Confidence

My dark chocolate today said ‘it’s OK to be fabulous AND flawed.’ The irony being I flawed in eating the chocolate…

I’ve been doing relatively well on my nutrition and fitness habit-building, except for when I have visitors in town. I got really excited about some food-tourism stuff with my dad, namely liquid nitrogen ice cream and a gourmet rice krispy treat store. I also didn’t make it a point to delay our plans for me to work out. As a result, I’m not feeling super great about my weekend in terms of my plan, although it definitely was fun and great to spend time with my dad.

I’m struggling a lot with my mom, too. It was really hard to have my dad in town and not her. I’m so used to planning around things she’ll enjoy. I’m used to shopping, and as materialistic as it is, it’s sad not to have someone to buy me things anymore. My mom was the one to send me money sometimes, or if she knew I was looking at a sweater or dress but couldn’t afford it she’d buy it and send it to me without me ever asking, or she’d suggest or proactively get me some of the necessities – toiletries, haircut, bras, etc. – when I was in town or the same place as her. My dad doesn’t proactively spend money on me, it’s a request, must be a necessity, and even then is rare. It’s an adjustment, and buying those random things reminds me of the loss. Sometimes I’ll get excited to tell her about something before I remember I can’t. I want to ask her for advice or get reassurance before a new thing, and I can’t. I was so nervous about meeting my boyfriend’s mom, and I wanted nothing more than to talk to my mom about it, but I couldn’t.

It’s hard, too, because I can’t really fill in the reassurance/validity gap. I get that in an ideal world, I’d be so majestically self-assured that I wouldn’t need anyone to reassure me or validate me. My nerves or anxiety are usually based around other people’s thoughts, opinions, or reactions, and at the end of the day, my thoughts, opinions, and reactions are the only ones that should truly matter. I generally know how I feel – I’m that self aware – but I do still like to get others’ opinions to inform my decision, and it makes me happy to please those around me. Does that make me insecure? Maybe. Generally, though, I got that validation from my mom, and that was enough to keep me from seeking it out elsewhere. Now, when trying to seek it out elsewhere, I’m getting comments about how it seems insecure to need that type of reassurance or validation, and those comments are right, which sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, I do generally like myself. I’m happy with my strengths and personality, and I am thrilled with where I am in life. I don’t mean that sarcastically – for real, financially, professionally, romance and friend-wise, etc. – it’s all amazing. Currently, I’m unhappy about the loss of my mother, and I’m unhappy about my weaknesses. I’m always unhappy about my weaknesses and trying to improve on them, it’s a constant struggle, but lately other people have commented on some of them. With the loss of my mom’s cheerleading, having these things commented on is like a sucker punch to my confidence.

Basically, I need to work on improving my self confidence. I think generally working on my fitness and nutrition help with that, as it gives me a ‘proud of myself’ cookie. Moreover, I need to find ways to accept that in life, there’s no ‘right’ way to do something, I’m never going to be doing something right or wrong or good or bad. I can’t seek out guidelines by seeing what pleases people around me or what fits into society’s norm. My metrics have always been the following, and I need to refocus on that:

  • whether something would make me happy,
  • if I’d regret not doing it,
  • if I feel happy with how much energy I put into something, and
  • if it will improve my life more than take away from it.

Some handy advice to keep in mind or try soon (from lovely various internet sources):

  • Get crystal clear on the things that truly matter to you.  If they’re not in your life, you need to bring them in.
  • Write a list of the things you’re tolerating and putting up with in your life, then write down how you can remove, minimize or diminish each one.
  • Take a few minutes each day or just each Sunday (or any day that fits you) to use a journal to write down how you have grown, how much closer you are to your goals now, what you have overcome and learned and so on.

The last one, in particular, I think may be a good exercise to add on to my gratitude journal. Instead of just saying the great things in my life, focusing on something – just one thing – that I’ve improved or done well or learned can shift that a bit to be more introspective.

In the meantime, revisiting strengths and weaknesses will be helpful in me identifying which strengths to use to overcome weaknesses.

Strengths:

  • Loyal
  • Give good, unbiased, logical advice
  • planning/logistics
  • organizational skills
  • connecting people
  • seeing the positive in things/easily amused
  • diverse interests…musical theater, books, writing, reality tv, board games, stand up comedy shows, outdoorsy adventures, classes, food/restaurants, travel, movies
  • leadership
  • my job – synthesizing lots of information, research, data analysis,  writing, questioning people/data procurement
  • research
  • my passion…for public service, my family/friends
  • enthusiasm/energy level

Weaknesses:

  • Stubborn
  • Impatient
  • care too much about what others think
  • over-commit myself
  • don’t always communicate my needs effectively with others
  • don’t always properly prioritize my own health/fitness

I had a rough day thinking about all this, but ended it well. My lovely boyfriend talked me through things, and was really understanding about my needing certain types of validation/positive reinforcement for a while. He also emphasized that it isn’t weak to ask for compassion and encouragement from my friends, that actually it’s totally natural since we all deserve love and compassion. It kinda drilled home that I can ask others for those things I don’t think I’m getting directly, and maybe they won’t think less of me for it, maybe it’s just that they don’t 1) realize I need things or 2) know what to do that could be helpful.

