Mean, Part 2

Spouse and I were discussing teenage girls the other day because, well, we have one of those. As he never had a sister, and went to an all-boys high school, he has zero clue what life is like for teenage girls, nor what goes on in their heads/hearts, nor why they behave the way they do. And let’s face it, teenage girls just go through stuff – stuff that’s hard, and stuff that totally sucks.

He asked why some girls (probably too many girls) can be so mean. Sigh….the honest truth is that it all boils down to competition. Girls and women compete with each other almost 100% of the time. Some of us handle that better than others. Some can overcome that internal conversation completely. Some can have the competitive and comparative thoughts and move past them immediately while others can’t, and then feel the need to act upon those thoughts. The more a girl feels she can’t compete with a certain person, or doesn’t compare well against that person, the meaner she’s likely to be to that person. Trust me, I know it’s completely illogical, but it is the way it is.

As girls get older, most learn to keep that comparing and competing inside their own heads and don’t let it affect how they treat people, nor how they feel around other people. But teenage girls….most haven’t yet accomplished that skill. The more insecure a teenage girl feels about her position, her standing, more likely she is to be a mean girl, a controlling, manipulative bully. She will do what she can to make someone, anyone, feel less than she, and then keep them there.

I dealt with my share of mean girls in high school.  When my mom told me what was behind it, I didn’t believe her. You see, I always saw  myself as less than, ugly, awkward, nerdy, and I accepted that position. I was perfectly happy flying under the radar, until I wasn’t flying under the radar anymore and the mean girls showed up. It made no sense to me…..I was nothing, so why were they bothering me? Why did my friends dump me and then humiliate me? Why did these girls who had ignored me for three years suddenly find me their favorite target? Why were rumors swirling? Why the torment? What had I ever done to them? I didn’t even move in their circles. But, years later, I figured out my mom had been right. Shocking, that. Moms were once teenage girls too.

High school for girls sucks. It’s hard. You  have so much going on as it is….classes,  homework, hormones, boys, social hierarchy….and then mean girls happen.

I wish I had been stronger back then, more capable of defending myself. I did have amazing friends who did stand up for me, reminded me that I wasn’t “nothing”, and picked me up when I would get down. As I see my own girlie going through the process of high school, I want to relay the strength to her it took me years to find. I want her to be able to understand the reason behind the mean girls.  So what would I tell my high school self and what would I tell my own high school girl? First, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re less than. Second, understand where the meanness is coming from – they’re comparing themselves to you and feeling like they aren’t measuring up, so they feel the need to bring you down. Third, don’t hold yourself accountable for their insecurities.  Fourth, don’t ever let anyone in your life who continually reinforces your own insecurities. Fifth, know, honor and celebrate your strengths as well as the strengths of those around you. Sixth, it’s so okay to be different and do things not everyone else is doing.

I’d love to be able to say that mean girls eventually go away. Unfortunately, they don’t. There are just fewer of them, and most women learn to avoid them and/or respond better to that treatment. I’m blessed to have some pretty incredibly women in my life – women who build me – and everyone else around them –  up. Navigating high school as a teenage girl sucks….but eventually, those four years come to an end, and you move on, find your people, and the mean girls become just part of your past.

It Just Seems to Happen

I was talking with my sister (mom of two girls, age 19 and 17) last night about our beautiful teenage daughters, and our own high school/teenage years. I’ve not hidden the fact my beauty has been going through it in recent months. My sister and I compared our high school, and pre-high school, experiences, which were very different as far as friendships were concerned. Even though we had those different experiences – I had a bff from 7th grade all the way through high school, while my sister did not, but rather bounced each year from group to group, never quite finding her tribe – we both suffered massively from horribly low self-esteem and very poor self-image. We both had issues with food. We both struggled severely with our own sense of worth and value.  Now I know the source we both point to, but I found it interesting that even with those different friend experiences from an early age, we both ended up in the same insecure boat.

