Tag Archives: self esteem

Compliments: how to uncover low self esteem in 10 seconds or less

Oh, great. These sandals are off limits now. Can’t wear them again. There’s obviously something wrong with them.

Someone complimented them.

screaming cat
This cat feels the feels.


What’s wrong with a compliment? Only everything. A compliment about my appearance means that something about [my attire, my bearing, my makeup, my dumb face…] drew someone’s attention, enough so that this person was moved to speak. This attention means I’ve failed at one of my goals in life, which is to lie low.

I know. That’s not supposed to be my goal in life. All the after-school specials told me I am supposed to BE MYSELF! LET MYSELF SHINE! DANCE LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING! But what if “being myself” means hiding my light so far under a bushel that no one can tell my bushel from anybody else’s? We’ll return to this question in a bit.

Back to compliments.

The aforementioned footwear compliment happened  as I was leaving work the other day. I was minding my own business when I happened to pass someone on the stairwell. I know her by sight, as she works in the same section of the building, and I went through the familiar cost-benefit analysis that comes with the decision to greet or not to greet. Greeting calls attention to myself, but constantly being the one to respond to a greeting may make me seem unfriendly. I decided on eye contact, which means smiling as well. Eye contact and smile returned. Awesome. A successful stairwell interaction.

But then…

“Great sandals! We all need a little sparkle now and then!”

Oh, fudge ripple.

I laughed and thanked her, continuing down the stairs, but inside I was screaming. “WHAT’S WRONG WITH THEM? Are they inappropriate office attire? Are they too sparkly? Are they dumb shoes for babies?”

dumb shoes for babies
The dumb shoes.

My compliment phobia isn’t confined to footwear. Someone once complimented my purple shirt; see ya later, purple. Which is all well and good. Yesterday, however, someone complimented my hair. WHAT DO I DO NOW? I know that shaving my head is an attention grabbing move and thus out of the question. I finally thought I’d found an acceptably nondescript style, but now do I have to try to master an even less eye-catching configuration?

I assume you get it now. Compliments = something is wrong. Something is sticking out from the tight ball of mediocrity that I hope to make my appearance. Wrap it back up, please. Smooth it over with plaster, a nice nondescript grey paste that can harden into a smooth shell. I’d be happy to fit in with the rest of the furniture.

grey stools ARROW

Which probably sounds a little dramatic. Or heartbreaking? But there you have it.

What about other types of compliments? Given the fact that I am seriously approval-seeking when it comes to work and school, you might think I’d love compliments about my performance there. And you’d be partially right, but I have a whole different set of complexes for those situations.

So, finally, back to the question of appearance: is it wrong to want to disappear into the background at all times?

I want to say, “Of course not! That sort of attitude in no way indicates horrible self-esteem and a wealth of emotional damage,” but I’m trying this whole thing where I’m honest with myself.

So what to do? I’ve made a list for myself:

  1. Learn how to accept compliments gracefully. I found a Lifehack post that gives some suggestions.
  2. Try to believe compliments. It’s probably not very nice to assume that everyone who compliments me is a big liar-pants. I know and respect some of these people, so isn’t it kinder to give them the benefit of the doubt?
  3. Take more risks with my appearance. I’m going  to wear red lipstick today. For reals.
  4. Try to let my personality shine, without worrying so much about the outer shell. The after school specials also promised that real beauty comes from within. Time to test this theory.

Any other suggestions? Post them in the comments!

8 Stops on the Social Anxiety Blog Roller Coaster

I haven’t posted in a long while, and there are several reasons why.  First, I’ll admit that without extrinsic motivation I’m about as likely to shift myself off the couch and away from Netflix documentaries as I am to suddenly decide that running a marathon is a fun way to spend time (I will never decide this, by the way).  Second, when not tuned in to the soothing narration of Sir David Attenborough, I’ve actually been really busy with college course work, as I now find myself living the student life again (but with less binge drinking and more actual reading of text books).

These are valid reasons to be a blog slacker (VALID REASONS, I SAY!), but it’s important to also note that writing a blog about social anxiety sent me into a downward spiral of mental health. Hurray for spirals?!  It turns out that dwelling on your inadequacies and fears will do that to a person.  Who knew? I think I’m in a healthy enough space to return to writing, though, and the idea for this piece has been waiting for almost two years.   So, without further ado, here are eight stops on the emotional roller coaster of writing a blog about social anxiety:

Roller Coaster Up

1. I have a fantastic idea!  If I type about it and share it with the world, I could gain renown as a funny and smart person and people will approve of my existence!

