That’s a photo of me, when I was 9. I was happy. This means: I was happy and peaceful in my body in the past. Logical continuation: I can feel that way in the future. YAY.
Whoops, I fell off the blogging and Beautiful You track for a bit there. Back again! This practice asks tricky questions: What do you appreciate most about yourself? What are you most confident about? What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness it? If so, who was there and how did they react? So, maybe that’s why I’ve been avoiding blogging for a while!
What do you appreciate most about yourself?
Urgh. Initial thought: NOTHING. I find it really hard to think of positives about me. Negatives? How long have ya got? I could go on all day. BUT that wasn’t the question, was it? Luckily I have some good external appraisals to draw on, and if I can let myself believe them, even just for a second, it’s a good start.
In November 2010, I did a week-long training course about facilitating ‘social circus’ workshops (click the link for info). It was a great week of learning- not just skills/ activities, but learning about how I work alone and with others. At the end, we each got a sheet of paper where all the other participants had written a line or two about us, what they thought we did well etc. The most common words on mine were ‘I appreciate your openness, honesty and willingness to share’ and ‘You communicate really well’ and ‘You have great ideas’. As somebody who spent most of childhood/ adolescence scared and very ‘closed’, and is now finally coming into my true (open) self in my 20s, it was really great to have external validation that it’s OK to be honest and ‘out there’.
What are you most confident about?
Note to ED/ Negative Voice, currently raging in my head: there is a difference between feeling confident and being ‘up yourself’. Even for me. Yes, really. We clear? Good.
I write and speak well- I’m a good communicator. Again, it often takes external validation for me to believe this, but the evidence is there: published work, awards, scholarships, jobs. When I speak, people generally listen and engage. When I write grant or scholarship applications, I’m usually successful. When I facilitate anti-homophobia workshops in schools, young people speak openly and appreciate having a space to do it in.
Side note: once you’ve spent time openly talking about sex and gender with 15 year olds- who can spot bullshit a mile away, and will let you know it- every other public speaking engagement is dead easy.
I’m passionate, I’ll speak up and I’ll fight for change. This causes my Negative Voice the most grief and it’s true that there’s still an undercurrent of ‘shut up, don’t make a fuss, be a good girl’ running through my head. Well, too bad. Spent way too long giving into that shit and guess where it got me? Into bulimia and constant thoughts of suicide. It’s much healthier- and usually more fun/ productive/ satisfying- to let those natural leadership and advocacy tendencies run free.
I’m confident in my academic abilities. I’m a nerd. Out and proud. Sometimes it can be difficult to see where ‘academic enjoyment’ ends and ‘obsessive, perfectionistic personality’ kicks in but that’s just something to live with. I was pretty bored at high school, but too shy to be public about it. Now I’m in a uni course that I absolutely LOVE, there’s no pressure to be ‘cool’ and I can pursue High Distinctions (mostly) without worrying what everyone else thinks of me. Sometimes I even get paid for it (in scholarships and grants)! It’s blissful.
What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness it?
My positive childhood memories are mostly physical ones- swimming, running, circus tricks. Having a mastery of my body, doing skills over and over until I nailed them, feeling like I was flying, free. I don’t remember how it felt beyond ‘good’ but I remember vividly when it stopped feeling natural and easy- when I was about 10 or 11. Puberty beginning, my body changing, getting heavier. People commenting on my shape. Sexual comments way before I was ready for them. It was a massive kick in the guts: you’re not good enough anymore. You take up too much space. Too big, too much. And so I fell back onto things that others praised me for: being quiet, being ‘good’, putting up with abuse and not telling anybody the secrets of home, doing well academically. Trying as hard as possible to fade into the background.
It’s taken me much longer than usual to write this post, but I’m glad to have done it. Sometimes I have to write things out before I realise them, or believe them. Yes, there are positive things about me. Yes, I am confident. Yes, there was a time when my body felt good, and I’m slowly rediscovering that. Suck it up, Negative Voice. This is my truth and I like it.
I highly recommend other people having a go at these questions. I know you are reading, lurkers- I see you in the stats! So write it out. Draw it. Dance it. Own it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT!
In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’ Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.