When I found out I was going to have a baby girl, I was immediately determined she would never, ever for one minute question her worth, her value, how much she’s loved. I didn’t want her to ever suffer insecurity, self-doubt, or unhealthy self-esteem/self-image. I for sure never wanted her to deal with an eating/exercise disorder, or any of a host of  stress-induced illnesses. I’ve tried to tell her every day (sometimes I wondered if it wasn’t too much) how very loved she is, how much she’s needed, how proud of her we are, reinforcing all her strengths, encouraging her. I saw her, until a couple years ago, as a strong, independent, courageous, brave, outgoing girl who always stood up for others as well as herself. She’s incredibly smart, goofily funny, amazingly talented, and also happens to be beautiful.

But it just seems to happen to teenage girls, no matter how they’re brought up, no matter who they’re friends with, no matter what activities they’re engaged in. Teenage girls all seem to suffer insecurity – often debilitating – they doubt their worth and value, particularly amongst their peers. If there are any struggles with friendships, they find the fault within themselves all too often. They are struggling to figure out who they are, and where they fit  in, at the same time hormones are ruling their bodies and minds. Add to that anyone who may be threatened by them, and boom, perfect storm.

I thought I could keep her from going through this – I well and truly did. I’m finding you really can’t shield them entirely. Each girl has to face it – find her worth within herself, learn to accept herself, learn to be okay with who she is, find a peace with herself within herself, learn to be happy with herself. We just have to love them through it, and pray the effects aren’t long-lasting. Lord knows it took me YEARS to recover, same for my sister. I wish I could minimize and fast-forward the process, because when your child struggles in any way, you struggle.

You First

My mom recently moved out of the home she’s been in since I was just out of high school. In the process of the move, she gave me a bunch of my old things, including a box that held some of my older journals from high school. Might I just say, “wow”. Wow, did I worry a whole heck of a lot what other people thought of me, but then isn’t that the way of teenagers, particularly teenage girls? I can’t believe how much I allowed my vision of my self-worth to be wrapped up in who liked, or didn’t like me.

Learning to be okay with and like yourself is one of life’s hardest and greatest achievements. I didn’t quite figure out I wouldn’t be too attractive to others until I was attractive to myself until later. I think I was in my mid-twenties, ditching yet another failed relationship, stuck in a hotel room by myself on a business trip before I sat down and faced it all. I needed to like and accept myself first before I could expect anyone else to really like and accept me. I had to be fine alone before I could truly be in anyone else’s life, much less truly let anyone else fully inside my life.  Make sense? That was an intense week of self-reflection and self-revelation. It was painful at times – I had to clearly see and accept all my faults. I also had to clearly see and accept all my strengths, something I actually found much more difficult.

Back in high school, and even early college, I felt my value came through having someone want me, just me. I’m not talking about friends – I was lucky enough to have some really incredible friends who loved and accepted me more than I did myself. I’m still grateful to them for keeping me afloat. But as I read the words I’d written from freshman year through my high school graduation, I realized my days were preoccupied with whomever I had a crush on at the time. If he didn’t talk to me on a particular day, I must’ve looked bad or sounded stupid. If he didn’t acknowledge me, it was because I was an ugly, annoying little girl. If he didn’t smile at me, it was because I was wearing the wrong clothes. If I didn’t get asked to the prom, or homecoming, or the winter dance, I was worthless and a failure. I didn’t have a boyfriend until mid-way through my senior year of high school. Looking back, I can see that was mostly because of the way I viewed myself. Once I gained a little bit of confidence, things started to change. But if I’d spent less time obsessing about who liked me, or didn’t like me, whether I had a boyfriend or not, which group I was part of or not part of, and spent more time learning to like me for me, maybe I would have found a peace with myself much earlier in life.

Watching my older two navigate high school, I’m reminded why you couldn’t pay me enough to relive those four years (well, most of them anyways – it wasn’t all entirely awful). If I could go back and tell my sixteen-year-old self anything it would be to love, care for, and accept myself first. I’d tell myself not to send my “representative self” to school each day, but to just be me, and be good enough with who I really was to put that person out there every day. If I wasn’t good enough as myself, my representative certainly wouldn’t be good enough either as she was a shell, a front, a wall between me and the world around me.

I guess my point is this – love you, first. Once you learn to love you, others will find it easier to love you too.

