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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jenarcissist Bares All: A History of Insecurity

Sounds like a TV documentary, right? Or maybe a Pay-Per-View special? :) This is maybe the ultimate test of my bravery and willingness to be vulnerable on here. As our blog project is still relatively new for a lot of you, so far, we've kept things largely general. I guess we wanted to kind of test the waters and see what kind of response we'd get before exposing all our greatest hurts and insecurities! For all that we preach self-confidence, there is, of course, something very difficult about baring your soul on the internet where anyone can happen upon it. 

Also, though the main purpose behind this project called the closet narcissist is to promote self-love and make you more aware of how utterly incredible you are, sometimes we also just like to be girly and have fun. Kind of like when a heavy movie has a bit of comic relief now and then to keep you from getting bogged down. Our heavier posts, though, have still not gone too deep into who we are personally, just touched on it some. We're still hoping for more survey responses (HINT, HINT!!), but everyone so far has responded that they'd like to see more personal posts about us. I'm honored that you deem us worthy of getting to know better! 


I recently read two blog posts about women who are living in a state of self-loathing. One of them in particular actually made me cry. I couldn't believe how beautiful she is and the fact that she thinks she is ugly. So in the off-chance that what we have to share about our own experiences will actually help someone rethink the way she views herself, well...here goes. This is not going to be short; that would be impossible. 


Just to be perfectly honest, I really am not relishing doing this; it's forcing me to remember a lot of things I'd rather just forget. Many have had it worse than I did by far, but I'd rather just dust some of these memories under the rug...and yet, they are part of who I am today, part of the puzzle that is me. I tend to be wordy, and I will try to get in all the important details without keeping you here all damn day. ;)


Age 7 or 8?


I was always told I was pretty, but I didn't always believe it. I can remember feeling insecure about my looks even before I started kindergarten, as I would get frustrated with my hair not doing what I wanted and threw my hairbrushes in fits of anger, breaking them against the wall. My mom finally threatened to stop buying me new ones if I didn't stop. I remember feeling self-conscious in kindergarten later on when I got a short haircut and didn't like it, and it was time for school pictures, and I thought the world was coming to an end. When I was 8, I thought I was too fat and begged my mom to take me to the doctor to see what could be done about it. She thought I was crazy and took me to the doctor in hopes that hearing the doctor tell me I was okay would make me feel better. Looking back, I guess I'm lucky I never succumbed to an eating disorder, having been so concerned about my appearance so young, but it never crossed my mind at the time. I think it mostly stemmed from playing the comparison game ALL girls seem to do...walking into a room, you scan for other females and subconsciously stack up your looks to theirs and internalize it. I had friends who were skinnier than me and must have assumed I was fat since I wasn't as small as them. 


I have no idea where I got any of this from. Neither of my parents EVER exerted pressure on me to be perfect, inside or outside. It was all self-imposed and apparently just part of my inherent nature. So it's something I've spent most of my 30 years fighting.  Up until fairly recently, I lived in a state of self-induced guilt and tortured myself with perfectionism, not just over my looks but more over things I did, needing to measure up to my standards. But I won't say all of this completely consumed me all the time. I actually had a really happy childhood and thrived on it! I had a lot of friends and supportive parents, and I was always CREATING something. One cool part was I loved to express myself through my outfits when I was little...I would cut up my dresses or wear tutus and was obsessed with play makeup and play heels. 




