“I met a girl at a conference last weekend. Funniest girl I’ve ever met. So, I tried to be hilarious, too.
And it made me feel tired.
I saw a mom at my son’s preschool yesterday. She packed her kids healthy lunches and they actually freaking ate them. So last night I tried to force-feed my kids carrots and meatloaf, and they cried.
That made me feel like a failure.
There’s a girl I follow on Instagram. I’ve known her for years, and she’s lost over sixty pounds and jumps up and down in her bikini without feeling mortified. That’s basically a super power in my mind, because when I sit down in the shower, I just feel like the Michelin Tire Man. There is definitely NO jumping. I want my curvy body to just disappear.
The mean things I say to myself make me feel disgusting.
I have a friend who makes viral videos. I love making videos, but mine don’t have as much success. Sometimes I wonder if what I publish is embarrassing and stupid.
That shame makes me want to stop creating.
Unsurprisingly, I go to therapy a lot. Partly, because I’m a hot mess. And partly because I love to talk and it’s really nice to have this person who is basically a paid hostage listen for an entire hour without acting bored.
Usually, my therapist nods his head and says ‘mhm’ or asks me probing questions. But this particular week, my therapist sat back quietly until the hour was done.
I told him about lunchbox anxiety, and Michelin tire fat rolls, and my stupid, stupid videos. When I was done, he leaned forward and raised an eyebrow.
‘You are such a kind person, MK. You seem to really love your friends and believe in what they do. You celebrate their joy.’
I puffed up a little. It’s nice when someone sees goodness in you.
But he continued, ‘So why are you so hateful to yourself?’
‘Oh, hell,’ I muttered before folding over in sobs.
He wasn’t wrong. I am my own worst bully. The things I say to myself are plain awful. I would never say such things to any one I loved.
And why do I do this? All I know is that I go WAY out of my way to talk down to myself so that I never feel too much pride or experience too much joy.
Last week I heard Brené Brown ask a room full of moms what they would be thinking as their daughter walked out the door with her prom date. What would be on our minds as the two strolled hand in hand, down the sidewalk to the car?
‘Car crash.’ We responded, almost in unison.
A little creepy, I admit.
…But maybe relatable?
Turns out, joy is a scary feeling. When we find ourselves in a moment so happy and beautiful, the only thing our brain knows how to do is prepare us for the crash landing.
When we start feeling proud of ourselves or enjoying a special moment, we start to ask:
What could go wrong? How will this get messed up? What is the worst possible outcome of this wonderful scenario?
We celebrate our friends lives so selflessly because their joy isn’t a risk to us. It isn’t SCARY.
But we talk down to ourselves because OUR joy is downright terrifying.
I mean, what would happen if we believed we were beautiful? What would happen if we celebrated our OWN talents? If we loved our bodies and our minds? If we allowed ourselves to fly?
Well, sometimes things that fly fall down. And that hurts like hell. So, I guess that’s what could happen.
Maybe that’s why, instead of letting ourselves take that risk to be joyful, we say ‘Nope. You stay put. Right there. Where it’s miserably safe. If you already believe you are a failure, then failure doesn’t hurt, now does it?’
I left therapy this week and I did something pretty badass. I challenge you to do the same.
I made a new friend.
Her name is Mary Katherine, and she’s pretty freaking cool. She has a beautiful smile and an understated wit. Her jokes are awkward, but that is pretty dang endearing. She’s an amazing person, if I must say so.
I’m learning to like her a little bit.
Maybe one day, if I work had enough, she’ll feel loved.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mary Katherine Backstrom. The article originally appeared here. Follow Mary on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.
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