Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Insecurity & Criticism

From Wikipedia 1 & 2

"Insecurity is a feeling of general unease or nervousness that may be triggered by perceiving of oneself to be vulnerable in some way, or a sense of vulnerability or instability which threatens one's self-image or ego."

"Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something or someone in an intelligible (or articulate) way."

With those definitions in mind I'll give you a little glimpse into what happened last night.  I was wearing an outfit that I like and when my husband came home he basically told me he didn't like it and that I wear outfits like it too often.  Here's an idea of the outfit, tunic, long sweater, leggings, high socks, scarf.  In other words, coverage from head to toe.  Now, I have to add a note here because my husband is a wonderful man and I don't want him painted in a different light than that.  No he's not perfect, but he's mine and I'm so thankful for that.  He is kind, hard-working and generous.  Most of all he's honest about anything and everything, including what I wear.  He had good reasons for commenting on my clothes which I'll get into.  When I hear criticism of any kind I have a few different defense mechanisms.  I can't honestly say that I'm good at taking criticism, I'm actually very poor at it  Similarly I'm not good at taking compliments either.  I tend to shut-down emotionally and have a tough time conversing about it, get defensive and argue about the critique or make excuses for why the other person might feel that way.  Last night I went through all of them, first arguing with him, second shutting down and third brushing off his compliments.

After arguing he went to take a shower.  We have learned that if we're arguing it's better for me to have some time and space to think because I can get mean when I feel attacked.  My brain automatically goes into a mode that tells me if he hurt me I can hurt him back.  (Not proud of this.)  I truly started to think why his critique hurt so much while he was in the basement.  I came up with three reasons it was painful.  #1: He's my husband and I want him to think I look good.  #2: I like the outfit.  #3: I'm insecure in myself.

When he came up I apologized for getting so angry and started to explain myself.  He apologized as well and I know tried his best to understand my logic and to explain his own.  He said he didn't like the outfit because it covered everything up.  Not in modesty, but I only would've needed a little more fabric and a head covering to look like a nun.  He tried to explain to me that it's was almost like I was wearing a burlap sack, which gave no definition to my body.  Clearly he's not good at sugar-coating, but he probably doesn't because critiques that are sugar-coated go over my head.  This is where it gets difficult for me because the reason I feel good in that outfit is because it covers every imperfection I think I have.  It doesn't show my stomach, my thighs, my upper arms... the list could go on.  I feel if I hide myself I can feel safe and I do when my clothes are flowing.  In all honesty I might not feel like I look that good in that outfit, but I feel safe and that's important to me.  When we have discussions that are hard I get the worst stress headaches ever right above my eyes, those tend to trigger my emotional shut-down.  At this point I'm not good at much except for crying.

When I'm crying John will sit with me and then he usually wants to try and fix the issue.  Last night he helped me pick out clothes he would like and then had to give me a pep talk because they made my "perceived" imperfections visible.  I did my best to brush of his compliments because that's what I do.  He stayed patient with me until I accepted them and understood what he saw in me.  Our night ended up being great as we went on a date to Sam's Club :)

To tie this into the definitions above.  Criticisms are not necessarily meant to harm or hurt.  They are meant to give an educated or instruct or help (at least in this case).  John's intentions were not to hurt me, but to help me.  He wants me to be confident in myself and my body.  Even though his intentions were positive his critique played right into my insecurity, which lead to the difficult situation.  In this situation, however painful I know there are lessons I need to learn.  There are take-away messages that will certainly help me in the future if I take them to heart.
  1. Keep in mind intentions when I receive criticism.  They might only be meant to help.  If they are meant to hurt ignore them.
  2. Understand that my insecurity doesn't have to determine how I process critiques or compliments.
  3. Be grateful for people who want to help me become a better person.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Something I Wish I Was Better At

I believe there are and will always be traits/quirks about myself that I could improve.  As a human I will never be perfect.  John always tells me there is beauty in imperfection, which of course I appreciate :)  The best way I can live is to acknowledge that I will never be perfect and continue to improve myself to be the best I can be.  For this post I chose two different aspects of my life that I wish I was better at...      

1.  I wish I was better at expressing my feelings.  I have gotten better since I got married, but I am still pretty bad at it.  Growing up we weren't encouraged to be outwardly emotional, so I became (at least thought I did) excellent at bottling everything up.  I assumed I had to look like I had it all together, for my siblings, my parents, my friends, the town.  Not surprisingly, all the emotions I bottled up exploded and that's when I fell into depression. At that point though I still didn't know how to express myself and continued to hide what I was feeling.  John was the first person to encourage me to tell him what I was feeling.  When he asked me how I was doing, he wouldn't take the response "fine" because he knew that was my cop-out.  He seems to always know when I'm feeling sad or mad or overwhelmed and continues to ask me what's up until I let him in.  With that said I still struggle immensely with sharing my feelings with my family, especially my dad.  I was just talking to John the other day about how I wish I could tell my dad about how sorry I am for what I put them through when I was depressed.  I think I hesitate because I feel it would put both my dad and me in an awkward position.  I cherish the relationship we have now even if it isn't what I truly wish we had, so I would hate to jeopardize that.  I hope one day that I have the courage to be vulnerable with my dad.          

