Posts Tagged ‘self esteem’

I live in a very middle-of-the-road, middle-class neighborhood, own a middle-class sized house and drive a middle-class car. I guess my car could even be considered lower middle-class. It is a bottom of the line, drab gray Nissan Sentra, after all.


My Brand of Car


But even though I live the very middle class lifestyle, I do have some “HMG” possessions. What’s HMG, you ask? It’s code for: “High Maintenance Girl.” Perhaps I need to put this in clearer perspective.

I live next to, or nearby a neighborhood where upper-middle to obscenely wealthy people live. These are the folks who live in McMansions, drive luxury cars (when their Hummers are in the shop, of course) and have nannies to help raise their private-school going kids. Most of the moms are stay-at-homes, who spend a lot of time out and about showing the world how “HMG” they truly are.

Whenever my husband and I dare to venture “across the tracks of our suburban slum territory” into their “promised land of plenty,” we play something called the “HMG game.” This is a lot like the license plate game, only we compare women instead. Let me describe the look of the HMG girl: most often caucasian, blond — natural or bottled, always perfectly coiffed and held back with a pony tail or leopard print head band, leggings or yoga pants, minimum of 2 carats of diamonds on her ring finger, spray tan, carrying a designer handbag, wearing bug eyed sunglasses and usually carrying a Starbucks grande coffee in one hand and her Iphone 6 in the other.


Their Type of Handbag


My One Size Fits All Bag

When we spot one of “them”, we try to make a story around  her: where she lives, what she does for a living (if she even has to work), what her husband does for a living (probably a workaholic, but who knows?), and how many spoiled kids they are letting their live-in nannies raise for them. Then, we watch and see how they interact with “common, ordinary folk” such as clerks working the counters at the local Starbucks or CVS. Sometimes, we just want to know IF they will take their eyes away from their expensive smartphones to even lower their social status long enough to engage in conversation with the working class peasants.

Yes, I know I sound bitter, jealous and angry over these HMG. You might even think that somewhere in the back of my mind I keep wondering “Where is my rich, handsome prince who will buy me everything I want, things I actually don’t need, and allow me to stay at home and watch someone else raise my kids?” The truth is, I wouldn’t want that lifestyle if I could have it. It’s just not me.

blue-jeans-cloth-texture-world-collection_639877I have always been low-maintenance. My favorite outfit is blue jeans, tennis shoes and a Tshirt/hoodie of some sort. I prefer sweatpants or hospital scrubs and leggings to yoga pants. I get my haircut at the local barbershop for $14.00, and that includes the tip.

Incidentally, for all you women out there who think a barbershop haircut is too “manly” and “unprofessional”, let me clue you in on a little secret: barbers have much stricter requirements for getting their licenses to cut hair than “beauty” professionals. While they don’t learn how to color, they do spent a lot of time (600 hours, to be exact) learning how to just cut hair on both men and women. I trust my female barber 100%, and have never been disappointed by her work.

Hold onto your high-priced designer handbags ladies — there is one other thing I do (or rather, don’t do) that clearly does not qualify me as “HMG”. I. HATE. TO. SHOP. Hate it. I would rather head to the thrift store and buy gently used clothing there than spend ten minutes in a Kohl’s trying to find good deals AND good fits. I spent twenty minutes there last week and left in disgust – I couldn’t find a single pair of jeans to fit me. And shoe shopping? Forget it. I have three pairs of shoes: one work quality, one pair of tennis shoes, and one dress pair. That’s it. I can’t wear high heels because of my bad feet (I’m tall enough anyways) and I choose comfort over fashion any day.


