#ThrowbackThursday — “On Insecurity”

There has been a lot of insecurity going around in my life recently — in my head, in friends’ lives, in conversations I’ve had with them, etc — so when I was scrolling through my notes to pick one for this Throwback Thursday, naturally this one jumped out at me.

Original post is from June 30th 2013.



Nothing taps into my insecurities — or reminds me that I have them — as fast or as powerfully as being liked.

It’s funny, you think it’d be the other way around, that having people not like me would get me all worked up and wondering why, what’s wrong with me, what did I do? But it doesn’t. Hasn’t in years. Being disliked just rolls off me. (Unless I thought you were my friend. Then if I find out you’ve secretly been disliking me and being nice to my face, you are dead to me. Dead-dead, not even mostly dead. All dead.)

But being liked — ouch. It’s like whiplash. It’s like, why. Like, what’s wrong with you? I don’t mean being casually liked by people I hang out with and have known for a while, I mean those times when I meet someone once or twice and they really really like me and actively want to spend more time with me. Especially when I wasn’t even trying to impress anyone. (Which is most of the time, since I’ve mostly given up on impressing people in non-professional situations.)

Why do you like me. Can’t you see I’m unpredictable, I’m lazy, I’m weak, I’m unfocused, I’m selfish, I’m flashy, I’m a coward, I’m cruel.

It’s amazing how many negative character traits will explode out of the woodwork of my brain when someone normal and nice who’s just met me says,“I really, really like you.” Or asks me to hang out when they totally didn’t have to. Or otherwise makes it clear that they want to be my friend.

It is weird, y’all. It’s the emotional contrarianism, exhibit A. You don’t like me? You should; I’m awesome. You do like me? WHY WOULD YOU, I’M A TERRIBLE PERSON OMG.

It’s a knee-jerk reaction; I’ll automatically ask myself what this person could possibly be seeing in me, and how I must have managed to fool them. If it’s a guy, my immediate and probably unhealthy instinct is, “Oh, you just think I’m pretty.” If it’s a girl, it’ll be more along the lines of, “Oh, she just doesn’t know me well enough. JUST YOU WAIT.” (Sorry for this heteronormative breakdown — obviously it doesn’t cover all contingencies.)

I mean, it’s obvious that each of us are our own harshest critic. I’m the only one who sees what is going through my head every second of every day, and how very empty and not-brilliant most of it is, so when people think I’m deep and brilliant, I have a hard time agreeing.

I have a friend who constantly asks me where my confidence comes from, and the truth is it doesn’t come from always thinking that I’m objectively awesome — it comes from knowing that most people are worse off most of the time. Even if I’m not brilliant, I’m smarter than most other people. Even if I’m not that productive, my spurts of production are often more impressive than those of others. Even if I’m not drop-dead gorgeous, I am more attractive than a lot of other girls.

So there, I said it. I derive my self-esteem from looking down on other people, rather than working on myself. Psychologically, I’m no different from your garden-variety bully.

And that loops around and taps into the biggest insecurity that I have ever had — that I am not a good person.

That’s been my biggest hang-up for as long as I can remember having hang-ups. I can even trace some of its origins and the ways it became amplified, like when I realized I was absolute crap at the belief-in-God part of my religion and decided, okay, that’s a lost cause, but the do-unto-others part is also important, so if I can just do that, be good to other people, then I won’t be a complete and utter failure as a human being.

Which I guess is a decent mindset to have because, y’know, kindness and goodness and all that, but is pretty unhealthy when it comes to the amount of pressure a person like me will put on herself for it. Like, if your one assurance in life of not being a bad person is being kind and compassionate and giving, etc, then when you screw that up, or recognize things about yourself that show that you are not that type of person at all, then you do feel really royally screwed.

I know I’m not a bad person, but the way I know it is by comparison to other people who are worse. So yeah, just because I have the psychological underpinnings of a bully, I’m not that bad because I don’t usually actively go around putting other people down. It doesn’t matter if I have the potential for it, as long as I don’t act on it.

Like Batman says, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” Or like Dumbledore says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Or if you want an obscure Jewish reference, there’s a midrash I once heard about how someone was looking at a soul, and it was ugly and twisted — bumps of arrogance, ridges of cruelty, welts of selfishness, and so on. (It’s a metaphor; go with it.) The person was revolted and asked, “Yikes, whose soul is that?” And from behind him, Moses steps out of the shadows and says, “Mine. That’s what I am inside, but I worked on myself to be better.”

I like those ideas, I really do (even if I do think that King David would have been a more apt figure than Moses for that particular lesson and I’m also not 100% sure that it’s an actualmidrash and not something the teacher made up). But even so, they don’t wipe out the feeling that I am fundamentally flawed inside and that all the good actions are just camouflage and repression. I cannot fix a fundamental flaw — that’s what makes it “fundamental” — I can only paint over it.

But then again, the point of all those quotes and stories is that everyone is fundamentally flawed inside and has their various negatives and dark threads.

But then again, that’s just using the “but everyone else is just as bad” rationale to excuse my own failings.

Still. If it’s good enough for Batman, Dumbledore, and Moses, it’s probably good enough for me.






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#ThrowbackThursday — “Thoughts on Beauty”

I don’t have a particular reason for posting this one at this time; I was just scrolling through my Facebook notes and it caught my attention for some reason. Original post is from June 3, 2013.

