A few weeks ago I took a personality test. Well, I’m not sure if that’s exactly the right term for it, but you probably know what I’m talking about: the thing where you go down a huge list of adjectives and mark the words you think other people would use to describe you, then you tackle that same list all over again except this time you mark the words you’d use to describe yourself.

I had a difficult time with both sections, being as how there were no choices like “spectacularly filthy-minded” or “prone to using prison slang” or even “possessing the sensibility of a small, excitable poodle”. It was also challenging to sit there and purposefully try to guess what people think about me, since my usual mode is to 1) be helplessly paranoid about what people think about me, or 2) try very hard NOT to think about what people think about me, so as to avoid Twitchy Mental Fallout from #1.

I think what I ended up doing was being fairly kind to myself in terms of what Other People Think, then ruthless in the Describe Yourself area. I’d mark off a hideously self-congratulatory-sounding word in the Other People section—thinking mainly of the wonderful comments I’ve received from blog readers who, though they may secretly believe I’m a spineless, urine-spraying idiot, go out of their way to say nice, supportive things to me whenever I’ve fretted about scary physical events or parenting tasks or whatever it may be—and then I’d keep that word in my brain, radiating Bat-signals of discomfort, until I found its antonym in the self-assessment section.

If I summoned the ability to admit that maybe sometimes other people don’t necessarily think I’m always a lazy chicken-shitted waste of food, I had to immediately make it clear that while that may be the case, it’s only because I have them FOOLED, because of COURSE I’m a lazy chicken-shitted waste of food. DUH.

I didn’t realize I was doing this, but it sort of became clear when the test administrator talked to me on the phone several days later. At the start of the conversation he gently told me that he was a little concerned about my results. “Have you had any traumatic, stressful events lately?” he asked, and when I said no, he asked if I’d ever been diagnosed with ADD.

(At that point I thought very seriously about just casually disconnecting the call, because I had this horrible Pandora’s-box feeling that if we talked for one more minute I’d discover that the test results indicated that not only was I unstable and roiling with all sorts of mental disorders, but that my brain was also filled with mealworms.)

In the course of our discussion and interpretation of the test, he became convinced that I’m not actually the nearly-suicidal ball of immobilized self-hatred that my results seemed to indicate. We talked a bit about what I actually am, which—mealworms aside—is this: really, really, really hard on myself.

I have a very hard time thinking, for instance, hey, I put in lot of time and effort and completed my first triathlon this summer, that took bravery and commitment and discipline. I have a much easier time focusing on how intimidated I was beforehand or how I was totally scared of the water. I find it almost physically impossible to mark off words like courageous or hard-working, but if there’s an option for craven or shiftless . . . well. Check!

Sometimes it’s like I believe that all of the changes I’ve made over the last several years are nothing but a whisper-thin veneer covering the real me. The real me never takes on challenges, never steps outside her comfort zone. She’s weak. She’s an addict. She’s a loser. She ruins everything around her.

Why do I still think this way? I’ve worked so hard, I’ve come so far. I want to get rid of this secret, sabotaging conviction that nothing inside of me has changed. Because it has. I have to believe that it has. It’s time to believe that it has.

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
79 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jessica
Jessica
12 years ago

The mental habits are the hardest to break. I found that if I wouldn’t say it to a friend about them, then there’s no reason I should be saying it to myself about me.

dorrie
dorrie
12 years ago

the next to the last paragraph spoke volumes to me. Thank you for pointing out how hard one can be on oneself. It needs to be thought about.

Erin
12 years ago

I think you will touch so many with this one. We women in particular seem to be so hard on ourselves that it’s amazing we ever leave the house. I’ve just started reading your blog but here’s my take: you are hilarious, smart, caring, inspiring and very effective at touching (and moving) people with your words.

Claudia
12 years ago

It’s funny that you use the phrase “spineless, urine-spraying idiot” because that’s EXACTLY what I think when I read your blog.

NOT!

Please. You are actually an inspiration, funny as hell, and, if anything, a bit intimidating to those of us (not naming names or anything) who get very little done beyond showing up at work and keeping the children alive. I mean, I only run if something’s chasing me and thank goodness that doesn’t happen very often.

