Pondering Pride

Only now am I making the connection between my childhood and the way I celebrate myself. It’s interesting to think about. When I was a child, I was exceptional. I didn’t realize it at the time, having no perspective on the matter. But now that I work with children every day I understand why so many adults in my life (my teachers, colleagues of my parents, etc.) seemed so amazed and excited about me as a person. I was always able to outperform my peers in nearly every way. I was incredibly intelligent and curious. I was creative and quite talented in my artistic endeavors. I even got straight As all throughout school, even in college.

Despite the showers of praise I got from so many people, my parents and family members never seemed too impressed. Because of this, I assumed the other people were just being polite or kind, and didn’t take their compliments to heart. My parents always treated me like I was a normal, average child. While other kids in my class got money for a report card with Bs and Cs, I never got anything at all for returning home with perfect marks. I was barely even patted on the back. While this was frustrating, I still believed it must just be because that was expected of me and I wasn’t doing anything special or impressive.

I’ve come to find out that, despite my parent’s apathetic reactions to my childhood accomplishments, they were very proud of me and knew I was gifted. In their minds, they didn’t want to make me arrogant or conceited with constant positive reinforcement. While they meant well, this approach definitely had other unintended consequences. Namely, as an adult, I find myself unable to give myself credit for my accomplishments or feel proud of anything that I do.

I never learned how to celebrate and enjoy personal success. Instead when I succeed I merely think that’s what I’m supposed to do, so it’s nothing to be especially pleased about. I find myself looking at other people’s lives and thinking I would be so happy and confident if I were them, but in reality I don’t think I would be. After all, I have a lot of amazing qualities and achievements myself. I just don’t acknowledge them. In fact, I even feel rather guilty when I try to tap into a sense of pride for who I am and how far I’ve come in my personal journey. I guess my parent’s fear of me developing an inflated ego has seamlessly transferred into my own mind.

Today, no matter how uncomfortable it might make me at first, I want to take the time to consciously note all of the incredible things I’ve done and continue to do on a daily basis. With the perspective of an outsider looking in, I’d like to try to adopt an objective perspective of my personal growth over the years. Maybe then I won’t feel so guilty about “doing nothing” or being “lazy” all the time. So here is a list of some things I think I should feel proud of.

  1. Bachelors Degree in Psychology, Minor in Writing: I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the human mind and my own internal biases and blind spots through my education. Sometimes I forget that the general public is not privy to a lot of the information I now use to guide my everyday life and decisions. While society doesn’t seem to value my degree very much, I’m still glad that I chose the major I did. I’m also proud that I graduated at the very top of my class, Summa Cum Laude.
  2. Certified Yoga Instructor: It sounds weird, but I feel so unworthy of this title that I often forget to even think of myself as a yoga teacher. I still remember idolizing my teacher in college and having a pipe dream that maybe I could teach yoga one day. Well I did it! I’m that incredible, beautiful, spiritual person that I once looked up too. And damn it, I deserve to give myself all the credit in the world for accomplishing something I hardly thought would ever be possible.
  3. Healthy Habits: In my late teens/early twenties, I really aspired to form healthy lifestyle habits. I would watch YouTube videos and follow Instagram accounts of people that I saw living the life that I so wanted to emulate. I really put people that could wake up early, exercise, and eat healthy on a pedestal. Yet, now that I’ve been waking up at 5AM and working out before work everyday and doing yoga and meditating religiously for years, I feel like it’s no big deal. It’s helpful for me to imagine how elated my younger self would be with the life I’ve cultivated for myself.
  4. Veganism: Being vegan is another goal that I had for a very long time, but never thought I would be good enough to manage it. Now that I’ve been vegan for just under ten years, it is just second nature. Even though it’s ridiculously easy now, I have to remember that this is an impressive feat to a lot of people, my former self included.
  5. Creativity: Despite not feeling very creative or talented most of the time, it’s still impressive that I manage to find time to dedicate to my creativity and imagination every single day. Even people that loved to write or paint in this youth often have given up these endeavors entirely once they transition into adulthood. My own sister, who is a phenomenal artist, no longer paints because she can’t find the time. I might not be a great artist or ever make anything that will have an impact on the world, but I think it’s beautiful that I make an effort to foster that artistic nature that we all have within.

While these things are not the only things that I’ve accomplished or think are deserving of my pride, they are a few of the most important to me. When I start feeling down on myself, like I’ve never done anything worthwhile with my life, I plan to look back on this list, add to it, and remember that I’m still an extraordinary individual.

Devotion

It’s an incredible feeling to be devoted to someone or something. There are many causes that I feel passionately about: environmentalism, feminism, veganism, etc. There are far less people that can illicit that same feeling of motivation and energy in me. When those people do come along, I am captivated by them. There is nothing more spectacular to me than having a relationship to such a magnetic, awe inspiring person.

I think part of the reason that these charismatic figures in my life take my breath away so easily is because of the comparison to all the other people I encounter. It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of the human race. I find our species to be particularly vile in most aspects. In addition to that, the vast majority of the population seem utterly dull to me, exhibiting no personality whatsoever. So when I meet someone that draws me in so completely, I can’t help but be amazed.

