Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How do *you* measure up?

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

I don’t know if I’ve ever said this before, but I never considered myself to be one of the “popular kids” when I was younger.  Yeah, sure, I played sports, and I desperately wanted to be a cheerleader my senior year of high school….I was even told I would have done a really good job.

But, no. I was just, Angie.  Most of what I remembered from high school was that I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.  I was the type of girl who would ask the guys out rather than the other way around.  And when I finally plucked up the courage to actually not only ask a guy out, I had to ask the most popular guys in school.  I got used to rejection pretty early on in life.  And since I never saw myself as one of the popular kids, I felt like I was always on the outside looking in.

I guess you could say that I never really had a sense of my own self-worth or who I was or what I meant to other people.  I knew I liked to play sports, I *loved* to sing & dance, heck I even wanted to be an actress and make it big so that people would remember me.  Still do.

At an early age (like around 6 years old), Bruce Wayne/Batman (as played by Adam West) was my imaginary boyfriend, and I introduced him to everyone as such.  I figured that he’d surely be the catalyst for helping me to be “cool.”  But as one of my schoolmates pointed out, Bruce Wayne was too busy being Batman & helping other people, and since he always did it on TV, there was no WAY anyone was going to believe he was actually my boyfriend especially if no one else but I could see him walking around with me.  And furthermore, he was way too old to be my boyfriend.

I kicked him in the shins as he sat there in his wheelchair, and I ran away crying.  Kind of killed my spirit from then on. 

As I grew older, my parents, never really allowing me to “get too big for my britches,” or even to hang out with the “more popular kids” in school, always kept me in check.  My parents felt that they had to know where I was at every second of every moment of every day.  This too, dampened my own self- confidence and shot my self-esteem to shit, as it were.  Having bi-polar added to this, although at the time, none of us knew I was bi-polar, made it even harder.  I mean it’s one thing to hear from your mother that you’re pretty.  Hell, it’s still somewhat flattering to hear her tell you as a teenager that you’re too pretty to need any kind of make-up.  It’s a completely different story when you’re not only grounded, but you’re also slapped in the face, and called a whore when you decide to experiment with wearing simple eye-liner at the age of 16 & 17.

It’s an entirely different story altogether when your friends and peers tell you, honestly, what they think of you.  And kids can be cruel.  Especially freaking teenagers, man.  I’ve always wondered where the hell teens get the cruelty gene.  I mean, there were some of the girls I played sports with who had parents who were the nicest people on the planet, salt of the Earth, God-fearing, yadda yadda…..but their kids??  My so-called “friends?”  Yeah, not so much.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s somehow hard-wired into every human being on the planet……between the ages of 11 to 23, they will be the most cruel, most rebellious, most idiotic, most experimental, most outgoing individuals on the planet, and yet, they will be saddled with the most horrible issues in the world, and made to grow up way too damned fast.

“Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves.” ~ Nathaniel Branden

 Ever hear the expression, “I’m my own worst critic?”  Or how about, “I’m harder on myself than anyone else can or ever will be?”  That would describe the way I treat myself.  I say treat, in the present tense, because despite numerous efforts to change this behavior, or this line of thinking, I’ve not been too successful at it.  And as a consequence, I’ve come to accept this as a part of myself.  And it’s not the way it should be.

See, I had a pretty messed up childhood. (As you may or may not already know.  And for those of you who don't, trust me, just by reading this blog, you will.) I don't believe I ever learned the importance of my own self-worth.  I mean, I have a pretty good idea of how much I mean to certain people, and for others, I haven't the foggiest damned clue.  But it never occurred to me, until recently, that I needed to not only recognize what I mean to myself, but I needed to place a value on that measure.  Because up until a few weeks ago (yes, quite that literally), I never really stopped to think about it.

And now to the crux of the issue and the topic of this post.  I had the opportunity to visit a client, who just happened to be someone with whom I attended high school.  While in the course of our business portion of our evening, ambulance and fire crews arrived for a distress call to one of her neighbors across the way.  At the time, we were deeply into our business transaction, so we gave it a quick look and mentioned to each other that we hoped whoever it was, would be alright.

After we concluded our business, we ended up taking a stroll down memory lane (which I have now resigned myself to accepting that there will be many more trips as I work where I live), and we stepped outside to get some air.  My client/friend told me how she remembered me from our younger days as a very outgoing, nice and fun individual and she mentioned that the reason why she didn’t interact with me as much then was because she perceived me to be “one of the popular kids,” and she wasn't.

Confused, I asked her to repeat what she had said, and she told me that I was considered to be popular in high school.  I told her she was mistaken, because there were quite a few of our classmates who were much more popular than I.  She could have knocked me over with a feather with her next comment, “It’s the more popular kids who consider themselves to be ordinary.”

I wasn’t sure whether to hug her or to argue with her.  See, throughout my childhood, I was the one who felt stifled, penned in, not allowed to do anything because my parents were as strict, critical, judgmental and opinionated as they come. 

As I sat there with my friend mulling this over in my head, I noticed that the fire and ambulance crews had left, their trucks were gone, but in their place were two white, unmarked vehicles with government license plates.  One was a flat panel van, the other a smaller, SUV with blacked out windows.  I looked up to the open door on the second floor to see a man wheeling out a gurney with a covered body strapped to it.

With that one look, my stomach and heart sank at the same time, and my anxiety level not only hit the roof, but it broke the glass ceiling.  I couldn’t watch.  I just couldn’t.  Armed with the information my friend just supplied, realizing our business transaction was for life insurance and the images of the scene at hand, I practically fell into the chair she had quickly set out for me.  My mind began to race.  So did my heart.

In what seemed like an eternity, I re-evaluated everything there was about myself.  It threw into perspective everything I had ever done in my life, everyone I had ever interacted with, hell, and it even made me question my own mortality all over again. 

For days afterward, I had issues with sleeping as the insomnia monster reared it’s ugly head forcing me to continue to entertain the multitude of thoughts running rampant in the ole brainmeats.  So I began writing this post, and yes, it’s taken me almost literally three weeks getting my thoughts straight in my head in order to make this somewhat coherent, but the moral of the lesson boys & girls is thus: you shouldn’t give a shit about what others think about you, it shouldn’t matter if you’re one of the “in crowd,” and even if you have a mental illness that makes you feel lower than low, you’ve got to remember that the only person who’s got to live with you, is YOU.  And you are nothing short of a miracle.  So treat yourself like one.

Peace, light & love.

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