Perusing the internet the other day I found a blog from a mother whose son chose to wear his hair long. He like it long and was owning the look. Now long hair on boys and men really isn’t such a big deal now a days, but for this mom, it was. It wasn’t because she wanted her son to have short hair and be something he wasn’t but she didn’t like the reaction of those around him, to his long hair. She complained that he was constantly called she or her and she was tired of strangers telling mom that she had three beautiful daughters. Yes she had two beautiful daughters and one handsome son.
I know exactly what that mom was going through. I have a beautiful, smart, athletic and funny daughter who from the very beginning was nothing but a tom boy and has spent most of her 14 years, trying to figure out who she is. Until she was five she wore clothes from the boy’s section. At 3 she wanted her hair short like a boy. I was hesitant because she dressed like a boy and I didn’t want confusion for her or others. We made a compromise of sorts and the hairdresser did a great job giving her a cut that was short but kept her looking like a girl. She was thrilled. But eventually kids change their minds and she began growing out the once adorable cut. Still wearing boy clothes as her hair grew out, she oftentimes would be called he, him or my son. It would anger me and as she got older it bothered her.
She knows she’s a girl, but she’s not like the other girls. She doesn’t like pink or princesses. But she loved the Twilight books and she loves to hunt, wear perfume and makeup. If my daughter could, she’d live in basketball shorts but on that rare occasion that she has to dress up she doesn’t stop and slacks and a blouse. She goes all out strapless party dress with converse gym shoes. My daughter is just who she is but she hasn’t found her place in society or even in her circle of friends.
Who she is, is a unique kid who knows what she likes but surrounded by crazy, stupid, hormonal teenagers, she gets picked on and bullied, something I wasn’t completely aware of until I let her get a short hair cut. I convinced her to not go crazy and get that short spiked do’ but a very cute Anne Hathaway at the Oscars hair style. My daughter was adorable, one of great faces for short hair. I loved it, she loved it and felt very comfortable in her own skin. But her boyfriend at the time, granted they were 11, broke up with her, she was called a lesbian and teased about an awful hair cut.
My heart breaks for my daughter who so desperately wants to fit in but has her own style that makes her not quite fit in. I gave her a choice. You take responsibility for your look and ignore the stupid around you or you find a way to fit in that makes you comfortable and allows you to be you. She chose the latter because she’s not quite confident enough to own her look yet. I’ve worked with her on crafting a style that allows her to fit in and yet honor her style. Ripped blue jeans, rock and roll t-shirts from the girls section because their cut closer to the body and teal converse shoes, allow her to be her and yet, be a girl too. I’m willing to let her experiment with her style, her hair, her make up but not her hair length. Because after all she went through and after growing her hair out she now wants it short again. I feel bad but I told her no. Not because I don’t want her to be herself but because I’m worried about the stupid that surrounds her.
Hair is so much of who we are, it’s the first thing people notice about us and they can perceive so much about who we are whether its correct or not. I promised my daughter that she could cut off her once blonde hair and cut it short but only when those around her are mature enough to not open their mouths. But then again, my daughter is 14 and has changed her mind again, she wants long extensions.
We can only do our best with our children as we navigate the ups and downs of raising them. I hope that someday my daughter will have a better sense of herself and trust that those around her will like her for who she is and not what she wears or by the length of her hair.
Is confidence something we’re born with or is it something we grow within ourselves when we are surrounded by a loving family, friends, society? Is it always with us or does it wane over time or experiences? I think about that as I examine my life, my choices, my career.
At seven, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Everything I did was leading me to that career. I wrote in my spare time, I became and English major, worked as a technical writing intern. I worked as a technical writer when I graduated.
Regardless of what I had done over the course of my life, I always stayed close to writing. It was what I was told I was good at since I was young, it was what I enjoyed the most and it gave me confidence. Some of the best jobs I had involved writing, whether it was business letters, technical manuals or user guides, there was a pride that came with learning a job and translating that for others to learn from. So when did the confidence wane and leave?
Bad jobs, fractured relationships, the death of a child, there are so many things that eat away at confidence, that leave a black cloud over your head, that suck the light and life away.
A series of bad events, of loss, left me paralyzed. And yet when the confidence was at its lowest, I decided to put myself out there, expose myself and write again. I needed to be reminded that I wanted to write a book and when I was, I did. To do that requires honesty and being open with the world in hopes that you find your audience.
