February 3, 2023

Pinoy Trekker

Pinoy Trekker – We go anywhere

The big aha moment that helped me stop being fixated on fixing myself

“The real difficulty is overcoming how you think about yourself.” ~ Maya Angelou

My newest boyfriend ended our three month friendship one day in July when I had just returned from a terrible summer vacation. Her email to Dear Jane said, “It’s not you, it’s me.” The lever had been pulled, I was dumped, and I was like, “Ha!” I’d spent the last three months helping her to solve their problems. I knew she had more problems than me.

But then an anxious, obsessive mind loop began. What did it really mean? How could it not be about me?

This wasn’t the first time I’d lost a friend, so naturally I had to diagnose, dissect and determine the origin of this unfortunate pattern. My fears increased and I had to fix something before this happened again. So I made an appointment with a therapist named Dr. Mary.

After an hour’s drive through the city traffic, I arrived late and shaken to the first therapy session.

Within fifteen minutes, Dr. Mary to see the parallel between my friendships and my relationship with my mother and advised me that I didn’t have to raise my mother, a lifelong project due to her unstable mental health. I was disappointed but relieved to discover that I wasn’t there to correct my mother’s narcissistic behavior. I was only there to fix myself. I paid her the ninety-five dollars I owed out of my own pocket and left feeling a little better.

Two weeks later I drove the same hour to my second therapy session. I wasn’t prepared for what I would take with me this time.

When I brought my mother up again, Dr. Mary why I had to change my mother. Couldn’t I just let her be?

I was confused. Wasn’t my mother’s problems the cause of everything? “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mom,” my friends and I used to joke. And why wouldn’t my mother want to benefit from my knowledge, love and insight?

dr Mary slowly fed me this next concept. “Maybe you need to fix people so you can feel powerful, and then no one will pay attention to your mistakes. Maybe you want to distract others from seeing how unlovable you are.”

This concept slowly hummed in my head until tears rolled down my face.

Finally, I found tissues near my couch seat. And then our time was up.

“Do you have any self-esteem books you can read?” I asked as I paid for them because I needed a little more time to process this information. “No,” she said, and then she opened the door and let out into the world a different version of me than the me that had entered.

As I drove to meet my boyfriend for lunch, my mind was screaming, “I’m forty-five-fucking-years-old and I have low self-esteem!!??” Over our Cuban pork and mojo sauce sandwiches, my friend Terry said, “Who doesn’t have low self-esteem?”

Apparently my discovery of my buried dysfunction was the trendy new hiccups I was now experiencing. When did low self-esteem become fashionable?

My head was full of angry bees as I traveled home for more than an hour. I didn’t feel good enough to be my child’s parent that night. I raged at Dr. Mary’s decree on my judgment of low self esteem and not being okay.

I had been working hard at self-knowledge and self-love with therapy, self-help books, and humility my entire adult life! How dare she rob me of my self-definition and my intention to show others how to be okay? Who am I supposed to be now?

A week and many journal pages later, I wanted to finish marinating in my indignation, so I crossed the lawn to the library with the intention of reading all the self-esteem books. As I explained what had happened, the librarians agreed that it is difficult to fill the cup of self-esteem without knowing what that cup or its contents look like. Wise souls these women.

At home I read and thought and sat with my judgment of low self esteem. And then, unexpectedly, I began to feel a new peacefulness. My fear decreased. scattered. Disappear.

If I were off the hook to fix the faults I’ve seen in others, I would no longer have to fix the faults I’ve seen in myself. My low self-esteem and fears were allowed. I could just be where I was until I was somewhere else. I was in a new place where I was okay with myself, you could just be yourself and where judgments no longer served any purpose. By naming the inner beast, I had somehow freed it too.

I’m still attracted to people who admittedly need a little life, but I’m not obsessed with “their” recipe for success or what “they” could do to fix it. I make every day count toward my own healing.

Eventually, with the help of medication, my anxiety felt like a phantom limb, a reminder of a part of me that was no longer there, though I also occasionally need a therapeutic attunement.

All I had to do was admit and acknowledge who and where to stop fixating on the fixation. If I saw her today, I would recommend Dr. Thank Mary for the gift of my freedom. And I would mention some very good self esteem books that I have read.

About Shalagh Hogan

Shalagh Hogan, pronounced Shay-La, lives in Maryland with her husband, a teenager, a nine-year-old girl and three cats. Her lifestyle and self-discovery blog at Shalavee.com just turned eleven. Her hope and joy as a writer and artist is that by sharing her journey of self-discovery and creative soul-searching, others will find inspiration and permission for their own journeys. She spends much of her time online with her community on Instagram.

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