2. Are these words perfect?  I really need these words to be perfect, or people are going to hate me and disapprove of my very existence.  Let’s proofread them just once more.  Just once more.  Just once more.  Just once more. Just once more… Okay. PUBLISH.

3. Oh, God. Oh, God.  Oh, God. ohgodohgodohgod.  I’m going to eat a 2 pizzas now.

4. People are reading my words!  Not only are people reading my 4295460613_7cc1c96f1a_bwords, they’re also liking my words! Social validation!

5. Not enough people are reading my words.  I know this because I’m obsessively refreshing the stats page to keep track of every reader.  And why aren’t the people who are reading my words also commenting on my words?  Everyone hates my words.  Even the people who haven’t read them.  Especially them.

roller-coaster-1011434_960_7206. I probably insulted someone.  Someone is definitely mad at me.  Or disgusted with me.  Or feeling sorry for me.  Someone probably disagrees with me, which is the same as them being insulted, mad, disgusted, and sorry.  I wrote the wrong words.

7. Someone commented on my words!  Someone said, “I feel you,” and that means they approve of me as a person!   I put very little stock in my own opinion of myself and rely almost entirely on outside feedback, so this means I can feel like someone of worth for at least 5 minutes!

8.  Someone commented on my words… and they probably only said nice things to make me feel better about myself.  No one could like my stupid words for reals.

The roller coaster does a little loopedy-loop back to 4 through 8 a few times, until something else eventually pulls my interest away.

But that’s all in the past (she typed confidently).  My plan after I publish this blog post is to stay off the roller coaster entirely and just hang out on the platform of “Hey, I had an idea and I typed about it!”


“Why my profile picture isn’t a sunset”, or “Every Occasion is a Selfie Occasion!”

Obligatory New Year Greeting!

Actually, my blog today does have a “New Year’s Resolution” flavour, but it’s been percolating for a while and I want to stress that I don’t endorse the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. Being “the way I am” (a perfectionist with low self esteem but kinda high self esteem but I must be the worst but now I am confused so should probably eat all the cheesecake), I struggle pretty much every day, if not every minute, to be something better than I am; resolutions seem a) unnecessary and b) a chance to sink into a puddle of self-loathing by mid-January every single year.

Which brings us to profile pictures!

I tend to focus on Facebook as my social networking platform, which the language of this post may reflect, but many websites that require us to choose a username also require us to upload a photo that represents Who We Are. For example, wordpress requires bloggers to profile themselves with an image. Until today, mine was a picture of a $20 bill with googly eyes pasted on the Queen (which, to be clear, was awesome):

20 with googly eyes

Before typing today’s blog, I switched my profile to a picture of my actual face:

Can you spot the googly eyes?
Can you spot the googly eyes?

(Which is also awesome, according to my husband, my close friends, and my mother. Usually flattering sources, regardless of their reliability.)

So why the switch?

I recently had to face a hard fact:  for me, my online persona is the only persona that really matters (hyperbole alert – but let’s keep on topic here, ok?).  On Facebook, for instance, people are in touch with anywhere between 1 and 500 friends (I’m not qualified to comment on anyone’s experiences with over 500 “friends”).  In reality, many of these friends are bare acquaintances, or are people we haven’t actually seen in the flesh for 20 odd years; but we interact with a bare fraction of that number of people in our physical lives, so I argue that we can become much more concerned about how we present ourselves to the stranger-friends of the interweb than to the people we live and interact with in close quarters.

So, again, why the switch?  What does this obsession with the opinions of near-strangers have to do with my replacing pictures of inanimate objects*,

My actual wisdom teeth.  I decline comment on the colour integrity of the image.
My actual wisdom teeth. I decline comment on the colour integrity of the image.


Serenity (named after the spaceship, not the state of mind).
Serenity (named after the spaceship, not the state of mind).

and photoshopped versions of myself

My very first profile picture.
My very first profile picture.

with pictures of something that actually represents my current physical  existence?

It’s simple, really.  I’m trying to love myself for who and what I am now, not for what I was 60 lbs ago or 10 years ago; how is it possible to succeed in this task if I’m forever hiding my appearance from the people I post at several times a day?  I realized that I was becoming more and more ashamed of my appearance, and as that happened I was updating my profile picture less and less.  It was as if I didn’t really exist anymore, or like I was trying to lose my physical self and become an anonymous text bubble on the internet.  This practice was not conducive to building self-esteem and more robust mental health.

