Sunday, July 18, 2010

In the beginning...

It started when I was young. Much younger than I could have realized, and by the time I became aware of it, it was already too late. The poison had set in, the programming had been activated, and I was stuck with the perspective that, no matter what, I would never, ever be enough.

This blog is the story of my personal adventures after coming to terms with the damage that living my life based on unrealistic expectations and goals that I set for myself- trying to be a real life Superwoman- does to me. It's thoughts on my daily project of working to live life on life's terms, rather than my own.

The background, from my angle (that being a blatantly feminist, sociological, poli-sci angle):

From the earliest, teeniest years American girls are fed a constant diet of Disney princesses that have it all; magazines that coach on fad diets, how to get boys, what should be considered 'one of your most embarrassing moments'; television commercials for push-up bras, Bow Flex gyms, Nutri-system, McDonald's and Burger King; TV shows filled with working moms that can balance family, work, gym, personal relationships and the occasional night to just contemplate your navel (except for SATC, of course...but then again, they wore Dior in the desert, so really, all credibility has been blown in my book).

Society, parents, school, friends all actively instruct us as to what rules to follow, who has the right to write those rules, and doles out harsh punishment in the form of social isolation should you not fall in line. I was no different than any other little girl, and these messages began to wrap their tentacles around my psyche from day one.

This programming, reinforced daily by a society that everywhere we turn insists that we don't know what's best for ourselves, that we need to appeal to some product to inform us as to our real life's purpose, led me to feel from a very, very young age that should I not be able to juggle all of the accouterments of 'success'-thin body, wonderful husband, high powered career, adorable children, gym buddies, girls to go to lunch with, prestigious education, etc- that I would somehow not be "enough". And by the time I became aware of just how much this consistent bombardment of societal expectations had defined what I expected of myself, it was too late to run for cover. I had already accepted what I had perceived as others' expectations for myself (whether or not my perception was accurate) as my own definition of having 'made it'.

And so, I set off with all purpose to achieve and accumulate that which I though would make me 'enough'. And my best, best efforts led to chaos, obesity, depression, and self-hatred.

To see me today, none of this is evident from the outside. I'm 5'11" in bare feet, size 6 (or 4, thank you ego sizing), long brunette hair, and am told on a frequent basis-at least twice a week- by strangers that I look like Sandra Bullock or Anne Hathaway. I dress nicely, have hair styled and make-up on when I walk out the door. But this is all a facade covering the crippling insecurity that rears its ugly head almost daily, telling me that I'm so full of shit and not fooling anyone.

Only four short years ago, I was 104 pounds heavier than I am now. I was literally bursting the seams on size 20 pants. Short, kinky hair. Bent glasses. Ill-fitting clothing bought off the clearance rack with no regard to style beyond if it would fit around my robust waistline, which was ever expanding. I had no idea how to fix my hair, much less my life. I was working two part-time jobs, going to university full time, had three different clubs and extracurricular activities at school, and was attempting to be a good girlfriend to the amazing guy I was dating (spoiler alert: we're engaged now). My life disintegrated into chaos as I tried to accomplish all that I thought I was supposed to accomplish, driven by crippling insecurity to try to 'have it all', all at once.

Thank you God, my life is so, so different today. Through the help of supportive friends, family and an incredible recovery group, I have pieced together an amazing life. I really do have 'it all' now- thin body; unbelievably amazing, more than I could have ever dreamed or hoped for husband-to-be that is funny, empathetic, takes my breath away good looking, smart, and extremely employable; wonderful, loving parents; amazing friends; even a cute puppy.

Despite all of this, I continue to be driven to do more, be more, achieve achieve, achieve. And inevitably, this always, always ends in disaster. Without fail, when I try to do more than I really am capable of, my life begins to suck again. And the self-hatred, always only a heart beat away, floods back in, squeezing out any sanity that had taken up residence in my brain.

And yet, each day I struggle with the thought that what I am doing is just. not. enough.

I know that I am not the only woman that feels this way (maybe a few men too?). We're a type- smart, driven, high expectations of ourselves and others. I have enough wonderful women like this in my life to know that I am not the only woman that goes to bed at night berating myself for the forty-three things that I didn't manage to get through that day. I'm not the only woman that gets a constructive critique from an employer and immediately questions my every professional ability and comes to the conclusion that waiting tables is the only job for which I am qualified. I am self centered, but not so much so that I imagine myself to be the only woman that struggles each day to convince herself that she does enough, has enough, and for goodness sake is enough.

And so I set this blog down as a frequent reminder to myself that I am batshit crazy to think that I should achieve all of my life's goals in the next thirty days, and batshit crazy to think that I should define said goals by what I see on commercials between House and SNL. I write this also to perhaps provide a ray of hope to any fellow hyper-type-A friends out there that they are not the only one that feels expected to be super human.