How I see me

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 Permalink

I dream of ‘a-ha’ moments but rarely have them. I’ve always hoped the switch in my head that flipped sometime back in 1983 (when I became anorexic, obsessed with food and my eating behaviour changed) would flick back. The proverbial lightbulb moment. Or similar.

Suddenly I would be ‘cured’. I’d go back to being someone who just overate occasionally, exercised for fun or sport, and struggled just a little with their weight in a philosophical but #whatevs kind of way.

Alas. That hasn’t happened. Indeed it may never happen.

However I did have an interesting light-bulb moment when responding to a comment on last week’s navel-gazing ‘Through the Windscreen‘ post.

US blogger Laurel-Rain Snow commented that her outsides may not reflect it but she’s now happier and more at peace (on the inside). I started responding and as usual it was a case of….

True! Source: ontheoldpath.com

Source: ontheoldpath.com

As the words appeared I experienced a sense of enlightenment. Without the angels or snakes or similar. I wasn’t blessed with a set of commandments. Or even a set of steak knives. Instead, there was a strange realisation.

Do I hate dislike myself because I think I should?

I assume others see me in a certain way which I’m conscious may not always be factually accurate.

I’m very overweight so I assume people see me as slovenly, lazy and generally unpalatable. I look at other bigger girls and wonder how they can look socially acceptable when I can’t. But again… perhaps my thinking is somewhat skewed.

I was moderately successful career-wise before my seachange. I’d had some very interesting and edgy jobs, but since moving I’ve struggled to find something that fits. I alternate between trying to keep this facade that ‘all is well in my world and I’m starting this fabulously successful writing business’ and ‘I can’t make a go of this self-employed thing, I’m poor and seemingly unemployable’.

I had an interview a couple of weeks ago in which someone commented (very positively) on my CV and skill-set. I called my mother excitedly afterwards…. “Oh my god, they were impressed with me!” I told her. She may have eye-rolled at the other end of the phone but reassured me that they very well should be. However… self doubt had started to creep in. In my old world I had no problem finding interesting and challenging jobs and I got almost everything I applied for.

And now… Starting my business just isn’t happening. I don’t seem to have whatever it takes to sell myself and I’m just too afraid of failure to really try.

I am who I am

So… I’ve been assuming everyone is pretty much looking at me as some big fat failure. And it’s been hard, because I don’t always feel like that. I continue to cloak everything I write and say in a comment about how much happier I am since making my seachange. (Which brings me back to Laurel’s point.)

I’ve assumed others can only see the excess weight and sense that I’m wallowing at some professional crossroads. So this is how I’ve been seeing myself.

Life didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped… which was one of the drivers for my seachange. There’s no husband or partner with whom to share my ups and downs. No kids to annoy and enchant me. Just me and the life I’ve built around me.

And now (more than pre-seachange) I realise, that life is not all bad.

brene brown

From oprah.com

So I wonder, if much of the disdain I often feel for myself is actually a reflection of how I think others see me and (therefore) how I SHOULD feel, rather than how I do actually feel. Perhaps I’m not really ashamed of who or what I’ve become…. I just feel like I should be. #clearasmud?

Owning my own feelings and not seeing myself as I believe others do is going to take some time. Please feel free to remind me when you see me veer off track.

Is the way you feel about yourself often a reflection of how you think others see you?

Tuesday’s almost over, but I’m belatedly linking up with IBOT and Essentially Jess.

44 Comments
  • Kathryn
    November 10, 2015

    Deb I have never ‘seen’ you but the woman I meet on the blog is warm, witty and intelligent. When I have been down on myself in the past one of the thoughts I’ve used is “What you think of me is none of my business”. Because in actual fact we have on control over what others think, and does it really matter. What we think of ourselves and feel does though I think. Do keep faith with yourself. You are so worth it.

    • Debbish
      November 10, 2015

      Thanks Kathryn.

      It was a weird thing. It wasn’t until I read Laurel’s comment that I thought…. ‘Wait, I keep saying the same thing. That I’m happier than ever etc’ and I wondered if my self-flagellation was just ingrained or if I just felt that I SHOULD be judging myself in a certain way.

  • Lydia C Lee
    November 10, 2015

    I love the quote about is Owning your story. I think that’s a big part of it. You and I can work on this together – another Kanye-ism I like is ‘your attitude predicts your latitude’ so let’s get out our binoculars and say look out for me! (I’m throwing in a bit of T.I there too…)

    • Debbish
      November 10, 2015

      I love much of what Brene Brown says Lydia. I follow her on FB and love her updates (and of course her TED talks and similar!).

