Self-examination and the roles we play

As I think I’ve mentioned, I’ve been making a very concerted and intentional effort to deal with my shit for the past couple of years.

I’ve always been prone to self-examination. Even before I started this intense work on myself, I understood what my failings were and what I needed to fix. The part that I wasn’t working on was learning to love myself. It’s like I was only working on half the equation, so it was just being really hard on myself without any balance. That’s just as bad as thinking you’re great but refusing to confront your weaknesses.

I’ve rarely blamed others for my issues with one exception: my parents. Although there were some messed-up things in my upbringing, including things I’ve never even told anyone except my husband, I eventually got past them. I’ve learned to have a relationship with them that is as good as it can be.

There are things I’ll always disagree with them about (such as how to raise kids) but we can still have a relationship anyway. Sometimes they do amazingly thoughtful and generous things for me and sometimes they’re distant when I need them. Accepting that this is just who they are and they probably won’t ever change allowed me to make peace with them.

In my nearly constant self-examination, I’ve realized I’ve played a lot of roles that I didn’t like that had just become routine to me. The scapegoat. The fixer, responsible for everyone’s problems. Sometimes the helpless one, which is one of the hardest to break because I am lucky enough to have a husband who does so much for me and I’m often in a lot of physical pain.

But there are other roles I play that I want to keep, the ones that I chose for myself. The loyalist. The defender. The minimalist. The thinker.

But I’m also learning to love and respect myself. I’m still working on body image issues (thank you, medication side effects.) Now when I get off-track with my eating habits, for example, I make the decision to go back to healthier habits. No beating myself up, just starting over.

I finally have the courage to turn down incredibly low-paying work that I shouldn’t settle for since I have so many years of paid, bylined writing experience. I don’t yet have the courage to pitch major magazines or write a book but I can tell I’m working toward it. I will get there.

I have the self-respect to walk away from people who are unhealthy for me, which is an absolutely huge step. Similarly, I’m simultaneously making a more intentional effort to reach out to the friends I do have who may not be in contact as often.

I realized that a lot of people, many of whom I already consider friends, need emotional support and won’t ask for it. I’ve been that person myself many times. The American ideal is that everyone’s a stoic cowboy, supposed to be strong enough to do everything without help.

Being the one to make the first move and reach out to hurting people is also a turning point. It’s not about what people can do for me but what I can do for them. It requires a lot of security in yourself to reach out to help others in need, rather than always seeking help from others.

I’m making more of an effort to show up where I’m invited, even if I’m not feeling well or I don’t know the person well. Meeting new people still makes me nervous but I’m trying to get over it. I’ve stopped automatically assuming that people won’t like me.

I make an effort to donate items to shelters and food pantries but it doesn’t seem like enough. Maybe once the kids’ busy summer eases up–or maybe once they can all drive–I’ll look into volunteering my time to help people in a more hands-on way.

I don’t ever want anyone to feel sorry for me or pity me, no matter what I’m facing. There is so much more important stuff to be done.

So much of transformation simply comes down to making a decision to change and then putting in the effort. I say that’s “simple” but it’s actually not. Facing down your own demons and learning to love yourself anyway is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do. But it’s worth it beyond measure.

I look forward to the future, as scary and uncertain as it sometimes feels. Because I know I’m going to be okay even if all the possible worst-case scenarios end up happening but realistically many of them won’t.

I’m still growing and I don’t want to stop. I have a couple of friends who are very enlightened (including one who’s 10 years younger than me and has far surpassed me in wisdom) and I’m not jealous–I want to learn from them. I want the enlightenment and self-love and joy for living that they have. I want to just listen and learn and not be rushing in with my own things to say.

Instead of being stuck in unhealthy patterns that I recognize in myself, I want to level up. I want to understand the secrets. I want to be of service to the world and not wrapped up in my own bullshit.

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