Dawn
12 years ago

Adjusting that deep-seated concept of yourself is one of the hardest things for a person to do. Your mind wants to hang on to that version of you regardless of how true it is because that’s what it knows. It’s stable. It’s safe.

That said, you’re doing the right things. Keep stepping outside of your comfort zone. Keep taking on the bigger challenges. One day, your mind will get the memo about the new you.

Andrea
Andrea
12 years ago

A related reference book is, “Mind over Mood – Changing the Way You Feel by Changing the Way You Think”. This book by Dennis Greenberger offers an interesting perspective on automatic thought patterns and some useful and easy exercises to try to break negative thought cycles.

If you’re interested in good reading material, give it a shot!
A.

Cara
Cara
12 years ago

I swear some of this is societal training. We’re afraid that if we’re self-confident or think positively of ourselves we are somehow an arrogant, self-important prick. So, we’re so very careful to down play that and be ‘every man.’ Except, in the real world, we’re all better at some things and worse at others than ‘every man.’ And, isn’t it odd, that its only okay to admit when you’re worse at something?

Kate
12 years ago

I’ve read this since you were pregnant with #1 and all that time you kept me coming back because you are fun and real and have some of the same challenges I do and some I don’t that I can respect you overcoming and especially respect you for sharing so openly. You are supposed to grow and change, just like your kids, growth is not reserved for the under 12 crowd. Plus you introduced me to roomba so that alone makes you a valued resource in my life ;)

Sarah
Sarah
12 years ago

I’m not a regular commenter, but sometimes you write something so profound it zooms straight in to my head like an arrow and I have to let you know.

This is what I think about myself most of the time when I’m not paying attention to how hard I am on myself. When things go wrong personally or professionally, this is where my head goes. Heck, this is where my head lives most of the time. I am just stunned that you were able to get it out, to distill it in such clear words. I am stunned.

Courtney
12 years ago

My Fiance and I were talking about this today at lunch. We’re both feeling pretty unimpressed with ourselves today. He’s got mountains of shit going on at work and can’t seem to get any traction on any of it. I’m overwhelmed by trying to plan a wedding, prepare my life, my work, and my body for being gone for 10 days over Christmas, all while working and planning 2 holiday parties.

During our lunchtime conversation, we both identified everything we’ve sucked at in the last month. It occours to me, after reading this, that we didn’t flip it, and take the time to identify all of the things we’ve done really well in the last days, weeks, and months. Fuck. We built a house in 10 weeks. And it’s AWESOME! Why can’t we seem to celebrate that?

I totally understand about feeling like someday someone will figure out who the “real Courtney is”. The one who wants to sit at home, eat and watch movies. Doesn’t want to work hard, and sometimes has a hard time not being isolatingly shy. Maybe the important thing to remember is that every day I make the choice to go to the gym, eat something other than cookies, and go to work and engage myself in my community.

That was a book. But I get how you feel.

Christina
12 years ago

It is hard to really see yourself clearly in the mirror, you know? I think women feel this way especially. I will use myself as an example because dude I am SO not putting this on you. Low self esteem and thinking that everyone hated me and that I was stupid led me to drink, a lot and get into trouble, a lot when I was younger. I think that those thoughts you describe in this post for me were what took me down that destructive path (binge binge binge apologize again than go back out and binge again over and over this pattern went as one example of life as it used to be.)

Now that I am older I can see it so much more clearly. Also, not losing control like I used so that helps. But still it is an old thought pattern that I slide easily back into. It is crazy how the mind works…

As an aside I once said the best answer on one of those things was that I was godless… I totally GOT the job I am still at and my current boss laughed her ass off when I said hmmmm godless is the best answer. :)

Ris
Ris
12 years ago

This sounds just like me. My parents hardly ever had to punish me when I was little because I was so hard on myself. At ten years old. As you might imagine, that has carried over into adulthood as well, and gone off swimmingly. All in all, you’re an inspiration, and hella funny, and if I met you in person I’d be really intimidated but definitely want to be your pal. So, there’s that, if it means anything.

