Be your own Change Agent

Who am I, Really?

beach houe

Sometimes I see myself through an internal fog. Nothing is clear or what it seems to be.

I used to wonder about anorexics who still thought they were fat when they were rail-thin. How could someone not see themselves as she is? I am beginning to relate just a tiny bit. I still have shirts that were always too small at the back of the closet. I pass over them time and again, thinking I can’t wear them or they would feel too tight. I’m wearing one of those today, and it is actually too big. In the past two years, I’ve lost four clothing sizes and an awful lot of weight, and I still think of myself as larger than I really am. It’s a little hard for me to understand because I haven’t changed on the inside. I’m the same person I was a couple of years ago, so the outer change still surprises me.  

sea gulls

The gull on the left quizzes the gull in the middle. Is that really true?

A few days ago, I was talking with a friend about my difficulty talking to people. I love talking about things that really matter, but I feel quite awkward with more incidental things and small talk. I told my friend about a new insight I had this week that I thought would help correct my poor conversational skills. She looked at me quite blank-faced and finally said that I was trying to fix a problem that didn’t exist. I don’t fail to listen to her thoroughly and provide relevant comment. She thought I was a bit weird to think I had a problem. “But I do,” I told her, “with people I don’t know very well.” She still tried to gently redirect my thinking, saying that I didn’t perceive myself accurately. I know the many failures that she doesn’t witness. I grudgingly admitted that my issues may not be as large as I thought it was, but it’s still a problem.

beach, fisherman

A lone fisherman takes his catch home. No one else wanted to fish in the cold fog and drizzle. Is this man odd or does he just know what he likes and doesn’t go with the crowd?

My daughter tells me her friends think I’m a “real bad-ass.” I thought she was nuts and must have been telling things that weren’t true, or maybe the term didn’t mean what I thought. So I asked her why they thought that and she told me. She said that she told them how I went to law school as a single mother of three, graduated as a married mother of four, and passed the bar exam the first time – while working full-time before, during, and after it all.

sea birds

The sea birds flock together except for one lone gull on the top of the dune. She feels no need to go with the crowd.

Oh. Those facts were true, but I didn’t think that made me some sort of bad-ass. She sees an accomplishment, and I just remember how difficult it was to want to be good at so many things at once. I didn’t get to assert enough energy at anything I did to feel like I was successful at it, and I still worry that I had somehow damaged my children by going to back to school. Yet that degree placed me in the civil rights field, and I feel lucky to work at a job I enjoy that reflects my values. I don’t see myself as a bad-ass at all; I’m just a working mom.

Bridge to a beach

This path looks good close up, but the destination is uncertain, obscured by fog.

My daughter once told me that she forgets how strong I am. I don’t feel strong; I just do what I think is right. I look bookish and introverted, and I am, but underneath it all is a determination that keeps me focused on what is important to me. That’s inconvenient to those who tell me to settle and that I won’t make it. Little do they know that their play-it-safe attitude just eggs me on more. Where she sees strength, I saw stubbornness and pride. Maybe strength is part of the mix, but that isn’t how I saw it at all.

gull, ocean

Does this gull think of the ocean the same way the ocean thinks of itself? Some people don’t see the ocean as living, but I think it is on several levels.

I guess what I’m trying to do here is encourage you to look at yourself and your life. Look at all those places where you criticize yourself and take a step back. How might someone else see that? How do you see yourself as less than you really are? Is your self-criticism loud when it should be softer? Where do you hear the criticism of your youth rather than the success of your adulthood?  

sea birds

Amongst the resting birds is one determined gull walking through. No rest for him!

I believe in being a realist. I have a long list of things I’m not good at and ways I want to improve myself. But conversations and events this week brought me lessons in understanding that I might need to see myself from a different perspective now and then. My view from the inside out may not be the same as from the outside in.

palm tree, beach

The path stretches in several directions at once. So can we. And we can stand strong and tall like the palm while we do it!

47 replies »

  1. What a great post Karel! I find it so interesting as well to hear how people perceive us and how differently at times we perceive ourselves. It’s a conundrum at times which you have beautifully explained here. I get it. I understand. While we are just being ourselves, others perceptions are so much more or less that we feel is right about us. I love this topic. I feel similarly. By the way, good for you for all of your accomplishments! Woo Hoo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I worked hard to be independent and to be able to support my kids-just another working mom. The difficulty was finding the career field that matched my skill set (and knowing my strengths and weaknesses).

      Like

      • But do you see how YOU SUCCEEDED??? You ARE an inspiration to your family and to the rest of us because you never stopped working hard to succeed. Others might have grown weary or taken an easier route somehow, but you became a role model simply by being you! I love that your career choice is so perfectly matched and that you have all the awareness to know your strengths and weaknesses and to use them for your higher good. That in and of itself is a wonder to me! Thanks for being you! ♥

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can completely relate to your post. There is nothing wrong with you….you are simply an introvert! We introverts have a different way of viewing the world and interacting with others. There is nothing wrong with that, and, in fact, we have much to offer! Keep up the great writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This truly made me take a step back and think because I feel like I’m at a cross road in my life and not sure which path I should take and a lot of it has to do with being comfortable in my own skin. I too have 4 kids and it’s hard to know if what I decide would damage them in the long run. You are amazing! Where another person would use their 3 kids as an excuse, you worked right through it and not a lot of people can pass the bar on the first try.