“Like Feet Up a Sheep’s Ass” Warm

But, I have to admit I own a “couple” of items that might put me on the edge of HMGness: I own a pair of UGG boots and, yes, a Northface hoodie. But, these come with a very good explanation: the UGG boots were bought because of hockey, and the Northface was a gift from my students years ago. I was a hockey mom for years, and those 5 am ice times in mid winter when the temps were in the negative teens made sitting on cold metal bleachers very miserable. By the time my son’s game was over, I couldn’t feel my toes. I told my husband that, if I don’t get the warmest pair of boots ever made to keep my toes from becoming popsicles, I was done with going to watch my son play. After talking with the other moms, I came to the conclusion that a pair of high top UGG boots were the only things that would keep my feet and calves toasty warm. So, I bought them and they are the only (and last pair) of boots I will ever purchase or wear in winter. And they make my feet feel like I’ve just shoved them  up a sheep’s ass. See how that makes me different?

I do have one final confession, however, that makes me rethink my potential HMG status: manicured nails. I have been a nail biter all my life. I’ve always thought that manicures are a complete waste of money and too luxurious a commodity for me to get done. Until recently, that is.

As soon as I began therapy, I noticed my nervous habits such as nail-biting and bouncing my leg up and down had begun to diminish. While I have always remained calm on the surface, my inner turmoil was still burbling underneath and coming out through nail biting. It was a daily habit.

Now, as I continue exploring my past and all the feelings I was never allowed to share and experience (surrounding the unplanned pregnancy and subsequent adoption), I no longer feel any urge to bite my nails. They are long, strong and beautifully manicured. And while I continue to get my hair cut at a deep discount, shop at thrift stores and generally live a low-maintenance lifestyle, I will also continue to “cross the tracks” into the world of HMGness, and get my nails done professionally on occasion. Why?

Because my manicured nails say, “I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been.”

images (1)



Today would have been the start of my 7th year of teaching. I would have risen early – probably some time between 5:30 and 5:50 am, and sat down to catch up on about fifteen minutes of news before I started getting ready for work. I would have spent the last several days in my classroom, designing bulletin boards, writing lessons, decorating my desk, the windows, etc. in a welcoming design so the new batch of sixth graders wouldn’t feel so intimidated by their first year in middle school.

I would have met them outside on the playground, as I told them where to stand every morning when I walked down to greet them, with a big smile on my face, and most likely a few words of encouragement and a reminder to quiet down as we walked back into the building and up the three flights of stairs to the new, shiny room they’d be occupying for the next eight months of their daily lives.

school suppliesI would ask them to put their class supplies against the back wall, and ask for volunteers to help put the tissue boxes, paper towels and hand sanitizer bottles into the tiny closet. I would let them choose their seats, cubby holes and coat hooks, and hang everything up neatly before they sat down and waited…for the day to begin.

We would wait for the 8:10 bell to ring, signaling the late bell, and then settle down as we wait for the principal to do her regular announcements, prayers and Pledge of Allegiance. Then, the next three days of school would be a series of getting to know each other, getting to know the class rules, routines, procedures, expectations, and everything else they’d need to know to become successful in my classroom. I’d briefly discuss what we’d start to work on in the subjects I taught: religion, language arts, science and, eventually health. I would let them know they have plenty of opportunities to talk to each other, work together and do fun, engaging projects and work really, really hard. I always loved the first few days of school – it was a giant “do-over” for everyone, filled with promise and renewed energy and enthusiasm.

But, this year, I am sitting at my laptop, writing about it instead. I lost my teaching contract last April. They decided they didn’t want me back, so they didn’t renew me. Okay, I will be blunt — I got fired. I’ve mentioned this in other posts, so I won’t rehash it here. This post is less about what happened to me, and more about my feelings about not being back there right now. I am trying to find the perfect emotion to attach to how I feel right now: upset, ambivalent, angry, bitter, resentful. None of those are appropriate or applicable.

