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an esteem-able crisis

In order for any of this to make sense, you must know how I grew up. I was mostly overweight, my mother was somewhat of a hippie when it came to grooming (and therefore didn’t see why I should learn how to wear makeup, pluck my eyebrows, or do anything remotely “girly”), and no one who knew me then would have thought to describe me as anything approaching “pretty” or “attractive.” In fact, my own mother referred to me as “the smart one” of the family; my sister was dubbed “the pretty one.” I was also fairly socially inept, stuck my foot in my mouth a thousand times a day, and had all the other trappings of being raised in a dysfunctional household by an abusive alcoholic father and mentally questionable mother. But anyhow.

These days, I’ve learned a thing or two about fashion, beauty, personal grooming, and style in general. And beyond all of that, I spent most of my sober time going to meetings at a place where it’s about 85% male, and the women who do go are mostly too old to be considered on the market, too newly sober to be available, or crazy — which leaves about 5% of the house’s clientele being attractive young-enough women. And during the almost-two years I’ve been going there, I’ve developed somewhat of a reputation for being a fashion plate, a girly-girl, someone who always takes care of herself and is — even when dressing down — pretty. I also dress up on Friday nights — I did it while drinking, so now I do it sober! — and take things up a notch by doing so. In short, I’ve somehow been transformed into “the pretty one” (who’s also “the smart one”) in my circle of sober friends. And now that I’ve “achieved” that — if it can be said to be an achievement? — it feels weird. As in, I still think of myself as all of the things I used to be, and the fact that anyone might consider me stylish, hip, pretty, and feminine? Well, it blows my mind.

I don’t know if this is another one of those “fake it ’til you make it” lessons I’ll learn, but it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve dealt with continuously since I’ve gotten sober — just ask my therapist. It’s like I have to deny 35 years of things I’ve heard and told myself… on nothing more than faith. And that’s scary!

Part of it, too, is that I (falsely) imagine that the women I consider to be sexy, attractive, stylish, and hip must have a completely different internal life than I do — in my mind, they are never insecure, don’t sweat (and probably don’t even need to USE deodorant), always smell perfect, never scuff their stilettos, and always remember to get manicures and pedicures before their hands and feet look like they’ve been living in a homeless shelter for a couple of weeks. But that description is definitely not me… and so I think because I don’t have the internal life that I *imagine* these other people have, then I must not have the external appearance that they do. Until I talk to other people, or receive compliments, or hear extended explanations from friends about how they perceive me… and I get confused.

I wonder what it feels like to just feel pretty, or adorable, or even beautiful from the inside, rather than accepting the compliment and feeling it’s undeserved. This is the next frontier of therapy…and I hope that one day I’ll be able to get there. In the meantime, I’ll be doing quite a bit of faking it… Namaste.

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