So “Every Occasion is a Selfie Occasion!” was born. first selfie

Whenever I think of it (often if I’ve just spent some time on my appearance, but not always), I take a selfie and make it my profile pic on facebook.   As much as possible at this point in my emotional development, these pictures represent ME, RIGHT NOW and show the world I’m not ashamed of myself or my appearance.  It can be nerve-wracking, as I’ve mentioned before that I have an inconvenient habit of treating compliments like criticisms (social anxiety! you dog, you!), but on the whole I’ve found it to be a positive experience.

If you currently have a sunset, or a grumpy cat meme, or an inspirational poster as a profile picture, I highly recommend you try celebrating some selfie occasions.  Let me know how it works out in comments.

 *For the record, I most definitely still see a place for pictures of inanimate objects and pets on my internet profile pages, just not as representations of myself.  My wisdom teeth deserve to be shown far and wide, and you curtail my kitten picture posting at your own peril. 

Twitter Trolls & Self Acceptance

I recently posted something to Facebook that I thought was actually a better fit for PerfectPanic.  The post (rant) spoke about self-acceptance and overcoming social anxiety; it did so by bringing up the topic of Fat Acceptance.

As someone with social anxiety who also happens to be “overweight,” I often deal with the following quandary: The Therapist tells me that people probably aren’t judging me as harshly as I believe, while I know damn well that I am indeed being judged harshly (at least by some people) every time I walk out in public, just because of my weight (to be clear, I am not dismissing my awesome therapist’s advice; I’m just not able to use it as a blanket source of comfort).

For a long time, my low self esteem has made me a Good Fatty, who at least had the “decency” to hate herself for being fat and pretends to be working hard to achieve the perfect bod. However, I suddenly felt confident enough to speak out about my feelings around Fat Shaming.*

I invite you to read my original Facebook thoughts (now with pictures and a few edits for clarity):

“So, I was checking out the #Fatkini trend on Twitter, because I am sincerely trying to fall in love with my body, both as the chariot that carries me around and as a simple fact of my existence.

In real life, my chariot also happens to have two kittens.  Mind? Blown.
In real life, my chariot also happens to have two kittens. Mind? Blown.

I am fat, and have been pretty consistently since I was very young, despite dieting, exercising, and hating myself. Anyway, along my #Fatkini travels, I came across the following post on Twitter: “Put it away you morbidly obese, sweaty, dirty humans and crack on down the gym!” And HERE’s what I think of that:

I strive every day to excel at my job and in my relationships; I volunteer in my community (including walking all around my town for hours in summer heat delivering flyers); I try to be good to my family and friends and offer them all the love and support I can; and I worry EVERY DAY that I’m not enough, that I could be doing more. (I may sound like I’m bragging, but I think these actions of mine are relevant here.)

Despite all these traits, I know that when I go out in public, I am often judged as lazy, unhealthy, and generally some kind of degenerate because of the way I look. That sort of thing hurts my feelings, because I am NOT only my body size. Even IF being fat were inherently a bad thing (which health studies don’t necessarily back up), I refuse to be measured by my body size alone, instead of the complete, striving human being that I am.

That’s right: even if I do something commonly perceived as unhealthy or “wrong”, like eating fried chicken or ice cream, or sitting on the couch watching tv all weekend, there is SO MUCH MORE TO ME than what I choose to eat and whether I choose to spend time on a treadmill.

Basically a typical weekend, but with more natural history documentaries.
Basically a typical weekend, but with more natural history documentaries.

This daughter, sister, auntie, wife, employee and volunteer has a generous heart, a keen intellect, and a sharp sense of humour. Being overweight is only one of my MANY traits.”

- Carol Rossetti
– Carol Rossetti

In case you are interested in learning more about the Body Love movement, there are a couple of blogs you can visit.  The Militant Baker, written by “A mental health professional, pastry chef, ex-art major, crazy cat lady, fat model, fiery advocate, and total pain in the ass.” and my friend Rad Amy’s blog (which has been a great inspiration to me).

*Speaking of increased confidence, I’ve recently experienced dramatically reduced phone anxiety ;  I actually answer my phone now, with very little hesitation! See The Nervous Nelly to get an idea of my baseline in that regard.