I decided to write about self-image first, because it’s among the things that I struggle with the most. My self-image is flighty, unreliable and shallow. I feel very different and it seems like there is nothing that makes me truly ME.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall . . . “
I feel like that a lot. I need feedback from others, I need to be able to see my reflection in their behavior, in their words and in their eyes. I need them to mirror me and validate me in order to feel like I exist. So instead of “mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all” for me it’s more like: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, say, do I exist at all?! (And if so, can you tell me who I am, please?)”
“Just be yourself . . . “
That’s such a common piece of advice, yet one that is impossible for me to follow. If someone tells me to just be myself, I get super-nervous and in my head there is a constant loop of “no, no, no – let on what you would like me to be like already” on endless repeat. I try to figure out how people want me to be and try to please them. I am so desperate for positive feedback by those I love, it’s pathetic, but it makes me feel like I exist. In fact, it can give me an incredible sense of self . . . while it lasts.
“I am like you . . . but . . . who am I?!”
Because the mirroring temporarily works, I spend a great deal of time and energy trying to emulate others. I admire Pink (the singer), so I try to be like her. Some of my hair is usually dyed pink, I like to dress in stuff that she would wear, and I copy her makeup. I went through phases where I admired my therapists (until I became disillusioned with each and every one of them) and tried to be who they wanted me to be, tried to be them. Tried to get them to validate me, to be pleased with me. At the same time it never felt convincing or real enough in the long run, because all they see is me being a mirror image of them. And it doesn’t give me a lasting sense of self, because I change according to who I’m with. I’m like this today, the opposite tomorrow, depending on what I feel is required. If you like spinach, I like spinach. If you hate it, I hate it, too. It’s confusing, because I actually feel both ways while I need to, feel them clearly, and then, in the end, I don’t know which is true and which is not, nor what I think about spinach at all.
As soon the people who I use as mirrors are gone, everything is gone. Holding on to any sense of who I am is a challenge, if I can’t check in with someone. It’s probably one of the reasons why I can’t stand to be alone. If I don’t see my reflection, how do I know I still exist? May exist? Am good enough to exist?
“Where to from here??”
I am starting to get better, though. My mom is probably a key to that. She is patient with me and my attempts to get her to validate me. She always does validate me, only not in the way I initially want, if that way is an unhealthy one. We often talk about stuff like this, too. Sometimes when we do, I can hear the shrink in her talking, but most of the time, she talks as my mom. – And no, she’s not the same mom that contributed to messing me up! She’s the one who gives me a center and a reliable basis that does, like by magic, not go away. (Not even if I try.) She gives me a platform to make experiments in self-exploration from.
Sometimes I think it’s pathetic that I rely on her so much and feel terrible and like a failure over it, but because we are in touch, she usually notices and catches me before I go off at the deep end, hating myself and her and the world. Gosh… I think I start rambling. I have serious difficulty keeping my thoughts together. I don’t even know if I made much sense or if this post has much of a point, but I’ll post it anyways.
I guess my main point is: having a self-image is an ongoing challenge. What helps me is someone who’s a consistent mirror, who at the same time challenges my unhealthy ideas and behavior in a way that isn’t wrecking what little sense of self I do have. But it would have been boring to put it that short, wouldn’t it? 😉