If she could see what I see

Navigating the  path of raising a daughter is fraught with many perils. When the Princess was born, I was determined she would always know her worth, never suffer from self-esteem issues or lack of confidence. I’m learning no matter  how you raise your girl, no matter how often you tell her she’s loved, you’re proud of her, no matter how many A’s she earns, how many times she’s successful onstage, on the field, in the pool, in whatever contest, she’s still likely to suffer from a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. PS – if you know the secret to overcoming this, please share.

I suffered severe shyness growing up. It was so painful, and resulted in so much daily anxiety over even the tiniest of things. I had no confidence, and zero self-esteem. Nada. Zero. Zip. I never liked what I saw in the mirror, never felt I was ever good enough or worthy. It took leaving for college far from home, and the opportunity to reinvent myself, be who I WANTED to be, to overcome most of that. It still resurfaces more than I’d like.

I wanted so much for my girl to never experience that. We put her in various sports, groups, and activities. I tell her – probably more than I should – how proud of her I am in all that she does and who she is. I wanted her to look in the mirror each day and be content with what she sees. I wanted her to know her value comes from within. But lately, things she says seem to show her confidence in herself isn’t there, her self-esteem is failing. She seems to feel she is less, scared, not-as-good-as, not good enough, not cute enough, not-as-smart-as. Fear and insecurity seem to be the winners lately. Does every teenager feel the same? Are some just better actors, hide it better?

I wish she could see what I see when I look at her – a beauty that flows from inside of her, her precious, infectious smile/laugh. I wish she could understand how proud we are of her hard work at school, in dance, in cheer; how we treasure the fact she deeply cares about her friends and makes sure everyone is treated fairly. I love her compassion, her physical and mental strength. I wish she understood that no matter how many times I see her dance, every time feels like the first, most-amazing time, and I am in awe. I wish she understood that just because math takes her longer doesn’t mean she isn’t good at it. I wish she knew that everything she does to help with her brothers and around the house is recognized and truly appreciated.

I wish she could see the witty, funny, adorable, beautiful, smart, hard-working, well-loved, well-liked, inspiring girl we see when she looks in the mirror.  She isn’t less. She is worthy. She is blessed and she is a blessing, not just to her family, but to everyone who cares about her.

This fierce, fearless girl is who I see…..My wish is she would see the same, all the time.

Just a little over-the-top

I will admit – I’ve been emotionally over-the-top this week. The littlest thing seems too much. The tears have been so close to the surface, and have overflowed more than once. The frustration tolerance level is at an all-time low, spilling out in some angry, testy words. Exhaustion isn’t helping the situation. I feel scattered, forgetful, slightly detached but then overly engaged at the same time.

I am not handling well the things that come with getting older, at all.  Seriously.  It’s bad. I have been blessed with some pretty decent genetics – neither of my parents’ faces show their ages. The wrinkles aren’t too bad. But yet, I see the difference in how my face looks now, as opposed to how it used to look. Spots have appeared. Lines have formed. I could handle all of this gracefully if that were it for signs of getting older.

I had my yearly visit the other day. When the nurse asked me to step onto the scale, I closed my eyes, told her I wasn’t looking, and asked her not to say the number out loud. This, this is the thing I’m really not doing well with. My doctor, as the endocrinologist said earlier this year, confirmed it’s just normal for women of a certain age to gain up to ten pounds. TEN POUNDS!!!!!!!! What. The. Hell????!!!!!!!!!

I think I’ve covered before my body issues. Now, I’m a small person. But I have struggled with body image since I was nine years old. Those negative words formed in my brain from a very early age. Most mornings lately start off with me saying horrible things to myself about myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a good place with this. It’s been particularly bad this year, with five pounds gained since January alone, despite the fact nothing has changed in my diet or activity level. Nada. Zero. Zip. Not one single difference. I almost never eat sweets. I don’t drink soda. There’s minimal dairy, very rarely do we eat red meat. Breads, when consumed, are whole wheat/whole grain, as is the pasta. Portions are watched closely. Yes, there are cheat days, and yes, there is wine. But that’s nothing new from the last ten years. And yet, five pounds on, and those are pounds that I can’t get to go away.