* * *

I have a lot of thoughts on this particular topic, and they’re not all connected or necessarily consistent, so I’m going to write a bunch of them up in the disjointed way they ricochet around in my brain.

Not the beauty I’m talking about. But prettyyyyyyyy.


I like being pretty. Would definitely not trade it for being ugly.


I don’t think of myself as pretty most of the time. I usually only consider myself pretty when I’m wearing makeup. Without makeup, I think I’m fairly average. If I had to pick numbers on a scale, which I don’t naturally think of but if I absolutely had to, I’d say that without makeup, I’m a 6, maybe a 7 on a good day. With makeup, I’m easily an 8, maybe a 9.


As an ex of mine pointed out, “There’s no such thing as makeup for boobs.” This is true; they don’t change much no matter what I do. Neither do the rest of the curves. Truth be told, I like my body more than I like my face.


Faces are a much bigger attraction to me than bodies, though. Which is probably why in my mind, my numerical rank falls so sharply when I’m not wearing makeup, even though obviously my body stays the same.


It’s only recently that my beauty has become a defining characteristic for me. Like in the last few years. Until then, I’d always seen myself as defined by my brains; people would meet me and their immediate reaction would be, “Wow, you’re really smart.” Now I suspect quite a few people who meet me, especially when I’m all dressed to impress, have the immediate reaction of, “Wow, she’s really hot.”

I cultivated that reaction; I know that. But I’m not sure what shifting that focus has done to me and my self-image. I went through a period where I wanted to shift the focus again, to “Wow, she’s really nice,” but I’m not sure “nice” is ever going to be what comes to mind when people think of me. I’m too rough around the edges for that.


That’s probably why I wear so many colors and do unusual/“quirky” things with my style — I never want to be just “hot” in a way that obscures me into some generic representation you’d find anywhere on the internet.


I’d have been a terrible candidate for that Dove ad campaign video, because I almost always think I’m prettier than I am.


I have days when I feel like I look fantastic — until I look in a mirror. Those are days when mirrors are to be avoided.


I have days when I feel blah and then I look in a mirror and realize I look pretty awesome. Those are days when I don’t avoid mirrors at all.


I’ve had days when a relationship was going badly and I looked in the mirror and saw that I looked absolutely beautiful, and I felt like a monster for presenting this face to the public and pulling people in when I was only going to end up hurting them.


It’s nice to have a conversation with a guy every once in a while when I know he’s unequivocally not interested in me “that way,” when I’m not dressed up or made up or flirting or engaging on any level beyond mind-to-mind. It’s affirming to know that I still have a mind worth engaging with — I worry about that sometimes.


I think that, generally speaking, I’m a really good person to talk to. But a lot of the time, that makes me think that if I weren’t pretty, most people would rather have me as a friend. My attractiveness just makes things confusing for a little while.


Sometimes, when I walk into a room full of strangers, I do an instant assessment of whether I am one of — if not the — most attractive girls in the room. It’s shallow and petty and obviously stemming from insecurity, but it’s nice to feel like I’m holding my own in some way, even in the most meaningless, superficial one.


I don’t think that beauty alone will “snag you a good husband” or get you a fulfilling relationship, because any guy (or girl) worth their salt will be able to tell pretty quickly if there’s nothing beyond the shell. But I do think that being beautiful can get me a second glance, and often buys you more time than you would get otherwise, and sometimes that’s enough to let you get yourself together and make it work. It’s not fair, but I think it’s true.


I also think it’s true that no matter how hot you are, if the other person is self-respecting enough to realize that you’re just not clicking together properly, or that someone else is a better match, it doesn’t matter one whit.


I like getting hit on on subways. I complain about it and mock the people who do it and find it hilarious how not-smooth people can be, but I like being noticed as long as I can get away as soon as I want to and don’t feel physically threatened.


There are situations where I feel physically threatened because of a) being female and b) looking the way I look. You learn power dynamics fairly quickly when you’re a pretty girl. Eye contact is usually a bad idea, unless you’re the one making them uncomfortable for being caught staring. In that case, it’s kind of fun.

There are also a few scenarios where eye contact is okay because the guy can’t possibly follow you anywhere, like if he’s a street performer and you’re walking past. Or if you’re walking down a crowded sidewalk and he’s heading in the other direction and your gazes cross for an instant. But that second one’s still a bit iffy; I have been followed for like half a block by a guy trying to start a conversation because I accidentally made eye contact with him.

Sunglasses are amazing because then you can look wherever you darn well please and nobody knows.


Smiles are incredibly powerful. Every guy who’s ever crushed on me has singled out my smile as being my most attractive feature. I never used to like my smile much; it’s crooked and asymmetrical, but apparently that’s part of its charm. I’m conscious of deliberately using mine a lot more than I used to, to put people at ease. I evidently have a very warm, non-threatening smile, and on the positive side, that can make people comfortable around me, and on the negative side, it can make people comfortable around me. I rely on it a lot in semi-professional situations.

Also, babies like it.


Well, those are some of my thoughts on this. Hope your time wasn’t wasted reading them.

I feel like this is a topic people don’t talk about, or if they do, it’s usually in a trashy way or a way that’s either all positive — “let your sexy inner goddess out!!” — or all negative — “beauty is worthless, only the soul matters!!” — and as with all things in life, there’s more to it than that.

(It goes without saying that what I’ve written here in no way speaks for the mindset of all girls, but I will say it anyway: What I’ve written here in no way speaks for the mindset of all girls.)


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