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Friday, August 13, 2010

Judgement Day

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If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want. ~Oscar Wilde

Z and I went to dinner yesterday as we do on a pretty regular basis (thanks again for the salad Z, my treat next time don’t forget). Because of all his travels and my own summertime activities, we actually hadn’t had a meal together for about a month, so we had a lot to catch up on. Z and I generally talk about writing and school and ...you know, life in general. I tell him what I think he should do and he tells me what he thinks I should do and we generally ignore each other’s advice and do pretty much what we were going to do anyway - but at least we talked it over with someone.

As part of our conversation yesterday (mostly in reference to an earlier conversation I had with another friend), I asked him if he worried about what people thought of him…or to put it more generically should any of us care what people think of us? If I remember the conversation correctly, I think we established that Z is pretty much a narcissistic basket case (;-), but let's talk about me. I’ve been thinking about it – do I care what people think of me - and I think the answer is an ambiguous no and at the same time yes.

We can worry about what people think about us in a lot of different areas. Physically (too fat, too thin, to tall, to short, big nose, frizzy hair etc.); Intellectually (smart, not smart, funny or un). I like to think I’ve made my peace with most of that at my ripe old age of forty-something. And with the exception of a few random high school reunions and visits to the gym, I don’t worry too much about that stuff anymore.

But there are other areas too.

Z gave me a kind of wishy-washy sort of compliment as an answer to my question referring mostly to my professional life. He reminded me that it does matter to me what people think if I am in charge of something. I guess I have to admit that I’ve earned a certain reputation for…I don’t know exactly what word to put there…doing things in a particularly “Mel-like” fashion. But then he also had to admit that even though it was important to me that I did a good job, he didn’t think I did it to try to be the most popular girl in the room. He used our Expedition Red Rock program as an example. Over 7 years I put a lot of work into organizing our annual trip down to the desert with 50 elementary kids – and got better at it over the years (we all did). But while we were down there it certainly wasn’t my intention, job, or even desire to be the most popular teacher in the crowd – which is a darn good thing because that was usually Z’s job -and why we were a good team. But it mattered to me to be prepared and that the trip went smoothly and that we had all our "Red Rock" ducks in a row so to speak. So on a professional level I have to admit that I do care what people think of me.

But then the other conversation I had yesterday was catching up with someone that I hadn’t really talked to for a long time. So, I had a few years of history to catch her up on and man, I gotta tell you that that last few years or so are just not a part of my life that I enjoy going over with people. It’s just been a little Days Of Our Lives/As The World Turns compared to the totally traditional unremarkable Leave It To Beaver personal life that I would have chosen for myself. But while I don’t really enjoy rehashing it , I don’t think I avoid the topic because I worry about what people will think of me. I think I avoid it because it just takes so much explanation and emotion –gaaaah! As a society though we tend to keep score a lot and have certain levels and milestones that it seems we are supposed to have achieved by a certain age. It’s easy to feel judged when some of those milestones were blown away by the winds of change.

I’m going to have to give this some more thought I think – check my own inner honesty meter and really consider if my self esteem is humming along at a healthy level. I suppose if I have to ask, it probably isn’t – but maybe the fact that I’m asking the question is a good sign.


Teachinfourth said...

Narcism, that's the way to go, Mel…it's a beautiful thing.


Kalei's Best Friend said...

What u are concerned about is normal.. But the bottom line is, is that u can't control what others may think of you.. The important thing is you... If u are good at what u do, then more power to you.. Maybe the ones who make judgment calls need to see what and why u can do and they can't? As long as u are happy at what u do or how you look, then that's all that matters.

Gerb said...

(First let me apologize because I feel a LONG comment coming on...)

Mel, I just went over this with a friend at some workshops I just finished attending. They had us take personality tests and EVERY ding-dang person there was completely shocked to discover that I fall into the 'Introverted' category. The thing is this... people don't like me as an introvert. So when I'm in social situations I force myself to become an extrovert - but it is EXHAUSTING. For some reason I become more introverted when I am pregnant and this summer a few of my friends have asked if I'm avoiding them. I sort of am - because I worry even more about what people think of me when I'm pregnant - not just pregnant, but with #10. That's not exactly mainstream. I worry what people will think and generally don't want to hear it. I suppose I am protecting myself by being unsocial? Anyway... this is not really sounding like I was thinking. I'm not doing so well at expressing it. I'm not sure how to explain it. SO let me just say this... I could very much relate to what you were saying here.

Also - it was so good to see you a couple of Sundays ago! I wish I didn't have to rush off to my primary class and we could have chatted for a few minutes.

Okay. That is all.

diane rene said...

I have to ask you this ... do you really care that OTHER people think you are doing a good job? or do you want to do a good job because it makes YOU feel good?

I have fought many battles over low self esteem and today, I am happy to say, the only one that NEEDS to be happy is me. I know this sounds selfish as a parent and spouse, but it really isn't.

I don't push the issues I think will make me look good, I push the issues that make me feel good. I still take care of my kids and pay them attention, but I do it on my terms and in the areas I find important. my house gets cleaned when I am done doing the things that I find more important or when the mood strikes.

it may help a little that I am bi-polar and what is important changes from one minute to the next - lol

Mel said...

Aww Z, you know I love you more than my luggage.

Kalei's friend: You're so right, no real control over the opinions of others.

Gerb: Boy do I know what you mean - it just should be so much work to be in a social situation...and I think that's a very good point - introversion as self protection.

Diane: I believe I mostly like to do a good job for myself - makes my life easier and makes me feel good about...me. Then if other's are happy with what I do that is just a bonus.
After you know, regular social stuff like not running red lights, paying taxes, not cutting in line etc, I'd really like to not care about the opinion of others...but I'm just not sure I'm there yet.
Thanks for the comment and good luck with the voices in your head too.

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