What I Know, Now

I want to tell you about what I have been noticing happening inside of  my skin.

After years of doing this work, it feels as though a new layer has been peeled back, a layer that has left me feeling quite vulnerable.

I was always the kind of woman who enjoyed the trappings of my life. I liked it when my room looked a certain way, when my car was clean, when my website was pretty, when my wardrobe was filled the right things, when I had socks without holes and underwear that fit. I was always the kind of woman who liked her relationships to go a certain way, conversations productive and resolutions both hard-fought and easily won.

I was always the kind of woman who was a bit of a control freak.

I learned at a really early age that I was safe when I stood above it all, the puppet master, five steps ahead and considering every possibility and alternate ending. I carefully crafted that safety, maintaining the scenery with a deft hand.

And, when I was carefully controlling from above or behind the scenes, I truly believed that I could keep everyone I loved safe and happy and secure.  I also truly believed that it was my job, because I was so good at it.

I could lend them money.

I could clean their house.

I could counsel them on their relationships, career, life.

I could help them process though their hard moments.

I could micromanage them to avoid having to pay attention to myself.

I could do that and write a blog post and get my masters and sparkle at every social occasion and show up and be the sexy woman I assumed my partner craved and shellac over and seal up any struggle I was having and smile, shoulders back, head up when I entered a room.

I did not ask for help, because I had learned that when I asked for support, a card was pulled from the house and it would only be a matter of seconds before the house of cards came crashing down around me.

I used “Yes” as my only form of social currency.

As in, yes I will. Yes, of course I can. Yes, that won’t be a problem at all. Yes, I’ll just shove all of my needs to the back burner and get right on that. Yes, you’re right that absolutely must be done right this second.

Yes I will do it all. Yes I can.

And I was good at it. I excelled at saying yes. I was batting a thousand at being a good girl.

I was the queen of exceeding other people’s expectations, but it came at huge cost for me.

Over time, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted, outside of what was wanted for me. Or worse what I imagined that others wanted from me.  I was a hostage to the image in my mind – the chameleon dance of always shifting, becoming, more carefully refining who I thought you wanted me to be.

Because your approval was the gold standard.

And so I required everything outside of me to be perfect. My clothing laundered. The bills paid. The relationship tended to.

And, internally, I kept falling apart.

The only way out was through disassembling these stories, these perceived truths and spreading them out over the floor.

At first, I had absolutely no idea what I would do, if I were to abandon perceived expectation.  I assumed I would fall apart and end up on the couch three months later, buried under half eaten bags of potato chips.

I assumed wrong.

Time passed, and I focused purely on this: the small wins, the tiny gains, the little things that lit me up and made me feel like a real person.

I had a simple formula: determine what feels good and what feels bad, then do more of what feels good.

I changed my life. I did what absolutely no one expected of me. I allowed myself to be led by what I enjoyed, what I could pour myself into with my whole heart.

The new layer that has been peeled off? The layer where the safety was internalized.

Where my security is found internally, in focusing on strengthening the process of my body – the blood pumping through my veins, the flexibility in my spine, the exfoliation and care of my skin. It has been found in clearing the cobwebs out of my brain, so that communicating with myself within the confines of my brain is as absolutely gentle and kind as possible. 

It has been found in assuming responsibility for myself and my heart above everything else, and the consistent revision and re-evaluation of more whole, more real, more alive.

For those of you who have been wondering where the body image writer went, this is the official explanation.  I have peeled back the layer that is about eating, media, and what my body looks like, to what my body is like, what my body was built for, and how I can relate to myself in a way that includes support for the nourishment and trust of my bodily systems, neurological pathways, and needs of my psyche.

I have done this, because my self-love informed me that I was much, much more than my body.

I have done this, because I believe I deserve much more than I was permitting myself.

This is what I have and this is what I can know for sure: my limbs, my appendages, my heart, the blood pumping through me, and the dreams in my head and heart. This is where my focus lies, deeply beneath my skin, so that my work and my interactions are infused with the absolute best that I have to offer my life, my very best of intentions.

I carry this within my skin, and I carry this wherever I go.

Self Care that Works

Are you ready to feel less exhausted? (Like, immediately?) I’ve got your back. Sign yourself & receive my best tools for redefining your self-care so that it actually works for you.

7 thoughts on “What I Know, Now”

  1. I love this article! It’s so true and refreshing. I love the idea of living without concern for others’ expectations. It’s something that is necessary for sanity and something that I’m constantly working on. Well done!

  2. Mara, I really needed to read this today – and especially this paragraph which exudes exactly what I feel often:

    “Over time, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted, outside of what was wanted for me. Or worse what I imagined that others wanted from me. I was a hostage to the image in my mind – the chameleon dance of always shifting, becoming, more carefully refining who I thought you wanted me to be.”

    The “I don’t know what I wanted” part – I struggle with that so much. I just let people choose what they want instead, because I’m afraid that if I choose what I want, they won’t like that choice. But it hurts them – people don’t always want to make choices all the damn time – and it hurts me, because I lose my voice. It’s definitely a part of that annoying “good girl” system our society perpetuates.

  3. This is a great post. I totally relate to your moving away from purely body image talk. I think, sometimes, the external focus is so much easier to contemplate than digging deeper but the real answers are beneath.

  4. I like the small steps: focussing on what feels good and doing more of it… I can do that!
    And I’m doing more of that, which significantly decreases the stress of life.

    Thanks, Mara!

Leave a Comment