    I have a saying recently since I became a co-author and I think you can relate to it… “my 4 kids will be my MOTIVATION NOT MY DETERIORATION”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely. And I firmly believe that I have happier children when I am happy. Law school was hard on all of us, I’m not going to lie. But the financial security and sheer confidence it gave me was tremendous. I work in a field that I feel good about, with purpose and pride. And I cheated. I met my husband (an engineer, not a lawyer) while I was in law school and married him before I finished. Before, I would not have acknowledged that I needed a man in my life. But I did need help then, and he stepped up to the plate in a wonderful way. My kids still adore him; we’ve been married over 21 years now. My children absolutely motivated me to be more. I look forward to hearing the wonderful direction you choose.

      Like

  4. Oh the pain of small talk. I totally get it. My friends too would probably think I was a conversationalist but I really really struggle with talking to people I don’t know well.
    I have recently had someone share some lovely things they thought I was strong at, things I hadn’t considered and things I was surprised they hadn’t shared before in all the years we’d known each other. It was very interesting to see myself through someone else’s eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely self-reflection. I’m an introvert, but I also can be high energy and I talk fast. People often tell me I’m not introverted because I can be outgoing. That doesn’t change the fact that I find a whole day of interacting with other people to be completely exhausting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yes! We can do it, but it’s tiring. I feel that way about public speaking, too. Sure, I can do it, but I need down-time afterwards. Introversion is more complicated than people think. As long as us introverts understand ourselves, we can deal. So in this case, you are perceiving yourself correctly, you just pass for an extrovert at times. That’s ok. You have adapted well; good for you!

      Like

  6. I love this insightful and self-analytical post. I have similar conversation issues. I tend to want to talk about what’s important (to me, the world at large, society as a whole) and not make small talk about stupid things. If you’re going to have a convo, make it real, eh? I’m also a lawyer (environmental). I don’t think my critical thinking is a result of going to law school, butI think the experience sharpened it. My youngest doesn’t call me a badass, but loves that I know a little something about every topic she brings to me (except math!) and wonders if she’ll be able to do the same. It’s not that I’m so brilliant, just curious about a lot of things which is what I tell her. Curiosity can be your best asset. I used to feel I wasn’t quite good enough at any thing, but when I hit my fifth decade a lot of that ridiculousness went away and now I just sort of bump around, finding the things I’m interested in. That could be one of the luxuries of being on the other side of motherhood. :0)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it is a luxury now, to spend time on what interests me rather than what interests everyone else. My critical thinking skills were developed before law school, but yes, it definately sharpened and changed my approach to problems. I find it a joy to write so much, even if it is legal writing. It’s still communicating a complex subject in (hopefully) an understandable way. Thanks for telling me that you’re a lawyer. I think you are only the second in my non-legal blogging world. Some people are not very nice when they find out I’m a lawyer, but I’m also a real person helping other people. I’m not getting rich on this profession, but I am gratified to help people who are unable to help themselves (civil rights).

      And if you always know something about every topic, I’d love to talkt to you. I love people like that! I suspect you are a conversational bad-ass, your daughter just doesn’t know to tell you that!

      I still seem to hear the old critics some days, though. This post is a reminder to myself that I have grown up and I’m not who I used to be. I need to give myself credit that I’ve changed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We women need to give ourselves credit for who we are at every stage! Also my knowledge of topics often means I know enough to have a conversation and to ask questions that add to my information and for that I’m grateful for my law school training. Yeah, people sometimes get weird when they hear I’m a lawyer but I try not to denigrate anyone’s livelihood and hope they don’t denigrate mine. I’m also not getting rich because I work for the government but I’m protecting the earth 🌏 as best I can and if people don’t like it, well, tough noogies.😘

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Inside I feel young and pretty, but I feel like I am no longer either one. Sometimes someone I love and trust will say something good to me about how I look or act or am. And I always have to make myself accept what they say, despite my inner voices to the contrary. I think maybe that is also what you are saying in your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I know this is kind of random but, you should try water aerobics. It’s fun and the release of endorphins will make you feel so good. Also, just going to the pool and getting in the water means you are winning even if you can’t keep up at first. You can always sing with the music and bop around in the water. Feel good about your weight loss accomplishments.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It is so hard to perceive ourselves, I find. On the inside I feel one way, think I am younger or older than I am, think I look some way and am not. I guess we just have to have compassion for everyone including ourselves since it all can be confusing and hard at times. Best wishes–

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I found a lot of character in your post and that of your friends. Good for all of you. Sometimes it is helpful to set our feelings aside and instead inspect our choices. After all, life is made of choices and we are the sum of those choices. Sometimes, we even have to consider the choices we didn’t make as equally important.