Happy Hour...Somewhere
12 years ago

This is the reason that if they ever invent a machine that could read minds or if people really could read minds, we would all be capable of homicide. What if they REALLY find out how crazy I am? But then, I guess, if you could read minds, you could find out that people really do think well of you. Ummmm. It is sad to think how we cannot see ourselves clearly, or we pretend to see ourselves clearly when we don’t.

What an inspiration to step outside your comfort zone though! Take off the broken record and put a new one on that maybe won’t get diagnosed with ADD.

After one hour of conversation, a shrink diagnosed my daughter with ADHD…and now she is running around thinking she has a mental illness. The conversation running around in her head is so negative. I tried to put a positive spin on it, but she was having none of that. I am so glad she has a new goal in school…nothing like a goal to get you motivated~!

bad penguin
12 years ago

We’re all harder on ourselves than other people would ever be.

As someone who sees you from the outside, I think all that you’ve changed and all that you’ve accomplished is very impressive. Let yourself be proud of that — you deserve it.

justmouse
12 years ago

wow. that sounds JUST like me, except for the “working so hard” and “coming so far” part. i’m still stuck and square one. not even square one..like, NEGATIVE square one. so for me…craven, shiftless, mealworms? check…check…and CHECK.

Michelle
12 years ago

I hate when the Ghosts of Bullshit Past show up but they always seem to do so. Still, thinking of yourself as that former version of Linda who never takes on challenges, who is weak, who ruins everything around her is sort of like looking at Riley and Dylan and only seeing immobile, helpless, mewling infants.

You’ve grown into quite an incredible, powerful, courageous woman (who, thankfully, still uses prison slang and appreciates the odd inappropriate joke).

Maura
Maura
12 years ago

I am not a regular commenter either, but I read (or maybe the term is “lurk”) your blog all the time. I have a hard time realizing the changes that I have made as I have grown too… and after reading this very post today, I realized that my problem is that I can’t seem to forgive myself for my mistakes.

I think the key (for me, anyway) is figuring out how to forgive myself and then letting go of it. Easier said than done, though.

Thanks for writing. You really are talented at it. And dude – YOU COMPLETED A TRIATHLON! Be proud! I can hardly spell Triathlon! :)

Katherine
Katherine
12 years ago

What I think is interesting about this subject is that we tend to focus in on just a few things when we take our own inventories and forget that we’ve got hundreds of colors in our crayon box. Some of those colors we like better than others, but the ones we like or dislike don’t negate all the others. I’ve experienced you as witty, loving, reactive, protective, quick to land a jab you might regret later, confident, self-doubting, and both self-analytical and sometimes remarkably unaware of your reach. Thank whatever God you pray to that you’re a complex human being. You’re not boring, one-note, one-dimensional. If you were, we wouldn’t read your words and respond to them.

I think the one quality in you that I see above all others is that you STRIVE. You’re reaching all the time. That means, necessarily, that sometimes you fail and sometimes you get there. And you’re generous to share your story and let us benefit from your mistakes and successes. There are plenty of both, and that’s as it should be.

warcrygirl
12 years ago

“Lazy, chicken-shitted waste of food”. Dude, I am TOTALLY stealing that.

Rebecca (Bearca)
12 years ago

I read an article about this once. It called what you are describing the “Impostor Syndrome.” Basically no matter how overwhelming the evidence that you are actually a successful, functional, productive member of society, many people still envision themselves as the insecure junior high students hiding behind their hair that they once were.

I struggle with this, big time. I think a lot of people do. All I can say is that in your case, I bet 100% of your readers see you as a strong, courageous and honest person. I’ve always admired how real you seem.

Katherine
12 years ago

It is very hard for me to think positive thoughts about myself. Anytime I look at anything I’ve done, I think about how scared I was to do it and sometimes how much I didn’t really want to, and focus on that, instead of the accomplishment.

You have done a lot. You did a triathalon! (not enough exclamation points) You are amazing.

