One of the things you hear women in their 40s say most often (the ones who think their 40s are wonderful, anyway), is that it’s great to be 40 because you’re finally comfortable with yourself. You’re free of all the bullshit and nonsense that accompanied your 20s and 30s. You know who you are, you’re comfortable with it, and to hell with anyone who doesn’t like it.
I so want to be one of those women. So it’s led me to really try to understand why I’m not.
I know that I have self-esteem issues. I also have a high level of anxiety. I’m almost constantly stressed out. I know that’s kind of the hallmark of 21st-century life, but I don’t deal with it well, and I really don’t want to live like this. I never really thought about the self-esteem and the anxiety being related at all though, until this week, when someone suggested that I’m anxious because I’m worried that I’m going to do things wrong, because I’m not good enough.
Good enough. Suddenly it all came together. Well of course I’m not good enough. That’s part of who I am, as much as my hair or eye color.
My husband and parents would give me a big “duh” right here. They, who know me best, have lived with me and get the brunt of my freakouts and moods and temper tantrums, have always answered “What is lack of self esteem?” to the Jeopardy category of “Amy’s biggest problem.” And while it was a no-brainer to connect with my body-image issues, I wouldn’t have connected it with the anxiety.
But once I started to really think about it, it made more and more sense. Merriam-Webster’s definition of self esteem is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. I do not have confidence in myself. Generally, no matter what I’m worried about, what I’m stressing about, what I’m anxious about, it can be boiled down to a deep-rooted fear that I’m gonna fuck something up. I made a point this week to, every time I felt anxiety, spend time thinking about why I felt it. Like, why am I worried so much about this stupid work event that I’ve dealt with for 10 years now? There are many, many things about this event that could worry me — people’s reactions to it are at the top of the list. But dig deeper, and I’m really worried that they’ll have those reactions because I’ve done something wrong, something that will cause those reactions. Then I worry that my response to negative reactions will also be wrong. What will I say? How will I phrase the email? What will I do? Stress, worry and anxiety, all based on my potential actions; actions that will be wrong because I am not good enough.
In college I wrote a short story for a writing class, called Good Enough. It’s a story about a girl struggling with anorexia. She’s not there yet, but she’s on the doorstep. She’s constantly beating herself up for not spending long enough at the gym, for going to McDonalds, for not being thin enough or pretty enough or good enough. It wasn’t really autobiographical because even though our thought processes were the same, I didn’t work out as much as she did, or walk away from hamburgers like she did. I wasn’t even good enough to be anorexic. Pretty sure you don’t have to be Freud to psychoanalyze the shit out of that one.
So, go me. I’ve stayed on the path to self-awareness for longer than five minutes without getting bored and drinking wine instead. I think I made some headway into understanding my thought processes and made some interesting insights. The question now is, what the hell do I do about it?