Yesterday, I came across an article in the Huffington Post briefly reviewing a book, published in England this past fall [“Dear Me: More Letters To My Sixteen-Year Old Self”], and it got me to thinking and remembering what I thought was so important then. “Sweet Sixteen” is a major turning point for an American girl. I was no exception. But looking back on it, I would love to whisper in my sixteen-year old self’s ear, that all that surrounded me then, found no place in the future at all. I know she wouldn’t believe me. After all, Jerry Rubin’s “Don’t trust anyone over 30” had big play in those years, and I am now well over 30.
The requisite party I had back then, with all the important peers in my life...most of those girls came (remembering now, two who I thought were important, never even bothered to tell me if they were coming or not, and me calling and calling the morning of the party, to find out what happened and if they were still coming, with no one answering the phone. That memory, even now, makes me cringe.). Even the “best friend” was there. I look back at that day, and I can still see the faces. All gone. With one exception: The one I didn’t even regard as a best friend then, has still stuck by me, even in the worst of times, some forty-four years later. Sixteen-year old self, how foolish were you?
One of the comments left on the Huffington Post thread, resonated so strongly with me, I had to copy it and send it to myself in an e-mail, the words were so wise. To wit, and to give the appropriate credit (from someone calling herself SMA1):
“1. I know you don't have any confidence; pretend you do, and make a serious step-by-step plan for a successful, independent, prosperous life, and live it!
2. Surround yourself with wise, authentic people.
3. You are intelligent, gifted and worthy of love and respect. Don't accept any less from yourself or other people.
4. Look closely at a man's family. They, especially his parents, will reflect who he really is and who he may be destined to become. I'm sorry that you've been so hurt by the people in your life. If the 50 year old me had been there, I'd have had your back. If it helps at all, your daughter is all the things I wished we could have been.”
And rereading those lines now, makes me think of the movie I just finished watching: “The Help”. One of the many poignant scenes involves a black maid, who apart from her other duties in a southern household of the early 1960’s, is charged with the care of a two-year old white toddler. This occurs by default, because the mother of the child shows no interest in mothering her, or loving her. The black maid fills that breach. And at the worst moments where the child is forced to interact with her mother, only to receive her mother’s rebuff, the maid takes her to her lap and tells her these all-important words: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” This, to serve as counterpoint for a neglectful mother.
If that were instilled in us daily, from a tender age, how many of us (especially the women) would still be struggling now with the physical manifestations of low self-esteem: “the weight”? What if we heard things to instill in us, self respect, worthiness, and belief in ourselves at a young age, would we be here on SP now?
As I googled the source of those movie lines, I came across an interesting article about the author, Kathryn Stockett. I had listened to the talking book as well, before the movie came out, and it was exceptional. Last night I learned that she received sixty (60!!) letters of rejection before she found someone who believed in her words and got the book published. How does one do that? Shoulder that much disinterest, and yet still believe in the product? At which point do you just give up, as the endeavor appears to be so foolhardy? Here’s the link (well worth the read):
I remember, too, Sally Jesse Raphael, also encountered about 23 firings from jobs which did not deter her from her goal of becoming a radio and, subsequently, talk show personality. She noted that what kept her going was a mother who believed in her very early on, and that inner talk and belief she kept, throughout many lean years, until she arrived at her chosen destination and personal fulfillment.
So here we are now on SP. From many blogs that I have read, many are very broken, from events in younger years that I can only begin to imagine. And yet the common thread for us all, is the will to improve, which still shines through, or why else stay on this wonderful site? I think for the moment, before the flashlights shine in the darkest of corners, the thing to remember is that the past is gone, the present is fleeting, and the future is waiting its turn. The future that we all commonly desire is filled with hope. It’s the present that needs to be altered, the past properly addressed and then boxed, to attain our greatest desires for a better future. The weight is just a physical manifestation of what is broken which lies within. For now, I am content to focus on the physical, to make my 60-year old self, the best that she can possibly be. I know, too, as the weight comes off, the reasons for this physical “fat wrap” will have to be examined and answered. It’s the only way for this to not repeat, and be a continuing vicious cycle.
It’s the end of the year. I’ve done some serious cleaning in my life, ridding myself of people who were only dragging me down, for reasons only they know. People who cannot rejoice in your successes have no place in your life. People who love and support you, even when at times you don’t agree, get to stay. These are the pillars that prop up our lives when things go south.
Remember, too, that we are worthy (that requires a lot of internal positive talk, I know, but it has to be done, until we believe it). That with effort a lot can be accomplished. That planning is simply the first stage, it is not the end by any means. Keep goals in reasonable proportion: Small goals that are measurable and attainable, medium-term goals, and long term goals. Keep a journal, as I am starting to do (SP has one that is private), to measure your progress. I love writing down on my four-month “war board” (my blank calendar), all the items I need to do for that day, and then checking it off with a red pen once that task is accomplished. It may sound stupid, but it works! I can physically see what I am accomplishing especially over time, and to me that is important. And if I break it down in four-month chunks, especially what I need to do professionally, it makes it more attainable. Then month-to-month, in that four-month period, week-to-week, then day-to-day. I also need to remember that once planned, I need to stick with the plan, and examine and revise repeatedly what doesn’t work and keep what does.
Success feeds on success, I believe, and once the habit is firmly fixed, it becomes part of the routine. It takes about four weeks, per research, to have a new habit stick, but once it does, it just gets incorporated into our lives.
Forgiveness of self, as many have noted before me, and probably more eloquently, is a major part of a healthy new lifestyle change. It does not happen overnight, and the inner voice will fight us every step of the way. We just have to push back more.
So the final question one has to ask oneself: Are we worth this? Because if we don’t do this for ourselves, no one else will. It’s great to have support, but in the end we need to build our own internal dialog and be our own superhero.
Do you agree?