Then middle school...THE single most awkward, horrible three years of anyone's life! YOU know what I'm talkin' 'bout. At some point, I think I became afraid to be pretty or too thin in fear of attracting unwanted male attention; I was terrified of boys. There had been this kid on the bus who kept making crude, dirty comments about me (particularly my chest), and after a couple of days of this, I reported his ass to the bus driver, and he got in big trouble for sexual harassment. I've never regretted telling. Then KW and I had a science class with these two kids, Cole and Eric, and if they had any romantic interest at all, they never let on...they were just our buddies. I was forced into their company because our desks were arranged together, and I think the first couple days, I just sat there in awkward silence until they finally wore me down by cracking jokes and just being nice. It was seriously a whole new view that guys could just be your friend. I haven't spoken to them since middle school, but they really helped me a lot. Also in middle school, I developed a couple of comparison complexes. One was over Faith Hill, who was a budding star. I thought she was the most beautiful celebrity on the planet (and still do), and for some reason, I was not good enough because I didn't look like her. Since then, I've imitated her hairstyles more times than I can count, but now I just appreciate her beauty and my own as unrelated things. The other was over a girl I went to school with who never knew my name and certainly never knew I existed, as she was in the popular crowd, and they didn't speak to us lowly, pretty-but-shy-and-awkward girls. She was so model-like - tall and thin and graceful - and made me feel short and stocky in comparison. On good days, though, I thought I had a pretty face with potential if I could just figure out how to tap into it.


My mom used to try and encourage me all the time. She had an "I am me and I am okay" poster hanging in her home office and was constantly reminding me to read it. She would also quote Psalm 139 from the Bible a lot. 


KameraWhore and me at summer camp, age 16? I distinctly remember 
how insecure I felt all week having to be in a swimsuit in front of 
so many people. I thought my boobs were too small, my stomach 
and hips too big. It was pretty excruciating.

Then came high school, which was, for me, only a step above middle school's level of hell. I've always had a lot of friends, and as long as I was with them, I was fine. But I never really liked school. Outside of school, I was really very happy. I got really good grades and was social, but I always felt self-conscious and on display at school. The worst was if I had a class or lunch period without my friends! I tended to seek out and make a new friend in those situations, but it was still scary wondering, "Will I have to sit alone today?" The only place I felt truly comfortable even if I didn't have close friends was any one of my art classes. I could just get lost in my paintings and drawings, and the time would pass so quickly. (To this day, I am still acquainted with my high school art teacher.) But I have to say, going to school while hating it was good for me. It taught me so many things besides what I learned in class. If my mom had home-schooled me (and, no, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it), I might have crawled further into my shell. Sometimes I'd work out to a Cindy Crawford exercise video in my room and lament every time she expressed that she wore a size 6 jeans because I was a size 8 at the time. Good Lord.


I get a bit emotional looking at this pic. I was 16. And I THOUGHT I WAS FAT 
and hated my body. Really?!? High school was so awkward. I felt pretty good 
in this pic at the time, though, because I was borrowing one of 
KameraWhore's T-shirts. I always felt more stylish and confident when 
I wore her clothes instead of mine. Oh, and check out my beautiful Siamese 
cat's ears...he and I grew up together.


We couldn't afford a lot of really nice clothes for me growing up, and looking back now, I'm kind of glad because it makes me appreciate things so much now. But during such an awkward time like high school, I always wished I had better clothes; I totally lost the fearless self-expression of my childhood. I distinctly remember one day when KW let me borrow a sweater that was light blue with dark blue stripes, and I paired it with a nice-fitting pair of jeans, and I felt so pretty simply because it wasn't mine! I walked into English and felt every eye in that room on me, and one of my friends told me I looked so pretty. From then on, I felt gorgeous anytime I borrowed clothes from someone else! If I had the confidence I have now, I would have created my own outfits around what I had and rocked them. I am amazed at some high school girls nowadays who go thrifting and make these amazing outfits and look so stylish - I can do it now, but back then, not only was I too insecure, but it just meant you were poor. Now it's the trendy thing to do, and I love it. But it took me a while to realize I actually have style. I'm artistic; how could I not? But I always kind of felt like that high school girl who didn't know how to shop. I thought about hiring a style consultant at one point until I realized I could have it bagged if I just let go of my fears about it. One time last year when we went over to my in-laws' for dinner, they complimented my outfit, and I said that I was trying to dress less boring...they looked at me like I had two heads and said, "Jen, I don't think we've EVER seen you dress boring." It was all in my own perception. I feel now like my style expresses my personality pretty well. I may not have an everyday look that rivals some of the most prominent bloggers out there, but it suits me for what I need, and I know how to glam myself up when I want to!