She Likes Purple
12 years ago

I think you and me have a whole lot in common.

heather
12 years ago

i’ve been reading you almost from the beginning (six years? seven? something like that), and i have to tell you that i’ve ALWAYS thought of you as strong and powerful and on top of your shit. it’s been so amazing to see you challenging yourself in new ways recently, but really, girl…it’s always been there. that said, i relate in a million ways to what you’ve written above. thanks for saying it so succinctly.

Julie
Julie
12 years ago

I love you and I’m so proud of you.

Anne
Anne
12 years ago

While I was reading this post, I kept thinking to myself “OMG I wish I could read this to [my therapist]! This is so very much ME. I have people fooled, too!”

I briefly pictured myself printing this out and bringing it to therapy and reading it to Therapist and being all “See? THIS is what I’ve been trying to describe to you. This is exactly how I think and feel, right down to the mealworms.”

And then I would say something about how “But I didn’t write this, and the person who did is AWESOME, so I think this is just joking self-deprecating humor, because did I mention the awesomeness? I so want to be like her when I grow up, and so she couldn’t possibly REALLY feel like/think like this. Only complete losers like me feel like this, you know. Did I tell you how I also accosted this woman at Blogher and gave her an unauthorized hug?”

Anyway. Long comment is long. Sorry about that.

Summary:
-I am now picturing my brain full of mealworms.
-You are wonderful, and I am in awe of so much that you do and are.

And most importantly:
-I get it. I don’t know how to fix it, but I get it. Reading your post made me feel less alone, and I hope this comment does the same for you in some small way.

Jen
Jen
12 years ago

I have also been reading your blog for awhile now but rarely comment. Mostly because I rarely believe I have any words with sharing on here. Hmm….is this Figure Out Our Self Worth Day? I think you are hilarious and so right about just everything. Dude, you’re just so RIGHT.

Lawyerish
12 years ago

I think so many women struggle with those self-defeating thoughts, and it’s a huge step just to recognize that you HAVE those thoughts and that you’re not going to let them stick around any longer.

Linda, you deserve to feel good about everything you have accomplished, and you have done SO MUCH in your life and in the past year that is worthy of praise, not just from all of us out here, but from yourself. Nothing is going to come crashing down around you if you acknowledge that you are phenomenal, that you are powerful, that you do awesome things.

It SEEMS insurmountable to get rid of those thoughts, but you really can and it will transform the way you feel in a lot of ways. This sounds really goofy, but there is a book called “Feeling Good” (lame title, I know, but BEAR WITH ME) that is all about changing your defeatist thought patterns. It’s very worthwhile.

I know this sounds ridiculously rah-rah and New Agey and Oprahfied, but I used to be unbeLIEVably hard on myself, going back to when I was four years old on — to the point that I could barely do anything because I was so frozen from my own, horrible self-loathing thoughts. I wouldn’t say I am miraculously healed of this, but I’ve become much more able to pat myself on the back for things I’ve done.

And I’ll tell you what, it feels pretty fantastic to be able to congratulate yourself (yes, it can be done without becoming an egotistical asshat, which I think a lot of us fear). And you, my friend, have a LOT to congratulate yourself for.

Angella
12 years ago

Dude. I totally get this. I still see myself as the awkward teenager with thick glasses and thighs that rub together, who was asked by girls in her eighth grade class to “just disappear.”

You’ve done so much in the past few years, not only for yourself, but for others. Hell, I wouldn’t have blown the dust off of my (new but never ridden) bike if it weren’t for you.

Sarah
Sarah
12 years ago

The proof is in the pudding: you are running seven miles at a time, when you couldn’t do that at all before. Extrapolate that example to the rest of your life — it’s indicative, from this vantage point!

Lesley
Lesley
12 years ago

A person who wills herself to run 7 straight miles, and not because she is has to, i.e. is being chased by zombies, but because she wants to better herself is no “chicken-shitted waste of food” let me tell you. Ok, the zombies chasing her may tell themselves she is, but that’s because they’re sore losers left in the dust of her capability.

Lesley
Lesley
12 years ago

Wait a sec, I think I just blew that last comment. No zombies are chasing you, but if they were they might say…etc. etc. But they aren’t. But if they were… You get my point.

