Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What a horror flick can teach us about how we talk to ourselves

There was a popular horror flick when I was younger about a babysitter being terrorized by a lunatic. He continues to call her, asking in a raspy voice, "Have you checked the children?"
The babysitter calls the police to report this harassment and the police promise to investigate. The climax of the movie – the part where everyone in the theatre shrieks in terror – comes when a police officer calls the babysitter back and tells her that "the calls are coming from inside the house."
I'm reminded of this because of a comment on the Feeling Stuck thread in which a woman, still married and reportedly happy to be, confesses that she's struggling to feel desirable because her husband cheated with someone younger and, theoretically, sexier. This woman felt old and unlovable and "ordinary". How, she asked, could she get her former confident self back?
What does this have to do with a horror flick? Because here's the thing: it's coming from inside your head. The enemy is in the house.
And that is where we need to direct our energy to ensure that this enemy is annihilated, or at least tamed.
It's not easy. The enemy might have our voice but the words likely sound a lot like those that came from your mother. Or your stepfather. Or your college boyfriend. Even your husband. Maybe what you hear sounds a lot like what we see on social media, where women are attacked for everything from their weight to their hair to the language they use. For centuries, women have been policed -- our bodies, our ideas. So it's no surprise that we've internalized this. It's no surprise that the enemy is now within.
Cause being younger doesn't necessarily mean better unless we agree with our cultural worship of youth. Being younger generally means less life experience. It means less perspective. It means less nuance. And being "new" means she doesn't have the same history with your partner – showing up day in and day out for life's moments – that you do. So she has a tight ass. Big deal. Talk to me when she has a moral compass.
The only way to battle that internal enemy is to, first, notice it. Pay attention next time you hear criticism coming from inside your own head. Anything from "what an idiot I am" to "I'm disgusting". And then challenge it. Are you really an idiot? I doubt it. I imagine, like the rest of us, you have your moments. You say something dumb or you lose something important or you forget something. Oh well. Welcome to the club.
As for disgusting, no you're not. If you're not taking care of yourself, then it's time to start. But that's it. Tell yourself you're disgusting often enough and that's all you'll be able to see. You'll completely miss everything that's incredible about you. Your sense of humour. Your insight. Your kindness. None of that is disgusting.
But when all we hear is a steady stream of criticism, that becomes our reality. The enemy of the women who commented about having lost her confidence isn't this younger Other Woman. It's the voice in her head. The one that agrees that youth is somehow preferable.
Maybe this voice has something to teach her. Maybe she's bored with her own life. Maybe what she's after isn't youth (especially when it comes in a package that's lacking a heart and soul) but vitality. Maybe she needs to stir things up a bit – try a new hobby, take a trip, do something unexpected.
Or maybe she needs to stop beating herself up for having taken more trips around the sun than this morally challenged Other Woman. Maybe she needs to see the beauty in eyes that crinkle when she smiles, a body that has weathered a few more storms.
Next time you hear that voice, remind yourself that it's the enemy within. And that's an enemy that you can control.

5 comments:

  1. Elle - yes, yes, yes. This has been on my mind a lot lately - not these exact words, but reading this - this has been on my mind. Trying to change the story I am telling myself, to change the way I talk to myself, to change the things about me that I thought were not lovable. Thank you for these beautiful words and gentle reminder. Many hugs!

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  2. I bloody love this Elle, my ow was 10 years younger but who’s counting right! Like you said she’s not had the past memories that I shared with my ex h, being at our 2 childrens births, the funeral of my parents, our sons first day at school, his part as Joseph in the Christmas nativity, she had none of this yes I could start slating this low life but I will refrain on this occasion because I’m not wasting any more of my time or energy on this worthless piece of crap. Instead I’m going to look at the positives in me like my recently slimmer body having lost a stone through healthy eating and exercise, my mum tum that still exists has the stretch marks present to remind me of my pregnancy’s, my boobs which I love, doesn’t matter if anyone else loves them I do. Your right if we keep telling ourselves we are wonderful we will start to believe it and all my warriors are beautiful and creative women, quit the negative self talk and look for what you need to make yourself more exciting, interesting appealing to yourself. Make yourself the priority today and everyday xxx