    Your feelings, well I have been there, done that right down the line. It is appropriate that we periodically inspect ourselves to evaluate whether or not we are measuring up to our own values. No one else’s values are as important as our own and those are the ones we should inspect. That said, inspection doesn’t have to be cruel. When you self-inspect, be kind to yourself. Choices are made in context and the context changes daily. So when we review those choices we are not proud of,
    we need to forgive ourselves for that and move on to better choices from what we learned from having made one we are later not so pleased with.

    About conversation: boy do I understand your position on that. I have always detested non-sense conversation. But it does tell you a lot about the person you are conversing with. Sometimes the biggest part of the conversation is being a good listener and you have great skills for that. Listening is a form of participation and recognition. You can move your head in assent, smile a bit here and there, maybe even throw in a giggle. The important thing is to be a pleasant listener. That is your part of the conversation. So now, my best friends are those that are comfortable sitting with me in silence while we do something together. When we are done, we feel like we had a wonderful time sharing and all we did was share the silence! It is alright for little women to be the strong silent types. It does make it difficult for people to get to know us but somehow the people that want to know us will recognize us for our sincerity and pleasantness. Then you have a friend. The rest are just acquaintances. The personal ambience of pleasantness is more important that the chatter.

    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey – I’m also a real person! I became a lawyer late in life and I’m active in administrative law, not litigation. I help people. I’m not going to apologize for that.

      Like

  11. Ya know, that single palm tree up there at the bottom of your post? It’s weathered two hurricanes in two years. It’s still standing… Sometimes our lives are like that; the lone tree on the dune of life, and other times we are a forest. Each vantage point gives meaning. We learn to be what needs to be, as we grow, stand and live on.

    One day listening to an old friend go on and on about a bunch of nothing important, she said, (and I’m paraphrasing) -Sometimes I have nothing to say, but you listen anyway. Thank you for that. I’ve worked out a lot of things just be hearing myself talk out-loud.

    Small talk is not my favorite thing either, but I have learned that sometimes folks need to build a trust with us for small things, then perhaps they will relax and talk about bigger things. Sometimes, what we see or hear of a persons words aren’t what’s bubbling just under the surface. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to the mundane.

    A great number of Woman I find, are very self-critical. I did the same thing you did just this week. I had winter clothes which I had forgotten and took them out. Nothing fit. They were all so baggy, I thought to myself, “Man, why did I wear these baggy clothes last year”? I didn’t. They didn’t fit last year. My perception of myself has not progressed with the weight I’ve lost. I still see a fat lady who needs to lose weight.

    I totally identify with your post… Thank you for helping me see, that I’m not really SEEING ME.

    Much Love…
    Gin

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, I did the same thing a couple of minutes ago – put on a shirt I thought would be tight and it’s too big to wear outside the house now. At least I tried it on, which I haven’t tried for the past 10 months., so I’m making progress. Thanks for chiming in. I was nervous about posting this, but as the same message kept coming up over and over, I knew I had to blog about it.

      Like

  12. This post made my heart hurt a little…because I can relate re: social awkwardness (also because I got down to 92 pounds in college). I’m worried about you and I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. Please don’t do that! It was really awful 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your concern and you really flatter me. I have so many more pounds to go before I get to a healthy weight and I’ll never get close to being underweight. I needed to lose weight to reduce my knee pain and improve my over-all health. I hope you take this blog to heart, though. You seem to seriously underestimate your own emotional strength and independence. What other wonderful qualities do you overlook through self-criticism?

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re very sweet…I guess it’s hard for me to read about anyone losing a lot of weight after what I went through. It was such a nightmare…and you have similar self-negative thoughts! I thought you were very easy to talk to and not awkward at all and I was a total stranger.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You were not a total stranger! We have been blogging friends for almost 6 years. We’ve gotten to know each other through our posts and comments. There was a comfort level there to begin with and a certain level of knowledge of each other, so we had a basis for conversation. I look forward to your next trip to Colorado, hoping we can get together again. I don’t see me going to Ireland anytime soon (or even east of the Mississippi).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well I can’t like THAT comment. Only a day? Implying that we won’t have time for a cup of tea? Let me know if you can squeeze me in there at the airport again, so that I can be sure my schedule is clear. I’d love to see you again!

            Liked by 2 people

          • Let me know if you need a ride! 🙂 I must say, SOIMF, you are a very loyal friend to fly that far, pay so much and relinquishing valuable time, for a friend’s wedding.

            Liked by 1 person

          • It was painfully expensive and time-consuming…but I don’t have very many long-term friendships. Most of my friendships evaporate after I move away, so I’m investing in that. I’ve missed every single other friend’s wedding from high school. I was always somewhere far away when they decided to get married. This time I just sucked it up and bought the ticket!

            Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s