2.  I wish I was better at balancing my time.  I stink at it and I have always known it.  Recently I've been starting to see the toll being busy has on me and my marriage.  As we have begun discussing starting a family I'm really starting to realize how much time I spend on others and how much less time I'll have for John and I when there's a baby in the picture.  Now by no means do I mean that I wish I only spent time on myself.  I love spending time with others and serving others, but I think I need to start finding a healthy balance.  As the summer approaches there will be activities that will be coming to a close, so my plan is to be continually be aware of where I commit my time and remember that time spent not doing anything can be productive.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Something I Wish I Could Forget/Something I Regret

I have encountered numerous discussions about this topic and I always come to the same conclusion.  The issue is organizing my thoughts.  Every life story, including my own, is powerful. Circumstances or actions that people consider regretful are often learning experiences, which form those stories.  All 24 years of my life have affected who I am today. Of course there are times I wish I had made different decisions or that there was an alternative outcome at the end of my actions, but those changes would likely alter the person that I am today and I am not okay with that.  Hindsight is 20/20 though.  Looking back I have more information, more experience, more wisdom, so different actions/thoughts make sense.

In high school I suffered with severe depression and the spring of my senior year I attempted to take my own life (blog post for another time).  I spent two days in intensive care and two days in a mental health unit.  I encountered various people including other patients, therapists, doctors, nurses, etc. The first boy I met upon entering the mental unit was a cutter (self-injury) and both his forearms were covered in scabs.  Individuals from 14 to 84 years old were in the unit.  I begged my parents not to leave me there.  It was one of the few times I saw my dad have watery eyes.  My time there seemed so trivial.  My boyfriend at the time called me at the hospital to end our relationship.  We made rice krispie bars and colored..  I remember trying to tell my psychiatrist what he wanted to hear so I'd be able to go home.  Looking back I believe I honestly had no idea what I was doing, even though at the time I thought I had everything under control.  I was stuck in this all-consuming, drowning, draining mental illness.

With that, I make the assumption some people would want to change that difficult part of their life, at least they wouldn't attempt to take their own life.  I know my family would prefer it was not part of their memory and I wish that I hadn't put them through it.  I know it was a difficult experience for my siblings.  For me though it was the start of recovery.  I know it was a cry for help and I'm so incredibly thankful that it was unsuccessful.  It was the start of understanding the importance of expressing my feelings instead of bottling them up.  Without this experience I wouldn't be able to communicate with my husband as well as I do, which would put a strain on our marriage.  I appreciate life so much more because of this experience and it also put a soft spot in my heart for teenagers experiencing similar issues.  I have had the privilege of working with a handful of students who have similar stories as my own.  This was also the start of understanding that perfection is not an attribute a human can achieve.  I started to let go of getting perfect grades, being the perfect daughter and "fixing" others.  I stress this was only a starting point.  I'm still working on letting go.

More insignificant occurrences in my life do cause me to look back and say that I wish they had happened differently, but then I have to ask myself at what cost?  I forgot a friend's birthday last year, I kissed more boys than I wish I had in high school and forgot a few friends on my wedding invite list.  Sure not my shining moments, but they made me appreciate my friends, my family and my husband.  They make me understand the importance of saying I'm sorry.  They make me appreciate God's promises and God's plan for my life.  I know He's looking out for me.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10               

Lastly... if we forgot our mistakes and our accomplishments wouldn't we just be shells of people?  Wouldn't we continually repeat the same mistakes? 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Biggest Insecurity

The word insecure had four different definitions according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online...
  1. not confident or sure: uncertain
  2. not adequately guarded or sustained: unsafe
  3. not firmly fastened or fixed: shaky
  4. not highly stable or well-adjusted: deficient in assurance 
As I think about my biggest insecurity and consider the four definitions that the dictionary presents I have difficulty coming up with one specific thought.  Of course I'm insecure.  I tend to be too insecure at times, but if I had to pick one I'm not sure I could.  There are circumstances that make me feel uncertain or unsafe, but the insecurity behind them rarely prevents me from participating.  I would say I'm insecure in a bikini, but I own many and spend most of spring break last week wearing one.  Being in a room of people I am unfamiliar with causes me anxiety, but the world is full of people I don't know and life is full of situations in which I will be surrounded by new faces.  

Although my insecurities do not necessarily prevent me from enjoying certain situations they do push me towards facets of my life where I know I can succeed.  I would readily admit that this is one of my defense mechanisms to prevent insecurity.  Because I use it as a way to protect myself I often keep myself within my comfort zone even in uncomfortable situations.  

With that said I also want to acknowledge that I believe people are strong and courageous and at times I know I fight against my insecurities.  My husband switched hockey teams two years ago and I had to make new friends with the wives/girlfriends.  I honestly know I hoped they would all sit together and just ignore I was there, but I actually surprised myself by introducing myself.  I actually made some dear friends out of the experience.  It also makes hockey more enjoyable :)  

I believe being aware and reflecting on my insecurities helps me to keep myself in check.  If I am straying away from a certain situation or person because it/they cause me anxiety I can admit that to myself and make a decision on how to respond.  I know there are times when I feel that keeping my distance is best, but there are also instances where I have to give myself a little push to fight my insecurity and in the end, be stronger.