In general, I view myself as a pretty spineless, selfish, stingy, resentful person. I usually do what’s best for me and don’t feel compelled to help others unless I have a good reason. This small group of special people that have been sprinkled throughout my life have a transformative effect on me, though. It’s as though they inspire me to be who I’ve always wanted to be. I genuinely want to go out of my way to be of service to them in any way that I can, despite any personal inconvenience. The mere thought of their acknowledgment and praise brings me such pride. It brings me immense pleasure to be positive and helpful to them. But somehow it’s even more than that. It’s honestly a sensation that I can’t adequately describe.

I am so grateful to have known even the handful of these people that I have. I am grateful to have a few of them in my life right now. For someone that has a difficult time relating to most people, it is a special kind of joy that I feel in response to these deep, meaningful bonds. These relationships are some of the most cherished parts of my life. Few experiences rise above them. I feel there is almost a spiritual, cosmic connection that we share. Something so genuine, so unique, simply beyond words.

I am so moved by my encounters with these people and the devotion and admiration that arises in my heart for them, it makes me reconsider my perspective of human beings all together. I’ve been considering the way that some people view Pit Bulls as viscous, violent dogs that should be banned. However, just because some Pit Bulls are trained to fight, and all have the potential to cause severe physical injury to others, does not make them inherently bad dogs. This seems so obvious to me and I have nothing against Pit Bulls due to the ones that have been raised to be aggressive and dangerous. Why then is it so hard for me to apply this same logic to my own species?

Why do I hold humanity down to it’s lowest common denominator rather than it’s highest potential? I guess I’ve just been raised to give more agency to a human than a dog, despite now knowing that we are all equally a product of our genetics, environment, and experiences. When it comes down to it, even human beings have very little choice or “free will.” And this is just another area in which those I am devoted to help me strive to be a better person.

It’s inexpressible the gratitude and appreciation I feel knowing that these important people accept me for who I am. They’ve seen my many flaws, but I never feel judged by them. It feels safe to be imperfect. I feel seen and understood and empathized with in all of my complexity and eccentricity and idiosyncrasy. The idea that anyone could ever see who I really am and still love and respect me moves me so deeply. It makes me want to extend that same grace, that same compassion and forgiveness to others. To learn to see the good in everyone, rather than focusing on, and condemning them for what they lack.

At the end of the day, these rare people light a fire inside of me. They help me grow in so many ways. They help me see the world with fresh, loving, curious eyes. They give me hope. They make me yearn to some day be able to extend all that they’ve offered me to another person. To someday be that spark, that object of inspiration and devotion to someone else. To give someone else that same feeling of being seen, of being appreciated, of being understood, of coming home.

Giving Yourself Credit

As I was driving to work the other day, I couldn’t stop beating myself up for all the things I wanted to improve, but was still struggling with. Then I realized something, I’ve come so far in the last few months. Not very long ago, I would have been smoking two cigarettes on that half-hour drive to work. Now, I hardly even have any interest in smoking my vape. Some days I completely forget about it until late in the evening.

I started thinking about how rarely I give myself credit for the things I do accomplish. Once I reach a goal, there is never a moment of celebration. I go straight on to the next goal. I switch automatically from criticizing myself over one thing to criticizing myself over something else. In the back of my mind, I always think I’ll be happy, I’ll be able to congratulate myself once everything is perfect, once I’m perfect. It’s hard to acknowledge that that “perfect” moment, that “perfect” me, will never exist. There will always be things I want to work on and aspects of myself that I want to improve. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be proud of where I am right now.

This time last year, I was a heavy smoker, I was deep in the grips of an eating disorder, I was more depressed and anxious than perhaps any other time in my life. I have made so much progress since then. More than I ever thought I would be able to. I had nearly lost all hope of redemption. Now it’s been months since I’ve bought a pack of cigarettes. Not only have I been recovering from my eating disorder, I’ve been practicing mindful eating. My mental health overall has improved so much that I’ve even started taking a lower dose of my anxiety medication. Soon I am going to be dropping it down again, and hopefully will be able to wean myself off of it completely in the next few months. I’ve also taken my art to the next level by buying myself an electronic drawing tablet so I can more easily edit my drawings. Despite my initial fear of failure, I’ve gotten surprisingly good at using it.

All of these things are incredible achievements that I deserve to acknowledge and take pride in. I may not always meet my goals as quickly as I plan to, but I keep trying anyway. I am always working to improve myself and my life. My commitment to the effort alone is worth being proud of.

I don’t think I’m alone in this hesitancy and difficulty regarding giving myself credit for the good things I do. From a young age, many of us are taught to be humble. And while that may be a virtue, it’s also important to be able to acknowledge your talents and accomplishments. Not only will that make a significant difference for your mental health, but it will also make it easier for you to keep pursing your goals. If you never allow yourself a moment of rest to appreciate all you’ve done, how can you expect yourself to maintain motivation to continue moving forward?

Today, give yourself the gift of self-reflection. Particularly, try to reflect on all of the positive changes you have been able to make in your life. Just for today, try to focus on the things you’ve done or are currently doing well. Remember that it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. The things you still want to work toward will be there waiting for you tomorrow. Today you deserve to rest and enjoy how far you’ve come.

