for real | On Resolutions + Self Respect.

I made it exactly two days into 2013 before I completely blew that first resolution. Yesterday, I locked my sister and I out of her apartment while going to the post office to mail my rent check*  - a day late, I might add. 

All I could think was seriously, Sam? you're really nailing it. 

So this morning I sat down to do more resolution making. Being more "put together" isn't an easy thing to measure (...or do, apparently) so I made a list of the tangible things I wanted do better this year. An average list, no surprises there.  But, then I wrote the same list in negatives - a list of the things I won't do this year

A surprising patterned emerged, which was ultimately not surprising at all: I put things off when they stress me out. Everyone does it. But, these little things feel like enormous things to me. They become a source of anxiety, of serious fear. 

And over the years, after a lot of self reflection (and some time talking to a therapist) I know that the fear isn't a general fear. It's a very specific fear - the fear of being found out.  Deep down, I feel like the "me" that people love is really just a front. I play the part convincingly, but I'm so scared of the moments when I fall out of character - when people see the "real me", the person I'm afraid that I am. So I avoid those feelings at all costs: opening my bank account (I'm broke!), picking up the phone to call my grandma after two weeks (I'm selfish!), and dealing with the health care system (I'm quick to anger!) And in turn, my fear becomes a reality. 

On Monday, I was finishing a list of book recommendations I'm contributing to The Equals Record (resolution six: meeting deadlines) and one of the books I listed was Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. In that collection there is a essays titled On Self Respect, and it came to me this morning as I reflected on my resolutions and on fear. 

In the final paragraph she writes that without self respect ...

"we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question.

To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect."

Every time I read that, I feel called out. I know! I know so well that she's right. 

So this year I really resolve to respect myself. I will respect myself enough to figure out my insurance policy, exfoliate, and e-mail my family when I'm thinking of them. I'm going to start essays earlier, rather than putting them off because I'm scared that what I write won't be good enough. I'm going to respect my work and put it out there. 

All of these things - contributing to magazines and mailing bills on time with a manicure - add up to that first resolution. They add up to being put together. And with a little self respect, the moments when I'm messy and imperfect won't seem so world-ending after all. 

*I'd like to publicly thank my friend Sabrina, who took the brunt of this enormous fiasco. I couldn't find the post office where I asked her to meet me (not put together) and about fifteen minutes after we got back to her house - which is twenty minutes outside of town - she had to drive me home because my sister told me the keys were inside the apartment (not put together, at all.) 
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16 comments:

  1. you're really speaking my language with this post. i've never thought of self respect being the root of the problem, but i can see that it is. our list of resolutions is eerily similar - you're not alone!

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  2. haaah! the rent check made me laugh. this is such a wonderful post. your resolutions are lovely. and that quote. yes, yes to all of it.

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  3. Great post. It really spoke to me. I struggle with anxiety, which leads to procrastination, which leads to meltdowns. LOL, not fun! I've never really thought of this as a self-respect issue, but I think you're right.

    Good luck on your resolutions and happy new year!

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    1. Danielle, oh I know that cycle all to well! I could save myself so much strife if I'd just suck up a little discomfort to do the things I'd been putting off before they become HUGE issues. Here's to a being better in the New Year!

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  4. Haha oh man, talk about a well timed post Sammy! I'm currently binge watching episodes of The West Wing instead of a) figuring out how to open a retirement account because stocks intimidate me, b) changing my renter's insurance from my old address to my new address, or c) editing/submitting my very first peer reviewed journal article.

    So proud of you, Sammy. Can't wait for the first book. xoxo - Kat

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    1. ha, Kat! You just wrote my list for me - I need to do ALL THREE of those things and I've been sweeping them under the rug. And not even with something semi-cultural like The West Wing (cough Real House Wives of Atlanta cough).

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  5. So timely. Since I just returned from vacation yesterday, today was the day I sat down to honestly stare face to face with resolutions. (Mostly budgeting, healthy living and more intentional relationships.) So many of the things I need to be resolute with, come about because I've procrastinated...and then found myself in a world of anxiety and guilt in dealing with these overdue matters...for the exact reason you do: the fear of being found out!

    So much of it could be sidestepped if I just respected the true version of me, rather than stressing about the version of me I feel I have to be. Stating upfront to myself and others what can or cannot afford, what I can commit to, and what I can deliver would be so much easier than burying my head under the covers and hoping no one finds me out! :)

    As always, love your posts. :)

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    1. Bethany, you definitely GET it. Thanks so much for writing, it makes me feel a little less kooky that I'm not the only one in the eye of a tornado made of good intentions and subsequent worries. And you're right - I think one of the best solutions is being up front. It reminds me of piece of advice that I return to when I just don't know how to proceed: "it's always best to be honest about who you are and what you want."

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  6. Worth a count.

    Happy New Year!

    Take Care!

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  7. Like so many of your posts, I feel like this came out of my own mind - though more elegantly put. Thank you for always being so honest with us - it always makes me feel a little less alone! Here's to a happy and healthy new year, where we can all respect our selves. Because we are so worth it.

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    1. Erin, that is so encouraging! Your comment touches on something I've been thinking about a lot lately and want to do more of in this new year: being open, even when it's scary to push publish.

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  8. The health care issues were on my list in 2012 and I didn't do any of them, mostly because a) insurance stuff is incredibly confusing and I had to switch twice this year, and b) I was broke and didn't want to save precious pennies just to go to the gyno and find out that all this time that I haven't been going my body was brewing some major life threatening illness that I have been blissfully and stupidly unaware of. Really dumb, but really true.

    I'm hoping that in 2013 I won't be so broke and such a scaredy-cat about it. My body is worth taking care of, but often my fear and apathy trumps taking care of myself, just as you said. Kind of funny how our fear irresponsibility breeds irresponsibility, right?

    Happy New Year, friend. I hope the year brings abundant joy and newfound self-love and grace.

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    1. oh gosh, that doctor's visit sounds all too familiar Bethany! And you're right - so many of my fears become self fulfilling. What a beautiful wish for this year, and something I'll remember.

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  9. "dont' be afraid of asking for things" - what a great one! very inspiring, sam! happy new year!

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  10. I love your blog! You are inspiring! Your resolution should be to inspire people--and then you are all set because you already do that!
    I always make two resolutions--try to save money and pay off debt (always try to keep at least 6600 dollars in a savings--points for anybody who can guess why 6600 dollars). Most importantly-try not to give a damn what people think about me. I read an incredible quote: "What other people think about you is none of your business." Can you believe that some people won't go to a restaurant by themselves because they fear that people MIGHT think they are pathetic, friendless, pitiful because they are eating alone? Can you believe that people actually change their behavior out of fear what a stranger might think? I never care so I guess I achieve one of my resolutions each day!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, David! And those are two great resolutions. I've always been a people pleaser - and I care what EVERYONE thinks about me, even total strangers and restaurant servers. I've gotten better about it as I've gotten older - but I totally think it comes back to my big resolution: Self Respect. Good luck in 2013!

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