Thursday, April 11, 2013

Embracing The Unique Self

Hiya Snappers! Today is Day 6 in my guest blogging series! Today we have Miss Ginnie from Degree of Difficulty  guest posting!  I fell in love with this little lady not too long ago, and she is superb!  When I first read her blog, she took me on her journey with her.  She is one of those rare writers that sucks you in, makes you feel, and cry with her! She touched my heart from the first post! She is a relatively new blogger, but man let me tell ya, she is awesome! I adore her! So after you read her post, go check out her page and give her some lovin'! Tell her I sent cha! Wink!


I've been thinking a lot lately, but that's okay. I'm good at it and I like it.
If I weren't on a crusade against self-deprecation, I'd say I over-think damn near everything, but the reality of it is that thinking is what I do best, and there's a distinct shortage of qualified thinkers out there these days, so I'm going to stop seeing that as a handicap, and use it for the asset it is.
I've got a funky brain, a crackling electrical firestorm that consumes information at a lightning pace, and processes and synthesizes commonalities and extrapolates from the data, ******€€€€€€€€€€**** until all that input is just too much, and the whole damn thing short-circuits.
That's the thing about electrical fires, they tend to leave behind a melted, twisted, smoldering pile of gunk, and that's a rather unpleasant experience to have occurring in one's brain. It makes me wonder if anyone's ever had a literal stroke of genius....

By now you may be thinking "someone sure thinks highly of herself", and that's actually the point I want to make!
It's been bothering me lately, seeing some of the most amazing women I know being their own harshest critics.... Seeing what's still undone at the end of the day instead of what they've accomplished, comparing themselves unfavorably to others when anyone else struggling with their unique life circumstances would probably buckle from the others the benefit of the doubt but never themselves.... Allowing their internal critic Way Too Much authority!
I know men who do this as well, and I'm not trying to leave them out- it's only because this issue seems epidemic among the women I know, and more sporadic in men, and because societal expectations of women play a stronger role than most of us consciously realize that I'm tailoring my observations by gender.

Women are trained from birth, all around the world, not to let their light shine too brightly, lest we make others feel bad, not to think too highly of ourselves, because modesty is a virtue... And virtue is a woman's true measure.
That is bad to be stupid, but also "too smart". That we should be attractive to others, but not "too" attractive.
(I adore how Ani DiFranco puts it, "god help you if you are an ugly girl, of course too pretty is also your doom/ everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room").

That subjugating our own needs to those of others is the most noble thing we can do with our lives, but patting ourselves on the back essentially negates every sacrifice we've made....
For crying out loud, we are trained from birth that sacrifice, self-abnegation, and caring for others is the ultimate virtue, and when we happen to notice the price we pay for all of that, the answer is usually along the lines of "women who love too much", and a reminder that it's okay to take care of yourself, *because if you don't you won't be able to keep taking care of everyone else*!

Every single woman I know holds herself to a standard that is just exhausting to live up to, and blames herself when she doesn't pull it off. Then the recurring crushing feeling of being defeated is our fault for expecting "too" much from ourselves.... Or life, or the people around us.
The details of our stories vary, but the upshot always seems to be that no matter what obstacles you face, or have faced and overcome, you don't get to feel special, or take pride in either your accomplishments or the unique gifts you bring to the table. You don't get a cheerleader, your job is to be the cheerleader.
Deny your beauty, your brilliance, your radiance, and your needs as well, or you will be judged as conceited, self-absorbed, selfish, unworthy. Be "perfect" or be nothing. And if you happen to notice what a raw deal that is, well, that's your fault too. YOU need to change, improve, be more accepting, or less accepting. Be stronger, be softer, more organized, more dedicated.... Be more giving, unless you're too giving. Be there for others, all of them- your kids, your spouse, your family and friends, your neighbors, your community... And yeah, yourself too, but only when you're getting too depleted to be any good to the rest of us. And don't complain about any of it (unless you do it in a funny way, that subtly puts yourself down) because that would make you an ungrateful bitch. If you aren't satisfied, successful, and wildly fulfilled by your life as it is, it's your fault. You did something wrong, or didn't do something right. YOU need to change.

I call bullshit.

I think most of us are doing the best we can, all day, every day, and we don't deserve the judgments or the constant revision of what's expected of us. I think it's most tragic, most demoralizing, when we do it to ourselves!
I think for most of us, our inner voice is a critic, not a cheerleader, and that sucks. It saps our energy, energy we need to keep fighting this losing battle day after day....

In my own case, I've noticed that regardless of what I've accomplished in any given day, what I see is what's still undone, and that's what I judge myself on. I can spend hours caring for my toddler, making sure he has my undivided attention and his needs are met first, spend his naptime cleaning my chaotic home and working on the business I'm trying to launch, use some of my time and energy to be a positive supportive friend/neighbor/spouse, provide for my family, etc... But at the end of the day what I see is an unswept floor, dishes in the sink, dogs that didn't get walked, and a pile of laundry that only keeps growing.
And I internalize that as a failure on my part. Occasionally I blame Hubby, but I know that isn't fair, because he works hard too... So I go back to blaming myself. What's wrong with me, that I can be so defeated by ordinary motherhood, and everyday life?
Do I blame my ADD, or PTSD, or something in my past, or upbringing, or character, or belief system, or work ethic? What is it about ME that is causing such failure? Where am I dropping the ball? Why can't I manage everyday life in the seamless, effortless way I imagine everybody else does?

