Friday, September 28, 2007

Self-Esteem (or, "Do As I Say, Not As I Do")

I had an interesting revelation on Wednesday as I was talking with a couple of friends. One of them was frustrated because boys were being stupid (unfortunately, this seems to be a trend for many of my friends right now). At some point in the conversation, she began making derogatory comments about her looks. My other friends and I immediately assured her that she was, in fact, beautiful, that any boy who would ignore her must be an idiot, etc. Her response was simply, "Yeah, right . . . "

I have conversations like that one more often than I'd like to. It breaks my heart that so many girls struggle with self-esteem. I was profoundly bothered by this particular conversation . . . I honestly wanted to cry for my friend, because she truly is a beautiful person, inside and out.

My revelation came later, as the conversation continued: I hold a ridiculous double standard when it comes to the issue of self-esteem.

The same friend asked me a question later in the evening, calling me "Lovely." I told her I didn't know who she was talking to when she said that. She called me "beautiful," and I protested. I eventually admitted to my her that I don't think I'm hideous; I'm just simply not a drop-dead-gorgeous, boys falling at my feet sort of girl.

It's funny how I can be so caught up in wanting to make someone feel better that I can be completely blind to my own attitudes.

I actually realized the double standard that night. Unfortunately, while admitting that there is a problem may be the first step to solving the problem, it's not the only step. I did the same thing on Thursday night. I was going swing dancing with the girls in my hall, and I found myself making comments about how I was actually going to look beautiful that night, since I was going to wear a dress and put on makeup.

I hold a similar double-standard in several areas of my life, I've realized. I don't want to cry in front of people; when I do so, I feel it's a sign of weakness. However, I don't look down on others for crying more openly--when others do so, I can admit that it takes strength to let others see you when you're broken. I want to be able to bear my own burdens along with the burdens of everyone around me without help; I will tell anyone else who tries to do the same that it's not ok, because trying to carry so much simply wears you down to the point that you can't be of any help to anyone.

It's a troubling realization. I want to be a person of integrity, and yet, if I really examine my heart, I find that I'm a hypocrite. I have been much more conscious of the words that come out of my mouth over the past couple of days. I have been forced to admit that over-criticizing myself just makes it ok for other girls to be over-critical of themselves.

So, I have a goal for the next week (and hopefully beyond). Working on all of those double standards at once is an overwhelming thought, so I'm going to start small. No more making negative comments about myself, aside from healthy, productive criticism. That's just not the sort of person I want to be.

I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting week.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tough Questions

"Why did God bless me with such wonderful friends?"

"Why does growing up have to hurt so much?"

A dear friend of mine asked these questions last night as we sat together on my couch. I didn't have an answer. All I could do was hold her and find the same questions echoing back in my mind.

That first question has been on my mind a lot lately. I have the most amazing friends in the world. I totally don't deserve them. That's really struck home in the past couple of weeks. I hadn't been doing very well; I had found myself in a bit of a slump. It's a pretty normal thing for me, and I know I would be out of it soon enough. Usually when I'm in such a slump I can keep up a pretty convincing fa├žade. My issue are my issues, and I'm used to dealing with them on my own. But last week . . . last week I couldn't keep up the act. In fact, by the time Friday rolled around, people I would never have expected to notice were asking what was wrong. Friends that were super busy went out of their way to ask how I was doing and give me hugs. It made the slump a lot more survivable.

Being in college makes me ask my friend's second question a lot more than I used to. Growing up is painful. I spent most of my childhood waiting for the day I could get my driver's license, and almost every day after my sixteenth birthday waiting for the day I could move out of my house. Going home on breaks, I still find myself waiting for the day when I can move out. But really . . . growing up is hard. It's terrifying. I still struggle to comprehend the fact that I'm a legal adult. I don't feel like I'm mature enough . . . or responsible enough . . . or strong enough.

That's been my biggest battle over the past month or so. No matter what I do; no matter how much I try to talk myself into thinking otherwise, I'm never quite strong enough. I see my friends struggling to get by . . . I watch my parents fight with my brother . . . and I realize that in the end, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. I can't even keep my own life under control for more than a couple of hours, so how could I possibly help anyone else?

I've always wanted to be stronger than I am. I've always felt the pressure to be strong. My friends turn to me when life doesn't go the way they planned; my brother turns to me to defend him when I'm home; my parents turn to me when they can't figure out what to do with my brother . . . and I expect myself to be able to do it all. But I can't.

I can think of few issues I find more difficult in my relationship with God. I want to be self-sufficient. I want to be able to take care of myself and everyone around me. At the same time, I know the only way I'm ever going to get anywhere in life is by surrendering it all to God. Surrender . . . being a living sacrifice is hard. It's so much easier to jump off the altar and run away screaming. At least that's how it seems. When I think about it, though . . . I tend to make a royal mess of things when I'm trying to run my own life. God definitely does a much better job. I'm just too proud to let Him.