Brooke
Brooke
12 years ago

Don’t know how you can read all of these, but I feel like sharing assvice anyway. I also highly recommend “Mind Over Mood”. After taking happy pills for over eight years, I’ve realized that the things I say to myself also have a big impact on how I feel. Sometimes this seems so obvious (probably when I’m having a good day), but the best is when I can actually change how I feel by telling myself certain things. I am also severely hard on myself. My mom has also said to me, “Don’t give yourself so much credit.” I will blame myself for things that are totally not in my control. Okay, I don’t know how to talk about this in a cool way, it just sounds like bullshit, so I’ll quit. Good luck.

KF
KF
12 years ago

Ahh, self loathe. It’s an uphill battle, babe, so grab your flaming sword and join me at the front lines. Won’t you? If I’ve blogged this once, I’ve done it a bazillion times.
I so. Get. This. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Lesley
Lesley
12 years ago

P.S. Linda, from what you’ve written in the past, perhaps some of the disconnect between how you perceive yourself and who you are is tied to your dad. Kids who get left often strive to be perfect in the misguided idea that if they improved themselves maybe dad or mom would love them. (They also find ways to dull the pain, if you know what I’m sayin’. You’ve shifted from that, but perhaps you’re still of the mindset that not being perfect means being a failure).

I hope this comment isn’t too personal. You’re so kick ass and really, you should be enjoying your achievements, not finding fault with yourself because you’re not a step above them.

Sunshyn
Sunshyn
12 years ago

Also, addicts and alcoholics generally perceive themselves (ourselves) as unworthy, useless, and a waste of space. Quit breathing! Dammit! But that is why we work a program of recovery, so we can get past that and learn self-love. Humble self-love… Right! You rock, Linda. Put downt he whip and quit with the self-flagellation. All you are, hon, is human…

Mrs. D
12 years ago

It’s hard not to feel like you’re fooling everyone. But I hope this test gave you some perspective – something you can return to again and again to remind yourself that you aren’t faking it. You do have a lot of good things going for you – great things, actually. Not the least of which is your bald honesty on this blog – which is refreshing and enlightening and inspirational.

Jen
Jen
12 years ago

At least one of the reasons I’m in therapy… lovely depression.

caleal
caleal
12 years ago

I’m sure everyone’s going to tell you nice things now, and I’m not sure if you read them all, and I’m sure even if you do you’ll still get down on yourself.

But here’s the deal. I don’t know the Linda you talk about when you talk about your past addictions (I know, I know, I don’t KNOW LINDA at all, and that statement may have sounded crazy and stalkerish, but bear with me). Like, I listen, and your words are beautiful and I admire that you’re so willing to share your past. But I simply CANNOT reconcile the things you say with Now Linda. The woman who is hilarious, who is an awesome mom, who sets these amazing goals and accomplishes them, and does not stop, who doesn’t make herself seem fearless, but instead shows us all how you can still be a little afraid and get shit done.

Maybe you need a little bit of that conviction and worry that nothing inside of you has changed in order to keep your changes. Maybe it’s just your way of keeping yourself in check. And maybe it will fade in time when you become more trusting of yourself. Either way, you’re kicking ass, and you should know it.

Lara
12 years ago

I’ll ditto what Rebecca said, that “I bet 100% of your readers see you as a strong, courageous and honest person.”

I only *know you* through your blog, but even so, I know from what I’ve read that you have achieved so much, SO much, to be proud of.

I hope you can believe that, because you deserve to, you really do.

Amanda
12 years ago

Excuse me if I repeat something that the 50 million worshipers of you just said before me, but I find it impossible to believe that you don’t just wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and say HOT DAMN I AM AWESOME! I’m funny. I’m SMART. I’m creative. I’m athletic. I’m a do-er. And I’m making a difference in the world by inspiring others every f’ing day.

Girl, the Internet doesn’t blow smoke.

You’re awesome.