Okay, next comes college, and I won't linger here too long except to talk about the 3 horribly mean girls in my psychology class who taunted me endlessly. They were all blonde and looked almost exactly alike. You know the movie "Mean Girls"? Yeah. That was them. You'd think by college age, they would have been past such juvenile behavior. I was interested in psych but did not get very much out of that class because of those girls. The worst part was that one of them didn't actually join in this taunting...but she did not speak up for me either. She would look at me apologetically and sit back and watch her friends berate me. I think that made me madder than the other two. I also don't like that I didn't stand up for mySELF.


Fast forward again to when I got married the first time, something I don't think I've ever talked about on here. I got married just shy of 19. Not smart, but I thought he was great, my parents thought he was great, why wait (though my parents still wished I would wait). Things were great for about the first two years. Then he became extremely emotionally abusive. I know now that it all stemmed from his own insecurities. He used to constantly tell me I was too fat, he was always asking me questions about where I'd been and who I'd seen, he was suspicious if I painted my nails or wore nice makeup, he told me I was too unstable to have children with, he would yell at me for forgetting to dust something if he came home after I'd been cleaning, he made me get down on my hands and knees one time and mop the floor when the toilet overflowed and threw towels in my face...and that last one was right before I was about to surprise him with a visit from his family for Christmas one year. They showed up at the door minutes later. I cleaned up the mess and dried my tears, and I don't think they ever knew. 


There was also one time when he almost beat our dog with a painting pole. I stopped him before he could. He never hit me, but he did plenty of damage emotionally, and sometimes those are the hardest scars to heal because the effects last for years. I hated my body and believed I really was fat enough as it was without him adding to it, and the worst was the one about being too unstable to have children. That one really stayed with me BAD. I love how I look now and think I will make a wonderful mom. But I had to do some serious work to get to that point. It took a while before I felt ready to marry my current (and AWESOME) husband...not because I wasn't sure about him but because I knew I needed to push through all that baggage first. Fortunately, he was really patient with me and understood. He could tell you about all the times I cried because I was afraid he'd get tired of me like my ex-husband did. I kept thinking one day he would wake up and realize I wasn't as great as he thought I was, and then he'd want me to leave too. But the important thing about my first marriage is: I left. When I had exhausted every last resource and abandoned any hope that the guy would change, I left. He had strung me along for long enough. 


During that marriage, I had developed a pretty severe anxiety disorder. Part of it stemmed from my inborn need for perfectionism...I had previously sung in public a lot and then couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't even go to the grocery store on my own at one point. And part of it was from feeling trapped in that hellhole of a marriage. Sometimes I would derealize, a phenomenon where you feel like nothing is real, like you're living in a bad dream, and it scared the living shit out of me. I got on medication that helped me tremendously. I stayed on it for a couple years, but once I'd been out on my own for a while and realized I WAS capable of living alone and supporting myself, I didn't need it anymore. When I didn't have a controlling husband telling me I was fat anymore, I stopped worrying about it at all, and I put on an extra 20 pounds or so that wasn't healthy for me. I don't even regret it; I think it was my private rebellion. I gain and lose weight proportionally, and I don't think I looked bad, but I did not FEEL good at that weight.


My mom.


