Therapy write up again. Homework from a recent session was about looking at myself and looking for things that I liked.
Yeah, right. Try that without the ‘not bad for someone my age’, ‘in a low light’ and the inevitable ‘but …’. This isn’t anything new. This has been me wanting to be taller, thinner, prettier (there, I said it and I feel ashamed of myself) for as long as I can remember. I seem to be incapable of seeing myself in any positive light, the most I manage is a kind of grudging acceptance of my plain-ness.
I am terrible with compliments. I will blush and make excuses and think you are taking the piss/setting me up for the punchline of some joke. I work hard at deflection rather than take the difficult step that someone might mean it when they say I have nice eyes. Call me a Hobbit and ask how long I spend shaving my feet and I am immediately more comfortable.
I think I have always been terrible with compliments. Less so, perhaps, with what might be classed as compliments for ‘intellectual’ attributes rather than physical ones but I am still uneasy. Kudos from my little writing exercises on AO3 make me happy then spiral off into ‘oh, but what I really wanted to write was …’ or ‘but I am so slow and need to get around to writing more’. People taking the time to make comments is something I really can’t cope with – is it possible to be flattered and shamed at the same time? They are too kind to me.
I do not ‘fish’ for compliments. That seems to be one of the big taboo things I grew up with. They don’t count if you have to ask for them. I grew up asking if clothes looked ok, not if I looked ok (and always the little voice in my head added on the provisos of ‘for a short girl’, ‘for a plain girl’, ‘at least I’m fat in proportion’). Clothes shopping now is an exercise in never really looking at myself.
I have had some good feedback from work. Feedback is another word for compliment. I do not let it touch me. I discount it and devalue it by comparing myself to others and the feedback they get. Even doing well at industry exams makes me uncertain how to react even though those results are as objective as can be. I think I managed 10 minutes of being happy at getting ‘master’ level of the Service Desk Institute Service Analyst course before telling myself off about it and then refusing to see it as anything other than what should be expected of me (‘been doing the job over 20 years, of course I should be able to get qualified in it’ and so on).
It’s like everything has a ‘but’ attached to it.
Anyway, speaking of butts, back to not being the Death Star on legs.
I know I’ve mentioned working at Oddities Heaven. Sometimes I’ve wondered if this re-enforced my discomfort with myself. Back then, back when VHS tapes were over £50 (I kid you not) there seemed to be very few women in fandom, fewer still who might have been considered ‘normal’. Go with me on this, I don’t want to be specific but trust me.
I thought men were just being friendly but then I realised that some of them were chatting me up. (Shock and horror, I know.) I was asked out to lunch, drinks after work … did I fancy getting dressed up for a photo shoot? I always put this down to the the small pool of women that:
a) seemed to have similar interests
b) were not the size of the Death Star on legs
c) didn’t chat to their spirit cats in public (and related quirks)
d) were apparently available
I was a shop assistant! Of course I was going to smile and talk to you.
If you are brought up never to fish for compliments then you can tend to overthink those few that you get. I think I self-sabotaged by always taking the source of the compliments into account. Being a fan may be cool(ish) now that Big Bang Theory is one of the highest rated programs around, but I have to be honest and say that there are still a lot of guys out there more like Captain Sweatpants than Leonard. What do you do when your first memories of personal compliments were from people who make even Captain Sweatpants look like he has every social grace.
It’s cruel to say it, but if these people thought I’d be interested, if that was all I could aspire to … then what did that say about me? Not being the shape of the Death Star seemed to be my only asset.
Way to go there with the self-esteem Andrea.