When I was a freshman in college, I gained the freshman fifteen. When I came home the summer after my freshman year, I hid in my room the first month, until some of that came off. I didn’t starve myself, but I exercised compulsively, and ate almost nothing. I was in a deep depression because of my unhappiness with my body. When I developed an ovarian cyst, and an ulcer, and lost not only that freshman fifteen, but ten more besides, I was happy, but looking back at pictures from Christmas my sophomore year of college, I realize how ill I looked. The look on my Daddy’s face when I got home from school that break should have been a clue. But in my desire to be skinny, I didn’t see it. This is the place I’m coming from though…this is what I’ve carried with me most of my life.

I feel myself going back to that depressed place. Getting dressed every day gives me anxiety. What if my pants won’t button? What if the shorts that fit last month are now tight? What if that button on my shirt won’t button or gaps? I can’t stand to look in my bathroom mirror. I get angry and sad every time I get on the scale. And when I think there could possibly be five more pounds to be gained, as the doctor said, I throw up in my mouth a little bit with stress and anxiety. I am uncomfortable in my own skin, but I don’t really remember ever being comfortable in my own skin, except when I was unhealthily thin.

And these are the thoughts, the internal battles I try to hide from my teenage daughter. Lord knows I don’t need her thinking this is okay and normal.

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Four hours later, after a Pilates class, and eating my favorite Panera salad for lunch…..

I thought about ditching this entire post. It probably sounds a lot whiney, especially when I say that while I’m totally unhappy at the moment with my body, I’m not willing to make any extreme changes in my diet. I won’t be going vegetarian or vegan. The 21 day fix extreme was tossed a long time ago.  Paleo isn’t for me. And, as you’ll read in a post next week, we don’t do GF/DF/Anything-else-F in this household.

I don’t like seeing myself in the mirror. Clothes shopping has become fraught with anxiety, and I won’t go shopping with anyone anymore. I’v realized it’s probably time to ditch the bikini for the mom-tankini.  I’m never going to look like I did when I was 25.  I try to like my body, and I do give it credit for all the incredible things it’s done…give birth to three babies, run 7 half marathons, survived one knee and one shoulder surgery, and carried me through successfully and pretty healthily for over 40 years. Do I love my body – not in the least. I’m not comfortable with it. Will I continue to fight the good fight against age? Certainly. Will I give up my wine, occasional piece of French bread, cheat days, once-in-awhile pizza/filet mignon/pasta alfredo? Never! Do I know I need to come to a mentally healthy place as well to accompany my physically healthy place? Totally yes. Will I still sometimes whine and get depressed about the dumb number on the scale? Likely.

If you’ve stuck with this post for this long, thank you. Thank you for letting me process this all out, and have a complete mood swing within the space of it. My God made me. I shouldn’t disparage what He made. My husband still thinks I’m attractive, so who am I to disagree? For those women who are in my current boat, soldier on. For all who have stared down an eating disorder and won, bless you. This stuff is hard.

Why I posted that picture

As I’ve shared before, I’ve been struggling mightily with negative self-talk, self-image, and self-esteem probably more than any time since I was just out of college. There’s something about this 40+ age that throws the body into chaos. In spite of a regular, strenuous workout routine, and watching (most of the time) what I eat, not only is weight not coming off, it’s moved around, and keeps creeping up. It’s frustrating, defeating, intimidating. I’ve been working hard to a) overcome the negative thought process, reminding myself daily that I’m healthy and b) do what I can to maintain rather than focus on losing or gaining and c) keep a good attitude towards it all, especially when the Princess is around.

Yes, I ran a half marathon on Sunday. Do you know I still “felt fat” when I was done? I mentally chastised myself for my post-race lunch, once I’d eaten it, in spite of the fact I’d just burned about 1100 calories.

I’m particular about the pictures I post on social media of myself, and those others may post of me. Like most people,  I want the most flattering pictures posted. But Sunday, I posted a photo of me and Big Man following our finish. I didn’t like the photo. I didn’t look my best – all sweaty and gross from just running 13.1 miles – and the angle wasn’t all that great. My hair was pulled back in a pony, with a headband. I’m not pretty or cute when I run – it’s all about function (although I did make sure to match my headband to my shirt and shoes). I looked at the photo before I put it up, and cringed. But I posted it anyways. I needed to post it, for myself, and because that moment was bigger than how I feel about myself.

