Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Defining Myself

There's something I've been thinking about a lot over the last several months. It has rolled over in my mind about a million times and I've finally decided to write about it...

This summer, in the wake of a particularly difficult breakup, I felt wrecked. I was sad, angry, hopeless, and struggling to rub two ounces of self-esteem together. I was in a downward spiral of self-doubt and having trouble understanding why. In the beginning, I had been so sure that this relationship was the one that was going to go the distance - only to find out two years into it that I was wrong. But, there was more to it than that. What lingered in the background during the second year, while the relationship was failing, and after it ended was the feeling that somehow, I was failing. I wasn't good enough to make it work. Maybe I wasn't caring enough? Or thoughtful enough? Maybe I wasn't compromising as much as I should? Maybe I wasn't pretty enough? Maybe I was too ambitious? Too career oriented? And so on...

After a lot of thought, some help, and a lot of talking to my family and good friends (who, thankfully, never told me to shut my pie hole), I had a bit of a breakthrough. First, I realized that I had felt self-doubt like this before. I won't bore you with all of the details here, but let's just say that an experience with an old coach really did a number on me (it is so not ok for a coach to tell your teammates behind your back that he thinks you're fat/a bad teammate/a bad leader/a bad athlete). Then, I realized that, for a long time, I had been letting other people define who I was. I had taken my coach's words and believed them about myself. All of the nice things that the person I dated didn't say about me became untrue in my mind and all of my fears that went uncomforted became my reality.

As time went on, I started to understand that someone else's definition of me doesn't have to be my definition of myself. That what others think (or don't think) about me may say more about them than it does about me. I understood that a failed relationship didn't mean that I was a bad girlfriend or that I'm irreversibly screwed up. I realized that what really matters is what I think of myself and how I define myself.

So, as I've said, this is something I've been sitting with for a while. And it's something I've waited to put into words because I wasn't quite sure how to say it and, frankly, I was uncomfortable with it. For one thing, the pain is still there.  But mostly, this whole "letting other people's opinions become my own" thing really doesn't fit well with the person I had always been. For the first 23+ years of my life, I made a habit of making up my own mind about myself. I never quit something because someone told me I wasn't any good. In fact, rejection was almost an invitation to me; if someone told me I couldn't, I set out to prove them wrong (and almost always did).  And it’s true that, when a certain coach suggested that I quit the team, I refused and became ever the more determined to stick it out.  But, since then, I have struggled to find joy in a sport that I was once insanely passionate about.

I feel that I know myself pretty well. I know what I want to do with my life, what I like and don't like, and am constantly learning new lessons about myself (foreign countries are great places to do that - like a crash course). But, knowing information about yourself is different from your beliefs about yourself, I think. And I have spent the last 6 years believing certain things about myself because someone I thought I could trust said them about me.

I have thought about writing this blog post for, um, approximately 3 months now. It is rather personal and revealing. But maybe it's something a lot of people struggle with. How often do we let others determine how we feel or think about ourselves? How often do we give up on something because someone else told us we weren't any good? Or, we don't buy a particular outfit because we're worried about what people will think?

For me, it is time for a change.  It is time to figure out what, exactly, it is that I believe about myself.  And it’s time to let go of these other people’s opinions that I’ve held onto for far too long...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing from the heart, Katie! It's scary to reveal, but reading it helps others, me in particular. I struggle with the same things. I also took criticism as a challenge to prove everyone wrong when growing up. But somehow, I too let what others think about me influence how I think about myself. Can I strive to change with you?
    Love, your friend,