Understanding Bisexuality

Up until this past year, I considered myself strictly heterosexual. Apart from looking at women endlessly on Tumblr and having French kissed multiple women on several occasions while intoxicated, I had only ever been interested in dating men. Although, nothing about the male physique was particularly alluring to me. I had always said without hesitation that women were much more pleasurable to look at. But never did I think for a second that my visual interest in women’s bodies or having kissed women before made me a lesbian or bisexual. I reasserted my heterosexuality by rationalizing that I was only doing these things for men. I looked at gorgeous women to learn to emulate them and attract men. I made out with women to sexually excite the men nearby. At least, this is what I had always told myself.

After discovering that a vegan I had been surreptitiously flirting with and his girlfriend were interested in polyamory, I found myself with an interesting dilemma. I wanted nothing more than to become involved with this man, but did I want to be involved with his girlfriend as well? She was bisexual and in order to avoid jealousy as they made their initial voyage into polyamorous waters they were looking to form a triad.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if I was disgusted by the idea of sex with another woman. I really felt neutral to the idea apart from being a bit nervous at the prospect of unfamiliar sexual territory. My main concern was being ingenuous. I didn’t think I was necessarily attracted to women romantically or sexually. I didn’t want to put on an act just to be with the man I already liked and I certainly didn’t want to hurt the feelings of a delightful vegan woman that I already knew I wanted to befriend either way.

For a few weeks I moved slowly and unsurely. I began testing the waters of my own heart. I hung out with the girlfriend a few times on my own and definitely enjoyed her quite a bit. After endless internal turmoil, and me still not feeling absolutely certain, we finally decided to all be together.

And I was so happy! During the few months that we spent together, I was able to peel back so many layers of myself and discover new forms of love I had never fathomed could be for me. I realized that misunderstanding had been with me for so long. I felt that because the feelings for women were not the same as the feelings I have for men meant definitively that I was heterosexual and that was as far as I cared to investigate. But then I learned that there are so many different flavors of love and attraction. While my interest in men is bright and intense, my love for women is soft and ensnaring. But both of these are valid and more than worth experiencing.

While I would still consider myself bisexual with a preference for men, I could never sever ties with the feelings and emotions I have for women. (Thank god I’m polyamorous!) There is something so beautiful and exciting about the different emotions and experiences that we are able to cultivate with others. No two relationships are ever alike and I’ve finally made peace with my own sexuality and am no longer afraid to explore it because of what others might think of me.

I was never afraid that I would be judged as part of the LGBTQ community, but I was afraid that community itself would judge and reject me. I was afraid that if I really was only interested in men but explored relationships with women that I would be viewed as an imposter, as someone desperate for attention, and I couldn’t bear seeing myself in that light. Now that I’ve finally figured this all out in my own mind, I just wanted to share it with others so that it might bring about a better understanding of bisexuality from someone who was struggling with it themselves. I hope that you aren’t afraid to explore your feelings and extend yourself in different directions, because you might find something lovely there, a whole new dimension to who you are.

P.S. – I’ll be at the Pittsburgh Pride Fest this Sunday with said bi vegan goddess. ❤

The Affiliation Affliction

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In the past few years I have been noticing more and more cars on the road with some type of coal mining pride sticker. They say something along the lines of “proud/girlfriend wife of a coal miner” or some such nonsense. Now, this may seem offensive to some people, but I just cannot understand why you would be proud of that. Coal mining is not a difficult job to acquire. You don’t need a degree or any certain set of special skills. Anyone can become a coal miner. It is a highly dangerous, time-consuming career. Not only that, but it is also destroying our environment. I could understand having a “proud wife/girlfriend of a doctor”, but not a coal miner.

After contemplating this baffling concept for months, I think that I have finally come to a realization. It seems to me that a lot of people think that if they are affiliated with something, then that makes it the best. This irrational point of view can be seen in many aspects of life such as thinking America is the best country simply because you are an American or the undying loyalty to a favorite sports team even after many consecutive losses and change of players/coaches.

This mindset, I believe, is part of the reason why our species cannot seem to move forward towards a more clean and efficient future. I think that these people are feeling threatened by the changes that we so desperately need. They view these things, such as eating meat, as part of who they are. If they admit that any of those things are less than ideal, then they feel that they are a bad person or less than they were. So, thanks to cognitive dissonance, they hold firm to their old ways of thinking and acting.

I just wanted to bring this theory I have been mulling over to light, and to let everyone out there that feels this way know that they are mistaken. No one is perfect. We all tend to be affiliated with something that we later discover was wrong from time to time. This does not make you a bad person. We all have been blessed with beautiful minds that are capable of reason and contemplation. Don’t feel personally threatened by new ways of thinking or new developments in our industries. Some things that we feel a part of (such as coal mining) must collapse in order for us to build a better world. What would our world be today if Thomas Edison had not forsaken his candle making business in order to create the light bulb? Let us all move forward together. There is room for all of us to grow.

Grow with me, my darlings. ❤