I think I really started to rebuild myself in my late 20s after my mom's death when I was 24. She died pretty suddenly of lung cancer. After being a complete and total wreck and going through the worst pain I could ever imagine, I eventually started trying to be happy again. I owed it to her; I owed it to myself. My mom was stunningly beautiful. Though she tried not to let me see it, especially when I was really young, she didn't know how beautiful she was inside and out...she turned out to have a lot of self-esteem issues. Maybe that's where I got it from - not nurture but nature. But I vowed that I wasn't going to live the rest of my life without knowing how wonderful I was, because it was such a damn shame that she did. I looked back at pics of myself in high school and thought, "Wow, I was pretty and had no idea back then...I spent YEARS hating the way I looked for NOTHING." I then looked at myself from an old lady version of me's eyes, looking back on me in the present, and made a decision to start appreciating myself for how I am NOW, on the inside and the outside, while I can. I also vowed that I was going to live a healthy lifestyle that included exercising and eating better. It would be a whole other essay to talk about how I coped with my grief and came out of it, which I would gladly share sometime if someone wanted me to, but I started working out regularly and stopped eating out so much, and eventually I lost a little over 30 pounds and got to a weight that feels comfortable for me. When I stopped eating meat, it helped me lose the last 10. The key here is: I didn't lose weight to get skinny. I just wanted to be healthy. I want to live as long of a life as possible and feel good doing it.


Here's a sneak peek from our wedding photos. :)

My husband has helped me so much and is so supportive and encouraging of everything I do. He did not fix me, because I had to do it for myself. But he makes sure to tell me that he loves my body and has never once criticized anything about my appearance (or who I am as a person, for that matter). If you don't have a partner like that, YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG PARTNER.


Fast forward again to last year when KW and I started this blog and then when I turned 30...my sense of self and confidence has grown by even more leaps and bounds! I've already talked about this here and here, so I won't revisit it now. But just a little bit of age can make a world of difference in how you see the world, your past experiences, and yourself.  


I still have plenty of days when I look in the mirror and think, "Oh, God, what is UP with me today?!" Every woman does. Even the most beautiful women you can think of have those days, even Faith Hill, Kate Beckinsale, and all the Victoria's Secret models. The thing is, people can appear to have everything put together very nicely in their online persona, but you never know what's really going on behind the scenes. They may be struggling right now as we speak, or like me, they may have gone through a hell of a lot to get to the happy place they're finally in. So be careful not to assume, judge, or compare yourself to people online. 


After my wedding in October, I got lazy and haven't been exercising regularly (after several years of doing so) and haven't felt as good physically because of that. After my last post about being super confident over the weekend, I had a couple days of plummeting back down temporarily! Monday came after my staying up literally all night redoing the blog layout, so I was beyond exhausted. I'm a bit OCD about making it all perfect (I'm sure you could've figured out that part!). Plus, I hadn't eaten great stuff all weekend. I'm a pescatarian, which means I am a vegetarian except for eating fish, so I usually eat pretty healthy in general, but it's definitely possible to be a veg and eat lots of junk! Add up tired and bloated, and you had a me who looked about as good as she felt. Now that it's Wednesday, I'm more into normal routines and feeling much more like myself. You've heard it a million times, I'm sure, but regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and healthier eating (though I am not talking about dieting or restricting yourself) are crucial keys to how you feel emotionally.


So these are some things I think about myself now in general. I will not apologize for them; they do not make me full of myself. I am redefining for myself what it means to like me and be okay with that.


1) I am a beautiful girl inside and out. I've decided to just believe it when people say it, though it's not their opinion that gives me the validation.
2) I am not fat. Oh, the "other" F-word. And such a loaded word it is. We each have our own definition of what the word means for our individual body, and I try to see myself more realistically now. It's not about how I look; it's about being healthy.
3) It is okay to believe that people don't just love me or pity me but actually *like* me. Everyone has dark parts. It's what you do with them that counts. I've had the same two best friends for almost my entire life; they've seen the dark parts of me and are still here. My husband may have seen more of my bad side in our years together than anyone else, and he's still here too. I no longer believe he will leave just because someone in my past did.
4) I do not believe in living in constant guilt or being perfect. Everyone has done things they regret; it's just part of being human. I choose to live by my conscience but free from past guilt. If I'm not perfect at something, I do it anyway and enjoy the hell out of myself. Perfect is highly boring and overrated.
5) I am funny. When I let my guard down and allow myself to be my REAL goofy, silly me (the one that my pets see but that I sometimes reel in for humans), people respond to it. Most of the time, I no longer live in a state of perpetual self-consciousness to the point where I let my fear of being judged override the fun side of my personality. Nowadays, I assume people DO like me until proven wrong, rather than assuming they don't like me and are scrutinizing everything I say and do.
6) I like my ass. It's round and it's nice. :)
7) I've become one of the most positive people I know. Even on off days or days when I'm hurting so much that I can hardly bear it, there is still some sort of resolve I have to stay positive. I always climb back up. And I'm always full of irritatingly positive advice. :)


I have a suspicion that this is not the only life we get to live. But whether you believe we get one shot on this earth or many, the time to embrace yourself is now. 


