This trip to Japan came at the perfect time. Until I began to pack last week, I didn’t realize how much I was in need of a vacation. Not a trip to Atlanta to see friends and family, but a real getaway. The kind that would jolt me a little.
They say confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can wear. I guess that’s why I’ve been so hesitant to have this particular conversation with you all. If confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can wear, does that make insecurity the attitudinal equivalent of sweatpants?
I’m going to tell you all something that not a lot of people know about me. I used to be fat. I realize we’re not supposed to use that word, but I think I’m allowed to say it about myself. This is what I used to look like.
And I’m here today to tell you that losing 50 pounds in two years can be both the best and the worst thing to ever happen to you. When I was fat, I always knew where I stood with people. If someone was nice to me, it was because they liked my personality and nothing more. (Heck, it was always a little bit of a shock when someone liked even my personality – I was not a very pleasant person to be around back then. Disliking yourself can make you pretty cranky.)
But when I began to lose weight, people started liking me for other reasons. Men (and sometimes women) started liking me because suddenly I wasn’t so bad to look at. And things got a little confusing. I found that I really liked it when people like me. I really liked it when men were attracted to me. Being well liked gave me a decent amount of self confidence for the first time in my life, and that made me more successful. Anyone who tells you that image, attraction, and success aren’t all tied together has their head up their ass.
Here’s the problem, though. I became addicted to being well liked. I became addicted to the feeling I would get when someone across a bar would make eyes at me. Addicted to success at work. And somewhere along the way I lost sight of the things that I cared about. I lost sight of the things that I valued about myself.
These days it seems like I make an awful lot of my decisions based on what will make people like me more. Like me personally, professionally, romantically. This is some fucked up shit, my friends. I’ve begun to define myself by the validation I receive from others. I’m the girl that gets hit on wherever she goes. The girl who is needed at work. The girl who is cherished by family. All of these things are great. But also all of these things rely on the validation of other people.
Mohadesa Najumi says that “the woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet”. I’d really like to be feared. I’d like for my self-confidence (and not just my ‘fake it ’till you make it ’ self-confidence) to scare the shit out of some people. But I’m not there yet.
This week away from everyone I know has been eye opening. It’s given me a chance to imagine a life where I make decisions for myself and not for anyone else. I’d like to think that I can take this new sense of self home with me and implement it in my day-to-day life immediately. But that feels unrealistic.
Learning to like the person I see in the mirror will continue to take time. Maybe a long time. I’m going to have to sit down with myself at every turn in the road and say “Hey friend – is this a decision we’re making for ourself, or is this a decision we’re making to please someone else?” Frankly that all sounds exhausting. But it’s necessary.
I’ll be back in D.C. in a couple of hours and I know that all the issues I left behind will be awaiting my return. But I’d like to think this time away will have better equipped me to face them head on.
What battles are you figniting with yourself? How do you deal with insecurity?