That's where I:
1) call bullshit on the expectations themselves. I'm doing the best I can with what I've got to work with, and it's enough.
2) refer back to the title of this blog: Degree of Difficulty.
Think about Olympic divers- when they're trying to pull off something a little more complicated than the average double-whatever with a twist, the judges factor in the Degree of Difficulty before calculating a score....
That's what I propose for all of us, to help silence that inner critic who only grades on what's undone, imperfect, or in some way not measuring up to that standard we hold ourselves too.

There is no level playing field in this world, but somehow when we talk about our challenges we look at them as excuses rather than reasons for doing what we do. But most of us have variations in our brains/bodies/lives that make certain things easy, and others more difficult.
I'm learning more about mine every day. My life, my gifts, my challenges, my expectations, they make a lot more sense when I stop comparing myself to this imaginary perfect version of myself who gets everything done the way it 'should' be, and just accept and value the real me who does her best with what she's got!
That brilliant high-speed brain that produces such stunning insights-- it's a bitch and a half to get it to focus on laundry and dishes. I have to sneak those things in to get them done. And forgive myself when I don't! Quickly, before the guilt and self-recrimination suck the energy out of me, and make it even harder....
Degree of Difficulty means I get to pat myself on the back for what I DID accomplish instead of judging myself for what I didn't. It reminds me to value myself for who I am right now, not who I think I should be, or could be if I was a little better at this one thing, or that one, or not so easily distracted, or managed my time better, or was just somehow better at life.

It means I don't put myself down for being who I am. I don't hide my gifts to make others feel comfortable, and I don't use my challenges as excuses-- I value all the elements of who I am for the unique person they combine to create.
I don't use my labels as excuses, or ignore them altogether-- I understand that they describe variations in me from what's considered "the norm", and I use them to better understand why some things come naturally to me and others take more work to master.
Degree of Difficulty means acknowledging that you and others go through life with something that adds additional weight or challenge to things that most people take for granted. It's not an excuse, it's a reason. Whether you succeed in your goals of not, you deserve credit for getting up every day and trying again.  Life is a littler harder when you're an anomaly, an outlier from the norm, whether they call you below or above average is irrelevant, whether you were born with it or it happened to you, whether it's a physical or psychological trait, or something that's very difficult to describe or quantify.... 

The difference in our differences isn't so relevant as this: We judge ourselves silently, by what our culture dictates is appropriate. We've been accused of making excuses, when we are actually explaining reasons. Life is harder when you're bipolar, or depressed, or grieving, or a recovering addict, or you have a different brain structure in any way from the basic norm. It means you drop the ball sometimes, and the longer you blame yourself for it, the longer it will take you to pick it back up.  It also means you just might deserve a little extra credit for the stuff the norm takes for granted. 
Having a happy marriage when you're an abuse survivor, or working through PTSD or trauma issues... Extra credit. 
Getting out of bed when you're freshly grieving... Extra credit. 
Loving again when you've been devastated by loss... Extra credit. 
Being a good example for your children when you never had one yourself... Extra credit. 
Having a sense of humor in the midst of your deepest pain... Extra credit. 
Making friends when you have Asperger's syndrome, or social anxiety, or get transplanted outside your culture... Extra credit. 
Finishing college when you're paying your own way, or struggling with life events most people don't have to face at that age, or have an executive function disorder... Extra credit. 
Hugging your friend when you're touch-averse... Extra credit. 
Survive growing up gay in a homophobic environment... Extra credit. 
Raising happy, healthy, responsible kids while working two jobs, or fighting an illness that saps your energy, or saving the world, or really truly having no idea what the hell you're doing... Extra credit.  
Not wallowing in the hand you've been dealt, even if it really is a pretty shitty hand... Sometimes even realizing you need to wallow in self-pity for a day or two, or 15 minutes, then shaking it off and getting on with your life...Extra credit. 
Learning to cope with your "new normal" after an unthinkable tragedy...every single thing you do for the rest of your life qualifies as extra credit, in my opinion. Gravity is stronger on the planet you inhabit now, and the air is a little thicker, heavier in the lungs. Very few people know, from the visceral perspective, how hard daily life in this world can be when you feel gutshot, disemboweled, eviscerated, and none of it physically visible.... People who know you can see it in your eyes, but you rarely meet their eyes, because once the wall of calm reserve cracks, it shatters, and that's so rarely appropriate. Every single thing you do for the rest of your life deserves a trophy as far as I'm concerned!
It's about realizing something most people take for granted is harder for you, for a reason you may not even fully understand, but you're not going to let that stop you. Whether society labels your difference a gift or a handicap, or doesn't acknowledge your difference at all, at some point you've likely been persecuted for it. Or had a harder time connecting with your peers. Either you've wondered what's wrong with you, or someone's told you what's wrong with you, or you've spent some time feeling alone with pain, or confusion It's about not judging yourself, or others, for stumbling under a burden. Cheering yourself on to and through even the smallest victories. Being honest with yourself about the challenges you face, whether anyone else validates them or not. And really, truly celebrating every single thing you accomplish, or embody, while you continue to strive, thrive, or simply survive. Your unique challenges in this lifetime, and how you face them and rise above them (even if you don't always succeed).

My point is the world judges us enough, and we judge each other enough, and we judge ourselves enough. Pat yourself on the back for trying, and give yourself a moment to celebrate when you succeed. Do the same for your friends, family, community. Have compassion for the struggles of others, AND your own. Our challenges don't stop us, and that's worthy of celebrating.  We are unique, in numerous ways, and it is a waste of time, energy, and individuality to force ourselves into a predefined mold. People aren't perfect. They can't be.  Test scores can be perfect, copies can be perfect, but nothing unique is- and if I am nothing else, I am unique (except for my daughter the clone, but that's another story!
Go visit Degree of Difficulty and show her some lovin'!

Degree of Difficulty

                                                                                   Hope you enjoyed!

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