This was initially posted on July 20, 2012. It was named “Positive Self-Image.” Some time ago I said something to my friend Beverly about trying to change my self-image. She said “Self-image is like the weather,” and suggested that it was a waste of time. I realized I had used the wrong words, that “self-image” is in some ways an intellectual construct, and I was dealing with something else. Trying to describe it, I called it “my experience of my self,” or “who I experience myself to be,” or “my felt sense of myself.” I have tried many times to describe to people how I don’t see myself the way they do. Most of the time they don’t get what I’m talking about. It’s so clear to them that I’m the person they see. One time I tried in my journal to describe the person I experience that I am: selfish, self-centered, stingy, conceited, would do things deliberately to hurt people, and realized that that’s not me at all. In some ways it describes my mother. But even that didn’t change my experience of myself. I’m still afraid that people won’t like me, will think I’m boring, will think I’m a nuisance if I ask for help. I’m still surprised when people are happy to help me, instead of finding me a nuisance. This is a long on-going struggle whose motivation is that if I really got that I’m the person Charlotte sees in this letter, I would relax and stop trying to “prove that I deserve to live.” It wasn’t until I started working with Erica, that I understood that my confusion about how I impact people happened because my mother didn’t mirror me at all. She never saw me as a person separate from herself, but only saw her shadow that she projected on to me to avoid seeing the truth about herself.
From July 2012:
In doing my project of converting old journals into a newer word processor, I have discovered many things. One is a letter from Charlotte (the mother of my ex-husband) in response to the collection of excerpts from my journal that I sent to people as Christmas presents. The letter says wonderful things about me, that are still hard for me to accept, though I’m beginning to become aware of the person she’s describing. In 1993, I was completely unable to take in what she said, and it fell into oblivion almost immediately.
From Charlotte’s letter:
So many of the entries had to do with your self-questioning. To me it was immediately obvious that you were intelligent, educated and talented – and extraordinarily so. Besides this, however, there was something special about you – something Dana mentioned in the letter in which he first told us about you. There is the child-like trust and openness and readiness for response to the world. For all your sophistication, there is nothing worldly-wise or cynical about you. And you don’t put other people down to build yourself up. You feel the need for approval, but you have to be honest. All this is very unusual. I never cease to be amazed at how many intelligent, educated and talented people there are in this world. Yet to judge by what happens in public, their gifts are squandered in a quest for success that makes them jump into the latest bandwagon and get caught up in institutionalized mis-information, exploitation and pandering.
As for being attractive, to me there’s something charismatic about you. Even in jeans one can tell you’re a dancer – in your posture, your bearing, your movements and gestures. When you get excited, your eyes shine like stars.
Whatever happened to you as a child, it did not break your spirit. What Karen said is exactly right. Accept yourself – it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand yourself. At bottom, all things are founded in mystery – through the courage to be. So forgive and forget. It’s obvious you do. There’s nothing vengeful about you and you are turning your recollections into creativity.
The real problem is not you but the world. The more extraordinary one is, the harder it is to find response from others. People one meets may feel threatened and turn away. But you have made and do have friends – such as have helped to release your creativity.
From her PS:
Also, I’ve been thinking about what Jenny said in considering the possibility of publishing her journal. My suspicion is that publishers only grab journals of celebrities (or with plenty of the scandalous). Still, there could be a set of selections that would tell a story meaningful to others. In any case, the journal is full of beautiful writing – simple, clear, expressive – revealing a journey toward authentic self-hood. The little comments on the morning sky or winter night are brilliant gems. You certainly have a right to think of yourself as an artist in the field of literature.
Disclaimer: I’m almost feeling scared to publish this, how conceited will people think I am, isn’t this the ancient sin of “bragging”? But it’s somebody else’s writing. Isn’t that OK? Please, Dear Reader, if you know me, let me know if the person Charlotte’s describing sounds like the person you know.
My dear friend Pat posted this comment:
These gentle, loving words from Charlotte are so true! She wasn’t praising you as much as telling you the simple truth about yourself—a remarkable gift. Treasure it, internalize it, go back to it when you feel down. It is a balm. Sharing it with all of us is not bragging, it is a gift you have shared with all of us.
Your friend always,