No Hiding Allowed

I’ve noticed a nervous habit of mine that has been driving me crazy as of late. First off, when I was training for some major scholarship interviews in college, I learned I have the habit of raising my voice at the end of statements. This generally would occur when I wasn’t 100% certain of what I was saying. Similarly, when posed a question that I wasn’t 100% sure of, I would sometimes say “I don’t know,” but then proceed to answer the question. Once, a mock interviewer compared me to Sarah Palin because of that habit. I no longer have those problems in the professional world – trust me, there’s nothing like comparing you to a mocked public official to shake you of a habit.

While I don’t always have those tells, I’m still less than terrific about being persuasive when I’m not 100% sure of my argument. If I’ve done the proper research and analysis, then I’m confident that I can withstand any argument (legal training for the win). If I haven’t done the research, while I may know more about a subject than those debating it, I don’t know enough to stand up to my own standard, so I get uncertain and self-doubting. It’s a very female problem, and it’s obnoxious. I’m working on acknowledging my own expertise (and I have been for quite some time), and I’m excited to read the book On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not by Robert Burton.

So while I’ve noticed, acknowledged, and been working on improving my tells regarding certainty in those realms, I haven’t really done a lot with it in the dating world. In my defense, it’s rare that a guy makes me nervous enough to fall into those habits. It may sound heartless, but while I date a lot of men, my level of interest is usually only moderate. I might get nervous about being awkward on a date, but I don’t get that “squee” feeling frequently. Notably, when I date people who are Dominant in nature – from date 1 – the problem is more noticeable  Essentially, the rules surrounding dating are altered, I’m less familiar with that type of dynamic, and as a result I’m uncertain. Part of the D/s dynamic involves keeping the submissive a bit out of her element, nervous, anticipatory, etc., and having less power – not having control – pushes me out of my comfort zone. I like it, but I fall into these stupid traits.

Basically, when someone asks me a question about feelings or thoughts, I may say “I don’t know.” I generally do this whenever I’m uncertain or doubtful of a response to something I’d say. It sort of gives me an out for whatever I say. By saying I don’t know, it looks like I’m just sort of pulling something together, so I’m asking someone to take it as a less certain truth. This goes against so much of what I believe, though, and I piss myself off when I do it. I’m all about owning your emotions and statements. If I have an answer, than I DO know. I’m saying it, so people should take it however they want, and saying I don’t know is a cop out. It’s an excuse and a placation, and it is me hiding.

I want a relationship where I’m not allowed to hide. I want my partner to force me to answer the difficult questions…I actually want him to enjoy my discomfort. (There’s a great line in an erotic story I read recently that captures this dynamic: see here, in the fifth section.) I want my partner to make me awkward, uncertain, flustered, and visibly enjoy that slight humiliation. I want him to either make it clear he enjoys my emotional predicament, or to command/sooth the awkward away, but it’d be delightful for it to be intentionally exploited.  When I get strangely uncertain and nervous, and I have these tells, it’s a prime opportunity for a partner to dominate me, should he share my interest in power exchange. It’s in these sorts of ways  that the power dynamic can be established gradually over the course of time, in unassuming ways.

8/8 Quit Playing Games With My Heart

Yes, I just quoted a Backstreet Boys song…deal with it.

Game playing in the romantic world has come up more than once in my life lately, and it kind of took me by surprise. In the universe’s (The Universe has a twitter, btw) typical fashion, it even showed up in my webcomics – see today’s Questionable Content post.

I guess on some level, you could say that all the so-called rules we follow in the dating world are playing games, because they aren’t us acting entirely on intuition. By this I mean things like waiting a few days to call someone after getting their number, not texting back immediately, not always being available during the initial time you’re asked out for, texting the morning after if you had a good time, etc. In my (potentially naïve) view, though, playing games has always been a negative thing, and has always been something that people do intentionally. It’s playing hard to get or acting uninterested in order to attract someone.

I have hidden my interest in men before, but usually because I was afraid of rejection and I wanted to judge their interest first. I realize now that is the same thing as playing a game because it isn’t being direct and forthright with your feelings. I’ve also come to realize that sometimes games aren’t all negative, but are natural. I didn’t intentionally think to play hard to get. I don’t lead people on or tease them on purpose. If I’ve ever done so, it’s been a measure of my own uncertainty or insecurity in that particular situation.

I’ve basically been a bit of a hypocrite. I make a big deal about owning how you feel and being honest, but when it comes down to it, I’m not that blunt. When asked for an opinion or asked how I feel, I will be unfailingly honest. I may even overshare and give way too much information. That said, I tend to not volunteer information. In the past, in all situations – with friends, family, romantic partners – volunteering emotional information has more often than not ended very poorly. It’s a trust thing. If someone has asked something, I trust they care about the answer and I am ok making myself vulnerable because they did so by asking. It’s rare for me to trust others enough to become vulnerable with them on my own initiative, and that is where I’ve been “playing games.”

