So remember how a couple weeks ago I was all “oh, let’s not be so hard on ourselves! Be self-compassionate?” Let me tell you a little story that happened the same day. THE SAME DAY.
After a leisurely morning, my husband and I decided to go to an early lunch, out of the house. I was calm and relaxed, we ordered our beverages and started chatting about what the day had in store for us. My husband wanted to go to a party later, but I didn’t. This is not unusual for us–my aforementioned anxiety issues don’t lend themselves well to parties, especially where I am not well acquainted with the party-goers. I do much, much better at small gatherings, and even better when I am well acquainted with a few people in attendance.
When I told my husband that I didn’t mind if he went without me, I meant it. And I even meant it when I said he would have more fun there without me, but before the words even came out of my mouth, the tears had started falling. Not the tiny, stray tear that sometimes escapes when you get a little emotional; it was a river of big, fat tears rolling down my face. In public, at a place where we eat on a semi-regular basis. Then our food came, and our server tried to not make eye contact with us as I wiped my face and tried to look nonchalant even though it was pretty obvious that I was crying my eyeballs out. It took me a minute to regain my composure, and then another minute to figure out what exactly that sudden outburst of tears was all about: I was embarrassed and ashamed.
For months and months I didn’t have a choice about whether to go out or not, and here I was, physically able, and asking my husband to go without me. I knew that he would have more fun without me–he would feel more free to mingle and not worry about whether I was feeling physically or mentally uncomfortable, and he could leave as early or as late as he wanted to. I’m pretty rational, and the rational me knew he should go, but the truth still stung me: he really would have more fun without me. The tears would not stop coming. I felt like a horrible wife and companion; a good wife would just suck it up and go anyway, right? Not only that, we were about to have a whole week off together and now I was crying and ruining it!
I was judging myself in a way that my husband would never judge me, He doesn’t measure everything I do in terms of whether I’m a good or bad wife, he just accepts me for who I am, not for what I can or can’t do. Even after 35 years in this body, I can’t do what comes so easily for him.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced this year has been accepting myself for who I am, and remembering that I am not my illness and that my illness is not me. It took me many years to realize that I had a habit of measuring my own self-worth by how much I could do, and could do well. Even though I know now that it’s a fools errand, I still can’t help reverting to my old habits now and again, and feeling like less of a person when I am less capable. It sounds absurd when I say it out loud, but it is the unfortunate truth.
Self-worth is something I struggle with periodically in my life, and I know I’m not the only one who has felt like they weren’t something enough. It gets so easy to focus on the things that we aren’t instead of remembering all the things we are. I’ve stopped short of Stuart Smalley affirmations, but I have been trying to keep words in my mind throughout the day for when I’m feeling like like less-than myself. Today I stole them from my tea tag:
What words help carry you through your day?