I’m on a visit to Jen, and our friend Luann got a hotel room for the three of us for New Year’s Eve! It’s 9 PM, Luann’s taking a little nap, and Jen’s going to take a soak in the tub, so I’ve got a little time to myself: just me, my computer, and my leftover dinner from Wegmann’s. Yum, yum, yum!
So clearly, it’s time for me to blog about new year’s resolutions. Lots of times people’s resolutions are things that are bound to make them feel bad if they don’t accomplish them: dieting, exercising, other good habits they want to form or bad habits they want to break. And I’ve done that before, sometimes successfully, and sometimes unsuccessfully. But I’ve decided to take a different approach this year.
So here’s my resolution. Ready?
I resolve in 2017 to be kinder to myself.
I’ve written a lot on here about my issues with depression recently. And maybe it’s the thyroid medicine I’m on helping me get some emotional balance, and maybe it’s this awesome blog post I read the other night (“Seeking Outside Approval Is Giving Our Power Away“: I highly recommend the read!). But I’ve been realizing that the biggest thing I can do to fix my situation is about my internal struggle with depression, not my external struggle with job-hunting or with my mom.
Somewhat like Jen Yang, the author of the above-linked blog post, I grew up with parents who were moderately more likely to make a point of telling me when I was doing something wrong than to make a point of telling me when I was doing something right. Having depression also makes this impression of constant criticism stronger–in fact, I have no idea how accurate my assessment of their criticism-to-compliment ratio really is because of my depression. My mother, whom I am much closer to than my dad and spent much more time with, is also something of a perfectionist, and I learned from observation to be very hard on myself. So I got to a point a week or so ago when I realized that I was constantly seeking my mother’s approval and felt like I could never gain it, and therefore could never feel successful or fulfilled. I really considered trying to do a joint counseling session with her to talk about it all.
But Jen Yang’s post really pointed out to me that feeling bitter and trying to manipulate my mom into giving me greater validation or praise is never going to be enough, and is only going to hurt both my mom and me–especially if my assessment of the situation is inaccurate, because as I’ve observed before, I’ve got such a complex about being afraid to be seen as a show-off that I don’t internalize, and therefore develop a weird sort of amnesia about, compliments that people give me. If I tried to bring all this stuff up, it would only make a mess of our relationship, and I probably STILL wouldn’t feel the unprompted validation I want.
Instead, I’m going to work on validating MYSELF. I have struggled a lot with this concept and how self-validation actually works, but I think I’ve clarified it to myself, partly through Jen’s post, and partly through seeing Moana last night.
By the way, Moana is a FANTASTIC movie, and I cannot recommend it enough! Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.
In Moana, the demi-god Maui was rejected by his parents and has spent his entire immortal life trying to gain human approval by giving gifts to humanity. But he never feels like they’re properly grateful, and they quickly forget his gifts to them. He is therefore never happy.
So I asked myself, what could Maui achieve that would satisfy his need for approval? He could approve of his own behavior by knowing that he did the right thing, even if nobody ever thanked him for it.
Everything Maui did, all his achievements, appeared in magical tattoos on his body. If one’s character is determined by one’s actions, his character was displayed on his body for all to see. OUR characters are only inked into our minds. But in the same way, if *I* can be happy with what I’ve done, I won’t need other people to recognize it and praise me for it.
It’s late and I don’t know if any of this is making any sense. But I’ve realized that I need to recognize and praise myself for my own good characteristics and my own achievements. Because even if other people don’t recognize them, what’s going to make me happiest is for ME to recognize them and to value myself because of them. Then my feelings of wellbeing won’t depend on the behavior of others: it will depend only on my own behavior.
So I want to get a little unlined notebook and write/illustrate something good about myself on every page, in first person: “I am smart,” “I am creative,” “I am hardworking,” etc. It’ll be a little reminder to myself of my own good characteristics: my own Maui tattoos. 🙂