What I feel is…relieved. Don’t get me wrong – I will miss the students and the opportunity to influence the lives of a whole new group of sixth graders. I absolutely love teaching and don’t intend to quit now. But, I’m relieved I don’t have to go back there – to that particular school – because I am working on myself right now, and it would be a major hindrance to my emotional progress if I had to go back to the place that caused so much stress, anger, frustration and loneliness in me.

social-outcastI was never an accepted team member there. Colleagues would often be seen in each other’s classrooms, chattering and laughing over funny stories and information I was never privy to hear. They would call each others’ classrooms during the day, just to say hi or do something silly. They would email each other and organize fast food runs, but keep me out of the loop. I was never made to feel welcome, or part of, any team or grade level there. For me, it was a lonely place to work when it came to my peers. My job devolved into nothing more than going in, teaching kids, then leaving at the end of the day, after the kids had left and the paperwork was complete. Even though I had my classroom door open, nobody ever came to visit and chat with me.

I tried, really I did, to fit in. But, just like the “odd girl out” I was in junior high and high school, I was the “odd girl out” in this school again. I didn’t think it would affect me as harshly as it did when I was young, but after six years of being a social outcast, it hurt like hell. And, with the deaths of family members and lack of emotional support from my co-workers, it just came to a roiling boil and the dam finally burst in me. My misery was palpable and, after the announcement that I wouldn’t be returning this year, it seemed to me that I could almost feel a collective “Yay!”  echoing from the rest of the staff.  Only one or two staff members stopped by to say they were sorry to see me go. One staff member told me that it was “probably for the best” because “You just look miserable and angry”. I lost both my parents and a brother during this time – of course I was miserable and angry. Who wouldn’t have been?

But now I look at what happened as a blessing and a relief. I don’t have to return to an uncomfortable setting and pretend to like people who clearly don’t like me back. I don’t have to be a hypocrite anymore, either. I can say, think and feel whatever I want – because I am not bound to some stupid clause that tells  me I’m not allowed to have an opinion or a private life. I don’t have to sit back and watch as adults insult and dehumanize young kids. I don’t have to listen to stories of teachers who can’t figure out how to teach multiplication tables to fourth graders. I don’t have to listen to teachers whine about all the “extra work” they have to do because the new Common Core Standards and Standards Based Grading system are “too time-intensive for me to do”.

I will miss the students, but not the school. And, I won’t let my lack of a teaching job this year wear away at my growing self-confidence and self-esteem, either. I am much more valuable than that.

Sometimes, a loss is really a gain. That’s truly how I feel.


denialbirdearthI just finished reading the book First Person Plural, an autobiography written by Cameron West, Ph.D. It is about his life and struggle with coming to accept his Dissociative Identity Disorder. Personally, I prefer to call it by its old term: multiple personality disorder.

I am fascinated by how the brain works. More fascinating to me is the way the brain deals with trauma, worry, stress, and lastly, denial. I chose the title of this post because of the metaphor I read in the book: denial comes to me in the metaphorical form of a gardener’s rake. It is used to push and pull the memories, thoughts, opinions, and feelings floating around in our head deep into our minds, so we can bury them — sometimes forever.

Denial occurs across a broad spectrum of issues: Addiction, Abuse, Behavior, Relationships. It can be wielded as a way to survive or continue existing as part of the status quo. But the problem with denial’s rake is that, eventually it becomes a useless tool because all the dirt underneath rises again to the surface. This can occur in a sudden earthquake of enlightenment, or slowly resurface like silty layers of earth, weathered away by a constant tide of destructive, self-defeating patterns.

tilth-rakeI used my rake over and over again, across a series of decades, to bury my feelings and reject my true self. My denial was planted and fertilized over the years through a plentiful supply of Catholic doctrine. I was told to act a certain way, believe a certain way and move through life a certain way. What wasn’t planted in me was the self-confidence to make my own decisions, my own choices, and forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made along the way.

Now that the earth inside my brain has shifted, and new, fresh layers of consciousness are rising to the surface, I feel like I am finally moving out from under the power of denial’s rake.  I am tilling my own soil and removing all polluted  traces that came from living a life according to others, who lived their lives based on outdated religious doctrine and beliefs.