I’d done something not everyone does – I’d trained for, and run, a half marathon. And I’d run it with my 15-year-old former 26-weeker. And I am a healthy person, darn it. I posted it to remind myself healthy doesn’t equal rail-thin or skinny. Healthy equals me taking care of me. Healthy is mental as well as physical.

I still fight the battles, almost every day. I try to push back against the thoughts of “If you eat this, then you have to do that,” or buying into extreme diets and exercise plans that focus on numbers rather than the whole person. I posted that photo to remind me I am okay. I don’t have to see a certain number on a scale to be a healthy mom/wife/woman. The moment that photo was taken wasn’t about me fighting an internal battle, it was about sharing something incredible with my son. Finishers

Friday Favorites 6.3.16

It’s JUNE!!! It’s my birthday month!! It’s also insanity personified…Big Man took his last final as a  high school freshman Wednesday morning. The other two are still in until the 9th. We had our last Parents’ Day at Lunch at the Princess’ middle school today. Last night was Open House at Little Man’s school. Next week brings a two field days, and a graduation ceremony. It’s also race weekend this weekend – Big Man and I will run the Rock n Roll Half Sunday morning. Wish us cool weather and a solid marine layer, please? It’s 97 degrees  here today – no bueno in running land. My brother and nephew are en route as we speak. Brother will be running the full marathon (yep, he’s completely crazy) while Neph will run the half with  us. On top of all this joyousness, our big fundraiser is next weekend. Nope, not busy at all, which explains why I’m sitting here holding my eyelids open with my fingers. I turned on some loud music hoping that will help. Also, I may need some carbs. Just realized I haven’t had any today, and ran 2.75 miles this morning. That explains it. I’ll be right back….

Oh yeah….pretzel thins and jalapeno Greek yogurt dip….Mmmmm…..Now I might make it to school pick up time.

Okay, I’ve kept you waiting long enough. Here’s the list of favorites for the week. Wanna know a secret, the reason why I do Friday Favorites? I write this post because it makes me really read a lot of posts at least one day a week. There. Now ya  know. And so, onto the list…..

  • All moms have their push-button issues, things that drive us over the edge. I almost spit my water all over the monitor when I saw this post a few minutes ago. A Momma’s View has it spot on today. My kids are pretty much guaranteed to hear me yelling when I find empty boxes in the pantry, much less one that still has something in it and a new, opened box sitting right next to it. If I find both of those situations at one time, I’m going to need to dig deep that day.
  • We deal with Little Man’s anxiety a lot, along with his feeling he has no value. This post at Autism Thoughts touched me so deeply. I pray one day Little Man has enough self-awareness to have this conversation with himself.
  • bluebird of bitterness nailed it yet again. lol
  • I’ve started following a bunch of dad bloggers lately. They’re awesome. I don’t tend to get Spouse’s take on this parenting gig, so I eat up posts from dads like they’re candy. This one from all in a dad’s work is fabulous. He posts questions from his kids, and his answers. #gigglefest
  • Speaking of dad blogs…..check this one out from My Least Favorite Child Today. I could, quite seriously, have him on this list every week. If you’re a germaphobe, you may want to skip this one….
  • I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for new blogs/bloggers to follow. A Opinionated Man re-shares his meet-and-greet weekly, if I recall correctly. I’ve found tons of awesome stuff through this thread. Go share yours, or find some new writers to follow.
  • I’ve been missing some poetry posts lately. Keith Garrett at keithgarrettpoetry got me with this one today.
  • Lastly, it’s lizard season around here. We have two cats. That means lizards are regularly brought inside by said cats as “toys”. Often these toys end up dead. They almost always lose a tail. True story – I found a bunch of lizard-less tails under the banquet in the dining room. There’s currently a younger lizard hiding out underneath my fridge. Every time he tries to make a break for the sliding door, the cats pounce. If you know me, you know I don’t like lizards at all. They rate just above spiders in my book. But I’ve had to become rather adept at catching them, and releasing them outside, away from the cats. The entire time I’m transporting them on the dust pan, I’m calmly but firmly requesting they NOT jump. If they jump, all bets are off and good luck to ya. This all being said, your pet photo of the week  is a lizard I rescued recently.

lizard rescue

Send thoughts for happy, fast legs and feet for us Sunday morning! What are your weekend plans?