  • OurParallelConnection
    November 10, 2015

    Deb you see yourself in a different way to how I see you – and I know we only know each other online but your honesty, your kind heart and your warm nature comes across in your writing. You and I share the weight issues of the past but now it’s time to stop looking at who you think you are and start to look at who you REALLY are. You are a beautiful Woman. Full stop. #IBOT team

    • Debbish
      November 10, 2015

      Oh thank you Natalie, that’s so very kind.

      The post initially included a memory (from about 20yrs ago) where I made an off-hand comment to my SIL about the fact that I was an irresponsible person…. assuming others (particularly my more conscientious-about-everything bro & SIL) saw me as flighty and frivolous and a bit of a lightweight.

      My SIL responded by telling me I was one of the most responsible people she knew. (Not sure she’d still say that!?!) 😉

      I was hugely shocked, thinking that ‘impulsive air-head’ was kinda the role I played back then. I’m not sure I saw myself as irresponsible…. I just assumed others did.

  • Jo
    November 10, 2015

    What you say makes sense- very often it is just a projection or a reflection (I forget which) on what we think others see. Tbh, I felt at my most authentic & content when I’m sure the rest of the rest looked on me as a failed writer. I still find myself apologising for self publishing- what is that about?

    • Debbish
      November 10, 2015

      Anyone who writes knows that actually getting a manuscript completed and then editing it is a HUGE achievement in itself. And as you know – there are now a lot of traditionally published writers (ie. those whose books have been published via the big publishing houses) who are also self-publishing so they have the freedom of sharing their authentic selves (and what they’ve created) with the world.

  • @Kanga_Rue
    November 10, 2015

    I don’t get to see you anywhere near as often as I’d like. And why would I like to see you more? Because you’re an interesting, wise, intelligent (not always the same thing), lovely friend. #justsayin

  • Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)
    November 10, 2015

    I think you’ve cracked it. I have friends in all shapes and sizes and I can honestly say that their size doesn’t even register one iota. It’s all about the way they interact with me. Most humans are completely self-centred, Deb. They’re far more interested in themselves than how many kilos their friends are carrying. That’s me anyway and I’m pretty average 🙂

    • Debbish
      November 11, 2015

      Yes, that’s true I guess. I was privy to a private conversation recently and smiled to hear the person talking about some of the same things I hear from others (their fear of networking, social settings and meeting new people) and myself (my hatred of having to speak to people on the phone). It reminded me how wrapped up we can be in our own lives that we don’t recognise others are struggling with similar things.

  • JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)
    November 10, 2015

    …”So I wonder, if much of the disdain I often feel for myself is actually a reflection of how I think others see me and (therefore) how I SHOULD feel, rather than how I do actually feel. Perhaps I’m not really ashamed of who or what I’ve become…. I just feel like I should be. #clearasmud?”…

    This paragraph sums it up. Yes, you are thinking other people see you that way – and I’m sure it’s not the case. I don’t know how, but you need to let it go. Maybe look at the positives. All your lovely commenters here and on social media. They are all genuine and although we can’t ‘see’ you so to speak, we still see the person you are.

    I know you’ll find your way. Just keep going. Maybe freelancing isn’t right for you. But you wouldn’t have known that until you tried. So it’s not failure. It’s exploring directions. Keep exploring, you’ll find it. x

    • Debbish
      November 11, 2015

      True Jodi. I participated in some life coaching over a year ago and even then (as we worked through some of my concerns with ‘selling myself’) I had some trouble with the notion of being self-employed. At the time I’d also decided that paid / sponsored stuff on my blog wasn’t for me but said I was happy for people to pay me to write elsewhere. And that’s still the case, but I think I work better as a sub-contractor, rather than someone who has to pitch stuff myself. I’m happy to promote organisations I work for (ie. when with the Commonwealth Government o/s I often had to speak at things as a Govt rep and had no problem with that) but when it comes to self-promotion I struggle.

  • laurelrainsnow
    November 11, 2015

    Deb, thanks for this inspirational post, which like the one I commented on the other day, spurred me onto my “thinking pathways.” Reflecting about how we see ourselves, etc. And thanks for the mention, and if I helped you see yourself in a new light, I am grateful. Your blog posts draw me in…perhaps you remind me of my own younger self, when I beat myself up rather often. And I’m hoping that you can take in the positive strokes and accept them.

    Even when my outsides looked “better” than they do now, I didn’t see myself that way. I was constantly comparing myself unfavorably with others.

    It’s only now that I am more focused, as you are, on my insides, that life has taken a more positive turn. Let’s “own ourselves” and love ourselves through that process!

    Great thoughts for a Tuesday morning…although I guess it’s no longer Tuesday where you are! Enjoy!

