A couple of months ago I signed up for another of Beth Bornstein Dunnington’s one day Big Island Writing retreats to be held on April 29. Oh how I love writing retreats! (Read my other posts on retreats here and here.) I didn’t know it back when I signed up, but the timing would turn out to be perfect. Just one day prior to the retreat, I did my first ever live author interview with Rhonda Hayes Curtis. (You can watch that interview here.)
The morning of the interview my nerves were on edge about trying something new in a public way, and the bully in my brain was in rare form. No surprise there. I’ve learned on this journey of healing my low self-esteem that an abundant amount of patience is required.
My inner critic rarely has my best interest at heart, but I'm slowly changing our relationship which is changing everything for the better. I knew that writing about the thoughts and feelings I had while getting ready for the interview would help me. Penning that shitty first draft is the first step to being able to write my own brave ending, so that’s what I did.
I’m sharing this with you because self-judgment is what fuels perfectionism, but moving past mental constructs of “perfect” is where we begin to find our true self.
Beth facilitates her workshops with prompts, and the morning’s first prompt was exactly what I needed.
Beth’s prompt: “On this day, I . . .”
Here’s what I wrote:
On this day I stand in the bathroom and stare in the mirror. My hair is wet, my face ruddy. Immediately, the bully begins. First in what I notice: bags under my eyes, pooch under my chin, age spots on my face. “Wow,” bully says. “You look like shit. Are you ever going to start taking better care of yourself? How bad does it have to get?”
These days I often can and often do successfully tell my bully to shut the hell up, but being naked has a tendency to give her the upper hand. My vulnerability has a direct line to her bone of contention—my imperfect body. My defenses are down and she knows it. After the bags and the pooch and the spots, she goes straight for the kill. “Who do you think you are, anyway?”
I stop. Consider her question. Maybe she’s right. Why would anyone give a shit what I think?, I wonder. A good question for which I have no answer.
I command myself to ignore her and to get on with getting ready. And like the diligent good little girl that I am, I do. I spray root volumizer on the crown of my head and smear argan oil throughout the crinkly strands. I grab the blow dryer and bend in half to achieve maximum volume with minimum frizz. I roll a round brush through my thick brown hair again and again and work up a right old sweat. Maybe it’s not too late, I think as I bend down and up, up and down, my funky chicken arms flailing. I could pick up the phone right now and call Rhonda and tell her that I’m really sorry but the interview just won’t work out today. I think seriously about lying. She doesn’t know me and wouldn’t know the difference; I could already tell she was a benefit of the doubt type of person.
Rhonda would think my situation sad as I explain that I must have gotten a case of food poisoning from that undercooked chicken I ate last night. She would never know that undercooked chicken is always the culprit. She would say she is sorry and don’t worry and it’s not a problem. We can reschedule. I would chuckle and joke about TMI and toilet bowls, and she would say, “Feel better soon.”
Rhonda would not know—no one would—that the real reason I want to put her off is that 30 pounds I gained a couple of years ago, back when my daughter lost her mind and we weren’t sure she would find it again. The 30 more pounds on top of the 30 old pounds, that is, and the way I see them on my face and my hips and my thighs—the 30 more pounds that reassure me how correct, how spot on the bully in my brain is. My imperfections make me unworthy. No one does give a shit, especially me.
I put down the dryer and rifle through my makeup bag. Eyeliner: Utility Grey. Mascara: It’s A Long Story. It sure the hell is. One pump of primer, which is the shit you smear on your face to make your skin smoother. Powder and blush and eye shadow. The minutes tick by and my chest tightens. It’s a little harder to breath. My heart rate increases as worry floods my nervous system. It’s okay to be nervous, I think. Nervous is good. Nervous is natural. Nervous is the precursor of courageous. The flat iron heats up. The hairspray smells good. Everyone knows the best way to cover up an imperfect body is with war paint. Primped, primed, and pritified in all the right places, I am ready.
I take a seat at my desk and prepare. I review. I refine. I turn on the camera and see me staring back at me. The bully has a good laugh at my expense, but I am plenty used to that. What I am not yet used to is what happens next: I remember my practice. Thanks, but no thanks, I think. I'm as worthy as the next guy. I coddle her. I’m sorry you’re scared, but you’ll be fine. Better than fine.
I look at myself and realize that maybe there was a time when I needed to be afraid, when fear made sense and so did hiding. But now I no longer need to hide. Bully is not in control, and she isn't going to steal my lunch money. Sometimes I need to hear what bully has to say, but not today. I look at my sleek hair and my done up face and think how pretty I look. Darn nice. I stare straight into the lens, smile, and say, “I, for one, really give a shit what you have to say.”