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Archive for November 27th, 2014

This brought me to tears.

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

A Gut Reaction

I could talk about how I was an insecure young person… and think I’m talking about my unique characteristics. For the record, I have never looked insecure on the outside because I talk a lot, which looks like confidence.

Yet a few years ago I got clear that even people who look like they have always belonged… even those people can feel like they don’t fit in. A friend who lives a house she likes, a neighborhood or two from where she grew up, who in her 50’s does the work she trained to do in her teens, who married her high school sweetheart and is still happily married? She commented to me once about “those of us who are creative” (implying that we don’t fit in the norm).

Jonathan Fields of Good Life Project (his podcast is wonderful… check it out) says that in the midst of people we often feel alone and lonely. It can be so very true!

It’s a sad truth that we humans need to belong and yet we feel like we don’t belong more often than not. And when we feel insecure, the first thing we tend do fuss with is our appearance. We worry about our weight, our skin/zits, our weight, our hair cuts, our clothing, where we live, what we drive… and more.

Where We Least Expect It

Even in an environment of general support we can feel off center at times. Once I complained that a group of women in my dance troupe were all expected to wear the same type of costume for a dance.

My intent was to support those who would feel/look more beautiful in a different silhouette. The look on one dancer’s face told me that what she heard was that I thought she wasn’t beautiful enough in the chosen costume. My opinion that another costume would be better means that I didn’t think they looked good in the required costume. Ouch. (I’m still squirming about that misstep.)

I picked up a copy of O magazine (by Oprah Winfrey’s organization) last spring. There was an article on decluttering which interested me. I love some of her regular columnists including Brené Brown. Yet the front cover of that magazine had an article titled “Diet or Exercise: The real key to weight loss, once and for all.” And inside? Advertising all over selling products to slow down or eliminate aging, or cover flaws. Flaws?

My Obvious Flaw that Some Don’t Notice

I tell you what… Once I made friends with a lovely 5-year old on a day-long train ride to Montreal When we said goodbye she asked… “do you have a pink tooth?” I said yes, that it was an “owie” a long time ago but it doesn’t hurt now.

yarnbomblynn192x191I have a damaged front tooth because of an ill-fitting orthodontic retainer when I was about 16 years old. It shows up on photographs. I figure that some day I’ll get the veneer that would make it less noticeable in photos. I almost did it ten years ago and decided against it for a number of reasons.

However, I smile a full-tooth smile every day. I laugh every day. And the people I’m close to don’t even notice that tooth until I mention it. They see the real me, which comes through very strongly above how my tooth looks.

That tooth is a reminder that things went permanently wrong when I obeyed blindly even when things didn’t feel right (“don’t take off the retainer no matter what…” and thus even when it hurt unmercifully I didn’t take it off and it killed a nerve). So the flaw, if there is any, is in my teen self being a good girl and following orders even when my gut told me that something was wrong.

My Story: Young Adult Insecurity

When I was younger, my tendency to worry about being accepted came out in an  impulse to buy things that would make me feel more acceptable. If I was being interviewed for a job, I bought a whole new fancy suit and raincoat rather than perhaps standing tall in something I already owned or that was less pricey but that was just fine. If I was having company over, I would buy new towels and throw pillows and serving dishes, as well as buying food that was more pricey than really fit into my cash flow.

I spent much of my entertainment hours reading catalogs planning to shop, or meeting friends at a mall for a full day of shopping. The debt wasn’t the core issue. What I bought wasn’t even the issue. The issue was feeling that I wasn’t OK and maybe that one next purchase might make me more acceptable.

I got into unmanageable debt (the numbers mean less than whether I could manage the debt at the time). In 1990 I finally gave up unsecured debt… credit cards, professional services received but not paid immediately, and personal/ signature loans (there were no payday loans back then and I’m grateful).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that younger me. I call her Cookie, which was a nickname that never stuck but that I liked.  She had many of my current good attributes, including loyalty and valuing loved ones. She wore black most of the time to feel sophisticated(yes, really… there are folks in my life now who can vouch for that). The black was a good background for her (important-looking) artsy jewelry. She bought stuff hoping that it would make her belong.