I can already begin to see the shoots of new flowers rising slowly to the surface, waiting to burst through and bloom into a field of colorful wildflowers ready to dance and sway in the breeze; unfettered by the rake of denial that held me in its grip for so long. And, I am becoming the butterfly that joins them in the dance.

butterfly on wildflowers

Yep, it’s time for another one of my rants about my world. Wow, you just can’t beat television as a valuable source of material for rants. I’ve struck the mother lode with this medium.

First, it’s important to talk a little bit about “set precedents.” For years, Hollywood has given all of us “real women” an incredibly impossible ideal that all women need to strive for in order to achieve “perfect beauty”: a size 0 (that’s a “zero”, not an “O”, in case you’re also a blond, skinny, chick reading this right now).

Okay, before I start getting responses that accuse me of being sexist, ageist, “fattist” or whatever the latest PC term for overweight is, I will own up to my own figure. I am not, I repeat, NOT one of those women who fit into size 0 pants. If math serves me correctly here, I’m more of a size 14(ish). Bigger on the days I’m retaining water. Less on the days I drink more coffee. Needless to say, I’m “full bodied”. But, I can carry it off better than, say someone the size of a professional jockey. I’m tall. I used to be tall and thin, now I’m just tall. Genetics, aging, childbirth, and not watching my weight (because I no longer care) has added several unwanted, unneccesary pounds to my 5’10″(ish) height. I say “ish” because according to my doctor, I’ve shrunk. I think I was just slouching on that day she measured me.

I own my weight issues and certainly can’t do anything about my height issues. I just thought I’d put this out there so nobody could come back at me and say “Well, you can say all this because YOU don’t have anything to talk about!” (I’m also “blond”, so that argument goes out the window too, nyah!)

But, of course, I do have something to say. Ladies, it is time we take some things back — like weight issues and hair issues.

I saw a preview for the latest round of reality TV shows called “More to Love”, and this one looks like nothing more than an excuse to take the sting out of the word “fat” and soften it up with the euphemism: “real woman”. Are you kidding me?

The premise behind this concept is simple: a bachelor is searching for his “Miss Right” (sound familiar here?). But, with a twist. This time, the chubby chaser is looking for a–yes–they said it out loud, “real woman”. Translation: women somewhere in the 5′-5’6″ height range and between 175 – 215 lbs (rough estimate based on some quick calculations I made regarding circumference) As I once heard it said: “Just a hugging and a chalking I go”. I’m no math wizard here, but I know “fat” when I see it. And folks, these women are “fat”.

I don’t have a problem with the premise of the show. Fat women need love too. I totally support anyone who can find the love of their life — skinny, fat, pimply faced, etc. So long as they aren’t searching for an abusive, controlling, addicted, waste of a human being, who am I to argue or complain?

The problem I have is in the euphemistic and patronizing tone of the words “Real woman”. Come on, let’s call it like we see it. Am I any less “real” as a woman because I don’t weigh 215 (approximately) pounds? Am I less of a “real woman” because I was blessed with long legs and a short torso?

I have an entirely different definition of “real woman”, and it has nothing to do with weight or height, but everything to do with character:

1. A real woman isn’t afraid to leave the house without full make up on, uncombed hair or even an unshowered body.

2. A real woman isn’t afraid to put a worm on a hook, land the fish, kiss the first one for good luck, and pry the bloody hook from the fish’s mouth.

3. A real woman couldn’t tell you the difference between Donna Karan and Dolce Gabbana, but she can hogtie a calf, castrate a bull and chop a chord of wood, if need be — all before noon on a blistering summer day (or midnight on a frigid winter’s night).

4. A real woman doesn’t sit around and whine about her man’s failings, or the fact that she can’t find a decent man, or she’s too fat, too ugly, too poor, etc. She just works with what she has. If she decides to drop any weight, let’s hope it’s the man who doesn’t love her for who she is, not because he told her so.