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  3. Still Standing 1July 3, 2018 at 3:51 PM

    So much of this for me lately. Maybe hard for some to relate to, but in a dating situation. Lots of interest, then mixed signals, then a "I'm not looking for a relationship right now." And though I know I am so much better off not with this person as he is right now (and may always be), it's still a disappointment and a felt rejection. And part of my brain, on repeat, starts to zero in on all the ways I was not "enough" to make/keep this man interested or transform him out of wherever he is to where I wanted him to be, to have him choose me over bachelorhood. Not young enough (always that now, wrinkles, loose skin, wtf is happening to my neck!? age spots, veins, stretch marks, gad) not pretty enough, not fit enough, maybe my ass is not tight enough, my stomach has had some babies dammit and remains poochy despite my intense workout routines, not out going enough, not funny enough, maybe I didn't make him feel safe enough, too shy, too quiet, too bookish. And though I kept interrupting it and calling it bullshit, it weighed me down for days.
    After some meditation, great time with friends and a stellar session with my therapist, I'm seeing that his fears and inability to open up to my awesomeness is all about him and where he is and nothing to do with my actual beauty and/or awesomeness. And. AND. I'm disappointed in him and a little bit angry. Because he absolutely led me on. He knew I was interested and went with it. Did not act like a man who was trying to make it clear that he just wanted to be friends (ie. boundaries, you don't make a remark like "you can wear the dress next time" and kiss on the lips if you are trying to convey that you are not interested in a relationship). So I'm in a better place with it, but man was I all over myself with all the ways in which I had failed to be enough.
    I was reading an Agatha Christie short story and she described one of the characters as having a face "just short of beautiful" and I just started crying. It felt so tragic and so me. Never quite measuring up. Always being short of something that made me worthy. Here's the thing. I don't think Dame Christie meant it that way at all. She was showing someone with character, who was striking and unusual and captivating. But in that moment all I could focus on was what was missing. Dammit. I also notice that when I get in that headspace, I can be pretty self absorbed. My hurt, my struggles and I am less present with my friends. I don't like that about myself.
    But today, I am shifting to a better place. Thank you to my therapist who has taken on the role of kind and supportive parent. She reminded me that though I may not be outgoing or sporty or whatever stupid adjectives I was using to beat myself down with and compare myself to others with, that I was in fact an incredible human, who has a lot to offer. I have very pretty eyes, good collar bones and nice, runners legs. And a fucking giant, soft heart, and a story and a thirst for adventure, an appreciation of art and nature and what is beautiful in humanity. And a host of other things.
    And we all, each of us are incredible, miraculous humans with so much to offer the world. And when that gremlin voice, the enemy in the house, calls us with shitty messages to scare us and keep us small, tell it to sit down and shut up. Punch that voice in the neck and just keep going. we are all enough.

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  4. I admire your tenacity still standing 1... I’m the primary care taker of the original one that made me feel ‘not good enough’. Every day she continues to find something wrong with her meal or her coffee. She has begun to make my h feel like he’s not good enough when he makes her coffee. Here’s the thing though. We both realize that no matter what either one of us do to try to please her, it’s never going to be good enough for her. She’s still the same depressed woman she has been my whole life and I know in my heart that my h and I are all she has and we’re plenty damn good enough! Thanks Elle for the reminders!

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  5. The OW called me an old hag through an email one day last summer. My response to her was I would rather be an old hag then what you are any day. But it stuck with me. So every time I would look at myself in the mirror that's what I saw. She is 37 overweight, a smoker, heavy drinker, no morales and lives with her mother. All choices that she has made. I am 55 and don't look it, at a decent weight, I walk and hike and it suddenly dawned on me after reading this that, this is what she see's in herself. I remembered too that they all called me crazy, ugly and what ever horrible names you can think of and I remember it ate at me all the time. How could they say these things to me and about me when they didn't even really know me. So I was stuck living in the past all the time and not moving forward being in the now. I still struggle with this but like SS1 said I am shifting to a better place and the I AM are the key words I tell myself everyday. I AM beautiful, I AM worthy and I AM forgiveness.

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