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Last night, I used my husband's phone to live-tweet the Golden Globes while over at a friend's apartment. My phone had died, and it was a travesty because until he showed up, I didn't get to provide any Twitter commentary about that amazing opening monologue. Amy & Tina calling out Julia Louis-Dreyfus for sitting in the film section while she smoked an e-cigarette ("Hellooo...you know us from TV!") -- so many giggles.
While using his phone, I drifted over to some photos that we'd taken in Park Slope together throughout the day. When I found one I was particularly excited about, I exclaimed to the room, "Oh hey! This is a great picture of me!" And it was. I mean, look at it.
My friend who was sitting next to me on the couch laughed aloud, as though surprised, saying, "I love how you give yourself compliments!"
Now, I believe she meant this genuinely, and for that, I think it was a pretty sweet comment, but it got me thinking -- this is not the first time someone has made note of my own verbal affirmations. This is a "compliment" I've gotten a few times over the course of the past couple of years, and I put "compliment" in those sassy quotations because while I certainly take it as one, I'm sure that there are some who may find this practice a little off-putting. I mean, who is this girl saying nice things about herself?!
This is just not something we are taught, and by we, I mean everyone, but more specifically, I mean women. It's a side effect of systems that encourage women to err on the side of humility rather than power. In this double standard, a woman's confidence is considered bragging, and bragging is just not beautiful. This is the lie I see at work in my friends, mentors, and of course, myself.
And I see it especially in the way we receive compliments from others. Without making sweeping generalizations about all women, many of us have developed this incredible capacity to completely negate any praise that comes our way.
Hey, you look great today.
Seriously, are you looking at these circles under my eyes? I'm a mess.
Hey, great job on that speech you gave.
Oh my GOD! I totally screwed up that one part.
You are smart.
No way. YOU are!
We respond like this as a way to avoid looking full of ourselves, but these responses are far more dangerous than just that. This practice is one of publicly declaring self-doubt, and it makes us look lesser, and it seeps into our own view of ourselves, making us feel lesser.
It's the reason why a while back, I made a conscious decision to just stop this whole negative cycle in my life. I intentionally quit saying terrible things about myself when friends tried to give me compliments, quit waiting for compliments altogether, and instead I preempted them with my own. I began to think, and even say, kind things about myself. After battling crippling insecurities, I decided I'd rather be totally full of myself than empty.
There is a distinction in all of this that I feel needs to be addressed, and that is this: to love yourself and to know why you are great is not the same as lacking humility. I want to speak directly now to those of those of us whose belief-systems strongly emphasize the imperfections and shortcomings of humanity -- Guys, it doesn't take a genius to look around and see that people are not perfect, and more specifically, that you are not perfect. It is evident every day. But if you believe that you were created and endowed with certain gifts and abilities despite those shortcomings, why oh why would you degrade them? Why would you make your gifts seem like less? How is that humility?
The short answer is it's not. To love yourself, to treat yourself and others with high regard, to know your strengths and to use them for the good of others -- this is humility. I really think that.
To give you an example of someone who just gets it -- When author Flannery O'Connor was asked why she became a writer, she replied simply, "Because I'm good at it."
Quick question: How does O'Connor's answer sit with you? Do you find her conceited, selfish, or rude? Do you think she needs to get off her high horse and put an end to her ceaseless bragging?
Maybe you do, but if so, think about this: What if instead, she had replied by saying, "Oh, it's seriously no big deal. My stuff is super derivative anyway. Plus, ohmygod, my hair is a mess"?
|Flannery O'Connor - a woman whose Twitter feed would have been magnificent. (via)|
The truth is, Flannery O'Connor was a superb writer -- one of the most prolific of the twentieth century. To deny her ability would be like denying that the earth is round or that pizza is delicious. It would be a straight up lie.
And frankly, I think we spread the same kind of lies about ourselves when we don't act like our friend Flannery here. This is a woman who owned her gift of writing, who didn't act like it was less than it really was. We are all uniquely gifted, beautiful, and strong. To not let these truths be powerful in our lives is a damn shame, and it is more damaging than we even realize.
So how do we break this cycle? Well, 1) We have to stop -- stop talking about ourselves like we're idiots, stop making our achievements seem like they're no big deal, 2) we have to believe wonderful, true things about ourselves, and 3) we have to cease judgement of others who are trying to do the same thing. No more referring to a woman's confidence as a woman's boastfulness.
So I'd like to start that pattern here and now. Here is a list of ten things I really like about myself. If you are someone who frequently puts themselves down for the sake of humility, this list might make you cringe, but fight that instinct because I honestly suggest you make one of your own.
10 Things I Really Like About Myself
1. I have a strong ability to communicate my thoughts through writing.
2. I am a good listener.
3. I love my body, just as it is, right now. Cosmo might not like it, but I don't super care.
4. I love my sense of adventure. Sitting at home just doesn't cut it for me. I am someone who has to go out and see something new.
5. I'm intelligent.
6. I make people laugh.
7. I picked a damn good husband. Whenever I brag about him on this blog, it's secretly a backdoor brag about my ability to land such a winner of a man.
|A sexy man who loves cats? It's the dream, ladies.|
9. I'm sensitive (in a good way). I cry for people when they are hurting, and I love the people in my life well.
10. I am secretly amazing at dancing. But seriously, you just haven't seen me yet.
I know it will be tempting to affirm me in these statements in the comments-section, but honestly, don't feel like you have to. Instead, I would seriously love for you to join in on this madness. In the comments section (or in the link-up below), let me know some things you love about yourself. Let's all break this cycle together. Now get after it, you awesome thing, you.