Mary
Mary
12 years ago

Not to get all Dr. Phil, but when I get overly shitty to myself, I keep a list of accomplishments in a little notebook I don’t show anyone. Just daily stuff: ate 3 pieces of fruit, finished a project, went to the gym, and big stuff if there is any. And holy crap, when you write it down, it totally adds up and changes how you think.

I JUST had a convo with my friend about the midwestern thing that it’s best to be humble, and to not give yourself credit for anything and never to think of yourself as a rockstar because it’s so distasteful, blah blah blah. My grandmother, for instance, wouldn’t DARE accept a compliment on her cooking, hell no. And we decided that that whole societal thing (midwestern or not) is crap. Even when the voices in my head are being critical, there’s another little part that says nah, there’s definitely an element of awesomeness in there. Especially as we age–we’re not who we were in our 20’s, and shouldn’t necessarily still see that person in the mirror.

Alex
12 years ago

This post made me shed a tear. I get it.

Miss Behavin
12 years ago

Courageous, yes..absolutely! This post took a lot of courage to share! You’re a brave soul, indeed!

Bachelor Girl
12 years ago

You are neither a spineless, urine-spraying idiot nor a lazy chicken-shitted waste of food.

In fact, I think you’re pretty terrific!

goingloopy
12 years ago

I’ve always said if I could have a superpower, it would totally be reading minds. Mostly because that way, I could MAKE SURE that everyone else is as completely fucked in the head as I am, and therefore, maybe I’m really ok, right? RIGHT!?

I’ve read your blog for a while, but only comment occasionally. However, I will say this. I’d rather be friends with someone like you than someone who is “perfect”…someone who never admits that sometimes they want to choke a bitch, sometimes they want to do nothing but eat baked goods and/or fried goods and/or cheese goods, sometimes they cry, sometimes they think they’re crazy, sometimes they wonder what in the blazing FUCK they were thinking at various points in their life.

The thing I admire most about you is that you can admit you’re not perfect. Maybe you don’t think so, but read your archives, dude. It takes a lot of guts to say what you say. Just know that somewhere, your lurkers are cheering you on.

angelynn
12 years ago

I feel you on this one. It takes a lot to write out loud. Thank you for sharing your stories. I’m sure everyone who reads your work is touched in one way or another. That alone is an accomplishment.

Marie Green
12 years ago

I believe I started reading you when you wrote for “Purple is a fruit”. I remember being drawn, initially, to your blog because of your awesome profile picture- you in pigtails, with Riley on your back. I don’t know WHY exactly that photo drew me in, but it did.

And now, all these years later, I’m still here, everyday. I love how you write and I’ve loved watching your growth as a healthy (REALLY HEALTHY, in my book) person. You’ve kept it real, for us the readers. So I’m surprised that you didn’t keep it real for yourself. Everything you’ve done is inspiring and really, really wonderful.

Also, I doubt you’d ever “score” very well on any kind of test that was (all, or in part) a list of adjectives. YOU are the WORD QUEEN of the INTERNETS, and no stupid test creator can ever top you. They say “happy” and you say “urine-spraying glee”. Or something like that.

Girl, you rock. I am better for reading here.

ERG
ERG
12 years ago

I find it very admirable you were not only able to write down such difficult things to think and admit about yourself, but to share it with your readers.

sooboo
12 years ago

From experience I can say those well worn paths of negatory, inner dialogue are awfully hard to give up. But you’ll do it just like everything else you’ve set your mind to.

clover
clover
12 years ago

So what do YOU think it would take for you to be good enough for yourself? Do you know? Me neither.

I haven’t read through the other comments, but I’m sure there are some generally stating “we women are always too hard on ourselves”… we’ve all heard that before, huh?

But really – I can’t imagine what Clover I could possibly be that would be even *just* good enough for me.

Awesome career = neglecting the kids. SAHM = completely atrophied brain incapable of conversation that doesn’t begin with “well Carys… blabitty blah blah” (Carys = 21 month old daughter) (and I’m in category 2 here, the atrophied, drooling SAHM)

I don’t think most people ever find their good enough ME (general me). I do wish there was someway to reconcile that within myself though. If you figure it out, post it, will ya?