You throw yourself out there when you publish your book whether you have a publisher or you self publish. You read the reviews and you meet other authors and bloggers who can help you attract readers. Its raw and scary, terrifying and sometimes your read a review that is hard to stomach and you can’t speak for a week.
But there’s something in my make up that when the confidence is lacking, propels me forward and keeps me writing. It’s a manufactured confidence, when I believe that I’m strong enough to keep writing, marketing and planning for that dream future.
Confidence is a tricky thing. It can be strong or it can be weak. We can be slaves to it or we can overpower it. I’ve never overpowered mine at least not until recently. I no longer wanted to watch other accomplish what I could only dream about. I wanted more. Even when the confidence leaves, I’ve learned to fake it. Negative self talk can break you and positive self talk even if you have to pretend for a while is better than none at all.
Because somewhere along the way I realized that I can do whatever I set out to do, I just have to believe in myself. Even if I have to fake it once and awhile.
Excerpt from Introvert to Sales Goddess
I’m an introvert, and I’m shy. People can exhaust me just as much as they cause me anxiety. But I don’t hate being around them. It just depends on the situation. I can’t change that reality; I can only learn to live within that character trait—good, bad or otherwise. Because I am one of those often misunderstood people, I spend a lot of time observing and thinking. That’s why I’m an avid reader, and that’s why I love writing.
In a way I’m selling myself short, because I’m not an emotional wreck in social situations. In the right setting, I can be chatty and engaging, especially when the conversation is about me. It’s not because I’m self-centered. It’s because I know myself and can speak confidently about who I am and what I can do. And that’s pretty much what a job interview is, isn’t it?
I agreed to the second interview, even as I questioned the job and my ability to successfully do what would be asked of me. I didn’t want to start the job hunt all over again, and this particular office was only five minutes from my house; both valid reasons for pursuing something well out of my comfort zone. Overwhelmed by the nature of the job, I nodded quite a bit during the second meeting; still unsure of the position, I tried to be honest about my phone skills, or in this case, my lack thereof.
I politely shook hands as I met everyone in the office while trying to make sense of what I was agreeing to. But at the same time, I was able to separate that small piece of the job from the rest of the experience as I would be working for a small company in a field that I didn’t know much about, other than that it held some very exciting possibilities. And I knew some things about it. After all, I wear makeup. I dye the gray right out of my hair. I’m a girly girl. It could be fun.
I did realize early on that I had agreed to a sales position of sorts and within that framework, I would be required to talk on the phone to CEOs and company presidents as I tried to sell them on the idea of a sponsorship program. This wasn’t a completely foreign concept for me. I’ve asked for money before. I walked the Avon Three Day Breast Cancer Walk. I wrote letters asking for donations, helped my daughter with her Muscular Dystrophy backyard carnival. It was easy asking family and friends through a heartfelt and honest letter explaining what motivated me to do so. But asking money in the confines of a job, was a different experience, convincing companies that they needed this program to help grow their business was a completely different circumstance.
Truth be told, I do have confidence, though not all the time and not about everything. But when it comes to working at a job, I do believe that I can accomplish pretty much anything. But this job is like a roller coaster with peaks and valleys. Some aspects I’m very comfortable with while others, I seriously questioned my decision to even interview for it.
Within the last decade I’ve learned a lesson about worrying only when you absolutely have to. For me that means, I don’t stay up at night dwelling on a new job unless I have a valid reason to stress. As with every experience that’s ever made me uncomfortable in the days leading up to it, I discovered early that I was usually fine once I get there, once I’d immersed myself in the project or experience. Like a cat that falls from great heights, I usually land on my paws, no worse for wear.
It happens every time I travel to the city. I worry so much about timing and parking that I work myself into a tizzy before I go, then I’m oftentimes embarrassed once I get down there. It all seems like a silly thing to worry about, and I realize that I’m really okay, and that I can do it.
And with all this in mind I accepted the job at the rate I asked for. I had one week.
Are you an introvert? Are you an extrovert and want to understand the other side? Check out my new book Introvert to Sales Goddess now on sale at Amazon.com.
We tried a new therapy for our daughter. Exposing her to the everyday experiencing that most of us take for granted, the ones that make her anxious and worried. But she’s not so worried anymore. The therapist has explained to her how her preconceived notions about growing up and her life were lies.