The Song which Brought Me to Tears

I was driving the other day, changing radio stations as I drove. This practice exposes me to musical styles I would not otherwise hear. I heard this song… which has a repeating line “you don’t have to change a single thing.” And I cried. I cried for that young me. For Cookie who felt unacceptable even though her energy attracted friends who appreciated that energy.

Please listen. It may not be your normal style, but it’s worth listening to as a poem of encouragement set to music. One voice and a lean musical accompaniment.

For the record, while looking for the video I found an angry column in ChicagoNow which focuses on the makeup-wearing message in the song (while I responded to “…max your credit card… buy it all, so they like you…“). And the columnist points out that sometimes women choose to wear makeup within the constraints of a real world which expects them to look a certain way. But then she says:

Am I the world’s greatest beauty? Of course not, but I have commandeered survival of the fittest. Brains over brawn. I figured out the rules of society and used them to my advantage…

…What of this lyric, “you don’t have to try” which is possibly even more problematic? Suuuuuure we don’t have to try. This irritates me because it places the blame on women for living inside society’s norms instead of on the media and current attitudes that put that norm in place. Just love yourself! …You know what the truth is? The more standard a lady looks and the more forgettable her looks are, the easier her life is. There are exceptions for daunting beauties, but the rest of us are just trying to get by….

…It seems girls will be shamed no matter what. If you rock your natural skin and hair, you get called a lesbian/chubby/weird. If you learn the unspoken rules of society and conform to them to give yourself the best advantage in life, you’re just a superficial, poser fake-face who shouldn’t “try so hard”. Only true natural beauties deserve any attention, okay?…

Strong feelings, there. And she’s seeing totally different parts of the song. And her filter through which she’s viewing the lyrics is very different than mine. I’ll be fascinated to hear how it lands on you.

In an article I read about the video on Today.com, I found a link to a place more in sync with my take on things… RAW Beauty Talks. On their page they say:

In my view, if anyone male or female wants to wear makeup as personal expression or self-decorating I’m behind it 100%. If someone wears makeup on stage or on camera because the lights obscure their features, that is logical. If they choose to dress/present themselves in a certain way to belong to a specific environment… well, cool.

I just hope that you don’t feel you *need* makeup on your days off or with your friends. Once I watched an Oprah show where there were 3 women on a challenge to live without makeup for a week. One of the women’s husbands had never seen her without makeup. When she was pregnant, she’d put on makeup before bed in case she had to go to the hospital quickly.

Then again, decorative things can feel like luxuries at times. You and some friends might go get a manicure together to feel pampered. One of my best friends can’t wear makeup or dress up at work so she rocks the girly stuff on her days off for fun. That all fits in a self-acceptance place.

You Belong! Yes. You belong.

The song says “…when you’re all alone, do you like you?” I like where she’s going with that. I wonder, though, why it’s so lonely finding our way getting to that point.

Why do we all feel alone next to each other? Why do we feel that freckles are awful on us and cute on someone else? Why does everyone like everyone else’s hair but not their own? Why do we think that a blemish makes our heart less whole? Why is it so universal to feel this way and go through such an insecure time?

I’m empathizing with those who are twisting themselves into something they don’t like in order to fit with people they don’t really want to fit with. If you feel (as young Cookie/Lynn did) you need to buy stuff to be accepted/ avoid criticism… to protect yourself against feeling unacceptable to others? Well, that sad insecurity I lived with is what this song touches in me. Because, as I discovered, even people who look comfortable from the outside looking in, on the inside don’t always feel like they belong.

And with that, I’ll quote the song.

You don’t have to change a single thing…

…’cause I like you.