Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Silencing the inner critic

Dear Old Me,

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about this "inner critic" of mine. It is so bound and determined to bring me down. It seems that we all have it. The nagging feeling that you will never be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, motherly enough, womanly enough... you get the idea. Sometimes it isn't just nagging you about how you aren't good enough, it is screaming at the top of its lungs.

We have to silence this critic. I know it is the only way to find the true happiness and success that I want. I have been really trying to figure a way to make this noise go away once and for all. I recognize when it is happening and I know how I feel when I have let it take over. And I can almost always stop it before it does take over... almost. These are steps in the right direction. This small gift of clarity got me thinking about why I feel this way about myself. After all, I control the critic. It is me. So where did it all begin?

Let's think about this... Go back to when you were about nine years old. Most of Utah Valley looks different now from *gasp* twenty-three years ago. Back then the neighborhoods were several blocks away from each other. Streets of houses backed up to un-developed dirt fields, huge alfalfa fields that housed families of pheasants or acres and acres of cherry orchards. That is the home I remember.

For all it is worth, Utah Valley with all of its "Happy Valley" stigma was a pretty nice place to grow up. Before all of the businesses popped up and the orchards were cut down it felt safe. I spent a lot of time playing outdoors in the streets surrounding the house where I grew up. We never ventured too far south of about 1400 North. It is funny to say this now, but that was the "ward boundary" so we didn't really know the families up that way. At nine years old you usually don't venture too far outside the unknown. At least I didn't.

At school, in your fourth grade class you had been assigned to do a project with a girl that you didn’t know very well. She wasn’t exactly “popular” or a “mean girl” per se. You knew she had things a little better than you did, but it wasn’t like it really mattered. I don't recall exactly how it felt, whether you really even cared if you were "friends" with this girl or not. I think before this all happened you were blissfully unaware of the way other people felt. You never even thought that they wouldn't say how they feel. The girl from school lived south of 1200 North which was a big deal at nine years old like I mentioned before. To get to her house you had to ride your bike all the way up past the school. Past the old house on the corner, which at the time the owners had some loud, obnoxious, semi-scary dogs (I can't remember the name of the breed, big furry dogs with curly tails and short noses). You had to go past a couple of orchards. If you cut through one you could get there faster (and during the spring and summer breathe the sweet smell of cherry blossoms or steal a couple ripe cherries along the way), but by doing so you ran the risk of getting chased out by the mean old farmer who owned the orchard.

You spent a couple of afternoons at her house. This girl from school, I don't even remember her name, but she impacted me SO much. We would work on our project and then before I would head back home we would "play". Together we had hatched some scheme about how we were going to make some kind of bracelet or other little home-made doo-dad and sell it out on the corner by her house. I was so excited about doing this and having such a cool, fun friend from outside my regular neighborhood. Looking back now I can see I was naive... I want that naïveté back.

The big plan was to set up our little "store" on a Saturday. She had given me her phone number so I could call her before I came over. I woke up bright and early. I had it all planned out. I was going to ride my bike over to her house. We would go down to Macey's and get some different things to sell. I remember thinking that it was going to be so awesome. I called her up. I remember being so nervous because at nine I really hadn't used the phone all that much. This was such a new experience for me.  On the other end of the phone I hear her pick up. "He-e-ello?"
I reply enthusiastically, "Hi *girl whose name I can't remember*, it's me! I'm coming over to your house to play..."
In a snotty voice she cuts me off and says, "Who is this?"
I reply, "It's me, Ellynore, we did the school project together. We are gonna do the store..."

I hear muffled voices like she has covered the mouth piece of the telephone with her hand. I can hear her and her mom talking. I can't remember exactly what she said, but it was something along the lines of "fat girl from school" and "but no, Mom, she is weird!" and "She is so annoying, no one likes her!" and "I don't want to be nice, Noooo!" as her mom told her she needed to be nice to me. After all, I was just a "poor, chubby girl" they should help. I heard those words loud and clear.

I died a little with each comment from this girl. I was broken hearted. I had already began to cry when she returned to the phone and in the sweetest voice ever asked what time I was going to be there. She was acting like she hadn't just said all of those awful things about me to her mom. I was devastated. How could she be so nice to me when she really felt the way she did? She didn't say those things about me to hurt me directly. She was really feeling that way and was expressing herself to her mom. How many people had been nice to my face but felt this way about me really? How many people still do? You fat, annoying, weird, poor, chubby girl everyone has to be nice to, no one really likes you! I recognize now that these are the words that plague you. The words that your critic uses to keep you unhappy and unhealthy. Well, I am no longer going to listen to these words. They do not define me or who I am.

Oh, the demons how they like to hold on. So, I think that is it. I think that is when I first let the critic win. I know it is the most vivid memory of it for sure. I am not sure how to digest this, but what I do know for sure is that recognizing that what that girl said about me that day had nothing to do with me directly but were only a reflection of how she felt about herself. My intentions were pure. I know regardless of how she felt about me or how her mother viewed me I am a wonderful, spectacular, strong, funny woman who has nothing but love to give and wants nothing but the same in return.

I will try to find a picture of me from around that time. Maybe my mom has one... stay tuned for the edit and update.

Update: School picture from 4th grade. I loooooove the side pony-tail. And the bangs. I think I was pretty darn cute. What does ol' girl-I-can't-remember know anyways?

Until next time...

The New You


  1. It always amazes me what we hold on to..the hurts..the feeling of rejection. This is a very insightful post yet it's tremendously sad..and somehting each of us has probably had to deal with at one point or another. But you can hold your head up high and know the only person you need to please is the one looking back at you from the mirror - if you are happy and feel a sense of well being - it will imoact all those around you! Your boys are so lucky to have you as a Mom - you are setting the bar high for their future wives :-)

  2. And hopefully I am teaching them to be caring, understanding people who can love unconditionally so that they can be the most wonderful husbands ever. :-)

  3. Elly your letter reminds me of that expression, "I may be fat but your ugly and I can diet!". That girl definitely had a case of the 'uglies'!
    You go girl!