She already holds down two jobs, gets good grades, cares for herself, does her laundry, you know takes care of herself. She’s worried about growing up. It’s been a painful process putting her in the position to do things that make her uncomfortable but with each exposure I can see her relaxing, her confidence grows and she no longer fights us when we say she has to drive. She even said she could when it rained rather than using that as an excuse.
I feel for the first time since the anxiety reared its head that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Through the fear of wind, the holding up in the basement for an entire summer, the crying, the ADHD, the scoliosis, eye issues, wrist soreness, meds and physical therapy, there might be an end for her. A chance to simply enjoy life.
She’s been through so much and yet we push her through her “homework” her exposures, opportunities to learn how to simply be. Whether its how to fill out her deposit slip for her paycheck, or how to go grocery shopping and navigate on her own, with each experience she’s learning that she’s okay.
She may always be nervous and scared because we are who we are, but if we’re willing to take the chance and make the change, it will get better.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the issues of raising an introvert and how many challenges I have to overcome when helping my daughter grow into a productive, confident and happy adult. I’m not the only one who fears for my kids. We parents have so many different ways of hurting and helping our children and sometimes, the best way to help them is to help ourselves. This week let me introduce Marilyn Mages, newly divorced single mom and her perspective of what divorce means for her and her child.
There are very few spaces in life where you feel happy and sad, relived and lonely, and full of excitement as you look at moving toward a new future. At 45 I never expected to be in this situation although it is probably the case that most people don’t. I have found myself starting over as a single person. I am looking forward to the challenge that my new life brings and also I am excited about starting over.
There are things that I miss already. I miss not having my daughter around. I really hate having to share her with her dad. I feel blessed that I am even a mom. And the idea that I have been reduced to every other weekend, well, all I can say is that I hate it. I really just hate it.
I miss my family as a unit. While my husband checked out a long time before we were actually divorced, I miss the three of us being together. I do miss my old life in certain ways, and the thought of coming up with a new routine is intimidating.
I also miss my neighborhood. I loved my house and I loved my life for the most part. I also loved my neighbor. It took 11 years to find her. We shared sugar, vases and she was someone who was there for me even for just 5 minutes when I needed her. Two years later, I find myself deserting her.
What is most scary is really the idea of starting over. Who wants to start all over again half way through life. I therefore choose to look at it like a blessing.
What’s new on the list???
Dating for example. How far do you allow yourself to go on a first date, how long to you wait to talk between dates, is that guy worth all of the effort you are putting in. Don’t get me wrong, it seems like an oxymoron to be single and be a mom at the same time.
I have needs but at the same time, I want to make sure that I am the best mom ever. It is like I am living as a spy with a separate identity, one that my daughter doesn’t know about. Nor do I want her to know about.
Learning how to feel sexy again and feel good about me…Man, I need to hit the gym and I need to achieve my goals.
What is it that I want out of this new life?
I want to date and have someone to talk with.
I want to be happy and take risks and do something that I have never done before.
I want to learn more about myself and what makes me happy.
I want to feel calm and not have life pass me by at a light speed pace.
I don’t want people to be sorry because in the end, this was the right thing to do.
Marilyn currently lives in Glenview, IL with her 12 year old daughter. She has been in marketing/communications since 1998. Marilyn is learning to start over after getting divorced after 22 years of being married. She enjoys writing, reading and biking.
Paralyzing fear and anxiety is when you are so overwhelmed, so terrified by something that you run and hide. I suppose this isn’t such a bad decision say if you wanted to climb Mt. Everest in the middle of winter. But it does become a problem when you refuse to hang out with friends because you’re worried.
We take it for granted the ability to call our friends on the phone, to text them, make plans with them and just hang out. But there are fears of being embarrassed, saying the wrong thing or not having anything to say. Ironically this shy child can stand in a room with hundreds of strangers and deliver a speech without stumbling and with correct inflection in her voice. Go figure.
Fear is about preconceived beliefs we have about ourselves. The key is breaking them apart, learning that they’re false and recreating our ideas about ourselves. You can convince yourself all you like that you are happy being alone, but if fear and anxiety is the real reason you are alone, then you’re lying to yourself. And the journey is far more fun when you can share with someone you care about.