You spend more time with YOU than with any other person. Step back and start recognizing how great she is.

20 comments:

Shybiker said...

Oh, wow, Jen. What an amazing post. I applaud your courage in talking about such personal stuff. Many of us have demons but few are willing to confront them so directly and openly.

I believe what you're doing is healthy. Addressing one's insecurities is the first step toward overcoming them.

And doing it here, on your blog, has the additional benefit of helping us with the parallels in our lives. We all struggle with something; seeing you overcome your difficulties gives the rest of us hope and inspiration. Great post.

Wendy said...

What an amazing post. Thank you for your honesty and bravery.

I too have a rather round ass ... and hips, oh lordy, do I have hips ... but my man loves them and my ass. Both my daughters have hips like me and thankfully, because I try so hard to be positive about it and accept the hardship of trying to find skirts and trousers that fit correctly, they are far more accepting of their hips than I was.

Kudos from me on getting out of a bad marriage, realising how stunning you are and for taking care of your body.

Blessings

Sheila said...

Great post - I am so glad you're feeling better about yourself. I want to just give you a big hug. :)

You make me want to crank up my theme song (please look for it on YouTube for inspiration), "I Love Myself Today" by Biff Naked. She's awesome - I find the song so inspiring.

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

Thank you so, so much for such support! I was really nervous posting this but made myself do it, and I'm glad I did. I felt like I'd been to therapy! It was like I was purging out all the old, bad things once and for all. Whew!

You know, as any good "narcissist" would, I should have pointed out that those 3 bee-yotches in college were probably just jealous of my beauty. heehee

@Shy, thank you (again) so much for sharing my post on your blog.

@Wendy, so glad you've taught your daughters to be positive! If I have one someday, I hope to do the same.

@Sheila, that's a great song!! I love Joan Jett, so naturally, she rocks too. Thank you for telling me about it!

Lorena said...

What a great post.
Very courageous and insightful.
Those 3 blonde girls remind me of the assholes I had to deal with during
all of high school. They made my life miserable, so miserable that when I run into them (yes i am lucky to live in the same city as all 3 of them) i just feel like i travel back in time. I never got over it.
Anyways I will not continue to burden you but I do have to say...
Even though you already know, you are beautiful :)
Thanks for sharing.

Bonnie said...

Thank you so much for sharing.
If you need me to drop-kick anybody, just say the word. I haven't been in a fight in a long time, and I would gladly fight for you.

http://glamkittenslitterbox.blogspot.com/

tanvii.com said...

Here via Shybiker. Such a wonderful post and heartfelt post. It must have taken a lot of courage to open up your life like that :)

Tinfoils Tiaras said...

Thank you so so much for sharing this beautiful post. I also felt like an ugly overweight ducking growing up and am only now at 22 starting to be comfortable in my own skin. Thank you so much for your great work on this blog- what you;re doing is so important! xo Emily

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

@Lorena, are you in Atlanta too? lol I hope you're somehow able to move past it. In my more positive moments, I really just feel sorry for people like that because it's their own lack of self-assuredness that causes them to strike out. Still...it incenses me too.

@Bonnie, if the need should ever arise, I will let you know!! ;)

@Tanvii - you don't even know!!

@Tinfoils, if you're only 22 and already starting to blossom in this way, you're doing better than most, and it's only uphill from here! :)

Seriously, thank you ALL so much, from the bottom of my heart, for responding so positively and being so encouraging!

