Saturday, March 3

Self Perception and YAB stickers

I recently installed Marco Polo on my phone. For most people this is probably nothing to blog about. But as someone who has spent her adult life trying to tackle self esteem, it’s a “thing” for me to suddenly be watching myself as I hold a conversation. Cuz you see, I have become an avid believer in NOT doing things you know can “damage” your self esteem. For me, one of those things is not watching myself on video. I have plenty of reasons why, but that’s not the point. The point is I have accepted that although I don’t see myself in conversation, others DO see me talking to them. So I need to wrap my head around it being NOTHING for them to see me talking. And it shouldn’t be for me either. Annoyingly this is not easy. I don’t look on the outside like I see myself. I’m also thinner than I’ve been most of my life, so this only adds to my lack of recognition when I see myself talking. Why is this so different from what I see in the mirror? Clearly I can’t see myself very far from straight on, so self view is limited. This is true for all of us. Plus I’m not a selfie taker, so I don’t have an obsession with my own face.

Since I’m being so up front writing about my childhood as of late, I’m going to admit something… *deep breath* The thinner I am the more I look like my father. And since I don’t want to be anything like him, that physical fact is actually upsetting. Yes, I try to put weight on but fact is my body is operating better than when it was 30lbs heavier. However, that additional weight is what I want to look like again. The main reason being I didn’t look as much like any family member. I just looked like me. I want to look like me again.

This last summer I learned that children who were hit on the head, grow up with self loathing issues. Although the word loathing is extreme for me, I would be a liar if I sat here and said I didn’t have some level of self loathing. My understanding of the psychology is that being hit on the head as opposed to being punched in the face means that there aren’t natural instincts in place to block a hand coming from the side or back. This psychologically causes not just self-loathing, but loathing for the person hitting you. Can I even tell you how big that light bulb shone as I heard that. *Hand in Glove*

Continuing to over-share, because self esteem is one of the “things” I’m fascinated by; how could I possibly like my appearance if:
1. I think I don’t look like the “me” I know
2. I think I look like my dad
3. I was continually hit on the head as a child

And… you know what else? I’m not unique. This story is not unique. Countless people have this same issue. I’m not the only kid that got hit.

So what do we do? Frankly I’d love advice because I’ve come up with a few things to remember.
1. Know your insides ARE visible to others.
2. Avoid things that add to a detrimental self view.
3. (And probably the biggest) Know that it is impossible for anyone to see you the way YOU see you.

I ended up in a self-perception discussion recently with someone I went to high school with. That’s almost not the best way to describe him because I spent a lot of time at his house. I met him around the age of 16 or 17 when his family moved into my neighborhood. It was an extra large family because the parents got married each already having many kids. I became friends with his siblings and step-siblings. I was at their house often, and sometimes 4-5 of them would hang out with me laughing and having fun. We created numerous inside jokes, and when I was over, even some of the little ones enjoyed my company. It was like I was “a family friend” since there were so many ages often in the room. “Going to High school” with him is almost the best way to describe my association with him, because although I was continually at his house, he kept his distance. He was in my year of school, and all of the siblings and step-siblings I hung out with were younger than us. Over time I accepted he didn’t want to have anything to do with me because—he didn’t. We never spoke. This guy even avoided the room I was in whether it was the kitchen, the family room, or anybody’s bedroom. And what made it worse, was the fact he was so beautiful. Me with my hyper-poor self esteem feeling ugly already, was avoided and ignored by the most beautiful person in the house. And it wasn’t just once or twice, it was always.

After high school I continued to hang out with his sisters and step sisters, even regularly hanging out with the two brothers closest in age, and then I left the country. He too left the country, then around 20 years later I saw him again. And guess what? He still didn’t speak to me. He still silently told me with his beautiful face and absent words that I was ugly. This was long after I started tackling my self esteem problem, so as you can imagine, for me to STILL have a deep held belief attached to a person that I’m ugly, I developed a slight “fuck you” attitude toward him. His being in the room when I would cross paths with his sisters now and again was a cruel reminder of an even cruller attitude toward me; I was to forever be ignored. The “not good enough” unspoken words ringing loudly in my ears.

So when we crossed paths more at local events, I was actually bothered when I saw him. On occasion he had no choice but to acknowledge me, so I did get “hello”. But I let his silence be mean words toward me that equated to something like “You aren’t good/interesting/attractive/cool enough.” He was only a reminder I was ugly. (If he reads these words I will be horrified.)