5. A real woman doesn’t sit around comparing herself to other women. I get that Jennifer Aniston is a size 0. I accept that she is “knock-‘em-dead” gorgeous. She also has a personal trainer, most likely a professional chef, a stylist, personal shopper, etc. Her job is to BE gorgeous and she does it well.

6. A real woman doesn’t let society define or determine who she is, especially if these criteria are coming from a male-dominated industry.

These are just a few things I consider to be part of a real woman’s treasure trove of value. Notice nowhere in there did I say “a-real-woman-is-actually-a-fat-woman-upset-at-being-called-fat-who-is-really-just-trying-to-find-her-place-in-a-society-that-has-created-impossibly-unrealistic-expectations-of-beauty-and-worth.” However, I bet that’s the first thing the pitch people for this reality show said to the network producers as they were hauling out the contract to sign.

It’s time we stopped with all this nonsense about beauty and how it is defined. I, myself, could lose some pounds. As I said before, I own this statement. But, let’s drop the euphemisms and start calling it like we see it.  These women on this show are fat. If TV producers want to create a show called “Real Women”, then I say they search for more appropriate and fitting women to answer their audition calls– and sit back to see how many really do show up after all.

Because a real woman would have the confidence to say “No, I don’t need the spotlight of television to show the world how beautiful I know I am.”

I have a dirty little secret. I love tabloid news. I love to read Star Magazine, catch up on all the latest docu-drama on Tori Spelling’s life, Abby Lee Miller’s Dance Moms and, most recently, the new show Raising Asia

Raising Asia is a new show that revolves around the life of an 8-year old girl’s desire for fame, fortune, and world domination. Closely monitored and managed by her evil sidekick Mom, we watch as Asia complains, whines, pleads and demands her way through life. In the first episode, little Asia says some of the “cutest little sayings” that every parent loves to hear:

“Mom thinks she’s in control in this house, but really, it is me.”

“Pop stars don’t go to playgrounds. Their playground is the red carpet.” complete with a sassy eye roll and exasperated sigh.

Charming, huh? Makes me want to go out and pull an Angelina Jolie on her – offer to adopt her right up.

Asia is a symptom of a much greater epidemic in this country: a growing population of humans with an overblown sense of self entitlement.

Somewhere in recent history — perhaps within the last decade, parents of small children began the systematic and methodical process of coddling their children far too much. Parents, guided by psychologists and schools, were growing increasingly concerned about their childrens’ well being. It was critical that little Johnny or Suzy developed a healthy sense of self awareness, self esteem and confidence. This was accomplished by minimizing as many potential threats to their fragile egos as possible: every child gets a trophy for participating, there are no winners or losers and nobody keeps score. In school, teachers were told to get rid of red pens because red is such a critical color.

And that’s when I have to throw out the bullshit flag.

Let’s face it – life is not fair. Not everybody can be first, not everybody can always win and excel at whatever they do. Jobs are lost, accidents happen, people die way too early. And most importantly, life does not “hand you” everything you want, when you want it. Which is exactly what some of these reality TV shows continue to model to the world with shows like Bridezillas, Toddlers & Tiaras, I Want to Marry a Millionaire, and most recently, Raising Asia.

I understand that I have control over what I watch on TV. I can just as easily turn the channel. But, like a slow motion car wreck, it is hard for me not to watch. Not because I want what others have (but I don’t), but because I feel it’s important to remind myself not to become, or to raise my own kids, with such a grandiose sense of entitlement. 

The seven deadly sins are listed as such:

  • wrath
  • sloth
  • avarice
  • pride
  • lust
  • greed
  • envy

If I were to name an 8th sin, all I would have to do is take each of the seven sins above, combine them all into a ball and rename it “self entitlement”. 

In fact, I demand that be done right now.