I looked at myself in the mirror. I turned a bit to the side, sucked in my stomach, put my hand on my hip, raised my head a little, and studied the image peering back at me. Then I let out my breath, dropped my arms, and burst into tears. The voice that resides in my head sneered at me. “You are a fat, ugly, stupid loser. That is why no one will ever want you.” The voice is not nice. In fact, she can be downright callous and mean. I don’t like her. I try to ignore her heartless words, remembering that her cruelty stems from her insecurity. Still, more often than not they find their mark, making me doubt everything I believe about myself.
Why do we do this? Why do we give that little voice the power to drag us down? Why do we so willingly believe the vitriol it spews? That voice has been there for as long as I can remember. I listened to it on occasion, but she grew much more powerful during my marriage and the past four plus years since my divorce. When your spouse is addicted to porn, the lesson that’s beat into your brain is that you aren’t good enough. When you get divorced and see so many of your divorced friends start dating, even remarrying, the voice reminds you that you aren’t good enough to enjoy the same good fortune. They’re so happy, and I am truly, from the bottom of my heart, happy for them. Yet, at the same time, I’m envious and I wonder what’s wrong with me that over four years later, I’m still alone.
I know, deep down, there’s nothing wrong with me. Or well, there are probably many things wrong with me … I dance like Elaine on Seinfeld, I daydream way too much, I sometimes leave the house without shoes because I’ve simply forgotten to wear them, I occasionally give myself impromptu haircuts that never turn out well, the list goes on. But, in my heart, I know there’s nothing really wrong with me. I mean, I don’t kick puppies, do drugs, rob banks, like the White Sox, or anything horrible like that.
I know, on an intellectual level, that a big part of the reason I’m alone is because I’ve become highly selective. Once upon a time, I married the first man who came along. He was wrong for me in so very many ways. Everyone tried to talk me out of seeing him, but it only made me want to show everyone that they were wrong, and that more importantly, I was right. This time around, I refuse to settle — and I have quite the hefty list of requirements for any potential suitors. I know who I am and I know what I want. I also know that being picky, er, um discriminating, comes with a price, and I accept that. I realize I may never come across someone who meets my extensive demands and that’s okay. I would much rather be alone than settle for someone who isn’t a good match for me. (Besides, I can always go with my backup plan, “The Cat Plan” wherein I get a bunch of cats and turn into a crazy old lady who lives alone.)
I know that I have many good qualities. I’m easy-going, I’m sensitive to the needs of others, I’m creative and can think outside of the box. I know that I’m strong and capable and can handle things on my own. I love my kids and put their needs first. I am a good mom and am doing a decent job raising my children on my own. I can roll with the punches that are thrown my way, and every time I’m knocked down I get back up again with only occasional breakdowns and tears. I can juggle multiple responsibilities without dropping too many balls. I have a gift of expressing myself through the written and spoken word and I think I use it wisely to help inspire and amuse others. I know these things about myself.
And yet, it was really difficult to write that paragraph. The whole time I was typing, I was thinking that I sound conceited and full of myself. I imagined people reading it and rolling their eyes, thinking I’m some sort of egotistical braggart. It’s so much easier to listen to that little voice and write a paragraph that lists my faults: I’m fat, I have cellulite on my thighs, and one of these days I’m bound to take an eye out when I wave goodbye because of the batwings that have taken over my triceps. My hair is getting grayer and most days I look like Monica in Barbados with some sort of frizz-afro. I have wrinkles around my eyes and yet I still get the occasional zit. I can’t do everything on my own. I’ve probably screwed my kids up for life. I’m scatterbrained, I sometimes forget to pay a bill, and I miss important deadlines. In a nutshell, I’m not good enough. It’s just too easy to focus on my faults. And when I’m feeling melancholy and lonely, that’s when that little voice yields its irrational power over my common sense.
But I want to teach my kids to be happy with themselves. I don’t want them to feel like they need someone to be complete. I don’t want them to settle for anyone just so they won’t be alone. I want my kids to know that they are strong and capable and even though it may be difficult at times, they can handle anything that comes their way. I want them to see themselves how I see them, not through the critical eyes of that little voice in their heads. I want them to absolutely believe without a doubt that they are good people who are well-loved and who deserve good things and happiness. I want them to know that they are good enough and anyone who says differently is not worth their time, even if it’s themselves.
I am trying to teach my kids through example that they don’t need someone to complete them and that they’re strong and can face life head-on all by themselves. I hope they see that even though I may make mistakes and I may break down and lose it from time to time, I always get back up, and that is not the act of a person who isn’t good enough. I have been trying to to turn off the voice that tells me otherwise. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a work in progress, but if I can learn to fix a washing machine, I can surely learn to ignore some of the voices in my head, right?
(Note to self: don’t tell any potential dates that you have voices in your head.)