    • Debbish
      November 11, 2015

      It’s now Wednesday Laurel and thanks again. Your comment about being happier on the inside really hit home because (as I said) even though I might whinge about my current life (the weight I’ve gained, the financial struggle, the intimacy I miss with my besties) I am still happier than I ever was ‘back then’ when my life was all about work and it seemed it would remain that way until retirement!

  • Jess
    November 11, 2015

    This is an interesting idea! I know I do this too. And sometimes I am sure the things I assume people are judging me about are probably the wrong things to be worried about.

    • Debbish
      November 11, 2015

      There’s a funny meme on FB today Jess about pictures of ourselves. I’ll try to find it and share it on my Debbish FB page. It’s very literally about how we see ourselves vs how others ‘see’ us.

  • Kooky Chic
    November 11, 2015

    It’s hard moving to the seaside. I was an interior designer in the city, not one here, people don’t need their holiday houses decorated. So I totally understand it’s really tough sometimes. However, you’ve moved for a reason so don’t give up on the reason And I’m sure no one thinks of you like you think they do. With that fabulous new hair get down to the beach, take a few breaths and get that head cleared.

    • Debbish
      November 11, 2015

      Thanks so much for the encouragement. And you’re right…. the seachange is / was a big one and I knew it would mean a big change professionally but suspect I underestimated the impact that would have. The area I’m in (Fraser Coast / Wide Bay) has a really high unemployment rate. There are very few government opportunities in the area (only a couple in 3 yrs ‘near’ the level I was previously employed at) and the private sector really isn’t exactly booming. I approached a stack of businesses about online writing (for their websites / newsletters) to set up my own business, but basically didn’t hear back from anyone. I followed up (just by email) but suspect I needed to front up to them and pitch myself, but that’s just not within my comfort zone I’m afraid.

  • Char
    November 11, 2015

    That’s really interesting and it sparked something in my head. My son’s struggles last year were a lot about how he was perceived by others. He was screwing himself up in knots because he thought he needed to be earning more and needed to drive a fancier car. It wasn’t about who he was – just how he looked to the outside world.

    • Debbish
      November 11, 2015

      Ah yes, I think it’s easy to get both wrong – how we think others see us; and what we think others expect of us!

  • Heather Duff (@hross42)
    November 11, 2015

    Can I say, even though we have never met in real life, that I picture you as a tall, blonde who loves her family, has a wonderful way with words and would be a credit to any job that she laid her hand too.

    I used to worry, I wondered how people perceived me, it got worse, panic attacks and anxiety reared their ugly heads, I went on anti-d’s which helped greatly and now, now I do want I want, I know what I can do and what I am capable of, if people think otherwise, well tough!

    Also if people are judging you, hell mend them and they need to get something more interesting in their lives!!

    • Debbish
      November 12, 2015

      Thanks for sharing your experience Heather. And yes, I realise a lot of us worry too much about what others think. I’m most definitely a ‘people pleaser’ so that’s something I need to work on as well!

  • yinyangmother
    November 12, 2015

    Deb I hope you are feeling better after the comments above. It is never going to work making yourself feel bad because you think others expect you to feel bad. Our minds are crazy aren’t they? I’m with you on being scared of selling myself. I’m keeping my government job for practical reasons with family and bills to pay (and I don’t mind it) but I’m also putting off doing other things because of fear.

    • Debbish
      November 12, 2015

      You’ve reminded me I’ve got a half-written post somewhere Kathy about the roles I had in government before I finished up and you’ve reminded me how I’d become accustomed to playing ‘support’ or background roles to very senior officers rather than wanting to be the one ‘out front’. It is interesting how we see ourselves, isn’t it?

      PS. I love that people have left nice comments but sometimes prefer to close comments on posts like this so readers don’t feel obliged to do so. I don’t tend to have trolls visit my blog but they’d probably tell me to suck it up and stop acting like a self-absorbed whiney twat. :-/

      • yinyangmother
        November 12, 2015

        Don’t stop reaching out if you need to for support out of fear of nasty people.And we’re all guilty of a whingy whine sometimes – especially trolls!

  • deb dane
    November 12, 2015

    This made me think thanks. And you are unraveling my lovely. You often comment on my posts and have similar issues to unravel and I thi the pieces are

    • deb dane
      November 12, 2015

      Sigh bad typing fingers lol

      Was saying that I think you are having the pieces to your puzzle start appearing. Keep going. A ha and lightbulbs come at the least expected times and often in isolation until joined with another piece and things really click xxx

      • Debbish
        November 13, 2015

        Sometimes Deb it feels like I’m going over the same stuff again and again and it’s not sinking in and I’m not making the changes I need to… but I guess gradually there are realisations and – hopefully – small shifts!

