Tuesday, March 2, 2010

more on compliments

 (I know, I know, three posts in three days. What the heck is going on??)

Aneke got me thinking. I mentioned in a previous post that I have a lot of difficulty accepting compliments about my physical appearance. I've been thinking about this a lot lately - all the while enumerating my flaws and calculating all the ways in which I am simply not good enough. It's an anemia/depression thing. It will pass, as soon as this monthly cycle is over. (please send good thoughts that soon the cycles will be over permanently, because I've had all I can take in that department). I focus on the negative all the time. It is really hard for me to think positively about my appearance at all. And I know it's not healthy. And it's counter-productive to actually getting somewhere in the relationship department. And if it's really true that I create my reality, well I'm creating something I don't want. I know all that. But the doubts are still there.

When I went to Michfest last summer, what impacted me the most was the diversity - women, all kinds of women were there, all shapes and sizes and demeanours. And all of them, every single one of them, were incredibly, humanly beautiful. I fell in love about a dozen times - no, not really, but I was in awe. Here I was, in this big, incredible group of beautiful people. But even there, I couldn't let go of the notion that there was something wrong with me, that somehow I didn't fit.

As I posted before, at least there was one thing that I was complimented on at Fest. But I think what I really wanted was some kind of external validation. I am okay. I am normal. Someone finds me attractive.

I didn't get it. In fact, in all the months of profiles and online singles things I've had exactly one conversation with one person, who turned tail and ran when she figured out that I was a late-blooming lesbian. I've read and re-read the profiles, fine-tuned them, and then given up. I know how to write - I know how to create compelling words out of nothing. So I've quietly, once again, given up on that idea. I might try again, later. I might not.

So where does all the negative attitude and self-doubt come from? And why can't I fix it?

I've tried ignoring it. I've done the positive affirmations, both spoken and written. I've asked various deities for help. I've sought advice, and been given unsolicited opinions about what I might need to do, or change, or accept about myself, about my self-esteem...but until I can internally accept and love the person that I am, all the well-intentioned advice won't help. I love you all, but it's really hard for me to believe that "she" or anyone else is out there.

When I was a child, an adult that I trusted told me that I was beautiful and then proceeded to touch me inappropriately. He would tell me he loved me, and then refuse to let me go until I kissed him.

When I was a child, I was bullied by other kids, in and out of school. I was ostracized. I learned that the best way to defend myself was to become invisible. Some days, I still feel that way.

When I was a child, and overweight, my mother would try to encourage me to lose weight, but didn't really understand that criticism only undermines self-esteem. Later, she apologetically told me that she was following medical advice, and really didn't know what else to do. But every time I put food into my mouth, I was reminded that I was fat, and that I couldn't lose weight if I kept on eating. One infamous night, my father said to me "If you keep eating like that, you'll never get a date." I was fifteen. I cried all night. Now the weight is gone, but still there.
  (I can't link this post to my facebook, for obvious reasons. Those of you who are my facebook pals know that my dad is a regular, and off-key commenter of my status updates. He probably reads everything I post).

In my last relationship, there wasn't a lot of physical affection. I can't be critical of my ex - that's the way he is. He puts this distance between himself and other people, and dominates space without conscious thought. He doesn't think of himself as dominant at all, but all of our lives were centered around his dreams, his likes and dislikes, his needs. What little space I carved out for myself was precious. But at the same time, it was the kind of relationship in which I didn't have to think. I just floated along, not really content, but there - sort of. And complacent, except when there was an off-hand comment about the colours I chose to wear, or the way I did my makeup, or whatever. Like he was the expert, or something.

He did tell me he loved me. But I can't remember a time outside of our first year together that he told me I was beautiful. I didn't expect it. I probably wouldn't have reacted much differently than I do now - or would now, if someone were to tell me. Being beautiful opens yourself up to a world of hurt, remember.

Paradoxically, at the same time, I long to hear it. I crave those compliments. If I just, once, had that outside validation, would it make me feel better?

I don't know. The rational part of me understands that it needs to come from within. This post was not really intended to be a whine-fest about how no one loves me. That's not the way it is - and I recognize it. It's more a moment of catharsis - when I can clearly see how became a person who can't look in the mirror without cringing.

It wasn't my fault. It isn't my fault. I'm not seeing myself clearly. And realizing the source is the first step towards change.

But if you want to tell me I'm beautiful, go right ahead. I will practice being gracious. Sometimes I think that people really need to hear the words.

(and on that note, I've finally decided to change my profile thingy - because I can't hide from the world forever).


Making Space said...

You are beautiful and you are free to go wherever you want, wherever you want, and to do with that compliment whatever you want. You are a blessed child of the goddess and every cell in you is beautiful and free.

reeflightning said...

yay, three posts in three days! you are spoiling us camlin.
i have taken the liberty of writing you an email as i had so much to say lol! ;-)

aneke said...

Layers of fat make for a pretty good protection from the world doesn't it? You can hide in there. No one see's you.

Loosing that is pretty scary, it makes you vunerable in ways that are difficult to verbalise.

You're right, ultimately you have to find your true place in the world and like and love who you are before you can accept it from other people.

And hey, I think you're rocking!

Camlin said...

Yeah, Aneke, losing it was scary. I'm still dealing with the aftermath, two years later.

Reef, I didn't get the email...yet, anyways.

MakingSpace, and all of you - thank you :)

reeflightning said...

whoops! odd you have not received it, i sent it to the email on your profile page.
i will resend it.

Camlin said...

Found it - it landed in my spam box for some reason. I'm going to read it in a few minutes....

an ambrosia life said...

uummmm before I read this ...I was thinking that is a totally hot picture of you and your tat....You look both innocent and free...your wild hair and that look in your eyes well...make that uummmm a yumm.

Camlin said...

Well, I'll take that compliment graciously and say "Thank you!!!!"

It's a better week. I've been working hard at this. I'm actually starting to believe what people are telling me - and it feels good.