This past summer, I was sitting around doing some hating of myself. Eating my quarantine feelings while also doing no more exercise than moping was starting to have some consequences, in the physics of clothing, attempts to walk up hills, and my new numbers staring back at me.
I was chastising myself about this, and then it became a whole airing of grievances. “And another thing…” I started to lay into myself like a disappointed parent.
Complaint #2 concerned the fact that it was also coming up on 10 years since I’d returned from living in South America for two years, and I hadn’t done diddly to keep up the language I’d drowned in flashcards to learn.
I wasn’t mad. I was just disappointed. I sat with that feeling: that I’m the worst. I was a thing to be fixed.
But then I remembered some of the best advice I’d ever gotten, from Amanda Clayman on my podcast: Essentially that hating yourself is just more time and energy spent not solving the issue.
This is the horse you’re riding
You are you. And you will never not be you. We all have to live with the disappointment of being neither Rihanna nor even that idealized version of ourselves in our mind.
This is the horse you’re riding.
Like, either learn how to train it or it’s going to drag you through life.
It wasn’t until I could accept that this is the way I am that I could address some of the issues with my personality.
What I realized was that they were all the flip side of the very traits I like about myself. I’m funny/I’m impulsive. I’m passionate/I get addicted. I’m sensitive/I’m sensitive.
Before, when something went wrong in my life because of me, I thought, “Bitch…[wash your clothes, work more, stop eating donuts.]”
I was slowly able to turn that word to, “Ok Buddy, not the best but let’s [make a plan to do laundry, make a budget, get some veggies in the house.]”
When you free your mind from obsessing about the problem, you free up brain cells to think of a solution.
Ask a better question
Sitting there in the summer session of hating myself, I hated that I couldn’t seem to do this on my own. It would be preference to be the kind of person who loved to get up and do push-ups and sit-ups, pushing myself more each day.
I am not this person. The same way I’m not a person who can have a credit card without going into debt. The same way other people have to live in a sober house to not touch drugs.
Fighting who I am means yelling at myself, calling myself names, and trying to shame myself into action. Thank goodness The Willpower Instinct taught me that yelling at yourself only causes you more stress and makes it more likely you’ll repeat the behavior.
So if I wanted to be in shape, the first step was to ACCEPT MYSELF AS I AM. Of course it didn’t mean giving up getting in shape. It meant doubling down on getting help.
I realized what I was doing and stopped judging myself. In the cleared out space of my mind, a new thought arose:
Could I just find a personal trainer online who lives in, like, Colombia? (The place I’d most likely live if I ever moved to South America again.) Because I mostly just need to practice my Spanish.
I translated “personal trainer” into “entrenadora personal.” I looked for someone in my favorite city, Medellín.
Six months later, Jhamilton and I are total buddies, my mind sometimes defaults to Spanish again, and when I sit up in bed, there’s not that middle stage where I have to grunt to get all the way up.
Why is accountability where it’s at?
Chatting with my friend Emma this morning, I told her about all this. She’s a part of three groups, one for writing, one for workshopping, and one for submitting.
“Why is accountability where it’s at?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said. “It just is.”
It’s taken me decades to learn that I don’t need to hate myself, I just need to handle myself.
Last week, Jhamilton had an issue and had to cancel, so I decided to just go for a jog. I have a route, one mile out, one mile back, that I started walking this year. Then I jogged it. Saturday, I passed my turning point, I reached the park I usually drive to. I circled the entire thing. I ran four miles, something I haven’t done since… I’m trying to think if an ice cream man ever trailed me for that long…
Anyway, I was fucking proud of myself.
Accountability doesn’t have to cost money
I am no longer afraid to invest in accountability measures like classes, coaching, and assistance, because I know that I’ll leverage the stronger parts of myself — my creativity, organization, and hutzpah — to make up for it.
But accoutability doesn’t have to cost money. In fact, it can earn you some. After starting my workouts with Jhamilton, I realized I was working out every weekday, but I wasn’t writing every weekday.
I had started Saturday sessions of meditations and free-writes, and I realized I’d really tapped in to something people need right now. We decided to expand those into daily sessions with a writing salon called A Very Important Meeting. The accountability really helps the members, and hosting requires me to sit every day with the page, too. With the contributions we accept, eventually I’ll probably make about as much as it costs me to work out with Jhamilton.
When you accept that you need accountability and start to look for it, you can create it in partnerships, mastermind groups, workshops. I know that I’m a people-pleaser, so if I tell people I’ll do something, I do it.
Lady Gaga talks about self-acceptance in this lovely talk with Oprah:
Thich Nhat Hanh put it this way:
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.”
Oh I wish I was that magnolia flower self: that cool, careless writer who sips coffee and climbs mountain faces without screaming or peeing her pants, who never falls into the trap of consumerism and always knows what to text when you’re not quite sure if a conversation is over or still going.
But I’m my little ol’ lotus flower, down here in the mud, where I’ll make my muddy little anxious, neurotic home.
It’s so freeing to realize you don’t need to hate the person you are to become the version of yourself you most want to be.
As I was looking for my camera to take a photo for today’s blog, I grabbed my tripod and realized I didn’t have the connector piece, nor do I know where it is, meaning I essentially could not use the tripod. “Oh fuck me, Paulette!” came right now of my mouth, without asking if that went entirely against the very post I’m currently working on.
But it did remind me: hating yourself is not something you stop doing, like once and for all. It’s something you learn to catch yourself doing.
Come on buddy, we’ll just put the camera on the shelf.
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