Me having tackled so much of my self esteem issues I turned his example into a lesson I now happily preach: Not everyone is going to like you. Fact. You might be unable to gel with many people in this world. Even ones you find beautiful. He never actually did or said anything for me to confirm what he thought of me, so fact was, his outsides remained beautiful. You know when someone shows you how shitty they are as a human and they then become extra ugly on the outside?
*cough cough*
*my dad*
Well, Beautiful Man never did show me his insides, so annoyingly, he remained beautiful. I couldn’t turn his outsides ugly simply because of my perception of what his silence meant.

Then one day I crossed paths with him again and it had just been his birthday. So with all normalcy and familiarity I went up to him and said “Happy recent Birthday”. He turned and hugged me thanking me the way an old friend would, and just started talking. Was I surprised? Damn straight! This was my first contact with him feeling like I was a friend DESPITE my long held closeness as a friend to the majority of his family. If I’m honest with myself, and my math is accurate, we are talking somewhere around 25 years of potentially applicable friendship that was never applied. It was at this point (by my view) we became friends. So really, he is a new friend. The only elements I knew of him that I would have if we had been actual friends all these years were connected to either his siblings instagram accounts or his. And looking through his photos, I did find it funny that someone so beautiful would put up You Are Beautiful stickers in random places, sharing that attitude of love, because those were MY words TO HIM for so long. A beautiful person telling people they are beautiful, when what I felt all these years was You Are Ugly. It was almost funny. Not because he had anything to do with it, hell, he had nothing to do with it… literally. He just ignored me. I decided what his silence meant. It was me that had him giving me YAU stickers instead.

As we have become better friends I’ve learned he is someone with perspective I want to hear. So when we would cross paths, we would have great conversation, sometimes short, sometimes long; always topics up my alley. THEN recently two things happened. I had opportunity to tell him while in a discussion on self esteem that his unwillingness to have anything to do with me as a teenager had me sure I wasn’t good enough for him. His response to that was very soft and kind. He said he needed to mourn that, and explained that his teens were full of hardship for him wrapping his head around the merger of these two families and leaving his life and mom behind. His teens were full of HIS woes, and he related a story of someone else in high school calling him arrogant. His silence and introverted needs were labeled by others including me as him being too good for us. And why was this? I can’t speak for others but I know it’s because I found him so beautiful.

So back to where this started. I installed Marco Polo on my phone and the whole reason I’m writing this has everything to do with this App. Because guess who messages me?
Beautiful Man.
And guess who I have to see replying to him?
Ugly Girl.
Remember what I know I need to avoid to keep a healthy self esteem? Don’t see myself on video. This is also why I’m so willing to snapchat. I can filter my face to look nothing like me, and THERE I am safe. I can watch it and I don’t feel worse or as though I’ve damaged my self image. Because remember I’m fully aware I’m the only one that sees what I see.

So in the sending messages with Beautiful Man, I get on the subject of how hard I find it to have the camera on me, and then we get on a discussion about Self Perception. In that discussion I admit finding his sharing of the YAB sticker ironic because he’s the beautiful one. And then he tells me that he has never considered himself beautiful. It wouldn’t even be in the list of words he’d use to describe himself. Which then made me admit the word beautiful is the first word I’ve always used to describe him. (Can you even believe I’m being so honest?)

With a perfectly humble and sincere response he says thank you and laughs that he’s glad my perceptions of him are no longer a barrier to our friendship.

Did you hear that? Did you just catch what happened?

I have been the wall. There was no point where I set down my self perception and my judgment  of him to step up and even slightly get to know him. I let my self view (which is specific to ME) dictate everything, including what he thought. Are you kidding me? Am I kidding me? It’s taken me THIS LONG to get this? And an app that makes me uncomfortable taught me this by giving rise to a self perception conversation. Damn.

And as it turns out, he’s more beautiful on the inside than the external version I saw. Neither of which match his views on himself. I say it all the time, perspective is everything. Why do we find it so hard to consider that not only do we decide how to see something, we COULD change it, and there are plenty of ways to see it anew. Will you be forced, or will you make a choice?

What facts do I take away with this fascinating lesson?
1. Beautiful Man is only beautiful.
2. Nobody sees me the way I do.
3. If you think you know a person and you’ve never talked, you know nothing.

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