told her how previous to purchasing this ridiculous expensive confection of a bra (and the subsequent four I bought online thereafter, drunk with the knowledge of my actual bra size and the pleasure of the feel of a well-fitting bra) I’d been wearing a friend’s hand-me-downs.
‘Chelsea,’ my therapist said in her Long Island accent, ‘you can’t wear second-hand underwear!’
They were nice, I said. Really expensive castoffs from a friend who’d had a breast reduction, I said. They were lovely, I said. Really, I said. Much nicer than I could afford, I said. I protested, perhaps too much.
My therapist tented her fingers and narrowed her eyes. ‘Have you considered how your X is like your hand-me-down underwear?’ she asked. No, I hadn’t.
And, though I am definitely not suffering from the kind of depression that Allie Brosh writes about in her much-celebrated post “Depression Part Two“, I have to link to it anyway, because she is amazing.