Ashelle said...

Thank you for this post & for your email. You are a wonderful & courageous woman to have open up like this. There are many women out there that will be thankful for this honesty and encouragement of self love.

I'm envious of your wisdom. And, I think your insight into your self and experiences then how they effect your perceptive is something many people strive for but are not able to accomplish like you have.

We share some common experiences... I too was in an abusive relationship. I think that these relationships cause more scars then most people will recognize. Again, thank you. xo

freeda said...

Also here via Shy. I feel like you ghost wrote this for me. Same thrifting/poor teen-hood. Same bad first marriage. Same amazing husband #2. Even a similar weight loss after I gave up gluten rather than meat.

Nice to meet you, Wonder Twin! I'm glad you're in such a better place now. Me too!

Although your ass is better than mine. :P Just sayin'.

20 York Street said...

For someone to have a courage like this to be forthcoming to oneself and to others - is admirable. This is a beautifully written post that I hope would reach a lot of people. It is an important message to tell!

Stay Happy and Positive!

besos,

ML


20 YORK STREET

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

Isn't it amazing how much women have in common with each other when they stop being afraid to be real? Okay, that just reminded me of the opening lines to The Real World. lol But it's true. We have so many common experiences, but as much as women love to bond and connect, oftentimes we're too afraid to "go there" when it comes to certain topics. But it's only by facing them that they will stop having power over us. When you find others like you, suddenly the struggle doesn't seem as overwhelming.

Freeda, here's to AWESOME HUSBAND #2s! Wait...that didn't sound quite right... ;)

Melanee said...

Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate it. We have a lot in common. There is a quote I heard once that said something like, that which is most personal is most universal. Anyway, I appreciate your story. I've been sharing mine over at mirrorhealth.blogspot.com. I'm not where you are yet. I'm at the beginning of my self-acceptance journey, and I love hearing from women like you who have been there and moved on. It inspires me and gives me hope that some day I truly can believe that I'm beautiful too, on the inside and out. So thank you. Keep up the good work.

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

Melanee, thank you so much for sharing this. I'm really liking your blog. "Mirror Health" - what a fantastic term. It's okay that you're not "there" yet. I wouldn't even say I am there 100% of the time. The important part is that you're on the quest!! You'll get there because you WANT to.

I saw a couple pictures of you on your blog, and I can attest that you ARE beautiful. So there!!!! ;)

Natalie MacNeil said...

POWERFUL. Wow.

I had just read a couple of your other posts and I stayed on your blog because I haven't been here before. Then I found this post! Really great blog.

I wish more women would share their personal stories because I think we all have more in common than we know and it's powerful to hear other people's stories.

I decided to tell my personal story of dealing with the often painful pressure of being in the fashion industry. It took me five years but I finally decided to share it after reading an article on Glamour.com about how 97% of women have at least one "I hate my body" moment each day.

Here it is:

The Most Difficult Post I've Written So Far: My Journey to Self Love

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

Thank you for finding us, Natalie. :) And I'm so glad you liked it enough to read more than one. Your post was wonderful, and I applaud you!! You did a great thing by getting out and for writing about it in such a vulnerable way.

The Martha Complex said...

Wow. My first thought was wondering if you found mu blog and were referring to my negative, hating on myself posts.

I loved this. Not that you went through all that angst, but I love knowing that I am not alone & someone else out there has not loved themselves too. I envy you for passing that point. Hopefully I will be there permanently too. :)

Lacey said...

Oh wow, Jen! I am bawling. I think your mom would be proud of you... bless her. She was beautiful too!! <3

I loved this post... thank you for your honesty and your courage. I can relate so much to your experiences.


Thanks again!

Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

"Martha," more women and girls go through this than you might realize. All of us just don't talk about it. :) It's not an easy thing to do. But when people start talking about it and realizing they're not alone in their feelings, that's when they stop feeling like they're crazy and can actually start turning it around.

Lacey, thank you. Knowing my mom's proud of me gives me great comfort. :)

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