I don’t know if how I act is really game playing, I just know that I need to be more direct. I’ve known this for a while, but I’m still working on acting on it. I’ve gotten better recently in a series of interactions in the kinky and vanilla world, in terms of play and dating, but I still have a ways to go. I was taken aback a bit this weekend, though, when someone suggested that I was playing games, when in my mind, I was just uncertain of his interest and of how far I was willing to go with him. I didn’t intend to give mixed messages, and I cleared it up right away. On a similar note, when playing a game that asked “what would make an unattractive person appealing,” one thing brought up was directness about sexual interest. I don’t think I’d fit in the unattractive persons group, but it’s interesting to hear from others how directness is admired rather than seen as off-putting.

Now to go on building myself up and forcing myself to be more direct. Putting my money where my mouth is can be hard.

3/4

My capstone project has been the bane of my existence Friday and today. Group projects never really go smoothly all the time, but this one has been painful lately. Namely, I tried to raise a point that my other group members just dismissed, then today one of our advisors raised my exact point and now we’re switching paths.  It’s frustrating because it seems like people really have no faith that my concerns are legitimate and not just pulled out of my ass.

I do think, however, that I bring doubt on myself because of a lack of confidence in my own knowledge. I made my point clearly and repeatedly, and it was a logical argument (and apparently a correct one), but I was willing to back down from it. I didn’t trust that I was right and agreed that I could be wrong, whereas another more vocal member was more assertive and confident in his thought (even though he turned out to be off course). I think my own slight uncertainty encouraged the other members to dismiss my perspective.

This is a common female issue — women apologizing before asking a question or stating an opinion, or wrongful inflection making should-be statements into questions, etc. — but I need to get over it before I enter the professional world full time. This was an issue during important mock-interviews in undergrad, was raised again in speech class, and yet I still do it. I’m so afraid of appearing overconfident or being wrong that I lead others into not trusting my opinion. This is really not a good thing.

On the other hand, when I’m 100% sure of something, I can almost always convince others to go along with me. When I believe in something, I can pull out countless arguments and my passion alone tends to convince people. I just can’t claim that certainty when I don’t know that I have it; I’d need to go do all the research, line up all the evidence, and have rebuttals to counter-arguments first. This isn’t helpful during spur-of-the-moment debates or discussions, or when I have more knowledge than those around me even if I’m not an expert, as was the case here. I need to learn to accept that even though I may not be an expert in the subject, if my subject matter expertise is higher relative to those in the discussion, then I’m allowed to be “fully certain” when making my case.

I was reading up on this, and found this to be especially relevant and interesting:

Why it that some people, the Donald Trumps of the world, seem to believe only the best about themselves, while others—perhaps especially women, perhaps especially young women—seize on the most self-critical thoughts they can come up with? “It turns out there’s an area of your brain that’s assigned the task of negative thinking,” says Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of The Female Brain. “It’s judgmental. It says ‘I’m too fat’ or ‘I’m too old.’ It’s a barometer of every social interaction you have. It goes on red alert when the feedback you’re getting from other people isn’t going well.” This worrywart part of the brain is the anterior cingulate cortex. In women, it’s actually larger and more influential, as is the brain circuitry for observing emotions in others. “The reason we think females have more emotional sensitivity,” says Brizendine, “is that we’ve been built to be immediately responsive to the needs of a nonverbal infant. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Why-Women-Have-Low-Self-Esteem-How-to-Feel-More-Confident#ixzz1oCxJTVMY

So, at least I’ll probably be a really good mom?

Other randoms:

  • My paper on nuclear reprocessing has reawakened my interest in international energy security and nonproliferation. I actually applied to grad school based on my interest in that topic, but chose to pursue a skills-based program instead of a research-centric one. I ended up stumbling into homeland security as a subject area, but I do still find energy security fascinating. I love reading up on it and talking about it, imaging a world with different policy decisions and altered political environments.
  • Dirty Things ranks as my second-favorite DC-area event, second only to Rapture (which is only first at this point because of my friendships with the people there). I had a fantastic time this weekend going to Baltimore for the event.  I really can’t imagine ever getting sick of rope, both watching and participating in play with it.*
  • I realized that while I see the world in a variety of gray – when presented with options, I always end up with some combination of the alternatives – when it comes to my participation in things I’m either all or nothing. I am fully engaged, or not engaged at all. I understand something or I don’t. I don’t do things halfway at all, even though I’m one of the biggest advocates for compromise and middle paths. Odd realization.

*It’s been a while since I’ve clarified on that, but whenever I talk about how much I love playing with rope, it’s really all contingent on who I’m playing with. Yes, playing with rope by itself can be fun (that’s why I own some), but there are certainly different levels of enjoyment depending on if it’s for practice, the connection I have with the other people involved, the surrounding environment, etc. and there are times when it isn’t enjoyable at all if one of those things is really off. I love rope and I’ll demo in a public learning environment for whoever needs a bottom, but real actual enjoyment (of the sensual sort or the relaxation sort) comes more from the “something more” that isn’t found with all and sundry.