For my daughter to overcome her fears we work on something called Exposures. They are opportunities to put her in the middle of what frightens her in order to grow comfortable in the experience. Whether that be driving, ordering a meal at a restaurant, or making plans with friends, we try to put her in uncomfortable positions in order for her to learn how to navigate through them.
We do this with all things that cause her to be uncomfortable. Every experience that she will have to live through as an adult, we put on a list so that we can give her the experience and grow comfortable with every day tasks and functions. Driving becomes easier and less scary, ordering food at the sub shop second nature. It’s hard to walk beside her making things difficult for her but in the end we know she’ll be far better at dealing with her life than if we didn’t.
She understands now why we are doing what we are doing. She has become a less reluctant participant in the therapy because she knows someday she’ll be going to college and getting a job. But she still has those fears of not knowing what to do. It’s blinding and scary and she still believes she’ll be okay without friends. It’s the hardest lie she tells herself for us to break down. She’s convinced herself she doesn’t need friends, doesn’t need to spend time with them and that she’s okay. I worried me because what I know about human nature, what I’ve learned is people need other people. We need a good support system, people who care about us, people we can care about. People who are the happiest have a good social network. And as I keep saying it’s not about having fifty friends and going out every weekend, it’s about having friends you feel comfortable and share things with.
It’s been a long struggle to get to where we are with our daughter. One day I hope that she will be able to initiate even just a text and invite a friend to go out, to a movie, to the mall or just to hang out laugh and share. One more small step towards a life without debilitating anxiety and fear. That’s what I wish for my daughter.
She no longer throws temper tantrums when we hand her the keys to the car. Her voice is clear and thoughtful during sessions with the therapist, as if a light bulb clicked on inside her head. There’s now a comfort and understanding that comes from the therapy and with time and practice it lessens the anxiety.
The anxiety, I’m sure, will always be there. That’s not the goal of the sessions. The goal is to give her the opportunity to live her life as fully as possible. She’s understanding how to recognize the unrealistic fears and to accept her homework, exposing herself to what frightens her.
There are no easy fixes, no cure-all pill. There’s only a lot of little steps, tweaks to behavior that reduce the stress associated with the things that we take for granted. Will she be able to grocery shop and ask for help, explain to her doctor what hurts, ask her professor for clarification, find someone to have lunch with?
Taking in the whole picture is like eating an elephant in one bite. It’s too big. But by breaking down the problem into manageable pieces to work through, with consistent practice, is the only way to break down the walls.
One problem at a time, whether it be driving, we make her do it more often, or order her sandwich at Subway, I always make her go in by herself. Because practice breeds familiarity which lessens the anxiety.
I hear in my daughter’s voice it’s stronger, less tearful, honest, with me, her father, her therapist. She understands why we’re doing this, this intense training to overcome certain anxiety. She’s no longer a reluctant participant. Though it’s still not easy, it’s manageable and that makes it worthwhile.
As parents we live with guilt, we wonder if what we do for our kids is the right thing to do. When our kids are struggling it pains us, we put a protective arm around them and try to make the pain go away. But what if we hold on too tight, if protecting them stunts their growth as they near adulthood?
I had thought about that, about my daughter’s crippling anxiety. We held her hand, we protected and kept from certain experiences that made it difficult for her. Over the course of the years we added anxiety medicine, ADHD medicine and therapy but what about really putting her out there so completely that she has to feel the fear in order to overcome it.
It came about when I realized she had two years left of high school. I thought, will she be able to talk to her professors, her boss, other classmates. After realizing she had convinced herself it was okay to be alone, she’d be okay, we took the drastic action to reprogram how she thought about herself and the life that was possible for herself.
They’re called exposures opportunities to fear safely. We started this on our own though we didn’t know it. She wanted tuna from her favorite sub store, she had to go in to the store and ask on her own. But with the bigger things, we were stumped. How to make her drive, how to convince her that not going to college is wasting amazing grades and experiences. But after a few sessions with the therapist, someone other than her parents to fret, cajole, yell and scream, we had a breakthrough of sorts.
For the first time, she could put her fear aside for just a moment and realize that college, she could do it. There are options, she doesn’t have to leave home. She could start small at the community college and work her way in. There are possibilities and the world is too big to not experience it. I could have cried, gathered her in my arms and kiss her, but I didn’t. I knew then that pushing her out of her small comfort zone will wield benefits that neither of us can forsee. And as she gets older and more mature, maybe someday she’ll thank us for not giving up on her.