They say that self-inquiry is like peeling back the layers of an onion. You become comfortable with one aspect of your life that you were previously flummoxed by and lo and behold, there’s a newer, juicier layer right underneath to contend with. I just came face to onion with that juicy layer.
My personal revolution has been cruising right along over the last several months. I quit my seemingly perfect-for-me job because it wasn’t as perfect as I had hoped. I’ve been taking art classes, which just a few short years ago would have been impossible. I’m handing the job of guiding my life to the universe and it feels great. No stress. I trust that opportunities are presenting themselves all the time and I simply have to wait for inspiration to act. Trust is new for me and it’s such a relief to have finally let go of control. I’ve been avoiding this blog because I didn’t really know the direction it would take, but I guess I’ll just have to find out along the way. It’ll probably be a mishmash of feelings and artwork until I find my voice. I hope you don’t mind.
I peeled back another layer of the self-knowledge onion recently when I met a man. Gasp. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had any sort of relationship with a man. If there is an area of my life that needs work, it’s this one. He’s a really nice guy who taught my elementary drawing class. No worries. We’re about the same age, so there’s no creepy professor vibe here. He’s easy for me to talk with and I enjoy his company. One night, he asked me to go for a walk with him and along the way, he told me that he was attracted to me. Alarm bells went off immediately and I sat there in a momentary panic. I finally told him that I had kept myself hidden away for quite a while and I really only wanted friendship right now. I could see the disappointment in his face, but I’m a sagittarius. We cannot tell a lie, but we can also not tell all of the truth and the truth is that I’m not really attracted to him physically.
I felt bad for days afterwards. Why wasn’t I attracted to him? He’s a great guy. He’s easy to talk to. He’s an artist. I feel comfortable talking to him. What’s not to like? Just because he doesn’t look like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson–and let’s face it, who does?–does that mean he’s not worth dating? I discussed it with my therapist and that’s when the realization hit me: I see people the way my dad saw people. When my dad would tell me about someone he met, he would preface his statement with “S/He sure is good-looking, cute, or handsome” or “She isn’t very cute, poor thing, but she’s a sweet girl.” I never once heard him say he thought I was pretty and the way I saw it, pretty meant lovable.
Tony Robbins asked the questions, “Whose love did you crave more, your mother’s or your father’s?” and then “What did you have to do to earn that love?” No matter how responsible I was or what grades I got or how many sports I played, nothing was as important as being pretty and as the saying goes “You can’t fix ugly.” He gave lip service to loving me, but he always did it with a wink and a nudge. After forty years, I finally gave up trying to earn his love.
Now I’ve discovered that I judge men in the same way and that makes me angry. Why would I do something so hurtful to someone else? The bigger question is, why am I doing it to myself? I can’t look at myself in the mirror without cringing. I can’t accept romantic advances because I feel so ugly and therefore unlovable. There must be something wrong with him if he likes me, right? I want to love myself. I want to allow others to love me. I want friends and relationships, but how can I have those things when I can’t look at myself in the mirror without snarling and flipping myself off.
My therapist gave me an exercise to do. She said to take a selfie every day and find one thing about my face that’s beautiful. I could even break up my face into parts and start with an eyebrow or something. I’m usually up for a challenge, so I thought I’d put it on this blog so that I could hold myself accountable. Well, I’ve been trying to do that for three days now. I had a photo up, but I couldn’t say that I found anything beautiful about it. I got so anxious and angry that I had to walk away. The anxiety that I feel about this subject is currently too overwhelming for me to do the exercise. I never knew how stifling this belief was. It affects every aspect of my life from jobs to friendships to allowing myself some happiness. I’m not sure how I am going to deal with it. For now, I’ll set it aside until I can think about it without crying.
Maybe I’ll start loving myself from the bottom up. I’ve always thought my feet were my best feature. How’s that?
Peeling onions is serious business.