I’ve spent a lot of my 32 years trying to change. I truly believe it’s important to understand your own shortcomings, and of course we’re all trying to grow into better & happier people.
However, over the last few years I’ve come to appreciate that some of my self loathing was targeted in entirely the wrong direction. Here are ten things I’ve finally forgiven myself for – so much so that I no can even admit them to you, here!
Ten things I no longer hate myself for
- Wearing sweatpants. I’m not sure where I got the notion – perhaps from glossy women’s mags in my teens, or the 1950s style guides I read like religious texts – but for a long time I was of the opinion that loungewear made be a ‘bad’ woman. In particular it made me a lazy, unattractive slob, and so I would sometimes apologise to Rory for wearing joggers & a tshirt on a Sunday morning. The sports luxe movement, combined with the increasing availability of glorious loungewear have helped, but most significant of all was recognising the internalised misogyny of the entire notion. You don’t always have to be sexy or ready for the catwalk, just because you’re a woman! Life is short – why spend it in a dress where you can’t bend your arms? Are the men doing it?
- Being messy. I was raised very much by my grandparent’s values, passed down to my mum; amongst them, the idea that messiness equates to being lazy, inconsiderate and unlikeable. I have tried SO many times to avoid this; to be someone with orderly drawers and a handbag where things are always in the right place. I read all the writings of Marie Kondo.
It took a lot of living and learning to understand that those people are just as dysfunctional, and that neither approach is the “right” way to be. I spread out when I work; I can never fold things so they look neat. The inside of my car always looks a bit like a charity shop. This is just the way I am, and I’m done wasting time trying to change it.
- Sleeping a lot. As I mentioned in my POTS post, having insurmountable fatigue but no measurable physical symptoms has made for an endless cycle of blame and self-doubt. It’s common with depression and anxiety, too – what if you’re faking it? What if you just need to pull yourself together? It took uncovering my crazy pulse-rate for me to take myself seriously enough to seek a firm diagnosis. Even now, I sway back and forth on believing myself!
- My own sensitivities. I get too hot at night and like to sleep under a super-thin duvet. I get stressed when I’m not in control of my own mealtimes and food choices. I get very melancholy if I’m stuck in a gloomy house all day. Not so long ago, I felt ashamed and apologetic about these strange physical quirks, especially when staying in other people’s homes.
Now I’ve finally accepted that it’s just how I am, and no more in my control than a kiwi allergy or aracnaphobia would be. If I could choose to be more breezy on these things, I obviously would, and there’s no shame in expressing what you need to be happy.
- Shooting in AV. For those without a DSLR, this is the mode where you set your aperture, and the camera calculates all the other values. It’s sort of semi-automatic, and not really designed to be used all the time – but I pretty much do, all the same. I felt like a total dumbass fraud for this until I confessed it one day to my ace photographer friend James. “It doesn’t matter!” he told me. “By the time you’ve set all your values, you’ll have missed it. Photographers use full auto when they need to. It’s the photos that count.” Mind. Blown.
- Lack of “willpower”. In my 20s I racked up some unmanageable credit card debts. I was miserable and lost, and deeply susceptible to the idea that buying new stuff might change my self and therefore, by proxy, my life. (Spoiler alert: it never did.)
I spent hours trying to work out why I lacked so much willpower; I even blocked all shopping websites from my browser for a while, but still I would crack. The temptation was just so strong. Now I understand that willpower was never the problem at hand. We are targeted and sold to thousands of times a day by brands & PRs who invest huge sums of money and research into making us unable to resist. Lonely and low, I was susceptible to the messages and spent a lot of time frequenting the media where this advertising most occurred. New research says that willpower doesn’t really exist, anyway – the secret is to avoid temptation, if you want to make a change.
- Unproductive days. There is a huge list of stuff I’ve forgiven about myself through virtue of finding likeminded souls online: styled interiors, craving white space, wanting to write and take photos, shouting at my kid because I didn’t sleep enough. Perhaps biggest of all is that some days, while self employed, it can be really hard to be productive, especially if you’re swamped with tasks, or your basic needs haven’t been met. Before discovering this radical notion via my fave creative podcasts, I truly believed that it was simply my lack of willpower (again!) that was holding me back. Now I have strategies and things to check in on when I find myself struggling, and have stopped berating myself for simply being human.
- Never learning to run. I tried the Couch to 5k app about 6 or 7 times, and always got stuck mid-way, drowning for air in the park. Now I know about my heart rate etc, I’ve realised I wasn’t simply lazy and weak – I really *was* struggling for oxygen, just like my brain had been telling me! Now I’m hopeful that with medication and a revised training programme, I might one day be able to go for a small jog.
- Obsessive interests. Instagram. Capsule wardrobes. Star Wars, and Mark Hamill’s sassy cinnamon roll self. I’ve always dived into interests too much or not at all – and it’s always been something that brings me immense pleasure and a lot of new learning. Once I started working in Speech & Language Therapy I started to associate intense interest with autistic spectrum conditions, and began to see it as pathological behaviour. (SLTs are amazing & full of empathy, but there was often an inadvertent “them” attitude from less experienced staff towards people with ASC. I suppose it comes from the approach of categorising and addressing impaired social skills – a belief that individuals therefore require ‘fixing’.) I started to worry about my level of interest, and the bloody-minded tenacity I tend towards when pursuing an interest-related goal. It was just another sign of my weirdness & failure to blend.
Since leaving that job and starting my own business, I’ve reframed this entirely – both because there’s nobody judging any more, and because it turns out these make for incredibly useful attributes in life. I’ll never be a dilettante, never dip in and out – with the things I love, I build up deep, categoric knowledge, and make stuff happen as a direct result. That’s a good thing, in my book- and I’ve got it to thank for my whole business enterprise!
- Resisting expectations. I don’t mean this in a supercool ‘I will defy all your expectations‘ kinda way, but more in the sense that I find other people’s expectations (do your homework, don’t co-sleep with babies) incredibly hard to just take. I’ve always been a why-girl – why do I need to do the homework if I’m already clear on the subject? Why cant I co-sleep when it’s perfectly safe?
I look at people like Rory, my husband, who just does what he’s asked, and long to be more accepting like him. It’s like I have to consider everything by myself and really believe the rationale before I can bring myself to do it. & like everything else on this list, I thought that made me deficient somehow.
Then I read this book, which talks about the four personality types. I am what it calls a ‘questioner’, 100% – and that means I prioritise things in life by what seems most sensible and justifiable. Like so much else, just realising that I’m not responsible for every element of my mind and personality came as such a relief. Constantly hating yourself and trying to change everything is exhausting, and a recipe for failure, in the end.