Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wallflower



My husband bought me a Nook for Christmas.  For those of you who don't know, it's an e-reader, with the capacity to hold hundreds of digital books.

I love to read!  I'm always reading at least three or four books at a time, mainly because I read so fast that I alternate books to prolong my enjoyment.  The Nook is great because of all of the free books you can download through Barnes and Noble's but also through other websites.  These books aren't the latest titles, but mostly classics that the copyrights have expired on. 

That's great for me because I love old novels.  I just finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South," (talk about romance... and it was published in 1857!).  There's a BBC production of it available on Netflix on demand so I've got to find some time to watch it.

Currently I'm reading "Alice Adams" by Booth Tarkington.  It was published in 1922, and was famously made into a movie with a young Katherine Hepburn in 1935.

The reason I'm writing about this particular book is that the main character, Alice, is constantly trying to be someone she's not and in so doing makes things worse for herself.  The saddest thing is that she would be fine if she could just be herself, but she's so insecure that she puts on all of these affectations that just turn people off and make her a bit of a joke.  I'm not sure how this story ends, but as I'm reading it all I want to do is shake Alice and tell her to cut it out!  Just be yourself and you'll be fine!

Of course, we've all heard that advice.  The question is, who am I and how do I know I'll be fine being me?

That's a huge question and one psychologists have been making livings off of for years.  It's easy enough to say, "be yourself," but quite another to do it.

The fact is that by the time you're an adult you've had multiple unwanted opinions and expectations of who you are.  The impatient teacher who treated you like you were a moron, the boss who screamed at you for no real reason, the coach who put you down in front of the team, the siblings who mocked you, the parents who compared you to everyone else's kid....

So, by the time you're grown up you've received all kinds of information about who you are.  Some of it good, some not so good, but all of it absorbed by you and reflected in how you interact with others.

The problem so many of us have, (and I'm one of those people), is that we have a hard time separating who we are from what other people think we are and/or expect us to be.  One thing that many people never realize is that it isn't always in the best interest of others to encourage us.  Some people are stronger personalities that overwhelm less confident ones.  They tell us we're slow, or stupid, or unimportant, not necessarily because it's true, but because putting us down makes them feel better about themselves.

Yes, Virginia, there are people who build themselves up on the battered egos of others.  If the world were fair they'd be the ones sitting by themselves, feeling left out and sad.  Unfortunately, the world isn't fair and those of us who've been their victims are usually the ones who struggle.  It takes time and effort and a dose of reality to get yourself out of that victim mode.

The fact is that you are going to run into people who are smarter, prettier, and better quilters than you.  And, some of those people are going to let you know it. 

So what?  If you let other people define who you are you aren't being the real you.  Do you want to be the person they've made you out to be?  Or do you want to make what's left of your life, "your" life and not someone elses?

It's a difficult change to make, and as someone who's been working on this for years all I can tell you is that you have to get stubborn about it.  When things are said about you or you're made to feel a certain way, don't take it at face value.  Think about it.  Does this person have an ulterior motive?  Are you the only person they pick on?  Do they pick on stronger, more confident people?

If by putting you down this person makes themselves seem better, if they pick on other people, and if they never pick on stronger personalities, what you're dealing with here is a bully.  The problem is with them, not with you.  However, if you are allowing them to bully you, you need to work on building a backbone.  Sometimes it's easier to just get away from them and start associating with kinder people.  If you can't then you have to act like what they say doesn't bother you and just keep doing what you need to do.

So much of how we behave is habit.  If you're in the habit of being grumpy and sullen, it's hard to break out of that, and if you do, be prepared for people to be confused by it.  You will have people mock you for it, mainly because they're in the habit of dealing with surly you, not sweet you.  This may very well rock their world.  You have no idea how many people say, "At least I'm not as cranky as so-and so!" but when so-and-so isn't so cranky, then what do they do?

Start thinking about little habits you can change. They may seem small but they can really make a huge difference in your day.  One of my favorites is to make sure I'm smiling when I leave my bedroom in the morning.  It can be a fake smile, but at least I'm working on it!

Do any of you have any little habits you'd like to change?

Susan


1 comment:

Deb said...

Susan, you've given me much to chew on. Even after 50 years of life, I still find myself overly sensitive to others comments. One of my habits I want to change. To have enough confidence in myself. Thanks!