When you search for “Eleanor Roosevelt quotes’, you come up with an overflowing abundance of the words and thoughts of a smart woman. No, a wise woman. A confident woman. And I don’t even need to research the history of Eleanor Roosevelt to know that she didn’t get this way because someone else told her she was smart, beautiful, and confident. She got that way because she believed in herself.
Google “Eleanor Roosevelt images”. By societal standards, she did not have a “beautiful” face. But when you look closely, when you focus on her eyes, on her smile, on her poise…its obvious that she absolutely exudes beauty. I mean, just look at her:
My inclusion of Eleanor in this post was purely accidental, as I was searching for the above quote without remembering or knowing who stated it. The epiphanies that have suddenly invaded me out of nowhere are sneaky and quiet. Like they’ve been waiting in the wings for a long time, biding their time for the right moment.
You know how you think you feel a certain way, so well that you’re intimately acquainted with said emotion, and then bam: you get hit with something real and you realize…you had no idea. In the simplest of terms, that same principal could have been applied to my life for the last two decades. I thought I was happy. Cue tidal wave of drama. Insert realization that I now know I was never happy, because now I know what that feels like. Roll credits.
But of course: happiness is just a broad title that runs deeper and deeper all the time, with chapters and subtitles and bullet points of all the little things that mix themselves together to create happiness. But at the base of being happy lies in no one other than yourself.
A few weeks ago at the beach, during our self-inflicted group therapy, it was commented to me something along the lines of how I do not realize that I’m beautiful. I think the comment was meant to reflect upon physical appearance, to point out self-depreciation and lack of confidence. But its deeper than that. I know in my head I was blessed with good genes (thanks Mom and Dad). I’m aware on an intellectual level that I am intelligent and creative and well, I’m a nice person, dammit.
But knowing these things and believing them in your soul are what sets apart the truly happy, the truly self-aware. Why would I not believe things that are clearly, factually true? Why would I not believe a lifetime of being complimented, in all walks of life, that I am smart, funny, creative, beautiful?
Well I will tell you why. That comes from 17 years of PC telling me the opposite, directly and indirectly.
That comes from him disapproving of the job I worked right out of college, despite the fact that I loved it and to this day remains one of the highlights of my life. Despite the fact that it was important to me, he thought very little of it and thus, I gave it up.
That comes from comments about my roommates wearing leather (ok, pleather…we were in college!) pants and how hot they looked. From me not realizing that your boyfriend complimenting your friends’ asses while not mentioning yours or really, any part of your body, was not normal.
That comes from spending all day scouring a house or landscaping and having PC come point out the one thing you did “wrong”.
That comes from the look of disappointment when you give him a gift and he was expecting more.
That comes from being told your cooking is terrible and thus, you give up on cooking for much of your life.
That comes from being told every other woman_____________and fill in the blank as related to the situation. Every other woman irons her husbands clothes. You think you’d care what I look like. Every other woman works full time and raises three kids and doesn’t bitch about it. Every other woman cooks dinner every night. (That last one is funny because, you know, he refused to eat my cooking. Oh, you narcissists.)
It comes from the palpable look of disgust at your post-partum body.
It comes from hours spent getting glammed up for a Bar Mitzvah and you walk into the room and he says nothing, nothing. And despite the fact that every single one of his and your friends comment on how lovely you look, you don’t really believe it.
It comes from being called an asswipe on Mother’s Day when you’re pregnant and having contractions and need him to call the doctor. Because only an asswipe would awaken her hungover husband at 6 a.m. for such a thing.
It comes from being told I didn’t marry a fat person when you express your crushing sensitivity to an post-hysterectomy weight gain.
It comes from being told I’ve put up with it long enough in reference to my hearing disability.
It comes from being told, again and again, no one else would put up with you.
Again, and again, and again. And beyond all those direct ways illustrated above (and there are so many more) there were layers upon layers of subtle ways, of hidden ways, of ways disguised as compliments, to make me feel like a piece of shit.
So, on this journey I’m on, I’ve come to realize that I’m not, in fact, a piece of shit. And then, just like a dam breaking, I really, really realize it. Or rather, I realize that I didn’t believe inside what my head was telling me outside. I think of my friend Sarah (of the get-Charlotte-on-Bumble fame) saying to me you’re a catch! I heard her, I agreed with her. But I didn’t believe it.
And then something else happened. My little tryst with Hot Daycare Dad, which is still in very new and innocent stages. This is not my future husband, and may not be anything more than a summer flirtation. I barely know anything about this person. But this is what Hot Daycare Dad has given me so far:
Hot Daycare Dad thinks I’m Hot Daycare Mom. And makes a point to tell me. This reminds me that yes, I am attractive.
Hot Daycare Dad compliments me on things in such a normal, simple, human way and it invades me like a flood. And I realize how “compliments” and “men” are two things that have never been synonymous for me. He says things like you’re a good mom and I can’t believe you wrote a book. That’s really awesome! I don’t know anyone who’s done anything like that before.
And then I remember way back in time, to my first romance, and despite all the flaws in of high school love, he was the same way. He told me I was gorgeous and he encouraged my creativity and constantly stated how intelligent I was.
Here’s the thing: neither of these people are wrong. And neither of them are/were using these statements to manipulate me. It’s just what normal people do. They say nice things to other people because it makes everyone feel good.
I went out last night, and shortly before I left I was thinking a bit about this. I got to the bar that I frequent for Wednesday night happy hour (and where I haven’t been for a while) and was greeted warmly and openly by everyone. A friend, an older gentleman who I’ve known for years, asked how I was doing and I said “I’m good.”
He responded with, “You look good. You look happy.”
The person next to him turned into our conversation then and nodded in agreement. “It’s nice to see you walk in here smiling for a change,” he said.
And so, here it comes. Maybe this is why the universe is delivering things to me, good and bad, with such grand gestures. For so long I floated along, so unaware of so much…myself, for starters. I measured everything about myself by the words of a man who repeatedly and consistently put me down. I will not blame myself for that, because narcissists spin a complicated and sticky web, designed to ensnare even the sharpest of us.
But, never again.
No one can make you feel inferior without your permission. But the bigger lesson, the bigger gift, if you will, is believing in the first place, that you were never inferior to begin with.