  • Melissa {Suger}
    November 13, 2015

    Such an interesting post and thought process. Hmmm. Maybe. If you are trying to be what other people think/want/see you to be (good or bad) often how we actually feel gets left behind and discarded. Maybe you’re happy fat? We say that around here a lot when that recently formed couple packs on a bit of weight because all of a sudden it’s long weekends in with food and Netflix and cuddles and lay ins. But for you, you’re love in is with you. In the place and life you created for yourself. Or maybe you’re just fat because your body is showing its dominance after decades of mistreatment. I think that about my body sometime. Like it’s a rebellion that will end when it is shown the love it deserves like a Disney starlet in a made for tv movie. Who knows. All I know is that I’m doing me, I think very little about what other people think of me these days, and it seems to be working out. I also think investigating these things makes all the difference to shining a light on what is REALLY going on for you. So great job.

    • Debbish
      November 13, 2015

      Thanks Melissa and I so love your attitude – not just around body confidence but ‘owning’ your own feelings and thoughts and taking responsibility for your own life and making it what you want! x

  • Trish MLDB
    November 13, 2015

    Very enlightening for me too – I struggle with self esteem from body image (genetic birth marks) and then the mastectomy.
    I loved what you wrote – I see me as I think others see me – flawed.
    It’s hard to get our head around that not all people see us negativey as we percieve ourselves to be.

    • Debbish
      November 13, 2015

      It’s a hard lesson to learn though, isn’t it Trish? *sigh*

  • Vanessa
    November 13, 2015

    This is actually how I see myself in photos. I just don’t feel like they reflect me. It’s not a vanity thing when I say I don’t like being in photos… I don’t care much what I look like or if I have pimples or dark circles or whatever. It’s that the person I see in a photo doesn’t match the person I see in a mirror. And I have no idea why.

    • Debbish
      November 14, 2015

      That’s interesting Ness. I’m a bit the same and the person in the photos is always bigger and fatter than I think I see myself!

  • MarthaE
    November 16, 2015

    Hi Deb – I often enjoy your thoughtful posts and certainly never picture you as something like a fat failure. My daughter was a gorgeous teen gymnast. At 28, with thyroid problems and three children she struggles with her weight. I remind her she is still beautiful and being skinny isn’t as important as the love she shares with her family and others.
    My mom called me an ugly duckling when I was 16. It took me till I was 27 to realize she was trying to say I could become a swan someday. Now that I am over 60 I stress less about appearances because it is what is inside and shared through our hearts that counts.
    We all have flaws and I learned (during transactional analysis class at age 27) to accept myself and others by focusing on the strengths and positives.
    You are a good sharer of feelings and thoughts through your blog. I enjoy that about you. Focus on happy and enjoy your family and friends. 🙂

    • Debbish
      November 16, 2015

      Thanks for your lovely words Martha and I’m glad you’ve been able to focus on the positives and strengths – what a great approach. And it sounds as if you’ve been really encouraging with your daughter, which is important. x

  • EssentiallyJess
    November 16, 2015

    So much to think about here Deb, but I totally see where you’re coming from.
    For what it’s worth, I don’t view you as slovenly, or unsuccessful. In fact, the opposite. I think it’s great that you changed your life the way you did. It takes guts to do that.

  • Clare
    November 17, 2015

    Deb, thank you for sharing this. Judging ourselves by ‘shoulds’ that aren’t even our ‘shoulds’… I can relate. At 40, I should have…..well, the list is long. Sometimes it’s almost paralysing. x

    • Debbish
      November 17, 2015

      I completely agree Clare… (and I’m 47!)

  • Grace
    November 18, 2015

    “So I wonder, if much of the disdain I often feel for myself is actually a reflection of how I think others see me and (therefore) how I SHOULD feel, rather than how I do actually feel.” – Right there. Such insight and raw honesty. And guess what? I’m sure (like me) so many people can relate.

    I remember seeing my counsellor and telling her how I just “knew” people only saw me as a sleep deprived, mother of twins. And she just said, “Do you know that for sure? Or is just that what you think people perceive you as?”

    It’s a lesson I’m still very much learning. For me, sometimes it helps to have a conversation with myself…”Really, Grace? Do you really think that? Are you really sure they think that way?”

    • Debbish
      November 19, 2015

      I remember once (because I’m prone to – in other ways – be very logical) someone telling me I had to ask myself if there was any scientific proof or evidence of whatever it was I was assuming to be true.

I'd love to hear your thoughts